With the support of a number of Government departments and the NEIC Programme Implementation Board, 10 Primary schools in the NEIC are now offering a comprehensive system of student support called the City Connects pilot project. The main goal of City Connects is to ensure that each and every student receives all the services and resources he or she needs in order to succeed and thrive in school and achieve their full potential. The 10 schools that are part of the NEIC City Connects Pilot Project are:
· St. Vincent’s Infant Boys’ School
· St. Vincent’s Girls’ National School
· O’Connell Primary
· Central Model Infants’ School
· Central Model Senior School
· Scoil Chaoimhín
· St. Laurence O’Toole’s CBS
· St. Laurence O’Toole’s National School
· Rutland National School
· Gardiner Street Primary School
City Connects does not target specific students or groups of students within a school. City Connects is for all students.
Every year, a City Connects Coordinator collaborates with school staff to review the strengths and needs of each and every student in every class. Following consultation with parents, the Coordinator then links each child to a tailored set of supports and enrichment opportunities, to build on their strengths, address any particular need they may have and link to areas they are interested in. These supports will be offered either in school or within the community. Each and every child will receive an individual, personalised plan with a tailored set of activities and services to help them succeed and thrive, both in school and beyond.
City Connects is an initiative of Boston College and has been running in the US for over 20 years. Boston College research shows that children who attend City Connects primary schools outperform their peers academically – not only in primary school but also later in secondary school.
Review, Plan, and Follow-up
The City Connects Coordinator follows a three-step student support process:
Review: With parental permission, and in collaboration with school staff, the City Connects Coordinator leads a comprehensive discussion about every child’s strengths and needs across four developmental domains: Academics, Social/Emotional/Behavioural, Health and Family.
Plan: When a child’s strengths and needs are identified, the City Connects Coordinator makes recommendations to teachers and families/caregivers about a potential set of services and enrichment activities tailored to the child’s needs, abilities and interests. A core aspect of the Coordinator’s role is to develop and maintain partnerships with community-based organisations that provide an array of services.
Follow-up: To evaluate the effectiveness of referrals, the City Connects Coordinator communicates regularly with parents/caregivers, school staff, and service providers and reviews a child’s plan every 6-8 weeks.
City Connects Coordinators play a significant role in:
· Recommending and connecting you to services that may support your child.
· Providing information on school processes and service options.
· Highlighting service gaps within the community and working with community partners/agencies to fill these gaps.
The work of City Connects is subject to regular review and the entire pilot programme continues to be evaluated on an ongoing basis. Here are a few facts and figures to date:
✓There are currently 5 City Connects Coordinators working with 1,760 pupils across the 10 Primary schools in the NEIC.
✓The majority of the children flagged for an Individual Student Review already have a Student Support File open in their school. This is the class teacher’s way of identifying needs, setting targets and tracking progress and this approach is widely used across Irish schools.
✓A pupil interest survey is carried out by City Connects Coordinators every year where they seek the views pupils from Junior Infants to 6th Class. The survey carried out in December 2020 included the views of over1,600 and captured a range of pupils interests with the most popular areas being Swimming, Cookery, Lego, Arts and Crafts, Coding and Football. The results of this survey have already been used by a number of schools and community groups/agencies in the NEIC to provide new activities for children that respond to their areas of interest.
✓There are currently 89 Community Partners in the NEIC offering 129 programmes to children and families. These programmes and services range in intensity from Enrichment/Prevention to Early Intervention to Intensive/Crisis Intervention.
Parents should feel free to ask school staff about the exciting NEIC City Connects Pilot Project operating in the named schools and coordinators would welcome parental input and queries.