Derry school going the extra mile to care for pupils, parents and staff
As part of Oakgrove Integrated Primary and Nursery School’s (IPSN) ongoing commitment, the school has proudly launched a Community Hub offering a range of practical steps to help pupils, parents and families.
The foundations of the initiative started last year, when Oakgrove started to provide free school meals to every child during the month of January.
Principal, Mrs Donaghey said: “This year, we looked at how we could extend and expand on what we offer in terms of family support. Along with the Oakgrove Friends and Family Committee, we set ourselves a goal to prioritise health and wellbeing in an effort to help reduce the financial pressures for families during this cost-of-living crisis.”
Throughout the month of January, over 420 pupils will receive a breakfast snack of toast every morning. Primary 3 pupil, Max said: “I love coming into school in the morning. My classroom smells like warm toast and some days we get pancakes too.”
At breaktime, pupils can choose from a selection of fruit that is available for free in their classrooms.
In order to alleviate the pressures at home, Oakgrove pupils also receive a free hot dinner, dessert and drink every Monday and Friday at lunchtime. The canteen cook Helen, along with her dedicated team, work hard to produce nutritious meals for children. In line with the school’s integrated education ethos, the school meals often have a multicultural theme celebrating different cuisine from around the world. The additional salad bar option helps to top-up dinner plates with lots of healthy fruit, salad and bread, so that the children have plenty to eat.
In addition to looking after the needs of the pupils, Oakgrove IPSN supports the health and wellbeing of adults too. This January and February, staff and parents are being offered free health checks and breast cancer screening. The Action Cancer BIG Bus rolled into Oakgrove and set-up for three days offering breast cancer screening and health checks. One parent said: “It’s so hard to get an appointment and get seen by a GP, so it’s great to be able to drop your child off at school and then nip into The Big Bus. This means so much.”
Catherine McLean Gorman, treasurer of the Oakgrove Friends and Family Group attributes the Acorn Giving Circle for the success of being able to introduce a Warm Hub to support parents and carers. Every Thursday and Friday, parents can avail of a Warm Hub offering free tea and coffee with newspapers and magazines in the comfort of Oakgrove’s on-site Nurture Centre. Parents have the additional option of free access to washing machines, tumble dryers and kitchen facilities.
Mrs Donaghey explained that due to extreme pressures on school finance and budget cuts, there simply is no money available in school budgets to cover these initiatives. Schools have been underfunded for a number of years with limited budgets.
The Oakgrove Community Hub is solely reliant on fundraising and donations. Vice Principal, Mr Niall Gill, said: “We have been fortunate to receive kind and generous donations through fundraising initiatives thanks to Oakgrove Friends and Family and the Acorn Giving Circle. We’ve also had great support from local businesses with donations from Axa and Country Fried Chicken. The highlight of the week is when P7 pupils, along with a member of staff, visit The Bakery Ebrington on a Monday morning. They’re delighted to collect some fresh loaves of bread and pancakes donated by the bakery every week.”