This week, Finn Valley College in Stranorlar is proudly showcasing what makes their school special.
Here, the school celebrates its tradition of putting students at the heart of everything:
Finn Valley College is a vocational school which operates under the patronage of Donegal ETB. For 80 years we have provided a high quality education to the local community and beyond. All the while our school has always put a special emphasis on caring for every individual student.
Seeing the bigger picture
Put simply, our school recognises that every child matters. Every child has unique talents and gifts that should be nurtured. Academic success is important to every child and parent and to our school. It is however part of a bigger education picture.
Every parent’s child is important to them and therefore is important to us. That is why we ensure that every child receives the support and individual attention they need.
Finn Valley College prides itself on the care and the quality of the education that it gives to all of its students. All students are welcome and cherished regardless of background, ability, or faith.
Our school also recognises that there is more to education than simply teaching. Crucial as this is, education is about the development of all aspects of the child and we here in Finn Valley College are acutely aware of that bigger picture. A happy student will develop in all aspects of their person and we seek to ensure that our students are happy and that they do develop fully.
Small School Advantages
As second level schools go we are a small school but for us that is actually one of our greatest strengths. Being a small school has a number of great advantages. The first is the warm and friendly atmosphere in our school that comes from everyone knowing everyone else. Our experience shows that students find it much easier to make friends in smaller groups and classes.
Teachers and students also get to know each other much more quickly and the bond that develops is a strong one which very often lasts for the five years.
Another great advantage is that it is easier for our students to get involved in school life. Whether it is sports, drama, debating, enterprise or competitions – students can get more involved because there is less competition to be involved. Fewer students simply means less competition.
Everything that we do at the school is student-centred. Our school has a proud tradition and reputation for putting our children at the heart of everything. This ranges from the design of our programmes to the range of subjects that are offered; from the pastoral supports given to all students to the special extra supports for the small number of students who need them.
All students have a class teacher who they will have for the five years of their time in school. This important link means there is always a link if any difficulty arises for the student. The students also have the same Year Head for the five years and again the relationship with that Year Head develops into a strong bond.
The school has three Guidance Counsellors so any student who has more complex needs will be well looked after. We also have a Home School Community Liaison teacher and a Behaviour Support Teacher. All of these teachers provide full time wellbeing support to students and indeed their families.
Course and Subjects offered
Our school offers all of the courses and programmes that any second level school offers. However, we go further than that.
For Junior students we offer the traditional Junior Cycle but also offer the Junior Cycle Schools Programme a type of supported Junior Cycle tailored for less academically able students. The school also runs Level 1 and Level 2 Learning Programmes for the very small cohort of students with special educational needs who are unable to complete the Junior Cycle.
For senior students we offer the traditional Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, an enhanced Leaving Certificate where students do an extra subject in the area of entrepreneurship. All subjects in these programmes are offered at Higher Level. The extra benefit in our school is that students do these higher level subjects in small class groups and get more individual attention.
We offer the Leaving Certificate Applied programme for students who are more practically orientated.
An added bonus in our school is that our subject choice is very much student driven in keeping with our ethos of the students being at the heart of all we do. In first year students get to sample the optional subjects before making their selection. They are not forced to pick before joining the school. In this way they can pick subjects which complement their ability levels, aptitude and interests.
At senior cycle, it is the students who essentially determine what combinations of subjects will be offered so that students get to study the subjects they want for the Leaving Certificate.
Bringing Learning to Life
The school places a very strong emphasis on the students’ learning and rightly so. That is our core service after all. However, we believe that the best learning takes place when students are fully engaged. People learn by doing and students are no exception. Our students are trained in the use of methodologies that encourage active learning.
Our teachers also use cross curricular projects to support learning with different subject departments cooperating to support learning in all subjects – exactly as the new Junior Cycle envisaged.
Students can also get involved in projects such as Creative Schools Programme, the Schools Digital Champion Project, Green Schools Project and the Intergenerational Art in the Community Project.
Co-curricular activities such as debating, enterprise competitions, art competitions, field trips, student councils, wellbeing committees all help to engage our students and take them away from the humdrum of rote learning.
Complementing the great work that goes on in and out of the classroom to prepare students academically, the school also offers students a release from the work to ensure they are happy. There is something for everyone. A huge draw each year is our annual variety concert that allows students to showcase and develop their creative talents.
Students can get involved in a variety of sports. There is soccer, gaelic, basketball, futsal and athletics for boys and girls. Swimming is offered as part of a PE programme. Girls have an extra club known as Girls Active. There are activities organised every lunchtime. The school also has an Art club and a library where students can go to relax and meet with friends.
Our goal as a school is to help young people realise their potential. This includes the academic naturally but also includes their personal, social and spiritual self. Realising this involves the students giving back not just to the school but the wider community.
Our students regularly fundraise for good causes. For the past number of years we have been giving hampers to St Vincent De Paul. Shoebox appeals run each year. We support other local charities through fundraising events, many of which deal with issues of importance to the students and are selected by the students themselves.
Students also give back to the school. Whether it is acting as a School Ambassador, mentoring younger students, supporting students with special needs through reverse integration, supporting our Junior Enterprise programme with the local National Schools or getting involved in our Student Council, our students repay the trust and faith we place in them and time after time make us proud of how they have grown as people.
It is all of these things – the care given by staff; the hard work by both students and staff; the support of parents; the creative and inclusive way in which we teach and channel the talents of the students – which helps our school provide a wonderful learning experience for our students and which leaves our students well prepared for whatever path in life they choose.Tags: