Schools awarded yellow flags for efforts to increase diversity
Hopes it will ‘spread beyond school grounds and have positive impact in the wider community,’ Zappone says
Yellow Flag Awards in Dublin, left to right, Hilary Ogbewe, Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain,and Kayane Maciel. Photograph:Tommy Clancy
Holywell Educate Together National School’s choir rendition of ‘This is Me’ from the American musical The Greatest Showman made for a most fitting opening to Wednesday morning’s Yellow Flag Programme ceremony at Dublin’s Liberty Hall Theatre.
“Run away, they say,” sang the nearly 30 school children accompanied by a handful of musicians as the crowd clapped along.
“No one’ll love you as you are. But I won’t let them break me down to dust; I know that there’s a place for us...For we are glorious.”
Holywell represented one of 14 primary and secondary schools receiving flags at the ceremony in recognition of their participation in Ireland’s Yellow Flag Programme, a nationwide initiative to combat racism by celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion in education.
The multi-level programme for pupils, teachers, parents and the wider community was established by the Irish Traveller Movement in 2008 as a way to create cross-cultural understanding and equal representation in Ireland’s schools, which comprise of more than 200 different cultures.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone commended the Traveller community and praised the work of the schools’ staff and students, who shared their experiences participating in language exchanges and school-sponsored intercultural days.
“It is my firm hope that the fantastic work being undertaken with the students here will spread beyond the school grounds and have a positive impact in the wider community,” Mr Zappone said.
“The best part of my job as I travel around the country is meeting young people and hearing their desire for our modern democratic republic to be an open society where everyone can expect fairness, equality and justice.”
The ceremony, hosted by television presenter and author Diana Bunici, also included appearances by special guests Sinead Aherne of the Dublin Senior All Ireland Ladies’ Football team and science broadcaster and UCD professor Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin.
To be awarded Yellow Flag Programme status, a school must complete an eight-step process and meet equality standards that challenge identity bullying and celebrate cultural diversity.
One of the first steps of the process requires schools to create a diversity committee made up of parents, staff and students, who meet monthly to guide the school’s Yellow Flag Programme.
Additional requirements include intercultural education integrated into formal curriculum and the establishment of a diversity code written by students and teachers.
Yellow Flag coordinator Elva O’Callaghan discussed the uniqueness of the programme at the ceremony, and referenced its successful reach of more than 30,000 Irish pupils as “the tip of the iceberg.”
“Every one of the 4,000 schools in Ireland should be enabled to access the Yellow Flag Programme so racism can be challenged and inclusion and diversity messages understood and lived throughout every community and county,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
Schools awarded their Yellow Flag at the ceremony were:
1. St Patrick's Senior National School, Skerries
2. St Oliver Plunkett's National School, Navan
3. Holywell Educate Together National School, Swords
4. St Damian's National School, Perrystown, Dublin 12
5. Our Lady's National School, Clonskeagh
6. St Catherine's National School, Cabra
7. Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Inchicore
8. Our Lady of Good Counsel Boys National Schools, Drimnagh
9. St Aidan's Senior National School, Brookfield Tallaght
10. Griffith Barracks Multi-Denominational School, Dublin 8
1. Merlin College, Galway
2. Castleknock Community College
3. Skerries Community College
4. St Oliver's Community School, Drogheda