09 Dec 2021

St Cecilia's scoop national inclusivity and diversity award

Top marks in the 'trust' standard gets Derry school a gold star from BSI

St Cecilia's scoop national inclusivity and diversity award

Vice principal, Mary Jo O’Carolan and Catherine Currie (Senior Teacher) picked up the award on behalf of St Cecilia's College at the BSI Award’s Ceremony in London.

St Cecilia's College were recognised for their diversity and inclusivity work as they scooped a national British Standards Institute (BSI) award.

In a ceremony last week in London, the Derry school won the BSI prize for 'Trust' as part of the 'BS76005: Valuing People through Diversity and Inclusion Standard'. The College had been nominated by their assessor, John Mullholland (Centre for Assessment NI), for the award.

The school were recognised for their development of ‘Trust’ by using the standard valuing people through diversity and inclusion.

Adoption of the standard enabled them to offer outstanding learning support to students with additional needs and to develop trust with students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The standard has provided them with insight into how their diversity and inclusion policies and practices may be developed or improved upon for the benefit of the organisation and all their stakeholders.

They have fostered a truly caring and supportive environment for staff, pupils and their families and inspiring outcomes in terms of family sustainability, mental health and life opportunities.

The Award is a recognition of the dedication and hard work of all in the St. Cecilia’s Community – pupils, parents, staff, community and business partners.

A delighted St Cecilia's College Principal, Martine Mulhern, said: “We actually applied for the standard in inclusion and diversity. They are kind of national standards in terms of business etiquette and how you go about your business.

“We applied just to confirm for us that we were doing everything that we could in terms of our children and the staff in the school.

“Having achieved that, John Mulholland – who was our assessor – said that we merited being put forward for an award nomination. He felt that it should be in around 'Trust' as he felt that we had developed trust within our school and our community through the use of the diversity and inclusion standard.”

Principal Mulhern cited the liaising carried out by the staff and the school's Student Council as an example of how trust and inclusivity works at St Cecilia's.

She added: “We work very, very closely with all of our stakeholders – the most important ones being of course the children. We would have a very strong Student Council in the school and they've brought about significant changes, such as uniform.

“We were, I think, the first all-girls school to introduce trousers all year round. I know St Mary's have brought in trousers for their uniform for winter only but we have adopted it for the whole year.

“You can come to school wearing trousers or you can come in wearing a skirt. That came very strongly from the Student voice.

“They said that while they didn't all want to wear trousers, they felt they should have the right to do so. They went about designing the uniform – working with professional designers to design the trousers.

“Because they did that, they then had to design a change in the blazers to go with the trousers so it became a complete uniform overhaul.

“We worked with them in terms of the PE uniform as well so that it was a uniform that was both cost-effective and one that they felt comfortable wearing it.

“The PE uniform is basically a pair of black leggings and a green T-shirt that would cost no more that eight pounds fifty. There's a lot of hype about PE uniforms and the cost of them but we deliberately keep ours low.

“We work closely with the Student Council who have a very, very strong voice and who make sure that we are inclusive of all of the children. It's not my school, it's not a teacher's school, it's not a parent's school it's their school.

“We work really closely with them to identify any issues around inclusion and diversity to try and make sure that we are welcoming to every single person that walks through our door.”

Other examples of how St Cecilia's promotes inclusion are the programmes – such as the implementation of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) counselling and the work done to involve the community as well as parents.

Principal Mulhern continued: “This award was an easy one for us to get because it's just our ethos. We got an award for what is essentially our ethos. Diversity, inclusion and trust is the way we work and who we are and it's lovely getting the validation that you think you're doing this but you actually are.

“I'm really delighted to have had that acknowledgement of the way we work.

“The feedback from the parents has been lovely. We've invested in CBT counselling, a full-time dyslexic tutor, there's a hub where children can go for additional support and we have a nurture room.

“We really work hard to try and make sure we care for the needs of all of the children in our school.

“We also work well with community services so if there's a family that needs extra support, we'll be able to signpost them to what's called our Fact Programme which we have with the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum – who are phenomenal.

“We have a family feeling within the school and we are so well supported by our community and of course, I have amazing staff.

“The culture and ethos that we have in the school, you can't make that up. If you come into our school, you feel it as soon as you walk through our doors. You know what we are and who we are jsut by coming in and the welcome that you would get.

“I truly believe that if we want our children to be the best that they can be and to achieve their potential, then they have to feel safe and loved. Do that and it will allow them to open up to everything else and to be able to learn to the best of their ability.”

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