In October 2023, mdeducational foundation attended the Annual NAPD Conference in Galway, Ireland – an incredible opportunity and honour to connect with educational leaders from across the Republic of Ireland to share our mission.

The National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD) supports the professional needs of educational leaders across the Republic of Ireland. Aiming to take care of the wellbeing and mental health of principals and deputy principals across the country. They also give schools and educational establishments a much-needed voice, acting as representatives of their views at the highest levels.

At this annual conference, all post-primary principals and deputy principals across the Republic of Ireland came together to network with one another and hear insightful keynote speakers, including Minister of Education, Norma Foley.

Minister of Education, Norma Foley at NAPD Annual Conference

Connecting with educational leaders

mdeducational foundation exhibited at the event, and the whole team were able to meet and connect with many educational leaders. We engaged in many meaningful conversations with Principals, Deputy Principals of schools and educational decision-makers and we were delighted to hear how prevalent student wellbeing and mental health is in everyone’s mind. The clear passion for improving student wellbeing was inspiring. This event was a chance to learn, share insights, and foster collaborations that will make a lasting impact on student lives.

Paul Crone, Director of the National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD)

We had the privilege of talking to Paul Crone, Director of the National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD), who supported our attendance at the annual conference. He shared his thoughts about our charity and how it will impact the student wellbeing scene in the Republic of Ireland:

“Schools draw on many agencies within the community that have a shared vision for student welfare and wellbeing, with a view to building a positive learning environment for students. mdeducational foundation shares this vision of putting the needs of the student first, providing targeted support that schools can access to support their students. This initiative has the potential to impact in a very positive way on student engagement, retention and performance in our post-primary schools.”

Our exhibit became a hub of information and inspiration. Attendees had the opportunity to explore how our foundation is working towards our vision: A world in which every student has access to the wellbeing support that they need, without delay. From the placement in schools of professional Wellbeing Leads to impactful workshops, we showcased the tools and resources that can transform student lives and experiences.

One of the attendees we talked to was Charlene Mc Neill, Deputy Principal at St Columba’s Comprehensive School. We discussed with her what student wellbeing means to her and what her thoughts are on mdeducational foundation’s approach to improving student wellbeing. She shared

The promotion of wellbeing is central to our school mission to enable children and young people to achieve their full potential. Promoting the wellbeing of our children and young people is a shared responsibility and encompasses not just their academic development but encapsulates their holistic development and is inclusive of physical, emotional, social and mental development:

I believe the approach adopted by mdeducational foundation to improve student wellbeing is a winning formula. Having a Wellbeing Lead with the capacity to identify barriers to student wellbeing and their learning and deal with them in a proactive and strategic manner through intervention and support is paramount. The ability to remove any potential barriers will ultimately enable all students to maximise their potential.”

Charlene was also one of the winners in our raffle – she got to bring home a lovely Sunshine Box, full of self-care remedies for the mind, body and soul.

Charlene Mc Neill, Deputy Principal at St Columba's Comprehensive School
mdeducational foundation at NAPD Annual Conference
Leah Iles, CEO at mdeducational foundation

mdeducational foundation CEO, Leah Iles, had the opportunity to attend the event and engage with educational leaders. In her words, “mdeducational foundation was privileged to participate in the annual NAPD Conference in Galway this year. A huge thank you to NAPD and Paul Crone for having us and supporting us as we start our journey in the Republic of Ireland. The event allowed us to connect with like-minded individuals and organisations, exchanging ideas and insights that will fuel our ongoing initiatives. We can’t wait to continue our collaboration with schools across Ireland, working together to improve student wellbeing within post-16 settings.”

