(021) 481 2038 office@stmarysnscobh.com

Communications from Mrs. O’Callaghan

Friday, 26th June, 2020

Good morning Parents/Guardians,

I hope everyone is well at this time.

We have come to the end of a truly strange school year.

I’d like to thank you all for your support over the past year. And I’d like to extend a big well done also. The partnership between home and school was, over the past few months, pushed in a direction that was totally new to us all. I thank you for the time and energy you have put into engaging in home based learning with your daughter and I thank you for supporting St. Mary’s in its efforts to provide continuity of learning.

There is no denying that we have all had to learn to navigate an extremely unusual landscape. I thank the staff for their innovative thinking and positive work ethic and I thank the Leadership and Management team for their commitment to ensuring and supporting a high standard of education for our pupils even under the most surreal and challenging of circumstances.

Most especially I’d like to say a big well done and thank you to all our wonderful pupils. The past few months have not been easy on you. We really look forward to seeing you all again next term. Teachers have already been sharing information with regards to your learning in advance of your coming back to school. They will be ready to meet your needs and to guide and support you when the school re-opens.

Well done especially to all our 6th Class girls. All parents/guardians are invited to see the lovely messages prepared for 6th Class and their fabulous drama Ms. Fitzgerald’s class created entitled ‘Bun Friday Speisialta’ on the website, www.stmarysnscobh.com. While 6th Class may not have had the traditional graduation as other years would, we have endeavoured to ensure their completion of primary school is marked appropriately. Best wishes to all our 6th Class girls. As they move to secondary school I ask them to remember the messages of respect, courage and kindness taught in St. Mary’s and to look after themselves and each-other.

As we look ahead to the next school year, there is no denying that we will be returning to a very different ‘playing field’.  We are aiming for a full re-opening of the school on 27th August. We all want normality to resume. But in advance of that there are still so many unknowns and so many questions that need to be answered. Our school, like every other school in the country, is awaiting guidelines form the Department of Education. When they arrive they should provide greater clarity as to what our school will look like and how it will function next term.

But, while so much is still up in the air with regards to next term, there are some definite knowns. A shared, collaborative approach will be required between the Board of Management, staff and parents to ensure the safe re-opening of our school. The assistance and cooperation of the entire school community will be essential. Increased communication will be required in advance of the new school year. Necessary training will be required for all stakeholders. There may also need to be staggered starting and finishing times, staggered breaks and alternative mechanisms for assembly each morning. While I, like every other principal in the country, would love to be in a position to offer answers to all the questions each stakeholder has, I cannot do so without the promised guidance from the Department of Education and consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Therefore, you are asked to please keep an eye on Aladdin Connect and the website over the summer months. I will, as always, endeavour to keep everyone updated as matters evolve. We want a safe, orderly and secure school environment for all next term. And so, I wish to assure you that although the school will be closed much work will be going on behind the scenes to ensure a safe re-opening of the school.

So that’s it…………. for now.

I thank you all again for your support of all that we do in St. Mary’s NS. I wish you all a restful and safe summer.

Kindest regards,

Fiona O’Callaghan



Wednesday, 10th June, 2020

Good afternoon Parents/Guardians,

I hope you are all well at this time. Just a short note today to keep you all in the loop with regard to happenings for the week ahead.

I hope the girls all enjoyed our staff video last week. We received some lovely feedback which was most appreciated, thank you.

End of Year Reports will be shared with all on Aladdin Connect on Friday, 12th June. It has proven very difficult to get an email address for all without access to Aladdin, therefore, families without access to Aladdin will receive the End of year Report in the post.

Class Allocations, Booklists, Calendar and Policy on the division of classes will be shared on Monday, 15th June via Aladdin Connect. Those without access to Aladdin will receive this information by post.

Goodbye to 6th Class: Much work is going on behind the scenes to mark the completion of primary school for our 6th Class children. The link to purchase 6th Class hoodies is now live and links have been shared by class teachers. Yearbooks are being compiled and will go to the printers in the coming days. Sincere thanks to the Parents Association who have agreed to fund the 6th Class yearbooks. A photo montage is currently being put together and will be on display on the school website very soon. A couple of special messages have been recorded and will also be shared very soon. A few more surprises may also come to fruition. Sincere thanks to Mrs. Murphy and Ms. Fitzgerald for their Trojan work and assistance in ensuring that 6th Class get the send off they deserve.

Primary Language Curriculum Webinars: Staff will engage in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) on Thursday, 18th June. As staff will be engaged in online webinars for the duration of the school day work will not be assigned for children on this day. Neither will staff be in a position to answer emails or provide feedback on work uploaded to Aladdin Connect on this date.

6th Class return of book rental books: As previously outlined only families of 6th Class pupils are asked to return book rental books in advance of the summer holidays. Children from all other classes (Junior Infants-5th Class) should bring book rental books to school with them when the school reopens.

Collection of 6th Class book rental books will take place on Tuesday, 16th June. One adult member from each family should return books as follows:

Ms. Fitzgerald’s Class: 11.00-11.45am

Mrs. Murphy’s Class: 12.00-12.45pm

A more detailed letter including important safety information will be sent to all parents/guardians of 6th Class pupils at the end of this week.

