THE Strabane area is at the forefront of delivering excellence in childcare. This was clear to see at the weekend when two local primary schools and one nursery took home a total of five awards between at the Families First Winter Awards.
Representing the locality at the ceremony, which took place in the Sligo Park Hotel, were St Eugene’s PS, Victoria Bridge, St Mary’s PS and Nursery Unit (Ballycolman) and Country Kids Nursery, Clady, each winning awards in all their nominated categories.
St Eugene’s PS was nominated in the Best Primary School category and following a visit from Families First judges during October, Omagh man Gavin Gallagher also received a nomination in the Best Principal category.
Up against a number of schools in Tyrone and Donegal St Eugene’s came away with an impressive haul of three awards for Best Rural Primary School, Best Community Based School and Best Principal.
Speaking after the event Mr Gallagher said, “The awards are a fantastic boost for our school. We are proud and humbled to have received them but we are also delighted that the great work which goes on in St Eugene’s has been recognised on such a scale.
“Obviously education is our core business but we are proud the judges recognised the pastoral care provided for the children, the family feel that exists within the school community and the happiness of our pupils, parents, staff, governors and wider community.”
Delighted to have received the Best Principal award Mr Gallagher added, “Any person in a leadership position is only as good as the colleagues that they work with and I feels this award is a recognition of the team ethos and professional approach amongst all of the staff of St Eugene’s, which is directly benefiting the pupils, their parents and families.”
Mary Conlan, a nursery teacher at St Mary’s PS said she was honoured to win the Best Teacher accolade.
“I am absolutely delighted to have won and I had a fantastic time at the awards ceremony. This has really been a lovely experience and I am overwhelmed with how people have responded to my award. Since my nomination I have received so many lovely comments and gestures of support, particularly from past pupils and their parents.
“I have worked in this role for over 25 years and I value the importance of nursery education,” continued Mrs Conlan.
“To have that insight into how people perceive you and value you in your job means more to me than any award and that was the nicest part of this entire experience.”
Fiona Elliott, whose nursery business Country Kids Childcare won Best Private Daycare for the second year running said the award is “a dream come true”.
“I am over the moon to receive this award two years in a row,” said Fiona. “Once again we were nominated by parents who use our services and to know that they think we were worthy of the award, is what Country Kids is all about.”
The Families First Awards seek out inspirational people and successful businesses, nurseries and schools from all over Ireland with over 50 schools, businesses and individuals in the running for an award.