Our Lady of Good Counsel School, (OLGC School) is a special school for pupils with moderate and multiple learning disabilities. We cater for 68 pupils ranging in age from 4 to 18 years.
In 2002, the school moved from Lota, Glanmire, to a site in Innishmore, Ballincollig. We have since become an integral part of the local community, forging links with our neighbouring schools, Scoil Barra, Ballincollig Community School and Coláiste Choilm. Our integration and inclusion programmes have cemented friendships and positive relationships within the local community.
In recent years, our school has developed particular skills in the education and management of pupils with increasingly complex needs. The promotion of mental health awareness, exercise and wellbeing, in relation to managing challenging behaviour, enables these vulnerable pupils access and participate in a tailored education programme. Exercise, and availability of accessible outdoor amenities, has been identified as key to sustaining and managing complex behavioural needs. Indeed, increasing exercise and physical activity has a direct effect on increasing cognitive ability of pupils in primary school.
Recent research, Ogg Groenendaal M, et al.Res Disabil.2014, found, “decrease in challenging behaviour shows that exercise seems to be recommendable as an effective treatment for people with challenging behaviour and ID.”
Additionally, it is an important factor for pupils with learning disabilities, that maturity and physical activity alone do not ensure they will acquire fundamental movement skills in school. Children who do not master these skills are frustrated and experience failure later in recreational and sports activities (David L Gallahue TdD1985). Providing pupils with a surfaced track on campus will greatly increase opportunities for learning, developing and practicing fundamental movement skills, e.g., running, cycling, using wheelchairs, rollator devices etc.
The proposed exercise track, Spraoi Track, will allow all pupils access to an exercise facility, tailored to meet their needs, for frequent, accessible, spontaneous and planned activities. Our pupils often cannot access community facilities due to difficulty with mobility, transport issues and sensory issues around unfamiliar surroundings. Oftentimes our more complex pupils cannot access community sport facilities as it is almost impossible to risk assess a public area and eliminate the triggers, potential dangers and obstacles. As a result these pupils have limited access to proper exercise facilities, increasing levels of challenging behaviour as a result of inactivity and boredom. The Spraoi Track, on our school Campus, would potentially reduce risk by controlling the variables that prevent pupils accessing exercise facilities. Our pupils on the Autistic Spectrum require familiar safe surroundings, with limited distractions, in order to learn new skills. These pupils would benefit from having a risk controlled sports track to support them develop essential recreational life skills. Our pupils who use wheelchairs and pupils with AFOs would benefit from having a track surfaced to meet their requirements, thus allowing them equal opportunities to access a customised exercise programme.
Who will benefit other than pupils of OLGC School?
- OLGC School is set in the heart of the Innishmore community in Ballincollig. It has proximity to a large primary and two secondary schools. While we endeavour to integrate with pupils from aforementioned schools, on many levels it has proved very difficult. We cannot access their sports facilities due to difficulties with mobility, challenging behaviour, and constantly risk assessing the environment. Timetabling events is equally difficulty as our pupil’s schedules are less predictable and more dynamic than their mainstream peers. With the acquisition of our own facility integration would be encouraged and we would welcome groups of athletes into our track, while all the time meeting the needs of our own pupils.
- This sports facility would allow us to develop links with other special schools in cork in relation to sport and athletics. Organised training sessions and games in preparation for special Olympic events or league matches could take place in this facility. Pupils in OLGC have a long tradition of involvement with the Special Olympics, currently holding several gold silver and bronze medals. It is a pity these athletes do not have a training ground attached to their school, to be with their peers in other special school.
- OLGC School has forged links with Ballincollig Athletics Club recently, opening its doors to club to facilitate registration and administration of running events in Ballincollig. In the future OLGC would like to host further events in association with BAC, using the proposed running track for training and staging events.
What are the project key actions?
- Construct an exercise track on campus, accessible to all pupils in our school, and extending it’s reach to partner organisations, i.e Special Olympics, Ballincollig Athletic Club, etc.
- Upgrade and enhance current playground facilities by installing new safety surfaces.
- Provide playground equipment suitable for all pupils in school, especially for pupils who are wheel-chair users. Currently, there is no such equipment in the play-ground.
Our vision is to construct an exercise track and upgrade play-ground facilities to support and accommodate the physical, social and emotional needs of our special pupils.