DES Guidance on re-opening schools: All schools await guidance on the re-opening of schools. Information shared with parents next week, in particular the school calendar, is subject to change. I will, as always endeavour to keep you in the loop as matters evolve. Communication with parents/guardians during the summer months will be via Aladdin Connect and/or the school website. Parents/guardians are advised to continue to check in with the Aladdin Connect app and the school website regularly.

Water Safety: Normally in June I request all teachers to explore the topic of water safety with the children. As this can’t be done in its usual manner in classrooms this year, I urge all parents/guardians to explore the topic using the PAWS (Primary Aquatics Water Safety) programme at home. The links to the programme are: https://watersafety.ie/    https://www.teachpaws.ie/. Please do take time to explore the programme with your daughter(s). We live in a beautiful place, we are surrounded by water. We all want to enjoy it and make the most of it. This can only be done when we are comfortable in the water and also when we know all that is required in terms of staying safe in the water. Now is the time to explore the key messages of Water Safety with our children.

Maintaining momentum: I’m sure I can’t be the only one, but in my house at least, it is difficult to maintain motivation and momentum with regard to completing home based learning in June. I urge you all to keep learning as hand-on as possible. Don’t underestimate the value of getting outdoors and exploring the environment. And if you do nothing else, keep reading.

Hall of Fame: In an effort to encourage one last boost of motivation I have set up a specific email account where families can share one photograph of their daughter’s best/most special/favourite/most fun/most proud of piece of work that they have completed during lockdown. It might be a photo of a project completed, an obstacle course set up, a picture of a bug-hunt completed, a special cake baked, a letter written etc… Parents/Guardians can email the photo to homelearning.2020@stmarysnscobh.com. By emailing the photo to this address parents/guardians are giving consent for the photo to be shared on the school website. You may choose to have your daughter in the image, you may not, the choice is yours. But you are asked not to have your daughter’s name appear in the image please. Photos will be uploaded to the website under the heading Home Based Learning Hall of Fame. This email address is live from today and will cease operation on 26th June. This email address should not be used for any other purpose. I really look forward to viewing your photos and sharing them on the website.

That’s all for now. Wishing you all a good week.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan



4th June, 2020

Good afternoon parents/guardians,

I hope you are all keeping well at this time.

The staff of St. Mary’s have been busy preparing a video for all our wonderful pupils, their parents/guardians and families. It is available to view on the homepage of the school website. Click here to view. http://www.stmarysnscobh.com/

We hope you all enjoy it!

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan

28th May, 2020

Good afternoon Parents/Guardians,

I hope that you and your loved ones are all keeping well at this time.

Last week, many of you visited the school to collect books on your daughter’s behalf. Thank you to all who visited for adhering to the safety measures put in place. It was lovely to be able to meet with you and hear how you and your daughter’s are getting on during this very strange time. The well wishes and words of appreciation that so many of you expressed towards the school were extremely appreciated. Thank you!

Congratulations to Mrs. Lane and her 3rd Class pupils who won the best picture award in the Safer Internet Day Awards 2020. This is a wonderful achievement for our school as it recognises the wonderful work achieved in our school to promote online safety. Thousands of entries were submitted from across Ireland with St. Mary’s coming out on top- an achievement we are very proud of!

Term 3 is always an extremely busy time of year for schools and this year that is especially true! Teachers are currently working on End of Year Reports. As was stated in a previous correspondence, it is intended, this year, to share end of year reports with all parents/guardians digitally via Aladdin Connect. Parents without access to Aladdin Connect will receive the end of year report via email. It is hoped that these will be sent digitally to all families during the last fortnight of June.

While I have every faith in the Aladdin system and it has served us very well to date, as a precautionary measure, all parents/guardians are asked to check that an up to date email address is on file on the Aladdin system.

The school calendar, as is currently planned, for 2020/2021, a letter explaining class allocations for 2020/2021 and a copy of your daughter’s booklist for 2020/2021 will also be sent to all families digitally via either Aladdin Connect or e-mail during the last fortnight in June.

Book Rental: Like everything at present, we are having to find new ways of doing things. Therefore, while in a regular school year families of 2nd-5th class paid for and received book rental books for the following year in June, an alternative system needs to be devised for this school year. To this end we have decided on the following:

  • Online payment: We are currently in the process of setting up online payments through the Aladdin system whereby parents will have a facility to pay for school expenses, including book rental, online. It is hoped to have this system set up before the end of June. It is a work in progress at present, I will keep you all updated as and when more information becomes known.
  • The only books that will be collected from children at this side of the summer break are the 6th class books. Families of 6th class children will hear more about this in due course.
  • Parents/Guardians of all other classes (Junior Infants-5th Class) will, at the end of June, be provided with a list of books your daughter has at home belonging to the school. Your child(ren) should bring these books to school with them when the school reopens.
  • These books will be used initially by teachers to revise, reinforce and revisit key topics.
  • Children will receive their new book rental books on an agreed date in mid-September.

Class Configurations: The organisation of classes for the school year 2020/2021 is underway. Parents of 2nd class pupils received a correspondence from me earlier this week with regard to class configurations for next year. These parents are reminded to email a list of three of their daughter’s friends to office@stmarysnscobh.com before 1pm tomorrow, 29th May.

Celebration of Sacraments: Letters from Bishop Crean were shared with families of both 2nd and 6th class this week in relation to the celebration of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. In these letters he outlined that it is hoped sacraments will be celebrated in September/ October. Parents of pupils intending to go forward for Confirmation are asked to complete an application form and return it to the parish office or to info@cobhcathedralparish.ie. Please note that forms should not be returned to the school.

6th Class: Much work is going on behind the scenes to ensure the completion of primary school is marked appropriately for our 6th class pupils. Mrs. Murphy and Ms. Fitzgerald brought the broadcast facilitated by well-known author Sarah Webb, where many well-known faces offered advice and wisdom to 6th class pupils around the country, to the attention of 6th class parents.  If any of our 6th class families did not get an opportunity to view this broadcast I have attached the link here for your convenience. https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=BaO7mwdL0Ow

New Junior Infant Pupils: We look forward to welcoming 31 new Junior Infant pupils to our school next year. An induction pack will be sent by post to all families of new Junior Infant pupils next week.

School Work in June: If this was a regular school year, the month of June would see us easing off on the homework being assigned to classes. Therefore, from next Tuesday, 2nd June, teachers will be assigning less written activities in their plans of work. Teachers will endeavour to increase the number of practical tasks, screen-free activities, physical tasks and hand-on learning activities suggested in their plans of work each week. The importance of children getting out and getting physical exercise while maintaining social distancing during the month of June should not be underestimated. And, as has always been the case, how and when your daughter engages with the work assigned should be decided by you based on your own family circumstances.

Support: I would like to reiterate my message that if anyone needs any help or assistance at this time you are urged to contact class teachers directly on the email addresses supplied or contact me on office@stmarysnscobh.com. We will try to help where we can- please do reach out if you need to.

As we head towards the June Bank holiday weekend, I wish all our families and especially our wonderful pupils a happy and safe weekend.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan



15th May, 2020

Good evening Parents/Guardians,

In light of the commencement of Phase 1 of the Reopening of Business and Society next Monday, the Department of Education has issued, this evening, guidance to schools relating to accessing the school from 18th May. The guidance document states that ‘to support the continuity of teaching and learning schools can organise, prepare and disseminate books’. Therefore, we  will be opening the school grounds on Wednesday, 20th, Thursday, 21st and Friday 22nd of May to provide you with an opportunity to collect your daughter’s school books. Much work has gone into planning for the complex task of the safe distribution of school books belonging to 328 pupils. Strict guidelines will need to be adhered to and you are asked to read the attached document outlining the plan for the collection of books very carefully. The attached plan will also be shared on the school website should you have difficulty accessing it here.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan


Friday, 15th May, 2020

Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s),

We will be opening the school grounds on Wednesday, 20th, Thursday, 21st and Friday 22nd of May to provide you with an opportunity to collect your daughter’s school books. There is no obligation on any parent to collect books. However, a second opportunity to collect books will not be provided. To ensure your safety, the safety of school staff and to comply with government regulations, you will need to read this letter very carefully.

Collection Points

There will be four collection points in operation over the course of the three days. They are:

1.         The fire exit door attached to Room 3(next to the pre-school)
2.         The main front door
3.         The first fire exit door in the Old Building (opposite stairs)
4.         The second fire exit door in the Old Building (opposite coat hooks between rooms 11 & 12)



A timetable for the collection of books has been devised. You are asked to only come to the school at your designated time. Books will not be distributed to families outside of their designated time.

The timetable is as follows:

Wednesday, 20th May

Who When Where
Families with one child in the school-      Ms. Lynch’s Junior Infant Class Wednesday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 1 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school-     Ms. Quinlan’s 3rd Class Wednesday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 3 (Old Building)
Families with one child in the school-     Ms. McCarthy’s Junior/Senior Infant Class Wednesday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 1 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school-     Ms. Fitzgerald’s 6th Class Wednesday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 3 (Old Building)
Families with one child in the school-      Ms. Kelleher’s Senior Infant Class Wednesday, 1.00-2.00 Collection Point 1 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school-    Mrs. Lane’s 3rd Class Wednesday, 1.00-2.00 Collection Point 3 (Old Building)


Thursday, 21st May

Who When Where
Families with one child in the school-      Ms. Hallahan’s 1st/2nd Class Thursday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 2 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school-    Mrs. Kelly’s 2nd Class Thursday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 4 (Old Building)
Families with one child in the school-     Ms. Gilley’s 1st Class Thursday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 2 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school-     Ms. Greally’s 4th Class Thursday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 4 (Old Building)
Families with one child in the school-       Ms Walsh’s 5th Class Thursday, 1.00-2.00 Collection Point 4 (Old Building)


Friday, 22nd May

Who When Where
Families with more than one child in the school with surnames A-N* Friday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 2 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school- Ms. McElhinney’s 4th/5th Class Friday, 10.00-11.00 Collection Point 4 (Old Building)
Families with more than one child in the school with surnames O-W* Friday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 2 (New Building)
Families with one child in the school- Mrs. Murphy’s 6th Class Friday, 11.30-12.30 Collection Point 4 (Old Building)


*For families of more than one child attending St. Mary’s with a double barrel surname, the first surname should be used as an indicator for alphabetical order. Eg: Leahy Walsh- Leahy is the name to be used when deciphering designated collection time.

Parents, especially those with more than one child in the school, are advised to bring a strong bag for books.

Due to GDPR, parents arranging for another adult to collect school books on their behalf should inform the office via email (office@stmarysnscobh.com) of the name of the person consented to collect school books. Please email before 5pm on Tuesday, 19th May

Key Safety Points:

  • You should only arrive at the school at your designated time. Eg. 10.00-11.00 means that you can arrive anytime between 10.00 and 11.00.
  • One adult member (only) per household to come to collect books
  • Strictly no children permitted on school grounds when collecting books
  • No cars, other than those of staff, will be permitted onto school grounds
  • Parents will not be permitted access to the school building for any reason
  • To ensure safety, a one-way system will be in operation. You should enter the school yard via the lower gate (opposite the Community Centre) and exit the school via the upper gate (Ticknock side of school). The Bishop Street gate will not be open
  • The wearing of gloves/mask is at your own discretion
  • A hand sanitizer station will be set up inside the entry gate. You are asked to use hand sanitizer on entry to the school grounds.
  • If you cannot remember your collection point, you should ask a member of staff on duty in the playground.
  • You are asked to maintain social distancing rules at all times
  • Cones will be placed on the ground to indicate queuing points. Please do not move these cones. You are asked to stand beside the cone and only step forward when safe to do so.
  • On arrival to the collection point you should stand behind the yellow line on the ground and give your daughter’s name to the staff member
  • On receipt of your daughter’s name the staff member will go to retrieve your daughter’s books and place them on the table located at the door of the collection point
  • You should only step forward and take your daughter’s books once the staff member has stepped back.
  • Parents should leave the school grounds immediately via the upper gate.

There will be staff on the school grounds to help with movement. You are asked to uphold social distancing rules at all times. Please do not approach staff unless you require help with regard to book collection. Please maintain social distance rules if approaching a staff member. Please don’t be offended if asked to move on, we are simply trying to keep us all safe.

We envisage the process of book collection to be swift and efficient in nature whereby parents would spend minimal time on site.

If you are unclear of your designated time or collection point you are asked to email office@stmarysnscobh.com before 5pm on Tuesday, 19th May.

You will be asked to return all book rental books before the beginning of the next school year. A plan for this will be shared at a later date.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and support.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan


13th May, 2020

Good morning Parents/Guardians,

I hope that you and your loved ones are well at this time.

I’d like to commence my letter this week by offering a big well done to all our wonderful girls who, I’m sure, are all doing their best during these unprecedented times.  Lockdown is not easy on any of us but I really feel for our children. They miss their grandparents, their friends, their teachers, their aunts, uncles and cousins. They miss being able to go to the playground, the beach, the woods, maybe even the supermarket! Like us all, they get frustrated and long for some level of normality to return. I urge you all to praise your children as much as possible at this time. Celebrate successes no matter how small. Encourage them, where possible, to go outside, to play, to get exercise and to have fun. This time will pass. Let’s encourage them to take one day at a time and find magic (no matter how small) in every day!

Sincere thanks to all families who completed the parent questionnaire issued by all class teachers last week. Your responses have been most insightful and will help and guide us as we move forward.

I see from Aladdin that parents are beginning to upload work for review by class teachers. Thank you most sincerely for engaging with this system.  Please contact your daughter’s class teacher directly by email if you experience any glitches. This is new for all of us but, through team work and patience, hopefully we can overcome challenges if/when they present themselves.

6th Class parents/guardians have received information with regard to the Education Passport to Secondary School. All parents/guardians and pupils are asked to complete the forms forwarded and return them by email to office@stmarysnscobh.com before 2.30pm on Friday, 22nd May.

As they would in other years, teachers will soon commence the process of completing End of Year Reports. As we all know this year has been anything but normal. This year the purpose of End of Year Reports will be:

  • To inform parents of progress from September-March
  • To share and celebrate learning
  • To identify areas of learning to focus on for next year

It is intended, this year, to share end of year reports with all parents/guardians digitally via Aladdin Connect. Parents without access to Aladdin Connect will receive the end of year report via email. It is hoped that these will be sent digitally to all families during the last fortnight of June.

The school calendar, as is currently planned, for 2020/2021 and a letter explaining class allocations for 2020/2021 will also be sent to all families digitally via either Aladdin Connect or e-mail during the last fortnight in June. As I’m sure you understand, the school calendar may obviously change based on government guidance. We have no idea yet what parameters will be set for schools when we are scheduled to re-open for the school year 2020/2021. As always, I will endeavour to keep you all in the loop as matters evolve.

As you have heard me say in previous correspondences, the wellbeing of your family is paramount at this time. As a school we understand the myriad of family contexts some of you are experiencing at present. Please be assured that any work coming from the school is a menu to choose from rather than a list from which your daughter must work through. With regard to school work you must do what suits your family situation best.

Finally, I wish to reiterate, while the school phone-line is not being monitored during the school closure, any parent needing help or support at this time is asked to please make contact via email with class teachers or with me on office@stmarysnscobh.com. We may not be able to solve every problem straight away but together and, where necessary, with the help of others we’ll give it a good shot!

I hope you and our 328 girls have a happy, calm and safe week.

Take care.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan


Wednesday, 6th May, 2020

Good morning all Parents/Guardians,

I hope you and your loved ones are all well and keeping safe.

As you all heard last Friday, all schools are to remain closed until September. This was very difficult news to hear. We had all hoped to return to some level of normality this school year. I feel for all the children and staff who may feel they will not get to finish their school year in the traditional manner- especially sixth class, their parents and their teachers.

But fear not, the staff of St. Mary’s are a great bunch! They are already brainstorming ideas to further connect with our wonderful pupils in the coming weeks and exploring creative ways to mark the completion of primary school for our sixth class pupils.

Another group that are in our thoughts at this time are our sacrament classes. As you all know, next Saturday, 9th May, was supposed to be the day that our 2nd class children celebrate their First Holy Communion. I feel for our 2nd class children, their parents, teachers and SNA, all of whom were looking forward and working hard towards a super day.  While it will not be possible to celebrate the sacrament on Saturday, I urge families to mark and, dare I say ‘celebrate’, the day in some way. Enjoy the day as a family, dress up, have treats, take photos. Remind the girls that they will get to enjoy the day properly sometime in the future. For now, have fun and make the most of what is possible.

Sincere thanks to all the families who have completed the parent questionnaire issued to all families by class teachers with plans of work this week. If you have not already done so, please endeavour to complete the short questionnaire before 2.30pm on Friday, 8th May. Your responses will help to guide our work in the coming weeks.

Aladdin Connect have created a new feature which will allow you as a parent/guardian to upload an item of your daughter’s work for review. It is intended to commence trialling this new feature from next week. As we are all new to this system and as we do not wish to put additional pressure on any family, you will be requested to upload only one piece of your daughter’s work. Which piece of work will be up to you and your daughter to decide. Class teachers will provide details on how to upload your daughter’s work to Aladdin in their message to parents at the end of this week.  A video on how to upload work will also be shared by class teachers. Once work has been reviewed you will receive a feedback message from your daughter(s) teacher(s). We look forward to trialling this new Aladdin feature.

There is no doubt that the continued closure of schools will result in us not being able to finish the year as we normally would. This, understandably, may lead to anxiety for some parents/guardians. But please don’t worry about your daughter not progressing and perhaps regressing. Every child is in the same boat. Every staff member is acutely aware that next September will present as a different playing field for all, but staff will of course meet children’s needs. They are adept at doing this. Next September, the focus for teachers and the whole school community will be on settling the children and returning to normality in the classroom while also bridging the gap between work completed by children in their current class and work to be completed in their next class. At present it is best to take one day at a time. A phrase that has helped me of late, which may be of use to others is: ‘If it’s out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind too’.

I hope you all have a good week.

Take care and stay safe.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan




Thursday, 20th April, 2020

Good afternoon Parents/Guardians,

I hope you and your families are all well and staying safe.

Home-based Learning: I hope routines are beginning to form for you all. As we come towards the end of another week of home based learning, I hope you are finding the material being offered by staff useful and achievable. All parents and guardians deserve a huge ‘Well done’ for endeavouring to keep the ball rolling in terms of supporting their daughter’s learning during these very strange times.  Never underestimate all that you are doing for your children on a daily basis. There is learning in almost everything we do in and around the home. You are supporting learning by providing opportunities for your daughter(s) to talk, to ask questions, to complete chores, to play games, to carry out physical activities, to read, to write, to have fun. So keep going- you are doing a great job!

Wellbeing: As you are aware, this year, our school was working towards achieving our first ever Amber Flag.  The Amber Flag is a mental health initiative designed to help schools and clubs promote positive mental health within the educational system. Ms. Keating, Ms. Hanley, Ms. Madine and a committee of fantastic children from across the school coordinated our efforts towards achieving our goal. We have received notification from the Amber Flag organisers, Pieta House, that as a result of our whole-school efforts to promote positive mental health and wellbeing we are to be awarded our first ever Amber Flag! This is a wonderful achievement for our school and could not have been achieved without the leadership of our teachers and children or the cooperation and commitment of all in the school in the promotion of positive wellbeing. Well done to all!

With wellbeing in mind, it is vitally important that you as a parent/guardian safeguard your own mental health and wellbeing at this time. Please do reach out if you need to. Remember the health and wellbeing of our children starts with us. While schools remain closed we will endeavour to support parents/guardians remotely. If you have a query or a concern, please do make contact. Each teacher has shared their school email address. I am also available to answer queries. I can be contacted on office@stmarynscobh.com. Remember, we are all in this together.

