It was a strange start to the new year for Danny McFadden, newly appointed principal of Errigal College in Letterkenny, as he started his new job in an empty building, but one that he hopes will soon again ring with the noise of happy students.
And this principal knows the building, every inch of it and not just because he has been getting to know his new surroundings.
From 1989 until 1995, Danny was a student at the then Letterkenny Vocational School and he returned in 2003 as a teacher of Business and coordinator of the FETAC Level 5 Pre-Nursing course before heading over to Deele College in 2013 to become Deputy Principal. And now he’s back!
The silent corridors haven’t dampened Mr McFadden’s enthusiasm for the job ahead, however, and he has dived straight into the most immediate tasks – remote learning and enrolment.
Like every school in the country, Errigal College did not reopen its doors to students after the Christmas break and staff and students were again plunged back into the world of online learning.
Luckily, the school’s teachers and SNAs were well experienced in using online learning platforms such as Google Classroom and had hit the ground running the last time schools closed and they are well placed to meet the challenge again this time around. The expertise and dedication of staff has made Danny’s transition from Deele College to Errigal College and from face-to-face to online so much smoother.
The other important topic this January is, of course, enrolment. Mr McFadden is eager to promote Errigal College, and no one knows better about everything the school has to offer.
As the only English-medium coeducational post-primary school in Letterkenny, the school is unique. It offers all programmes (Junior Cycle, Leaving Certificate, Transition Year, Leaving Cert Applied) and a wide range of subjects up to Leaving Certificate Higher Level.
Errigal College boasts spacious, modern general classrooms and state of the art, newly refurbished science labs. Well-equipped practical rooms allow students to practise their skills and excel academically in Engineering, Construction Studies, Art, Home Economics, Music and in the most recent and exciting addition to that list – Leaving Certificate Computer Science.
School is not all about the academic though and what Danny sees as Errigal College’s main advantages are its size and its focus on care for each and every student
He said “We get to know every student here and this is invaluable, especially during those difficult transitions from primary to post-primary and from junior to senior cycle. In a smaller school, it’s so much easier to make friends, to form those student-teacher bonds and to get involved in school life, in competitions and extra-curricular activities.”
He speaks highly of the emphasis at Errigal on student support, which starts with the induction programme in the students’ first week and continues with peer mentoring, teacher mentoring, Wellbeing programmes and guidance counselling.
Students also receive support from Home School Community Liaison, Ms McAteer, the School Completion Team of Mr Hannigan and Ms Patton, form teachers, year heads, Behavioural Support teachers and the Special Education Needs team.
Staff have made huge efforts to continue their pastoral role while in lockdown, promoting and ensuring the wellbeing of the students through Virtual Wellbeing Clubs, updates on social media, regular messages and phone calls to every student’s home. Keeping the connection with school and checking on student welfare is vital; as Danny himself says “happy students are successful students.”
His final message to parents of prospective students is “It is a daunting task to choose a school, but by choosing Errigal College you will have started your child on a ladder of success and we guarantee that they will be supported the whole way up that ladder.”