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De La Salle Receives Prestigious UNICEF Award
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Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has congratulated De la Salle High School in Downpatrick for gaining the UNICEF Rights Respecting School Award.

The UNICEF award is aimed at recognising the achievement made by schools at putting the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the centre of planning, policies and practice.

Speaking at the presentation ceremony the Minister said,  “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability.

“As educationalists we should be placing these rights at the heart of everything we do. As Education Minister I have brought forward a number of progressive changes in order to improve educational outcomes and promote equality.

“Central to this has been reforming Post-Primary Transfer. This has seen a move away from the previous system of academic selection and rejection which I believe contradicts the very ethos of those rights laid down by the United Nations.

At the presentation held in the De La Salle High School are David McGimpsey, UNICEF NI Education Officer, Julie Taggart, SEELB CAS Officer, Barry Sharvin, School Principal, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane MLA, Kevin Murray, Teacher and Rights' Respecting Co-ordinator, Frances Bestley, UNICEF Programme Manager, and Fintan McGrady, Chairman of the School's Board of Governors, with pupils Darren Ross and Taylor Louden.

“Awards such as the UNICEF Rights Respecting School Award are essential for recognising the good work being done by schools to recognise children and young people rights.

“A rights-respecting ethos within a school affects all aspects of school life, from leadership and management, through to empowering young people by equipping them with the necessary skills, knowledge and values. I have no doubt that schools such as De la Salle assist in enabling children and young people to have a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities within our global society,” the Minister added.

De la Salle High School Principal Barry Sharvin said the pupils in the school were delighted to have received the award. He added, “We are the first post-primary school in Northern Ireland to receive this award and we were delighted to have the Education Minister Catriona Ruane at the school for the presentation.

“It was relatively easy to implement the programme as it fitted in closely with our school ethos. The Minister had a meeting with members of the school council fro 15 minutes to discuss the award with them.

“It is an excellent achievement for the school and the pupils.”