Parent Questionnaire: In order to seek feedback on how families of pupils of St. Mary’s NS are getting on with home based learning during the current school closure, all class teachers will share a questionnaire with next week’s plan of work. Parents/Guardians are asked to please complete the questionnaire before 2.30pm on Friday, 8th May. Thank you most sincerely in advance to all families who complete the questionnaire as your responses will allow us to gain insight into home based learning for our pupils and may inform future practices for our school during the Covid-19 school closure period.

Standardised Tests: In normal circumstances primary schools are required to administer standardised testing during the period May/June. As all schools are currently closed under COVID-19 restrictions and with uncertainty as to when schools will reopen, the Department of Education and Skills has made the decision to cancel Standardised Testing for primary schools for the 2019/2020 school year.

To date we have not been issued with any information with regard to schools re-opening. I will endeavour to keep you all informed as the situation evolves.

I hope you all manage to enjoy some family time at home over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Keep safe and take care.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan



Tuesday, 21st April, 2020

Good afternoon parents and guardians,

I hope you are all keeping safe and staying well.

As you all know all schools are closed until further notice. We await information from the Department of Education with regard to the re-opening of schools. As always, we will endeavour to keep you informed as the situation evolves.

In the interim, we will continue to support your daughter’s learning using the systems established in recent weeks. All families should, at this stage, have received a plan of work for the week commencing 20th April from your daughter’s class teachers and special education teacher, if applicable.

While school work is important and can assist to add structure and routine to your family’s day, it is not the be all and end all. The wellbeing of your family is paramount at this time. As a school we understand the myriad of family contexts some of you are experiencing at present. Some of which may include:

  • A poor IT infrastructure
  • Poor broadband
  • Care of young children
  • Care of second and third level students, and stress due to uncertainty around exam timetables and arrangements and work placements
  • Care and support of elderly relatives and neighbours
  • Working from home and needing quiet time to do so
  • Living with/being a frontline family member
  • Experiencing illness or isolation in your home
  • Sudden unemployment of family members
  • General anxiety and stress around the current unprecedented situation

Please be assured that any work coming from the school is a menu to choose from rather than a list from which your daughter must work through. There are no deadlines for the work and you must do what suits your family situation best.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) has developed guidance and advice for schools, students and parents in relation to managing and staying well when schools are closed. The following is a link to these resources:


As I have said in the past, there is real value in having a structure/timetable in place for your daughter each day. Where possible try to include time for some school work, play, outside exercise and leisure along with meals and household chores. A sample timetable was sent to all families before Easter. Below is another option. We understand that children may get up much earlier, and go to bed much later than is suggested below! This is simply an example:

9-00am-10-00am Out of bed, play and get dressed

10-00am-11-00am Breakfast, tidy up and household jobs

11-00am-1-00pm School work

1-00pm-2-00pm Lunch and play time

2-00pm-3-00pm Outdoor exercise time

3-00pm-4-00pm Creative time-reading, art, dance, music, drama, baking or more school work for older children

4-00pm-5-00pm Free play time or limited TV

5-00pm-6-00pm Project time: a time to work on a specific project like writing a book, painting, a specific project in an area of interest etc.

6-00pm-7-00pm Help prepare dinner and tidy up

7-00pm-8-00pm Family activity time-board games, limited TV etc.

As has been outlined in the past, if you are having difficulty, please do make contact. All teachers have issued their school email addresses. The purpose of this facility is to answer any questions or queries you may have with regard to your daughter’s schooling at present. I am also available to answer queries. My email address is office@stmarynscobh.com. When emailing please allow time for staff to respond. Please be mindful that staff are committed to supporting you and your daughter at this time but they too are coming from and dealing with the same myriad of contexts outlined above. Your patience and understanding is, as always, very much appreciated.

Due to home learning, our children are using the internet now more than ever before. While this, for the most part, is extremely positive, it is vital that we continue to supervise and monitor children’s use of the internet and specifically online platforms including social media at this time. Webwise.ie is a super website which offers support to parents on safe and ethical use of the internet. It is well worth a look.

Teachers will share learning plans again at the end of this week for the week commencing 27th April. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to make contact if you have any questions.

Wishing all our families and especially our 328 wonderful girls a safe and happy week.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan


3rd April, 2020

Good afternoon families,

I hope you all had a good week and are all keeping well and staying safe.

Well done to all our girls who engaged with the work suggested by teachers this week. It isn’t easy to remain motivated, but I’m sure you all did a fantastic job.

For parents/guardians, I hope you found the materials that were shared by staff useful and that they helped to support home based learning at this time. I know, as a parent myself, I really appreciate the work my children’s teachers are putting in and find that it not only motivates, encourages and supports learning in my house but also helps to put in place a much needed structure to the day.  I’m truly hope these feelings are echoed in many of your homes.

While no formal plan of work will be assigned by staff during the Easter holidays, staff will be in contact today, offering a few simple activity suggestions for children for the Easter break. These activities are merely suggestions, there is no pressure on any family to complete these activities- a break is important for all.

As yet, we don’t know whether or not schools will be closed after Easter. Please be assured that staff will continue to work behind the scenes to plan for learning for your daughters over the Easter break. If we do remain closed, work will be shared via the Aladdin connect App before 8pm on Sunday 19th April.

