Rossmar School has been described as a “brilliant place to be” thanks to the hard work of staff and students.
The assessment earned the Limavady school the ‘Investors in Pupils’ (IIP) award, the first special school in Northern Ireland to claim the title.
The award is about empowering all pupils, increasing their motivation and helping raise achievement across the Key Stages.
Rossmar teacher, Darren McDaid, said the accolade is down to the hard work of students and staff.
The school was inspected by an IIP assessor earlier this year.
Pupils met with the assessor and toured the school with him, giving him an insight into how Rossmar works.
It gives them a voice, and actually reflects what’s happening in the school and how great a bunch of kids they are and how much they contribute to school lifeRossmar teacher, Darren McDaid
In his congratulatory letter to Rossmar students, IIP assessor Charles Fitzsimmons said: “You are extremely polite, friendly, confident and extremely well behaved. You are proud of your school and the work you are doing to make it an even better place for everyone.”
Mr Fitzsimmons thanked students for helping him understand how Rossmar works, and the work of teachers and classroom assistants, and how they help.
“They work very hard to make Rossmar School such a brilliant place to be, where everyone enjoys their learning,” said the assessor.
He said students have the opportunity to have their voices heard on matters that affect their learning, including budgets and “working together to make Rossmar School better for everyone”.
Mr. McDaid said the award is testament to the pupils’ hard work and their value within the school community. He said an integral part of Rossmar is the School Council.
“They lead the school, and it gives them a sense of empowerment. It gives them a voice, and actually reflects what’s happening in the school and how great a bunch of kids they are and how much they contribute to school life. The school does everything it can to meet the needs of the pupils,” said Mr. McDaid. “The assessor said how much he loved visiting the school and noted the great atmosphere in the school.
“We feel there is a lot more to the school than the physical surroundings. It’s about the pupils.”
Mr. McDaid added: “It’s an award that puts pupils at the centre of their own learning and their own school community. First and foremost, every decision that is made in school comes back to the pupils.
For example, in their own classes they agree class jobs for each other, and the class rules and what rules there should be. The older classes have options what they study and they’re consulted. It’s about their voice and investing in pupils. We’re delighted and very proud of this award.”
The assessor said in his letter to Rossmar Principal Brian McLaughlin: “The school has well mannered, responsible and motivated pupils and it was a pleasure and privilege to meet so many of them. I would like to thank all staff and students of Rossmar School for giving me the opportunity to witness an outstanding learning community in action.”
Rossmar School Council member, Aline (19), said winning the award is “fantastic” and her fellow pupils and staff are delighted their hard work had paid off.
Tori-Lynn, aged 18, said they always try their best to think of others at all times.
“We work very hard and try to help others. We come up with rotas for different jobs and make sure it’s fair,” she said.
Brandon, aged 19, said the School Council is very important and makes sure pupils voices are heard.
He said they contribute to decision making on a variety of matters. For example, Brandon noticed that the doors were too heavy to open for students using wheelchairs. He suggested introducing electronic buttons in the school that pupils could press to make access easier. That was implemented.
“We’re all very proud of the school and it’s great we won the award,” added Brandon.
Rossmar pupils were instrumental in the school’s campaign for a new school, convincing former education minister John O’Dowd to give the green light to a new multi-million pound new build.