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 student support pilot programme called City Connects. The main goal of City Connects is to ensure that each and every student receives all the services and resources he or she needs 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
Central Model Infants’ School
Central Model Senior School
St. Laurence O’Toole’s CBS
St. Laurence O’Toole’s National School
Rutland National School
Gardiner Street Primary School
Every year, a City Connects Coordinator collaborates with school staff to review the strengths and needs of 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 and address any particular need a child may have. These supports will be offered in school or within the community. Each and every child will have an individual, personalised plan with a tailored set of activities and services to help them to succeed and thrive 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 Coordinator leads a comprehensive discussion about every child’s strengths and needs across four areas: 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.
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.
The work of the 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 opening 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 was carried out by City Connects in December 2020 where we sought the views of over 1,600 pupils from Junior Infants to 6th Class. We captured a range of 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.
✓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.