The Nano Nagle Story
The eighteenth century was a time of intense deprivation all over Europe. In Ireland, in particular, there was much suffering. The oppressive Penal Laws were being slowly removed or falling into disuse, but the great majority of the people were still enslaved by poverty, unemployment and hunger. Most of all, there was an almost total lack of educational facilities for the children of the poor.
Towards the middle of the century Nano Nagle, member of a wealthy Co. Cork family, experienced a call to serve the poor, particularly through education. Her first school in Cove Lane, Cork, was a two roomed mud cabin, with earthen floors, a garret and a thatched roof. By 1769 she was supervising seven schools all over the city, five for girls and two for boys. Her curriculum included the three R’s for all and home management for girls, but her chief priority was religious and moral education. Nano herself was responsible for preparing the students for the sacraments and teaching them to pray. A special feature of her schools was her insistence on training her students to evangelise their peers. For this, she prepared boys whom she sent to the West Indies to instruct Irish workers and the local people.
Some of the difficulties Nano encountered over these thirty years were the opposition from her own family and wealthy Catholics, constant fear of the law, problems of administration, financial insecurity and failing health. All these problems were overcome by her inflexible commitment to her vision, her ascetical lifestyle and her intense prayer-life.
Nano Nagle is regarded as a pioneer of Catholic education. She introduced the Ursulines to Ireland, set an example for other pioneers like Edmund Rice and Catherine McAuley founded the Presentation Congregation for the education of the poor. Thus she laid the foundation for a voluntary Catholic school system.
The Story of Presentation College, Headford
The story of Presentation College, Headford begins on Friday, August 26th, 1942, in a disused army hut located behind the presbytery. The founders of the new school were the Presentation Sisters who had been involved in Primary education in Headford since 1906. At first, the new secondary school catered for girls only. In its opening year, there were seventeen students in first year and twenty in second year. By 1946, the demand for more space necessitated the use of the Parochial Hall and the Convent dining room as classrooms.
The building of the new Post-Primary school at a cost of £12,000 in 1953 was a landmark. It consisted of six classrooms, a Home Economics room and a staff room – all still part of the present structure.
The vision and courage of the decision in 1955 to become co-educational marked a new departure. The arrival of eighteen intrepid boys in 1955 was the very stuff of a truly ‘mixed’ school! Sr. Vianney guided this transition to co-education and the rapid increase in student numbers of the ‘free education’ era in the sixties and seventies. This expansion made it necessary to plan an extension, which was completed in 1978, to provide facilities for a wider curriculum.
These facilities enabled the school to offer Woodwork, Metalwork, Technical Drawing, Art, Computers, Music, Typing and Home Economics, as well as the traditional academic subjects. Thus the school broke from the narrow academic tradition and became truly comprehensive, striving to cater for the needs of all.
In 1982, inspired by the then principal, Sr. Nuala Courtney, backed by the local community and with a loan from the Presentation Sisters, a modern Sports Centre was built consisting of gymnasium / stage, ball alleys, dressing rooms and shower facilities. This new facility enabled Headford pupils and local people to pursue a wide and exciting range of sports and to enter competitions at all levels.
Sr. Bríd Brennan became principal in 1986 and with Mr. John Boner, then Vice-Principal, guided the school through the next major phase of development in curriculum and facilities. In 1991 the second major extension to the school building was opened. This new wing included a Music room, a canteen, two extra Science laboratories, a language laboratory, Technical Drawing / Technology rooms, an extra Woodwork workshop, new classrooms, extended computer facilities and a Careers library. In the mid-1990s, a specialist area, consisting of rooms for Engineering, Technology, Mechanics, Electronics, Carpentry and Pottery, was added to the Gym building.
In 2004, Mr. Boner, who succeeded Sr. Bríd as principal in 1999, oversaw the construction of a Resource Centre, designed specifically to meet children’s special learning needs. The unit includes a kitchen, two rooms for small group or one-to-one tuition, an office, computer room and classroom. In 2008, the construction of a major new extension commenced. The two-storey structure, which includes two Woodwork rooms, a study hall and eight general classrooms, opened in September 2010.
Since the 1960s, as well as providing an academic education of the highest standard, our school has been a pioneer in the introduction of various programmes and initiatives designed to meet the varied needs of less academically-oriented pupils and to retain in the education system those students who would be unlikely to persist with a more exclusively academic curriculum. These programmes, which today include the Leaving Certificate Vocational, the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, and the Junior Certificate Schools Programme, have greatly contributed to strengthening retention rates, at both Junior and Senior Cycle.
Presentation College, Headford has always taken the initiative in supporting disadvantaged and vulnerable students. Prior to our formal inclusion in the Home-School-Community Liaison Scheme (which, in the autumn of 2009, has fallen victim of Government budget cuts), our school, through the good offices of the Presentation Sisters, provided a Home-School Liaison service to the parents of our children during the 1980s and early 1990s. P.C.H. has always been committed to meeting the Special Educational Needs of students in its catchment area, and it is to this end that a dedicated Resource Centre was constructed in March 2004.
From the beginning, as a stand-alone school, Presentation College, Headford has striven to meet the varied needs of all the pupils in its catchment area through the development of a comprehensive curriculum and of the necessary facilities and services to provide such a curriculum. This has been achieved through the great enterprise, imagination, hard-work and perseverance of many in the school, and through the generosity and good will of the local community and the Presentation Sisters. The work continues today.
Presentation College, Headford Today
Presentation College, Headford is a voluntary, Catholic, co-educational secondary school, under the trusteeship of CEIST. It is a non fee-paying school. Between 1994 and 2009, the school was designated disadvantaged but it has not been included in the newer DEIS scheme. It is a stand-alone school in a catchment area of approximately 160 square miles, with approximately twenty feeder primary schools.
In keeping with Presentation ethos and our Mission Statement, our admissions policy is open and non-selective, so our student population includes a substantial number of those who are disadvantaged because of their socio-economic background, special educational needs and emotional / behavioural difficulties. In accordance with our Presentation ethos, we aim particularly to help the non-academically gifted student and to ensure equal educational opportunities. In the school year 2015/2016, there are 766 students enrolled in the school.