14 Aug 2022

National recognition for County Derry School Hero Nula

Nula Breen picked up the awards at a ceremony in Birmingham recently.

National recognition for County Derry School Hero Nula

Nula pictured accepting her award. Photo: Darren Harvey Photography

The school community of St Mary’s PS Draperstown has been enjoying the celebrations since their Building Supervisor, Nula Breen picked up both regional and national UK Active School Hero Awards, at a prestigious ceremony in Birmingham’s ICC recently.

Now in its fourth year, the Active School Hero Award was created to shine a spotlight on the amazing work of primary school staff, creating innovative and fun environments for children to be active.

Principal, Corinne Coyle, explained: “We have a culture of empowering leadership at St. Mary’s, and we strive to make the most of everyone’s talents. Nula’s tremendous work ethic, creativity, commitment, vast array of talents and outstanding leadership skills, contribute so much to the children’s learning experience. The numerous initiatives Nula has led over the years warrant this national recognition. Her well-deserved success at the UK Active Awards has been a wonderful experience and the personal message from Double Olympic, World and

European Champion Mo Farah, was the icing on the cake. The community support has been overwhelming. We’re lucky to be part of an affirming school community, and we are indeed fortunate to have Nula as an integral part of that.”

Corinne went on to thank Lee Francis at Maddison Media, Ashlea Smith, Ollie Moreton and the team at UK Active, the children, parents, governors and staff of St. Mary’s P.S. Draperstown.

In response to the awards, Orla Chennaoui, past pupil of St. Mary’s, Eurosport presenter and columnist for Metro and Rouleur wrote: “Nula is famous for making it her life’s work to enrich the lives of others - specifically children, but by extension, a great proportion of the community. She is an effervescent, ever-present bundle of infectious energy, encouraging the children to be active even when they don’t realise it.”

In a special video message from her colleagues, parents, governors, past and present pupils,

Nula was credited for her enthusiasm and dedication to getting children active. She was praised for the key role she plays supporting children with additional needs.

Margaret Heron, Chairperson of the Board of Governors at St Mary’s said: “Nula is no stranger to awards. As Building Supervisor, she led the school to three Best Kept School

Awards for the North-Eastern Area, going on to scoop the Best of the Best Award in 2018 for the Best Kept School in Northern Ireland. Nula has introduced so many different projects over the years. Her flagship project being our school garden and greenhouse. They have enabled so many of our children, especially those with additional needs to improve their wellbeing, develop vital life skills, and participate in physical activity. We look forward to the exciting plans Nula has for our garden area in celebration of our upcoming 60th anniversary.”

Outside of school, Nula is a keen runner and cyclist, and does not allow her diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis to hold her back. Her cross-country club is one of the school’s most popular after-school activities, largely due to her fun and energetic approach and the way she motivates everyone to challenge themselves.

Three years ago, Nula created My Marathon, an annual running event, tasking everyone to

run 26.2 marathon miles over the course of one month. Children, staff, parents, and governors get involved. Last year My Marathon raised £8,000 for school funds.

Nula has encouraged businesses from the local area and further afield to throw their weight behind this wonderful initiative.

As governor, Karen Doyle stated: “Businesses just can’t say no to Nula!”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, My Marathon brought life and fun back to St. Mary’s, motivating

not only the pupils but older members of the school community and those less used to exercise.

Nula said: “I am completely overwhelmed to have achieved this national recognition, for

something that is just part of the work I love and enjoy doing every day. Active School Hero has generated such excitement at the school and around the local area. It is vital that we get our children outdoors and staying active. I want the children to understand the love I have of being active outside and the positive impact that can have on our health and mental wellbeing. I want children to understand that they do not have to be the best to take part, but they must be the best they can be. It has been emotional to hear parents talk about the impact my work has had on their children over the years, and it makes it all worthwhile.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Nula’s story is a shining example of the impact that school staff can have on our children’s health, happiness and confidence, using the power of physical activity. We want every child to have access to physical activity and it clear that

Nula’s inclusive approach and infectious passion have made her an incredibly valued member of the community at St Mary’s. Congratulations to all the Active School Hero nominees and finalists and thank you for all the work you do every day to show children that physical activity can be fun for everyone.”

Dan Burrows, Nike’s Senior Director of Social and Community Impact, EMEA, said: “It’s been a privilege to be a part of the Active School Hero program and spotlight the inspiring work of primary school coaches across the UK. All the shortlisted coaches played a pivotal role in ensuring that more children have access to play and sport, and the decision to select just one was not easy. I’m delighted to celebrate the achievements of Nula Breen and recognise the incredible contributions she’s made to keep the kids in her school active and engaged in play.”

Gerry Campbell Chief Executive of CCMS (Catholic Maintained Schools) added: “Catholic Schools are an exemplar of educational provision and at the heart of the communities they

serve. This award is positive recognition of Nula’s unwavering commitment and service to the children at St Mary’s Primary School. I am inspired by how she engages with children of all abilities and encourages them to use their gifts as she teaches them her talents. It is representative of the ethos of Catholic education which promotes the benefits of holistic learning to enable all children to reach their full potential. On behalf of all at CCMS I extend congratulations to Nula, St Mary’s Primary School, and wider community.”

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