Poignant award for St. John’s

Ryannas P3 classmates pictured with principal Mr McWilliams, Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland trustee Clare Watson and Ryannas parents Sean and Laura Hasson
Ryannas P3 classmates pictured with principal Mr McWilliams, Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland trustee Clare Watson and Ryannas parents Sean and Laura Hasson

A Dernaflaw school has been crowned winner of an Epilepsy Action education award for its work in supporting pupils with epilepsy.

St John’s Primary School was presented with its ‘Edward’ award by Clare Watson, of Epilepsy Action, on Tuesday following National Epilepsy Week (15-21 May).

Pupils and staff at St Johns Primary School want to ensure Ryannas memory lives on.

Pupils and staff at St Johns Primary School want to ensure Ryannas memory lives on.

The annual Edwards awards celebrate the nation’s epilepsy education superstars.

They are presented by UK-wide charity Epilepsy Action to nurseries, schools, colleges and universities who have gone above and beyond in supporting students or pupils with epilepsy. St John’s Primary School was chosen as a winner in tribute of its work with Ryanna Hasson, who had severe epilepsy.

Ryanna sadly passed away on 13 August last year, aged six, but her parents Laura and Sean said her life was enriched by staff and pupils at school and that their dedication to their daughter deserved to be recognised.

Ryanna had frequent seizures and often had to have a lot of time off school, which had a significant impact on her education and social development. She was unable to take part in many activities other children take for granted, such as playing on swings and slides or visiting friends and family. She also needed constant supervision because her seizures were almost a daily occurrence.

Ryannas parents Sean and Laura (centre) pictured with St Johns Primary School staff Aisling OConnell, Julie Flanagan, Julie Mullan and Sharon Doherty

Ryannas parents Sean and Laura (centre) pictured with St Johns Primary School staff Aisling OConnell, Julie Flanagan, Julie Mullan and Sharon Doherty

St John’s Primary School recognised the importance of making sure Ryanna was involved in all aspects of school life. She had a full-time classroom assistant which meant she could join in learning and play activities with her fellow classmates.

Staff were fully trained on epilepsy, so they knew how to look after Ryanna when she had a seizure.

Ryanna was also never left out of events such as school plays or trips as there was always a plan put in place to ensure she could take part. This helped to give her parents peace of mind that she was enjoying school life to the full, while also being well looked after and fully included.

The importance of the school in Ryanna’s life was highlighted by the many photos of her at work and play, which staff placed in her parent’s house at her wake.

They formed a guard of honour at her funeral and her friends read out their memories as part of the ceremony.

The staff also made a special memory box and presented it to her parents on what would have been her 7th birthday. On the same day her classmates gathered at her graveside to release balloons for her.

School principal John McWilliams said: “When Sean and Laura told us that they were nominating us for an award we were surprised and delighted.

“I was so pleased for all of our school staff and for Ryanna’s friends and parents, when we got the news that we had won. It is a lovely tribute to Ryanna and though we miss her every single day, the award will stand as a memorial to Ryanna and the relationships between our school and the Hasson family.”

Ryanna’s parents Laura and Sean said: “We feel that the school went above and beyond for Ryanna and that her life was enriched through the people she met there. We feel that it would be a fitting tribute to Ryanna for the school to be recognised in this way.”

Epilepsy affects around 20,000 people and 1,500 children and young people aged under 18 in Northern Ireland.

Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland raises awareness and increases understanding of epilepsy, supporting people affected by epilepsy through a range of services.

These include a number of local groups, information days for both people living with epilepsy and health professionals and provision of epilepsy awareness training sessions to groups such as schools, employers andcommunity groups.

For information about Epilepsy Action and the Edward awards, visit epilepsy.org.uk/edwards

The Foyle Coffee and Chat group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 11.00am in Central Library, 35 Foyle Street, Derry.

The group a great opportunity to meet other people living with epilepsy in an informal setting, everyone is welcome.

If you would further information please contact Clare Watson on 028 9063 4942 or cwatson@epilepsy.org.uk