Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Boys first opened its doors to the children of Bishopstown in October 1964.
The school began as a two roomed prefabricated building. In 1965 a new 12 classroomed school was opened but it was not too long before more room was needed and prefabricated buildings (some of which were still in use up to the end of 2002) had to be acquired to provide classrooms for the ever growing number of pupils attending Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Boys. Since those early days Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Boys has grown into a centre of learning excellence.
To ensure the all-round development of each pupil, great care is taken to provide pupils with the best learning environment possible. A range of extra curricular and optional subjects is offered to the pupils. The school’s facilities are kept up-to-date and teaching methods are in accordance with current best practice.
Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Boys is fortunate in having a dedicated and highly experienced staff, a supportive and committed Board of Management and an enthusiastic Parents’ Association.
In the fifties and sixties of the century just past the western side of Cork city experienced a boom in house building that was unprecedented and not to be equalled at any time since. Houses were springing up in lines and arcs and curves all over the green fields to the west of the long established suburbs at Glasheen, Wilton, and Model Farm Road. Estates were given new names: Halldene, The Rise, Bishopscourt, Uamvar, Benvoirlich, Melbourn, Westgate, to name a few.
In a short time the new houses were occupied, in many cases by newly-wed couples. The population of the area in a relatively short time shot up to over twenty thousand. The children of those early settlers in the area attended the schools in Glasheen. A double-decker bus transported many of them there and back twice a day. There was a lunch-time break in that era of relatively light traffic. The bus was soon filled to capacity for every journey.
The schools in Glasheen were soon full to over capacity and were stretched to their limits to cater for the influx of pupils from Bishopstown. It became apparent to both the church and the Department of Education that in the Bishopstown area, new Primary Schools (for both boys and girls) were becoming a priority, hence a site was purchased on Curraheen Road, just east of Kaith Shea’s Lane (now Rossa Avenue), the advantage of this would be that in development there would be three pedestrian accesses to the campus.
In early 1964 a notice of planning appeared in the newspapers, for the construction of two new Primary Schools at Curraheen Road, Bishopstown, for Mons. D. Murphy, P. P. V.G, The Lough Parish, the new Church of the Holy Ghost at Dennehy’s Cross being as yet still a part of that parish.
In early November 1964 the architect J. R. Boyd Barrett invited tenders for the construction of the aforementioned schools. During the intervening period realising children were in the need of local schooling, the Department of Education in consultation with Mons. Murphy ( as future school Manager) put in place temporary accommodation. Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh first opened its doors in 1964. The school began as a two roomed pre-fab structure located on the new site. The new school enrolled infant boys and girls only in the beginning. The first principal was Bn. Uí Riordáin. Her assistant teacher was Miss Vaughan.
With tenders for work at the new Curraheen Road campus applied for in November 1964, construction works began in the spring of 1965 with the two schools being ready for occupation for September 1966. At this point we must not loose sight of the great work done by the many very efficient local volunteers who through their efforts, assisted the school management in securing the necessary funding , not withstanding they were also fundraising for the churches of the district.
Thus, two new schools were born. From these humble beginnings we can look back 50 years and just imagine the amount of boys and girls who have walked the corridors, the amount of knowledge imparted, the friendships that were formed and above all else, the contributions of so many that have made Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh the schools that they are.
The Middle Years: 1976-96
As the steady stream of new house completions continued and young families arrived in the area, numbers in the school increased until they reached a peak of 928 boys in the late 1970s. Accordingly, the school faced several challenges, not least of which was accommodation. In addition to the twelve classrooms in the main building and the original timber prefabs, eight extra prefabs were constructed and the library and staff-room were pressed into service as classrooms.
There were over 40 pupils in each class. Although these classes seem huge today, this situation was common in Irish urban schools at the time; staff and pupils got on with the business of learning and standards were maintained.
The other main challenge arising from the large numbers of boys concerned transfer to second-level education. There were insufficient places locally for over 100 sixth-class pupils finishing each year. Some second-level schools offered places on the basis of the results of entrance examinations (a practice which was later banned by the Department of Education). This imposed huge pressure on sixth-class students and totally distorted the sixth-class programme. Although Spioraid Naoimh pupils’ results compared well with those of other candidates in these exams, there were also boys who didn’t secure a place in the school of their choice.
A great boon to the school in the 1970s was the appointment of a school secretary. The first such appointment in Spioraid Naoimh was that of Mrs. Evelyn Cotter, who held the post for 20 years. The secretary took a lot of pressure off the Principal, doing much of the administrative work and answering the phone. The appointment was also of educational benefit to the school as she typed up and copied pupil worksheets and hand-outs to a very professional standard.
At about this time, a school caretaker was also appointed. Older past pupils will particularly remember the genial Jim Walsh from Togher , who held the post for many years. His main function was to keep the environs of the school tidy and to cut the large area of grass. He was also responsible for distributing the school milk, which became available to pupils under a subsidised scheme at about this time.