All parents are asked to please check and update, if necessary, their email details on the Aladdin Connect system. It is important that teachers have a means of sharing learning plans with all families. If you are having difficulties accessing any documents shared by teachers please email office@stmarysnscobh.com. So far we have found solutions to all of the problems presented- please do make contact if issues arise. After Easter all teachers will be sharing their school email address which will allow parents to contact their daughter’s teachers directly if you have any queries regarding your daughter’s learning.

If you know of a parent who has not signed up to the Aladdin Connect system please do encourage them to send an email address to office@stmarysnscobh.com. It is important that all parents engage with the school as we endeavour to maintain some form of continuity of schooling during this unusual time.

I wish each of our 279 families a lovely Easter.

To the girls- I miss seeing your smiling faces. I hope you all enjoy your chocolate treats! Have fun with your families, get some fresh air when you can, keep smiling and stay safe.

Kindest regards to all,

Fiona O’Callaghan



Thursday, 26th March, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians,

I hope you are all well and staying safe.

As you all heard on Tuesday and as was expected schools are scheduled to close until 19th April.

With this in mind the staff have been working hard behind the scenes to find new ways to support our pupil’s learning.

The details of how we intend to support home based learning for the week ahead are as follows:


When? Teachers will post suggested activities for classes at the beginning of each week.


Staff have been asked to post activities before 8pm on Sunday, 29th March outlining work for next week.


Where? All posts will be on Aladdin Connect. This can be accessed from a phone, tablet, PC or laptop.


There are only 8 families out of 279 who have not signed up to Aladdin Connect. Many attempts have been made to arrange sign up for these families. Access codes will once again by forwarded. Subsequently, if a family is still unable to access Aladdin Connect for whatever reason, these families are asked to email the school at office@stmarysnscobh.com and I will endeavour to get them set up.


Who? All Class teachers will provide learning suggestions. If your daughter attends with a Special Education Teacher, you will also hear from the Special Education Teacher.


What? Included in your daughter’s learning pack which will be provided by your daughter’s teacher will be:

·         Words of well-wishing/advice from teacher

·         A suggested timetable

·         Text book links/codes needed to access online books/learning materials. (I have attached a simple ‘How to’ guide to downloading text books here also for your convenience.)

·         An outline of work for the week ahead. The key areas for which work will be provided are:

Ø  Maths

Ø  English

Ø  Irish

Ø  Other/Project Work.


How much should we do? Parents and pupils should engage with as much as they can. Our aim is not to overwhelm parents but to support and offer structure around home based learning. Not every family will be in a position to participate in Home Learning activities. As a staff, we understand this and value every family’s decision equally. There is no obligation on families to complete the activities we will suggest. While providing a structure to your child(ren)’s day will be positive for everybody’s mental health, everyone’s main focus should be on keeping safe and healthy.


What can parents do? Parents can assist with the assessment of children’s work by checking if their child(ren)’s answers are correct, and that appropriate levels of effort are shown for the work being completed at home.


Parents should try to engage with their children’s learning at this time as much as practicable. Every effort to support your daughter’s learning at this time is worthwhile but it is important not to put undue pressure on yourself or on your daughter.


What if I have a problem? If problems arise, you are welcome to email the school on office@stmarysnscobh.com. As always, we will endeavour to do our best to support you.


Will things change in the future?


Like every school, we are always looking at how we do things with a view to improvement. We will monitor how things are progressing with regard to our dissemination of Home Based Learning materials. If, in time, tweaks need to be made we will endeavour to do so. There is nothing more constant than change!!


Important notes:

The General Secretary of the Department of Education has asked us to remind all families of the absolute need to practice social and physical distancing, and to minimise physical contact with each other, to help avoid the spread of Covid-19. This should include avoiding meeting up and in all circumstances to adhere to HSE guidelines. Parents and guardians are urged to support their children to maintain the restrictions on congregating for the safety of all in their community.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Fiona O’Callaghan



22nd March, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Wishing you all a happy mother’s day!

I hope you and your families are well and keeping safe.

These are really strange times…..Change can be difficult at the best of times and times have changed…..

To support families at this difficult time I have created a new tab on the school website entitled Exceptional Closure: Activities and Resources. It is located under the Parents Area tab. Here you will find a large quantity of Home Learning ideas. The link is here for your convenience:


At the top of this page I have placed some Project Homework Ideas. I have also attached below the Project Homework Material document in Word format for your convenience.

Project Homework allows your daughter to choose from a number of the activities outlined over the next week. Every subject is covered. Some activities will require the help of family, some can be done on a computer, but most can be completed independently. Each activity outlined has an explanation so click on it to read more. Some of the activities have a link to click on for more information. Others link to a website with further instruction.

On the Exceptional Closure page of the website you will also find Practical Tips for Home-Based Learning. I have attached these here in word format for your convenience also.

The activities and resources on the website are suggested activities. Every family situation is different. You must gauge what is best for your family situation yourselves.

