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Aughadown playschool marks its 25th birthday

June 6th, 2017 7:15 AM

By Southern Star Team

Aughadown Community Playschool children celebrating 25 years of learning and fun with teachers Helen O'Driscoll, Patricia Carey and Norma Hayes . (Photo: Dominic Casey)

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From humble beginnings in a single prefab, to state of the art facilities, the playschool looks forward to a fun filled future thanks to the support of the local community council...

ONE OF West Cork’s longest running community playschools celebrates its 25th anniversay this year with Olympic medalists Gary and Paul O’Donovan among its  500 past pupils.

Aughadown Community Playschool, less than three miles from Skibbereen, has been operating since 1992 under the guidance of its founders Norma Hayes and Helen O’Donovan who have been at the helm since the beginning, assisted by dozens of parents throughout the years.

The playschool which was founded in 1992 didn’t always have the facilities it boasts today as it began in the humble surrounds of a prefab which was hard fought for by four determined ladies, namely Norma Hayes, Helen O’Donovan, Marie Cregan and Mary Evans. With the assistance of the Community Council the prefab  was placed on Church Cross community grounds and became a more permanent home for a fledgling mother and toddler group.  

With the prefab came the demand for a preschool. 

There were very few playschools at that time as the concept, although not exactly new, was not an amenity in the majority of rural communities. The prefab became a pre-school for 25 children with numbers growing to a point where a new premises was needed. 

Playschool leader Norma said: ‘As well as the children from the community  we have always had children attending from Skibbereen and the wider area and a decision was made to expand and fundraise for a community hall.’

Remembering those days, Helen O’Donovan added: ‘We set about planning all types of fundraisers from cake sales to race nights, you name it, we held it! People were so generous and still are today when we host any type of fundraising event. If it wasn’t for the help and support of the local community we wouldn’t be where we are today 25 years on. It is difficult to believe that we are celebrating 25 years as the drive and determination to be the best we can be is still as strong today as it was all those years ago.  We strive to enhance each child’s overall development while also creating a safe, happy environment, providing many different experiences and lots of fun.’

In 2000 the playschool, as it is today, was opened and although many things have changed, the one constant is the warmth felt when walking through the doors where art work and images of special visits and days adorn the walls. 

More than 500 children have passed through the doors of Aughadown Community Playschool and it is the only playschool in the country that can lay claim to having two Olympic medallist alumni as both Paul and Gary O’Donovan attende. Less than three miles from Skibbereen in the heart of Church Cross countryside and boasting a state of the art outdoor play area, the playschool plays an important part in preparing children for primary school. 

Norma added: ‘Based on the “High Scope” method our ethos at Aughadown Community Playschool is to give the children the best of Early Childhood Education while fostering a sense of independence, respect for classmates and the resources which they are fortunate to have around them. We adhere to the Standards of Síólta and Áistear. the early curriculum framework.’

Norma and Helen would like to thank the parents who have entrusted their children to them throughout the years, saying they love to meet former pupils who always have a smile and hello for them. They would also like to thank all the assistants who have worked with them over the years, especially Siobhán and Patricia.

The recent Minihan’s to Mizen fun cycle which raised funds for the playschool will see the purchase of new toys and equipment to further enhance the surroundings which will also be given a facelift during the summer months for the new incumbents. 

Speaking on behalf of the parents and as Chairperson of the parents committee, Shirley O’Sullivan said: ‘We are so fortunate to have such a lovely community playschool in the area and we have the foresight and determination of Norma, Helen, Marie and Mary to thank for it all. It is fantastic to see the children happily run in the door at 8.50am each morning and leave knowing they are in the best of care. 

The biggest problem is getting them to leave at 12.45pm! It is also down to the unwavering support of the fantastic Community Council who have always been so supportive and the community who show great generosity for all our fundraising efforts. We hope that the playschool will continue to thrive for many
years to come.’

Places are still available for the 2017/2018 academic year and children over the age of two years, six months can attend.  Free Preschool Year available for children over  three yrs.

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