Ballougry playgroup has received accreditation by education specialists HighScope for their high standard work.
Playgroup leader, Mary Owens, said: “It was hard earned but it is a great way to mark our 25th anniversary.”
HighScope are an internationally recognised organisation who specialise in early education. “The HighScope project meant working a lot of late evenings but we got there. The award is the equivalent of a five star designation for a hotel,” explained Mrs. Owens.
Having founded the Ballougry preschool some 25 years ago, Mrs. Owens believes the work is still as enjoyable today as it was in 1988: “Back then the group started with myself and Michael Grant. We had fifteen children. Today we have 18 but there are four staff in all.”
The other three staff, playgroup assistant, Pauline Dowds, support worker Devina Devenney, and deputy leader Patricia Moore are as enthusiastic about working with children as is Mrs. Owens.
Mrs Devine said: “It’s been my lifelong ambition to work with children. The other staff here are the same. The children are everything. Working here and with the youngsters is great.”
Though Mrs. Owens too believes Ballougry is a great place to work, she finds it hard to believe she is still in the playgroup 25 years on. “I never thought I would be here this long. Some things are still the same, for example a lot of our time still goes on funding applications. I have got to know the lingo pretty well.”
She says the best aspect of the job is the element of fun.
“The fact that we are a community group here to serve the community is good too. We are a tight-knit community and the children visit us long after their graduation from here.”
There can be no more proof necessary that the fact Mrs. Owens was a guest at the recent wedding of Gemma Creagh, one of her first 15 pupils. “It is so hard to believe that many of those are now mammies themselves. Gemma’s daughter Amy is here now.
“Every year is different but the most special day is always the graduation ceremony. It is a very bittersweet experience for us. The children have come in as strangers at the beginning of the year but by the time they don their gowns and receive their certificates, they have grown in confidence, developed their own personalities and we’ve become very attached to them. It is great to see them go on and achieve things, which of course we always take the credit for. There is a lot to be said about strong foundations.” The HighScope award will be conferred on the school at a special ceremony at The City Hotel on Friday June 6.