22 May 2022

Steelstown Primary School... the best school in the North 

'working together to make a difference for the children and their families' 

Steelstown Primary School in Derry has been crowned the best school in the North for its commitment to its pupils  and their families.

The school, located on Steelstown Road, has been recognised for providing the highest standards in teaching and learning to its pupils each day.

The judging panel  at the Families First NI Awards  said Steelstown was 'so deserving' because of its outstanding  pastoral care and the vast range of pathways pupils are given to reach their potential.'

"It serves the community well and provides all children with the best possible child-centred education with very high standards, expectations and opportunities and highest quality care," said the judges.

"Steelstown works with parents and the wider community in partnership with life-long learning."

The rigorous application process took place over several months and began after the school was nominated last year.

After making a detailed submission,  the school received an unannounced visit by the judging panel who took a tour and spoke to both staff and  pupils.

Principal, Siobhan Gillen, and a member of staff from every department travelled to Titanic Belfast recently where Steelstown was crowned both the best primary school in Co. Derry and the best school in the North.

Steelstown's 396 pupils are 'delighted' with the achievement  and marked it with a celebratory lunch on Friday last.

"They take such pride in the school and they were delighted when they heard the news," said Mrs Gillen, who was a pupil in Steelstown's first P1 class when it opened its doors in 1972.

"The success of every school is in its staff,” added Mrs Gillen.

Working together

"We all work together collaboratively and everyone is committed to continuous improvement.

"Every day at school is about continually learning, evolving and trying to better ourselves.”

"We are also building on the work of past principals and former members of staff.”

"Success like this doesn't just happen overnight.”

"It's a joy to do what we do and we are very blessed to be able to do it.”

"It's great to be in a vocation where you can make a difference and when you see children achieve, it’s what it is all about.”

"We are all working together to make a difference for the children and their families.”

"The staff are very enthusiastic and committed and we have very supportive parents and community."

Steelstown PS also prides itself on its 'open door' policy.

"If there are any problems, staff are always there to help," said Mrs Gillen.

"It's vital to have good home-school links.”

"We all work in partnership with our families.”

Community links

“Steelstown has such strong  links with the local community and people in the area call it 'our school.'

“Pupils have a chance to be involved in school  life through the democratic groups such as , the Eco Club and the School Council.

"We want each child to leave this school as happy, secure, confident individuals who believe in themselves and believe in what they can achieve.

“I hope that each child will have developed strong links with his/her community, that he/she will have received the highest standards of learning and teaching, become independent learners, have experienced  a broad and balanced curriculum and be provided with the relevant intervention programmes if needed to achieve their best. I hope for each individual child to be extremely proud of their progress and accom- plishments, no matter how big or small," Mrs Gillen said.

Steelstown also has strong links with the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Church and works closely with other neighbouring schools in the area.

Its fabulous winning choir goes out into the local community and performs at care homes for the elderly, community  halls and shopping  centres.

The school is also taking part in a  project with  Queen's University Belfast which helps develop the children's social and emotional development.

"It's about building resilience and skills to help them in life," said Mrs Gillen.

The school works with a range of outside agencies including  Greater Shantallow Area Partnership, Young Enterprise, NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, All State and Time to Read, and enjoys support from CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools), the Education  Authority and Department of Education Northern Ireland.

The school has made its mark nationally through a string of awards including the Nothern Ireland RoadSsafety Quiz Award and overall N.Ireland Sentinus Young Innovator's STEM Award.

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