Collaborating for positive change

Collaboration is at the heart of our mission. The conference provided us with a platform to explore potential partnerships and collaborations with schools and educational establishments. In the near future, we hope to place a dedicated Wellbeing Lead in as many schools across Ireland as possible to prioritise student wellbeing within post-16 and senior cycle settings. By joining forces, we aim to amplify the positive impact on student mental health and wellbeing across the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

In reflection, our Director of Schools and Partnerships, Deirdre Doherty, shared her thoughts on why attending the conference is so valuable for our foundation:

Deirdre Doherty - Director of Schools & Partnerships at mdeducational foundation - headshot

“Early in our Ireland journey, we connected with Paul Crone, Director of NAPD who supports the professional needs of second-level school leaders in Ireland. Paul invited us to attend their annual NAPD Conference.

The experience really was a highlight for the foundation and a great precursor to our launch later in October as we celebrated the funding of our first placement of a dedicated Wellbeing Lead at Mount St Michael Claremorris, our first in Ireland.

It was incredibly valuable to hear directly from the Principals and Deputy Principals across Ireland and more importantly to have those vital discussions with education partners in Ireland.

During the conference, we had many positive and useful discussions, with a lot of leaders discussing the challenges around wellbeing within the Irish education sector. Many were incredibly passionate about the wellbeing of their senior cycle students but also identified a gap within their current wellbeing provision, particularly post-COVID. They described many of the external agencies they rely on to be at capacity, with huge waiting lists, so believed the placement of a Wellbeing Lead to be an invaluable resource for delivering a significant positive impact on their students.

Many leaders identified that as a school, they play a significant role in nurturing the wellbeing of their students, and share our vision that wellbeing is essential for creating a positive learning environment for personal and academic growth. When students feel heard and supported, they are more likely to achieve their full potential and improve their chances in life. They also highlighted the importance of early intervention and guidance to support the wellbeing of young people before their situation worsens.

The event gave us a platform to talk face-to-face with school leaders and gain a real understanding of the challenges faced within the Irish education sector.

It was also a wonderful opportunity for us to share our plans on how our wellbeing support can really help their senior cycle students. It was refreshing to hear so many leaders agree that young people deserve every opportunity to achieve their dreams – beyond school, that vital, dedicated wellbeing support could often be the difference between success and failure for some.”

As the Director of NAPD, Paul Crone highlights the importance of student wellbeing when it comes to the future success of young people – in their personal lives and also academically. He emphasises that schools and all other educational establishments truly want to support their students to thrive, but there is currently a lack of funding – which is where mdeducational foundation’s practical initiative becomes crucial:

“Students that are happy and content in school perform better. Schools endeavour to support all of their students in an academic and holistic manner. All students need a welcoming environment, some require support in a more focused way, and others need more intensive support. mdeducational foundation’s initiative delivers specific resources that help schools support students with additional support. After piloting their initiative in the UK, they’ve just launched in their first school in Ireland, and I’m excited for them to roll this out to other schools across the country.”

Another one of the attendees we talked to was Tom Casey, Deputy Principal at Midleton CBS. With Tom, we discussed the difference that dedicated wellbeing support can have on students’ growth and success. He shared his thoughts with us:

Supporting student wellbeing is essential for creating a positive and effective learning environment that nurtures both academic and personal growth. It lays the foundation for students to succeed not just academically, but also in their future endeavours and overall wellbeing.

I am really supportive of the model that the mdeducational foundation has adopted to improve student wellbeing. By placing a Wellbeing Lead in a school for three years allows them to normalise student psychological fitness and resilience through guidance, support and early intervention – supporting young people with their wellbeing needs through education and beyond.

Tom was also the lucky winner of the g Hotel & Spa – gift card in our raffle – he can visit the g Hotel in Galway to enjoy a break and take care of his wellbeing.

Tom Casey – Deputy Principal at Midleton CBS
mdeducational foundation at NAPD Annual Conference

Collaborating for positive change

Just one week after mdeducational foundation attended the NAPD Annual Conference, we were proud to officially launch in the Republic of Ireland. We funded Ireland’s first placement of a dedicated Wellbeing Lead to prioritise student wellbeing at Mount St Michael Secondary School in Claremorris Mayo. With this funding, we are enabling the school to kickstart their long-term wellbeing strategy and take pioneering steps to improve student wellbeing.

