‘Health Promoting School’ Flag awarded to Creagh College- First School in South East…..
Creagh College are playing a vital role in contributing to the overall physical and mental health of their students. They are showing a commitment to ensuring that their students have the knowledge, skills and behavioural competencies to make informed decisions that lead to health-enhancing lifestyles. It culminated in the hoisting of Co. Wexford’s first-ever School Health Promotion Flag on Friday in a ceremony attended by Colm O’Gorman Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Eilis Leddy, Waterford and Wexford Education & Training Board Education Officer and all the staff and students of Creagh College.
However, the effects of the health promotion programme running at the school go far beyond the flying of a new flag , as co-ordinating teacher Neil O’Loughlin told The Gorey Guardian. “The flag is the result of a programme we’ve been running here for the past two years in which we’re trying to find all the ways of creating a healthier environment at Creagh College. Our formal healthy eating policy has been developed in consultation with students and parents. It outlines how the school supports healthy eating practices through the promotion of healthy lunches and snacks. Our canteen caterers provide only healthy food options which are of high nutritive value. We do not have vending machines which sell sugary snacks and our students stay on campus throughout the school day. In our eating area students can be seen enjoying portions of fresh fruit, wholegrain bread, pasta, rice dishes and enjoying healthy drinks such as water, fruit juice, smoothies and low fat milk.”
All students in Creagh College participate in a double timetabled class of Physical Education every week. The students enjoy their varied PE classes in very impressive new facilities and see it as a vital source of exercise, especially during the dark months of winter. Although Creagh College is a co-educational school, they have found that their students exhibit much higher participation and satisfaction levels in PE when divided by gender. Creagh College is one of only 37% of post primary schools participating in the ‘Health Promoting Schools’ (HPS) initiative which is led by the HSE and the Department of Health, with the support of the Department of Education and Skills. This very worthwhile initiative includes physical wellbeing but also focuses on students’ emotional and psychological wellbeing. Creagh College Principal Paul Glynn emphasised that “since the beginning of our involvement in HPS we have seen much greater levels of engagement and more positive outcomes for the health and wellbeing of our whole school community”.
School plays an important role in promoting physical activity outside of the formal Physical Education curriculum. In Creagh College all students are actively encouraged to join and participate regularly in some of the many Extra-Curricular Activities on offer. Adequate levels of physical activity improve cardiovascular health, metabolic health, brain and mental health, musculoskeletal health and social health across the lifespan. Exercise also reduces stress and anxiety and it is widely accepted that exercise can be more effective than medication in treating mental health illnesses. Emerging research has also shown a positive association between physical activity, physical fitness in children and adolescents, and academic achievement. Recent research by the ESRI has indicated that participation in activities such as sports can act as ‘a buffer’ to academic stress’ (ESRI 2015). On any visit to Creagh College you are likely to find students playing basketball, football, hurling, camogie, soccer, rugby, horse riding, table tennis, and chess. Students also enjoy art club, science club, debating, drama, choir, computer coding, ciorcal comhrá and participate in the school musical.
Creagh College also has great plans for future expansion of their Healthy Lifestyles initiative. Currently they are working very closely with Cycle Against Suicide (CAS) to promote innovative and effective initiatives in mental health promotion in the college. Deputy Principal Declan O’Toole is delighted that the college’s hard work has been recognised. “As a school we believe in educating our students so that they understand the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle choices. It is much easier to adopt a behaviour than to change a behaviour. The motto of Creagh College is ‘Learning For Life’ and this must be remembered when learning for exams. Our Healthy Lifestyles initiative is succeeding in changing behavior and attitudes from an early age and we believe it is a shining example for the whole country of what can be achieved”.