This smart thinking makes for cool Schull

31st July 2009 at 01:00

The pretty fishing village of Schull in west County Cork lies about as far south and west as you can get in Ireland or, indeed, in Europe. Despite its remoteness, or perhaps because of it, it is home to an eclectic community from all parts, and is very outward-looking as well as traditional in its style.

I wasn't surprised, therefore, when passing through on holiday, to see an appeal on the community noticeboard, from the parents' association of the local national (primary) school, relating to fundraising for interactive smartboards. "Let's get a smartboard in every classroom" read the headline. Fair play to them, they seemed to be well on the way there.

The advantages of interactive boards, particularly for schools in the remoter areas, are obvious and many. But, as with all innovations, progress needs to be evaluated.

I sat on a bench overlooking the spectacular harbour and thought about the surroundings for the pupils in Schull National School.

In the bay, minke whales, porpoises, dolphins, and all manner of marine life was queuing up to perform for the tour boats. Walking down the main street, you had to watch your feet for fear of tripping over artists, writers, musicians, potters, weavers and extended lines of creative types producing traditional crafts. The local church, next to the school, had some of the most remarkable stained glass and ceramic works I've ever seen.

Around the town were miles of stunning coastal scenery, many historical geological sites, rich (and increasingly bio-aware) agricultural land, and country roads lined with flaming fuschia hedgerows. It was clear to see why this part of Ireland is highly prized by incomers from all over the world, and it was equally obvious that there was a wealth of educational interest for the primary pupils on every side.

I'm sure those pupils are already benefiting from the best of new technology, but I do hope, as well as this interactive window on the world, they are also encouraged to look through the old-fashioned windows in their classrooms. It may just be that, for all the advantages of the internet and its many applications, the original windows of glass may prove to be just as enlightening as the virtual version, in their revelations of the world outside.

Sean McPartlin, is depute head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston.

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