Lismore Comprehensive School is a large, co-ed Catholic maintained school in Craigavon with 1176 students.
A Vision for an Inclusive School
It was clear during the assessment that a vision for an inclusive school has been fully embraced and developed by all the stakeholders involved with the school. Substantive leadership by the IQM team, co-ordinated by the Vice Principal, Mrs Dolores Foster, ensures that inclusion is evidenced across all aspects of school life. It was an honour and a pleasure to see first-hand how policy, procedures and practice work to the benefit of the pupils.
Inclusion Values and Practices of the School
Lismore Comprehensive College continues to educate the pupils in its care with inclusion at the heart of every young person’s experiences. The school Lismore is named from the Irish ‘lios mor’ meaning ‘big fort’ referencing the ancient fort within the school campus. In today’s society, the school defends and protects all those who are part of the wider community of Lismore not with walls, but with care for every individual regardless of ability, culture, religion or social background. The school crest further embodies the care and intertwining communities of Lismore. The school motto is ‘Caring and Learning Together’. This is a succinct but powerful statement of the inclusive values shared and practised by everyone.
The Learning Environment
The ethos of ‘Caring and Learning Together’ is embedded in the wonderful learning environment provided for all pupils. It is to the credit of all the staff that the pupils feel part of a special, inclusive community.
A New State of the Art Building
Plans are well advanced for a ‘state of the art’ new school on the present site. Due to the extensive grounds, the present school building will continue to operate, while the new build emerges nearby. It is anticipated that the new school will open in September 2019. Parents have already seen sight of an artist’s impression of the new school and there has been extensive consultation with all stakeholders. Lismore not only needs this new school, but deserves to have the very best learning environment.
Consultation with Stakeholders
Inclusion in Lismore is about consultation with its stakeholders: – staff, students and parents. There is a clear understanding of how inclusion works within the school. The parents I met represented the diverse ability and range of cultures within the school. They enjoyed the opportunity to work on the Parents’ Forum and had gained the confidence to direct the agenda, comment and challenge on curriculum issues and raise concerns. They were honest and direct, worried about the many issues facing young people today, but felt the school was a safe, secure, happy environment for their children. They felt very included in their child’s education. They were part of the conversation at key transition points, given ideas for supporting the pupils to study and shared in celebrations of achievement. When challenged about inclusion within the school, parents were very positive and reminded me that generations of families had chosen Lismore for the very reason that ‘their child was always treated as an individual with unique talents to contribute to school life’ and that these were valued as much as the qualifications achieved.
Parents, Carers and Guardians
Lismore Comprehensive College clearly recognises the contribution that parents make to an inclusive school. Their relationship with the parents is built on established trust. The parents I met assured me that they listen to the teachers’ advice because they have trust in the professional judgement of the staff, who they believe will always act in the interest of the children.
The Parents’ Forum
The parents I met were also members of the Parents’ Forum. They clearly enjoyed the regular meetings. Some had set agendas, inviting parents to evaluate policies and others were more open-ended, giving parents the opportunity to lead the discussion. In particular, discussion of a ‘wish list’ for the new build was exciting. Mostly the parents said that their opinion was valued and it was ‘good to be involved’. The Forum represents parents from different socio-economic groups, nationalities and pupils in different year groups.
Sharing Its Inclusion Vision
I congratulate you all on the inclusive culture within the school which has benefited all the stakeholders especially the pupils who are true ambassadors for IQM.
I am firmly of the opinion that Lismore Comprehensive College fully meets the requirements to be accredited with the Inclusion Quality Mark. The school’s self-assessment document and my experience of inclusion at work in the school demonstrates that the school should consider applying for Centre of Excellence status, which I would fully endorse. Lismore is well placed in the community to share its inclusion vision with other schools and colleges as well as stakeholders in the community.