Three primary schools in Carlow are the first three ever to become official GAA 5 Star Centres.
Last week, the occasion was marked by the raising of the GAA 5 Star Centre flags in each of the schools – Bishop Foley Memorial BNS, Pádraig Naofa Tullow BNS and Tinryland NS.
All pupils cheered with excitement as Carlow GAA Chairman, Seán Campion, and Leinster GAA Chairman, Jim Bolger, set the flags aloft outside each of the schools for all to see.
There was traditional music, poetry, signing and games on display, making this a very special occasion.
The three primary schools were the first to roll out the GAA 5 Star Centre initiative as part of Phase 1 of GAA's national pilot during the 2017-2018 school year and continuing as part of the 300 schools to roll it out across the 32 counties this year.
LISTEN: John Kelly, prinicipal Bishop Foley National School talks about all kids getting a go:
Indeed, they are the first three schools in, not just Ireland, but the world to do so, as three schools in New York also participated this year.
GAA Director of Games Development and Research, Pat Daly, highlighted that "the initiative aims to ensure that every child gets 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week throughout 26 weeks of the school year".
He added: "In doing so, it will enhance the development of children’s movement abilities and well-being so that children experience fun, friendship, fairness, freedom and, ultimately, develop their fitness."
To become a GAA 5 Star Centre, primary school teachers organise a range of activities for all children to participate in, with GAA personnel acting in a support capacity.
The diverse range activities include Have a Ball, Fun & Run, Strike It, Catch & Kick, Skill Challenges and Go Games. A new game called Fun & Run, involving a team of batters/kickers and fielders, is suitable for all age and ability levels.
It is particularly suited to meet the needs of people with disabilities, people from socially deprived and ethnic minority groups who often perceive themselves to be excluded from mainstream GAA activities.
GAA personnel also provide training to Teachers to enable them to organise the activities, including a 90-minute practical workshop.
Principal of Tinryland NS, Orlaith Hennessey, said that "we are thrilled to become a GAA 5 Star Centre. The online sign-up process is quick and easy".
She added: "We had a planning meeting with Carlow GAA Lead Games Development Administrator (GDA), Sean Gannon, who explained what the programme entailed and how he could contribute.
"Sean and the other GDAs also provided training for Teachers after school, which we used as some of our Croke Park hours.
"The range on online and print learning resources are relevant to the curriculum and are user-friendly. It is good have some supplementary coaching input from the GDAs and from volunteers from the local clubs.
"But we see this programme a teacher-led initiative. We believe that the 5 Star Centre is way of facilitating self-sufficiency and sustainability in our promotion and development of Gaelic games and wider physical activity in the school.
"The children love the wide range of activities the programme offers. It not only includes the full spectrum of Gaelic games, but fundamental movement skills development and the non-contact game of Fun & Run.
"The 5 Star Centre is a great way encouraging Teachers and pupils to be more physically active, thereby contributing to their health and well-being.
"Every class does a at least 6 hours of any activity they wish over six weeks. In addition, one or more of the classes does 26 or more hours across the school years. 74 hours of activity was our target.
"What we have found is that the we have doubled this. We include lunch-time yard games where 5th & 6th pupils, under Teacher supervision, organise activities – Strike It and Catch & Catch & Kick – for the younger pupils. We also play lots of Go Games after school."
Phase 2 GAA of the 5 Star Centre national pilot will be rolled out across primary schools on a phased basis from September 2019.
Should schools like to participate, Primary School Teachers/Principals can submit an Expression of Interest until the end of July at www.learning.gaa.ie/5Sta or contact to a member of their county GAA Games Development staff via www.learning.gaa.ie/staff contacts for more info.