Our launch event was a beautiful presentation of everyone coming together to create a brighter future for our young people. Our brilliant guests included Minister Dara Calleary and the Founder of Recrowned Ireland and Miss Universe Ireland 2023, Aishah Akorede. We also had the pleasure of having a representative from NAPD attend our event. Watch this space for an exciting recap!

The Principal of Mount St Michael Secondary School, Ciarán Ryan has played a vital role in our collaboration to place a Wellbeing Lead in their school. Ciarán was invited by NAPD to share his thoughts on being the first Irish school to receive funding from mdeducational foundation:

Principal of Mount St Michael Secondary School, Ciarán Ryan

“My knowledge of mdeducational foundation was nonexistent in advance of our first conversation. However, they brought to the table the personal touch of our former student Miriam Dervan. What sets them apart is that they convinced us through their personal experiences and through our interactions that they cared deeply about their mission and purpose.

Initially, some in our school community thought that this opportunity was too good to be true. Yet here we are, actively improving student wellbeing with a fully funded, newly appointed Wellbeing Lead and a brand-new Wellbeing Hub. We are very pleased to see the wellbeing needs of our students being supported in such a unique way.”

Ciarán Ryan continued:

“We consider ourselves to be one of the most progressive schools in the West of Ireland and I think this puts us on the map for pioneering a collaborative approach to wellbeing provision. We are now responsible to make sure the funding is well spent, that it works for our young people and that it supports our existing pastoral care system.

As part of this collaboration, we have re-purposed an old classroom into a Wellbeing Hub, which provides a safe, welcoming space for our senior students. The Wellbeing Lead uses this space to develop a range of different activities to enrich the wellbeing of our students.”

 

You can read the full article here or if you are a member of NAPD, by heading to their online newsletter.

A brighter future: Turning insights into action

From our attendance at the NAPD Conference to our incredible launch in Ireland, we continue to thrive and provide fully funded wellbeing support to schools and educational settings across the UK and Ireland. Our active participation in the Irish education scene will mean we can better support the senior cycle students in Ireland, collaborate with like-minded decision-makers and provide more educational settings with the opportunity to receive funding to place a dedicated wellbeing professional in their schools.

With thousands of students already supported, mdeducational foundation will continue our mission to make all senior cycle/ post-16 students feel supported in every aspect of their wellbeing, helping them on their journey to a brighter future. We’ll keep providing salary funding for the placement of Wellbeing Leads into educational settings, supporting their wellbeing needs through education and beyond. Learn more about our mission and approach.

Prioritising student wellbeing through education and beyond

mdeducational foundation is a charity that provides a three-year salary-funded commitment to placing dedicated wellbeing professionals within educational settings, enabling them to kickstart their long-term wellbeing strategies.

Learn more about our mission

Related posts

  • mdeducational foundation Clinical Supervisor meeting with Wellbeing Leads

Empowering support for Wellbeing Leads – an interview with mdeducational foundation Clinical Supervisor, Catherine Llewellyn

January 25, 2024|Comments Off on Empowering support for Wellbeing Leads – an interview with mdeducational foundation Clinical Supervisor, Catherine Llewellyn

mdeducational foundation has had an amazing year, full of growth and exciting improvements. To mention a few; we significantly increased the number of schools we provide funding to, attended the NAPD Annual Conference and [...]

  • mdeducational foundation at NAPD Annual Conference

Putting the spotlight on student wellbeing – mdeducational foundation at the NAPD Annual Conference

December 22, 2023|Comments Off on Putting the spotlight on student wellbeing – mdeducational foundation at the NAPD Annual Conference

In October 2023, mdeducational foundation attended the Annual NAPD Conference in Galway, Ireland – an incredible opportunity and honour to connect with educational leaders from across the Republic of Ireland to share our mission. [...]