Points to note: At this difficult time, it is understandable that some parents may begin to feel overwhelmed. In an effort to support parents, I feel it would be beneficial to note the following:

  1. Parents are not expected to home-school their children. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. Home-schooling is a choice. The situation as it currently stands is distance learning at best.
  2. You are, and always have been, your child’s primary educator. However, most parents are not teachers. Every effort to support your daughter’s learning at this time is worthwhile but it is important not to put undue pressure on yourself.
  3. This is an unprecedented situation for schools also. We didn’t get any notice; we didn’t have time to prepare. All schools are doing their best in a very difficult situation.
  4. The links, resources and activities outlined on the website are to be used to support learning. Use as many or as few as you wish.
  5. Work being covered at present should, for the most part, be revision and reminder work. The primary school curriculum is spiral in nature. All learning topics will all be covered again, multiple times.
  6. Lego, cooking, baking, playing card and board games are all extremely worthwhile learning activities.
  7. If you have more than one child in your house, try to get them to do a few learning activities independently and few others together. This could be done by reading together, free writing- creating a book/writing a letter together, creating a project together etc..

The two questions I have been asked most over the past week are:

  1. Is there anything my child should be doing everyday?

The simple answer is- Yes!

  • If you do nothing else encourage your child to read every day- independent reading, reading together or listening to an audio book, all are valuable.
  • Encourage free writing- keep a diary, draw a comic strip, write to Nanny or Grandad, play school- practice writing letters and numerals. Many more ideas on website.
  • Complete some practical hands on Maths. Be that cooking, cleaning, some maths games (physical/digital), revise tables.
  • Complete some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys, knitting- all worthwhile activities.
  • Do some physical activity/exercise.
  • Younger children should revise letter sounds and letter formation. Simple dictation (where the adult calls out a simple sentence and pupil writes it. Eg: The cat sat on the mat/ I put the pin in the bin) of sentences is a great means of doing this.
  • Teach your child ‘real life’ skills – baking and cooking, sewing, putting on a wash, folding laundry, ironing, budgeting, money, telling the time, cleaning etc. This is suitable for all children, no matter the age.


  1. What about my daughter’s workbooks? She doesn’t have them all. Will she fall behind?

Neither teaching nor learning is about filling in workbooks. Practical, hands on activities are far more beneficial. For writing, use a chalkboard, a copybook, a piece of paper- whatever you have to hand. If parents wish to revise topics already covered this year nearly all primary school textbooks can now be accessed from publisher’s websites. We are not permitted to allow parents into the school to collect books.

Please remember: We are all doing our best during these difficult times. The most important thing you can do for your daughter during these unprecedented times is to offer safety, security and love. It may not be possible to follow a perfect schedule every day. But please don’t worry about your daughter not progressing and perhaps regressing. Every child is in the same boat. When we are back in class we will of course meet their needs. Teachers are adept at this! Please remember that your daughter’s mental health is more important that their academic skills. How they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during these weeks is gone.

The children are due to miss 9 school days up to March 29th. As a school we are currently reviewing how work will be disseminated should the school be closed beyond this date. We are also awaiting further guidance from the Department of Education. As always, I will endeavour to keep you all posted as things evolve.

Thank you all for your continued support and cooperation.

Best wishes to you all. Stay safe.

Fiona O’Callaghan



13th March, 2020

Please find below online resources that may be useful to encourage your child’s learning. This list has also been posted to the school website under the Parents Area tab. This listed will be added to over time, so keep logging in to find more useful supports.



www.topmark.co.uk (all age appropriate)


www.ie.ixl.com (all games sorted into year groups)







www.topmarks.co.uk (literacy games)


www.katemessner.com/read-wonder-and-learn-favorite-authors-illustrator (stories and activities)

www.nessy.com/free-trial/signup (8 weeks of free resources aged 5-13)












Other useful sites:


www.twinkl.ie/offer and enter code IRLTWINKLHELPS




Cosmic Kids Yoga- story through yoga on you-tube.





12th March, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians,

As I’m sure you are aware, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced this morning that schools will close this afternoon and remain closed until 29th March.

https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2020-press-releases/12-march-2020-statement-from-the-department-of-education-and-skills.html is a link to the statement from the Department of Education.

As advised by the Department of Education children will bring their school books home with them this afternoon. Later today, a list of appropriate and useful websites will also be placed on the school website (stmarysnscobh.com) under the Parent Area tab. These may prove useful in the coming weeks. Please keep encouraging your children to read. Use this time to play board games, card games, revise maths work already completed etc.

Your attention is also brought to the following resources which are used in the school:

Twinkl (online education resources website) has offered a free months subscription to all parents. This is a valuable resource offering worksheets and other work packs. The link is here: www.twinkl.ie/offer and enter code IRLTWINKLHELPS

Mangahigh (online maths and coding website for children) has offered full access to Mangahigh for 60 days for anyone who are impacted by Covid-19. The link is here: https://www.mangahigh.com/en-gb/blog/2020-03-06-free-access-schools-online-maths-coronavirus

Nessy (online reading and spelling website) is offering 8 weeks of free reading and spelling, structured literacy instruction to children ages 5-13. The link is here: www.nessy.com/free-trial/signup

These are unprecedented times…….. I will endeavour to keep you in the loop as matters evolve.

Best wishes to all,

Fiona O’Callaghan