St Patrick's College: Championing individuality and ASD students

The Cork secondary school has a number of new additions, including a dedicated ASD unit, to show parents and prospective students at their upcoming open night
St Patrick's College: Championing individuality and ASD students

St Patrick's College is a small school with a warm, friendly atmosphere where staff really get to know the students and their families.

St Patrick’s College is getting a whole new look, in more ways than one.

Not only is the all-girls secondary school, which has been educating a wide catchment area of Cork for almost 65 years, getting a brand new uniform — but the school itself is also undergoing major upgrades.

While the girls attending the school will soon be moving on from their signature brown dress code and switching to their new uniform of a black jumper, white shirt, striped tie and grey trousers or skirt, they’ll be sporting this new look in brand new classrooms too! 

The school, located in Gardiner’s Hill, welcomed students back this September with eight newly-built classrooms waiting for them and more planned for 2023. As well as this, PE classes this year are taking place in St Patrick’s newly-installed gym, while their new canteen has already become integral, providing free hot breakfast and hot lunch options to all students.

The biggest change of all at the school, however, is undoubtedly the addition of their new space, An Cuan, which opened in September and is specially built for students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). “Our school shares a campus with our local primary schools — St Patrick’s infants school, St Patrick’s Girls Primary and St Patrick’s Boys Primary,” explains Brian Cronin, Principal of St Patrick’s College. “I would speak to the principals of each of those schools on a weekly basis, and they keep me up to speed as to what the incoming students of St Patrick’s College are like, and what they will need from us once they reach secondary school. Based on how many students on the autism spectrum are attending those primary schools, it became very clear to us that there was a need for a secondary ASD class and that's how it all began really. We wanted to respond to the needs we were spotting on the campus and in the wider locality.

An Cuan was officially opened this September, with plans to add a second ASD class there in 2023/24.
An Cuan was officially opened this September, with plans to add a second ASD class there in 2023/24.

“Like any change, there was a little bit of nervousness about it at first but we're very happy with how everything has turned out and these students are a great addition to our school. They’ve really settled in well and we’re very eager to have a second ASD class in the school, given how well this this one is working out. We’re hoping to have that opened in 2023/24, the next academic year, which will make a huge difference for us and for local parents.” 

While St Patrick’s College’s dedicated team of SNAs ensure that the ASD students in particular are well looked after, Principal Cronin explains that this caring attitude is extended towards each and every student at the school. “We have about 230 students attending our school and we have a staff of 26 teachers and four SNAs, so it’s a small school with a personal friendly atmosphere which is very important to us.

Principal Brian Cronin pictured with Deputy Principal Ms Falvey alongside present and past pupils at one of the school's careers events.
Principal Brian Cronin pictured with Deputy Principal Ms Falvey alongside present and past pupils at one of the school's careers events.

“Because our school is quite small, we can get to know every child as an individual and we get to know each of their families as well. I mean, I know all of the parents and even some of the grandparents of our pupils, and that would apply to many of our teachers here as well. We really embrace our pupils as individuals with their own lives outside school too, and we can see their individuality and bring out their gifts, whatever they might be.” 

Those gifts are certainly well catered for at St Patrick’s College, where there’s something for everyone. “We teach all the standard core subjects for junior and senior cycle here at St Patrick’s College, and we teach them to a very high standard,” promises Brian. “Over 70% of our Leaving Cert class of 2022 achieved over 400 points. 

 “Here in St Patrick's, the science courses in particular have always been very popular. We've had quite a few students go into pharmaceutical technology for third level, we've also had quite a few students going into biological and chemical science and many go in to science teaching as well. The other thing that's popular here would be things like commerce, marketing and business studies. They've been really popular with the leaving cert groups for the last three or four years.” 

It's not just in the classrooms of St Patrick’s College where the students’ individuality is nurtured, however, as many find their calling on the sports fields or in the music or art rooms. “Our main extracurricular activities in terms of sports are Gaelic football and soccer,” Brian explains. “We have an excellent soccer team which competes at a pretty high level, we've had a number of students who played ladies soccer at county level, and then we also have a successful gaelic football team here too. We have some very fun and welcoming lunchtime clubs too, such as our art and gardening groups.” 

Science, commerce and sports are just some of the areas that St Patrick's students have excelled in.
Science, commerce and sports are just some of the areas that St Patrick's students have excelled in.

The wide range of passions and interests that are catered to at St Patrick’s College are a fitting match for the school’s equally varied students. “We’ve a very diverse student body here,” Brian states proudly. “We did a survey last year and found that there were over 20 different languages being spoken in our students’ homes, everything from Polish to German, to Italian, to Urdu or Hungarian. There’s a lot of diversity in the school and so we pride ourselves on being very welcoming of people of all cultures and all faiths, and none, while still retaining our school’s Catholic ethos.” 

Students are made to feel so welcome at St Patrick’s, in fact, that many of them keep coming back even after they’ve graduated! “We have a number of past pupils who regularly visit to talk to our students. These are girls who recently completed their third level studies and they're now in employment, so it’s fantastic for them to come back in and talk to students about their experience of college and whether they were happy with the choices they made, whether they would do anything differently if they had the chance and so on. We have speakers like that in at least once every year as part of a careers events that we run in the school, and the past pupils are invaluable for that.” 

Open evening

Aside from their careers events, however, the most important date on the school’s calendar is their annual open evening, where prospective students and their parents get to explore the campus and meet the students and staff to decide if it’s the right fit.

Their next open evening is taking place on Thursday, 29th September from 6.30 pm.

“We’ll be enrolling for 2023 for our mainstream and ASD class,” explains Brian. “It’s really important that our school retains its warm and personal atmosphere, so sadly places are limited, especially in our ASD Classes. For 2023, we have 5 places available for students with ASD, so we’d really urge anyone interested to fill out the forms we’ll have available on the night.

Come along to the school's open night to discover what St Patrick's College can do for your daughter.
Come along to the school's open night to discover what St Patrick's College can do for your daughter.

“Parents and students from 4th, 5th and 6th classes are invited to attend, and we’d really like to see as many of them as possible. There are a lot of great new additions to our school that we’re ready to give people a tour of, and it’s also been a while since we’ve been able to have this event in-person because of the pandemic. We’re really looking forward to meeting people face to face again.”

For more information visit www.stpatrickscork.org

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