Another step forward was the introduction of the remedial teaching service in the school. It had long been recognised that many pupils were falling behind in large classes and that these children would greatly benefit from one-to-one teaching. Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh was fortunate that Frank Murphy, the Principal, was one of the foremost experts on the teaching of English reading in the country and the author of a nationally acclaimed reading scheme. His guidance and mentoring would be a great asset to the new Remedial Teacher.
John Meaney was appointed to the post in 1979 and quickly proved that he was the man for the job. From the beginning he realised that he was on a huge learning-curve, as remedial teaching was in its infancy in this country. He immediately set about up-skilling himself in preparation for the task, attending several courses on the subject. Indeed, so successful was he that he was soon lecturing on the Remedial Teachers’ training course and served as a committee member of the Remedial Teachers’ Association of Ireland.
A programme was initiated whereby pupils were regularly tested for literacy and numeracy skills, using nationally normed standardised Drumcondra Attainment Tests. Results from these tests were used to identify pupils who were at risk of falling behind in literacy and these pupils were offered extra help in small groups or one-to-one situations. John’s excellent organisational skills came to the fore in the administration of these tests and the recording of the results.
Over the years the remedial service in the school has expanded to include learning-support, resource-teaching for those with special needs and language-support for those pupils whose first language isn’t English. Nowadays a number of teachers and Special Needs Assistants deliver the service in the school.
By the mid1970s some of the prefabs were already ten years old and beginning to show their age. The roofs, in particular, required constant maintenance and they were often cold and draughty. There was clearly a need for an extension of the building, replacing the prefabs with permanent classrooms and for proper accommodation for the remedial department which was now established in a converted store-room.
Above all, there was a glaring need for a proper school hall. From the early days of the school, it was difficult to incorporate physical education into the curriculum. In good weather, infant and junior classes went outdoors for exercise, but it was difficult to organise proper P.E. lessons, due to the fact that most of the yard was occupied by prefabs. Middle- and senior classes were taken across the road to the quarry or farther afield to the G.A.A. or Murphy’s Farm but this practice was time-consuming and dangerous because of the traffic hazard.
In the late 1970s a concerted campaign was launched by the parents’ associations, boards of management and principals of both schools to secure a new extension. Politicians were lobbied and deputations sent to the Department of Education. This lobbying resulted in initial success, permission being granted to proceed to the planning stage.
Plans were drawn up for a three-storeyed building, which would join the existing buildings together. The ground floor would consist of a hall, which could be partitioned into two general purposes rooms. The upper two floors Were to contain classrooms and remedial rooms. This design was well received and a planning application was lodged.
However the Government suffered a major budgetary crisis in 1980 and this project was one of many which were put on hold. In fact, the children of Bishopstown were to be without these facilities for another 20 years. It is to everyone’s credit, staff and students alike, that that school community simply got on with things, seeming not to notice the dripping ceilings and crumbling walls.
Eventually, falling numbers reduced the pressure on space and the original timber prefabs were taken out of use. Later (date?) a block of 4 was demolished and replaced by a tarmac basketball court. At about this time the girls’ prefabs were adapted into a temporary hall for the use of both schools, which facilitated regular P.E. lessons in winter.
Another result of falling numbers and government cut-backs was the reduction in the teaching staff. Some members were redeployed to other schools, while teachers who retired or moved school were not replaced.
Yet in spite of all these negatives, the work of the school continued apace. Standards of literacy and numeracy were maintained consistently above the national average, a fact borne out by the now-regular standardised testing with Drumcondra Tests , Micra-T and Sigma-Ts.
The indomitable spirit of the school was also seen in extra-curricular activities. The band was going from strength to strength, regularly performing at local venues and in the City Hall. Football and hurling teams were successful in the Sciath na Scol competitions. Spioraid Naoimh pupils were also making a name for themselves in drama, with successes at local, provincial and national levels. In fact during the period from 1980 to 2000, the school regularly had two plays per year in the All Ireland Finals and secured twelve national tiles, including Best Primary School on 2 occasions.
Co-operation between the boys’ and girls’ schools was also a feature of the 1990s, encouraged by Principals Darina Callanan and Joan Toomey. First came the shared use of the former girls’ prefab as a temporary hall. This was the venue for several enjoyable shared Christmas concerts in the 1990s, with contributions from both schools for the enjoyment of the pupils. Girls joined the school band in increasing numbers at this time. Also worthy of mention was a project whereby sixth-class boys took cookery classes in the girls’ school.
In an effort to afford the pupils the broadest possibilities in education, the school became involved in a pilot project involving the use of computers in schools. Although the computers then available were elementary by modern standards (with a capacity of 2kilobytes and no hard-drive), to the teachers and pupils of the time they were almost from the realms of science-fiction!
With Frank Murphy’s encouragement, teachers from the school, especially Darina Callanan, John Meaney, Eamon Walsh and later Cliona Ni Cheallaigh began to experiment with computers and see how best they could be adapted for use in the classroom. This wasn’t easy as relevant software wasn’t readily available at the time. Computer graphics were in their infancy and the machines of the day simply didn’t have the capacity to process colour.
