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Education Minister praises summer scheme in Tyrone

EDUCATION minister, Michelle McIlveen, was given a lesson in fun this week, when she popped in to the Gortin Glen Forest Park.

Taking place during her visit was Sacred Heart College’s Summer Scheme X-Treme 2021, a project funded by the department and inclusive of a range of outdoor activities.

Featuring archery, gorging, fire-lighting and rustic cookery, the minister even had a crack at toasting her own bread on a campfire.

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“This summer scheme is all about increasing the wellness and the emotional wellness of the children to help them re-engage and reconnect with school again,” teacher, Kathy McNulty explained. “A lot of them have suffered during lockdown in remote areas and they have been very distant from the school. This is about trying to get them back and reconnected with their teachers.

“Here it is teachers running all of the activities, people that will be teaching the children in September. But the children are also making new friends.

“We also have year eleven pupils here on work experience and their mental wellness is very important because they are the group that are being awarded qualifications in 2022.”

Sacred Heart pupils Naomi Andrews and Grainne Grimes, who were volunteering at the summer scheme, outlined their appreciation of the project.

“Even though we’re volunteering. It’s been great fun and the children haven’t been any problem at all,” Naomi explained.

Grianne added, “It’s been great to see them coming out of their comfort zones and opening up to different things.” She continued, “It’s also good because it’s a stress reliever and it takes people’s mind off them (exams).”

The education minister herself suggested that the girls’ experience of the scheme was exactly why it was established.

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“This is a scheme which was worth £4.6million and 453 schools have been able to take up the opportunity,” she explained.

“This school, Sacred Heart, has a three-week scheme… they have 180 pupils taking part over the three weeks and you can see just a little bit of it here today.

“Given the year that has just passed, it allows young people who haven’t been able to get out and about, (the opportunity) to meet with friends and create new friendships… but at the same time actually learn something.

“This facility is on their doorstep and so many of them probably won’t even have been here before.”

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