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School of Sanctuary Award!

St John the Baptist Boys National School in Limerick city has just been granted their official status as “School of Sanctuary”, being the second Primary School in Limerick to do so. The awarding of the status is an official recognition by Schools of Sanctuary Ireland:

It attests to how schools of sanctuary symbolise and realise an inclusive, welcoming and safe space for ALL pupils and their families, especially newcomers who come from international, refugee and migrant communities and other ethnic minorities, including the Traveller community.

St John the Baptist Boys’ Primary School is an educational setting where children can have fun, progress in their learning and develop their innate gifts of creativity and curiosity. This designated Deis 1 school, located in the heart of Garryowen, strives to ensure that each child will reach their full potential in an environment which is responsive, celebratory, needs-led and inclusive.

Here is a brief recount of what happened on the accreditation evaluation day:

The School of Sanctuary Committee were greeted with a warm welcome at St John the Baptist Boys’ National School and were invited to join the school assembly. The Principal, David Nicholas, and the Lead TEAL Project Teacher, Margaret Grace, met with the School of Sanctuary Monitoring team on their arrival.  The principal led an assembly outlining the work of the school to date in preparation for the School of Sanctuary accreditation. The committee were extremely impressed that there was so much going on in a small school which is closely linked to the MIC TEAL Project, an OSCAILT Network teacher community of practice, in its fourth year of operation. During the assembly, the principal praised Margaret Grace, TEAL Lead in the school, for her work to-date and also credited the teamwork of the close-knit staff and external partnerships, in particular Dr. Fiodhna Gardiner-Hyland, who leads the TEAL Project in collaboration with Dr. Ruth Bourke, Curriculum Development Unit, Mary Immaculate College. Christmas festivities were kicked off with some Christmas songs such as Feliz Navidad! The Schools of Sanctuary Team Lead Karen Dervan played some lovely tunes on her violin which everyone enjoyed. 

It is very evident that teaching staff and Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) alike are committed and supportive of the schools of sanctuary initiative and it compliments the fantastic work that is ongoing in the school. It was also very evident from the children’s displays and conversations that the children play a very important role in creating a warm, inclusive, inviting school culture. Below is an example ‘welcome’ display created by…pupils and Lead TEAL Teacher, Margaret Grace in learning about DIVERSITY. 

Teacher Alan Hally introduced the School of Sanctuary monitoring team to 2nd, 3rd and 4th students with great warmth. This group clearly understood the importance of including new students into a class and the positive way including others makes one feel. They also agreed on the importance of being ‘kind’– both inside and outside the school and at weekends. Teacher, Alan Hally and EAL Lead teacher, Margaret Grace, have been teaching plurilingual lessons to 2nd, 3rd and 4th class. The school has embraced a plurilingual and multilingual approach to teaching and learning across the wider curriculum, both in our classrooms and Special Educational settings, including our ASD class and has proven to be a success story for our EAL learners.

The evaluation committee were given a fabulous tour of the resources within the school including a newly-built nurture room, sensory room, blue box room and ASD Class (Write in full). The SEN team, including SEN Leader, Sara Barry, and the TEAL Project Leader, Margaret Grace, gave an in-depth understanding of the purpose of the nurture room and the benefits that it has on the children that attend. Something commented on by the evaluation team was how students’ achievements were celebrated widely across the school and visible for all to be proud of on the walls. The Principal, David Nicholas stated that he believes that a warm, stimulating, inclusive learning environment is very important in a national school, particularly in relation to celebrating  and showcasing all  children’s work. The above resources are clearly having a very positive impact with students in St. John the Baptist School.

The 5th and 6th class teacher, Sheenadh Crowley and the SNAs for 5th and 6th class welcomed the evaluation team into their room and each student introduced themselves. They were very impressed with the knowledge of past and current wars, migrant and refugees fleeing war and post war immigration, as shown in picture below. A class World War 2 project linked with a range of curriculum subjects including History, Art, English, Geography. The class agreed on the importance of empathy and how being aware of what others go through when fleeing war can empower students to show empathy to others. The students also spoke openly about the importance of their behaviour and actions both in and out of school and of how it relates to being a school of sanctuary. They collaboratively agreed to regularly review the school code of behaviour for all pupils to ensure that the highest standards of behavior continue to be achieved.

The Padlet created by the Principal with support from school staff, particularly Alan Hally, Sara Barry and Sheenadh Crowley provided the School of Sanctuary evaluation group with an in- depth insight into the work of the staff and students of St. John the Baptist Boys’ School. A positive energy and empathic culture permeated through the school and all their activities.

In conclusion, the Principal, David Nicholas, reflecting on the School of Sanctuary initiative said,:

‘We’ve been working on the School of Sanctuary for over a year now. The SOS was a fantastic opportunity to collate all of our initiatives that we’ve been working on over the years to create a warm, welcome, inclusive environment where everyone feels valued. We will now continue to focus on our School of Sanctuary pillars of ‘action’, ‘learning’ and ‘sharing’ for years to come, hoping that the inclusive culture will be truly embedded within the school going forward. We will also actively continue to share our practice with other school and have already shared our School of Sanctuary Padlet on our website and facebook page. We are very passionate about this initiative and are thrilled to have succeeded in achieving the award. I would like to commend all of the staff, including Margaret Grace, our Lead TEAL Project teacher, our school community and most importantly, the children for their tremendous hard work and effort in securing the award.’

For further details of the School of Sanctuary work of St. John the Baptist Boys’ School, see padlet:

and for ongoing work,  go to Twitter @stJohnsBNS, Facebook @sjtbb and for our school website


To contact St. John the Baptist Boys’ School, email: