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Children from Craggagh National School in Mayo.
Children from Craggagh National School in Mayo.

Craggagh NS rewarding 5 Star Centre experience

The GAA 5 Star Centre initiative has been a massive success in the 2018/2019 school year, providing tens of thousands of children with physical activity and an introduction to Gaelic Games.

Some 50,000 children across 300 schools have logged 1.5 million hours as they have been involved in the programme which provides every child with 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for 26 weeks. As new programmes are being put in place for 2019/2020 and schools are encouraged to sign up.

By Anita Moore, Teacher, Craggagh National School

Craggagh National School is a three teacher school, set in the steep slopes of Sliabh Cairn in Balla, County Mayo. Our GAA 5 Star Centre journey began in early 2018 when I submitted an Expression of Interest form online to take part in the initiative.

After this, our Games Development Manager, Bily McNicholas, set up a meeting with me to aid with registration process and give the school an insight into the initiative and what it entailed. Every class had to do six weeks of activities for an hour a week. On top of this, one or more classes/groups had to make up 26 hours of activities over 26 weeks. The activities are far more than just hurling/camogie and Gaelic Football; they include the develop of Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) and yard games like Strike-It and Catch & Kick.

The initiative began in September 2018 with a six week programme of GAA skills based on teaching points from the GAA 5 Star Centre Learning Resource, taught by both class teachers and local coach Eugene Lavin. During these sessions, the teachers also started to implement the Have a Ball activities to further promote and develop FMS into their physical education lessons. This helped develop pupils’ overall physical fitness. It also contributed to their ability to play the games and to participate in a team sport while having fun.

Our teachers met to discuss what activities would be suited to their classes - Have a Ball, Fun and Run, Catch and Kick, Skill Challenges and Go Games. The Fun and Run activities were implemented on a small scale, as the school had not received a Fun and Run kit at that stage in the initiative. Most pupils in the school had previous knowledge of the game of rounders, therefore the teacher’s improvised with the resources available to them to engage with the initiative work.

The Catch and Kick activities taught, mirrored the work being carried out through physical education lessons when teaching the skills of Gaelic football. The pupils were given footballs if they wished to further develop these skills at break-times.

The pupils were interested to explore for themselves how a particular skill takes practice to develop and deliver. It was clear that seeing their GAA idols demonstrating skills challenges on the GAA 5 Star Centre videos inspired the pupils. It encouraged and fostered a love for being part of something bigger than themselves.

Boys and girls from Craggagh National School playing in the steep slopes of Sliabh Cairn in Balla, County Mayo.
Boys and girls from Craggagh National School playing in the steep slopes of Sliabh Cairn in Balla, County Mayo.

The planned activity hours that we entered on the registration form were far exceeded due to the hard work and commitment by pupils and teachers. Teachers established that children under supervision were partaking in Gaelic skills challenges, which developed over a period of weeks into lunchtime league matches. Another initiative taken on by the school took place on May 3, 2019. The children took part in a series of blitzes wearing their loyal Green and Red as part of Mayo Day. The pupils enjoyed this immensely and they displayed skills they had being learning from the initiative in their games.

Craggagh N.S got involved with the 5 Star Centre initiative as it supplemented the work being done in the school as regards, the fundamental movement skills and Gaelic Games coaching. The children responded very well to the initiative, as it was already adding to their previous skills taught by teachers during PE lessons and in Cumann na mBunscol games.

There are only positives to an initiative like this. A GAA 5 Star Centre makes a significant contribution to their health and wellbeing. It is about the inclusion of every pupil in your school, whether they are four years old or 13 years old and them being physically active. It is about fostering values and beliefs that their work effort on the pitch, on the school yard or in the school hall are recognised and respected by teachers and by each other.

The Fun and Run non-contact game, in particular, is a fantastic for teaching children about teamwork and team participation. Each child, regardless of ability, has a very important role to play throughout. The learning resource for the 5 Star Centre are very user-friendly and well laid out. Teachers can include very clear teaching points for the children to remember in their lessons. The online videos add a pictorial aspect for those children who are visual learners.

Craggagh N.S will be so proud to raise the GAA 5 Star Centre flag in our school yard in June. The children will be reminded of the effort they have made and the skills and fitness they have developed throughout the year. We will definitely be continuing the initiative next year, and look forward to the next stage, while also contributing to the holistic development of the pupils in our school.

To apply to become a 5 Star Centre click here.

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