AN IRVINESTOWN principal is to explore educational systems across Australia and Canada after being awarded a prestigious accolade which will take her on an investigative five week trip.
Shauna Cathcart, who is the principal of St. Paul’s Primary school, Irvinestown, has been awarded a the Travelling Fellowship by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
She is recognised as a passionate advocate for pupil well-being in schools, and will travel to Australia and Canada this autumn to investigate best practice in education systems, with a particular focus on whole school approaches to staff and student well-being.
Mrs Cathcart has been a primary school principal for the past 15 years and is a recently qualified psychotherapist.
“I firmly believe that student achievement is a reflection of both academic success and personal well-being, and that the two are integrated,” she said.
“Many children today are struggling to cope with a multiplicity of challenges and expectations, and this is reflected in Northern Ireland’s unenviable mental health statistics.
“Schools need to offer greater support to pupils in terms of developing their resilience and coping strategies alongside the academic curriculum.”
She recently spent two and a half years on a joint secondment, working with the Department of Education and Barnados, developing materials to promote well-being in schools.
She has also addressed the education minister, John O’Dowd, in Fermanagh as part of a local cohort of principals raising concerns about the high incidences of school-age pupils in the North taking their own lives and the need for early intervention in terms of mental health promotion.
At the start of her Fellowship, Shauna will travel to Canada, where she will ‘train as a trainer’ in a five day evidence-based Resiliency Skills programme for young people.
She will also spend time in a Toronto educational authority, visiting schools and meeting with mental health professionals exploring strategies to support positive mental health for staff and pupils linked to school improvement.
In October she will spend three weeks in Australia.
There, she will undertake professional development programmes in both adolescent and adult resilience before visiting a selection of primary and post-primary schools.
“I believe that the benefits of this Fellowship will exist long past the duration of my visit, as I continue to network with key educationalists leading the way in this vitally important area,” she said.
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