The teachers pooled their knowledge with like-minded colleagues at the Cork Teachers’ Centre (now Cork Education Centre) Computer Group and knowledge and skill in this discipline rapidly grew as technology developed. Nowadays, computers and information technology are part and parcel of school life. Although light-years ahead, modern schools’ technology owes a huge debt to these pioneers.
John Meaney, Eamon Walsh and Cliona Ni Cheallaigh all took their knowledge took their knowledge of computing to a higher level when they undertook degree courses in the subject, all eventually graduating with Masters’ degrees.
Up to the 1990s there was no year-round public swimming-pool in the Bishopstown area. Although the importance of the ability to swim is obvious, many children from the area hadn’t had the opportunity to learn. With this in mind, the school secured hours in Churchfield Swimming Pool. The senior pupils were bussed there once a week for a six-week period in June. Later these lessons moved to the Gus Healy Pool in Douglas, but it is only in recent years that swimming lessons have become available to all pupils, as part of the P.E. curriculum.
Another innovation at this time was the teaching of a modern European language in the school. As part of a Department of Education pilot scheme, French was taught to the 5th and 6th classes. Suitably qualified teachers were brought in to run these classes.
Slán to the Prefabs – Hello to the New Millennium
By the mid 90s the population of Bishopstown had matured. There was no new building development taking place and existing property was too expensive for young couples to buy. In 1997 the Department of Education and Science initiated a consultative process with the two Spioraid Naoimh schools, Scoil Cholumbáin and Scoil Therése, with a view to establishing a basis for rationalisation. This initiative arose from the fact that enrolments in each of the schools had declined significantly.
During the course of the consultative process an urgent need to make provision for special needs pupils emerged due to the outcome of legal cases. An agreement was reached for Scoil Columbáin and Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh boys’ schools to amalgamate in the Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh school complex from September 1998. The necessary steps were taken to ensure the availability of sufficient accommodation to enable the amalgamation to take place. Scoil Cholumbáin became St. Gabriel’s, a school catering for children with a severe or profound mental handicap and also incorporating a special unit to cater for certain children with autism.
Following the conclusion of negotiations to amalgamate Scoil Cholumbáin with Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B) the Board of Management immediately focussed it’s attention on the implementation of the terms of the agreement and in particular the provision of extra classroom accommodation including furniture and toilet facilities, special education rooms, staffroom, staff toilets, computer room, parents’ room and administrative offices for Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh buachaillí. A general purpose facility with catering, shower and storage facilities was to be constructed also. It was agreed that the general purposes facility would be shared with Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Cailini. The school campus was to be modified to facilitate disabled access to all areas to include the provision of a lift. The campus was also to be provided with a state of the art heating system, a state of the art of fire monitoring system, a high speed computer network system and high spec. security system with CCTV surveillance. The entire campus was to be landscaped to include tree and shrub planting, a water feature, new entrance gates, security railings and the re-surfacing of playgrounds with the provision of some playground furniture and ground decoration.
The school was visited on a number of occasions by representatives of the planning and design departments of the Dept. of Education and Science and in the course of time the Board of Management was presented with a design and programme of works that was acceptable to the Board.
There followed a lengthy process of seeking planning approval and fire certification. This was followed by a tendering process which resulted in the selection of Messrs. Murnane & O Shea of Bantry as the main contractor for the entire project.
The sod was turned and the foundation stone laid for the new buildings in May 1999 in the presence of (CHECK DATE and CHECK PHOTOGRAPH for those present) Canon Micheál Ó Dálaigh who blessed the site, Chris Synnott, Chairman, Board of Management, Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B), Darina Callanan, Principal, Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B) and representatives of the main building contractor. The project completion date was scheduled for August 2000.
Work continued relentlessly throughout the next 14 months with the accommodation block ready for occupation at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year. All ancillary works and landscaping were completed at this time. The general purpose facility was not however available for use until the installation of the special sports floor which was completed the following May 2001.
John Meaney acted in a voluntary capacity as liaison person between the school, the design and the building sections of the Dept. of Education and Science, the main building contractor and the various sub-contractors employed on the project, a gesture which was deeply appreciated by the Board of man and the Principal.
Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B) has a long tradition in the performing arts and it was felt that this was an appropriate time to provide facilities in the general purpose hall to support these endeavours. With the help of the Parents’ Associations of Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Buachailli agus Cailini sufficient funds were raised to purchase a state of the art stage system from America. The stage was installed during the 2001 summer holidays. This stage was at the time of installation the only one in Europe and was used by the suppliers as an example for other educational institutions throughout Europe. The stage system has proved to be an invaluable asset to the school since its installation.
The new facilities at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B) were long overdue but since their provision the pupils, staff and parents of the school have benefitted enormously. Pupils now go to school in a safe, comfortable and happy environment.
The new buildings were officially opened in the Autumn of 2000 by the Minister for Health Mister Micheál Martin, in the presence of Canon Micheál Ó Dálaigh, Chairmen and representatives of the Boards of Management of Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh buachaillí agus cailíní, pupils and staff of both schools and retired members of staff of Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh.