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The class of 2020 at Derry's Ardnashee school get a special chance to say goodbye to their classmates and staff

End-of-year picnic held at the local campus

A graduating class from a Derry school for pupils with special needs invited their teachers to a picnic to mark the end of the school year.

The students from Ardnashee School and College were presented with a special 'goodbye pack' and t-shirt to celebrate their time there.

The pupils were delighted to meet up again after three long months apart and clapped and cheered for each other as they were presented with their gifts.

"They have only been together in this class since September but they have formed such close bonds and it was very poignant to see them support and celebrate each other," said senior teacher and governor, Sinead Crossan.

The picnic was also attended by classroom assistants Rachel Barr, Darren McClelland and Annmarie Carlin.

Many of the pupils have been at the school since the age of four, but each student has had a bespoke package created for them for their next step.

"All of the leavers have overcome big challenges throughout their lives and they will be leaving Ardnashee with their heads held high," said Mrs Crossan

"Whilst we are so sad to see them go we know that they are all ready to take their next steps."

The 21 leavers from Ardnashee School and College 2020 will have a graduation evening on September 23.

"Ardnashee loves to celebrate success and we want to hold an event that will be attended by every teacher and senior staff member to give them closure after what has been a very strange year," said Mrs Crossan.

All the graduates have also received a home visit from staff during the lockdown period.

Derry photographer Stephen Latimer whose son Alex is graduating from Ardnashee this year, captured a beautiful picture of his son's visit.

"Alex has been at Ardnashee since he was at nursery," said Mrs Crossan.

"He is one of the brightest and most beautiful characters in the school.

"When staff are having their lunch he will come in and serve them and help clean up after.

"He is so well mannered and has excellent life skills.

"We conducted the home visits during the height of lockdown and Stephen's photo shows how distanced we were," said Mrs Crossan.

"The challenge for all schools now, both mainstream and special needs, will be how to recover from lockdown."

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