St Mary's Academy CBS

History of the School


In 1858 the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr. Walsh, invited the Christian Brothers to Carlow. On September 19th, 1859, three brothers arrived in Carlow to take charge of a new school which was situated in Montgomery Street. The brothers resided in an adjoining building.
On February 1st, 1863, the Brothers acquired an old parochial school in College Street, close to Carlow Cathedral. Pupils transferred from Montgomery Street to College Street on April 15th, 1864.
In 1897, at the invitation of the then bishop, Dr. Foley, a classical school, in which pupils were taught Greek, Latin and French, was opened. The number of students present on the opening day was seven.

The new Christian Brothers' primary school, named Bishop Foley School, was opened at Station Road in 1938. By the early 1960's it was clear that the Academy in College Street was unable to cope with the number of students attending it, which at this stage had reached 160 so in 1960 a new Christian Brothers' Secondary School was built beside Bishop Foley Primary School at Station Road. It had accommodation for 300 students. With the growth in student numbers, this new school proved inadequate and plans for an extension were drawn up. Work on an extension to the school commenced in 1975 and was completed in 1979. During this four-year period the number of students increased from 280 to 420.

On the 23rd May, 1979 the extension, which cost £200,000 was blessed and officially opened by the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Lennon. It comprised a library, a general purpose room, a woodwork room, an extra science laboratory, offices, a guidance suite and several extra classrooms.

Playing fields were purchased at Oak Park from Greencore, in 1985. These were developed and available for use in the spring of 1987. Carlow Town Hurling Club also purchased a pitch in the same complex and built dressing rooms and a social centre. The club uses the Hurling Club pitches and their dressing rooms during school time while the club makes use of the school pitches for their activities.

In February 1986, work began on a 12,600 square foot gymnasium complex to cater for the complete range of indoor sports. This project was completed in 1987, and was officially opened at a special ceremony on May 15th, 1988. Mr. Anthony O'Loughlin was appointed as the first lay principal to the school. The first Board of Management took office.

The last three Christian Brothers, Brothers Kavanagh, Sreenan and Leane, left Carlow in 1989 and the monastery reverted to parish use and now functions as a hostel, run by St. Vincent de Paul. The remains of the brothers buried in the monastery cemetery were transferred to St. Mary’s cemetery and the grounds were used to build Tinteán housing. However, the spirit and traditions of the Christian Brothers continue to thrive in Carlow.

Through the 1990s there were many developments in the area of curriculum provision, with German, Technology and Music becoming part of the school curriculum. The school also developed an extensive and fully updated computers room providing tuition in all aspects of modern computer applications.
The school became involved in the Schools for Active Learning and the School and Curriculum Development project through Maynooth University, along with fifteen other second-level schools in Carlow/Kildare.

In 1997 Mr. Paul Fields was appointed as school principal following the resignation of Anthony O’Loughlin who was appointed principal of the North Monastery Secondary School, Cork.

In 1999, Theresa O’Neill led the first group from the school on an Immersion Programme to Calcutta, accompanied by Brighid Hennessy. It was a terrific success and the project - the Immersion Programme - is an integral part of St. Mary’s Academy.

In 2001, Leo Hogan, a Maths/ Science teacher in the school since 1981, was appointed as deputy principal to replace Jack Ryan who retired. Mr. Ryan had spent over 40 years working in second-level education, most of it as Vice Principal in St. Mary’s Academy CBS. There were 373 students in the school. The following year, 2002, Paul Fields was seconded to the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and Leo Hogan was appointed as acting principal. Dave Barron was appointed as acting deputy principal. There were 393 students in the school.

By 2004 there were 425 students in the school and there was a major accommodation problem. The BOM was actively pursuing a building programme with the DES. A lift was installed to provide ‘access for all’ to the school, as part of a Summer Works Scheme.

In 2005 a group of seven students and three teachers spent two weeks in Calcutta working in Mother Theresa’s Hospice and in a Christian Brothers school. Enrolment had now reached 470 students.

By 2006 enrolment reached 507 students. Four extra classrooms were provided by the DES and a permanent extension to the school was sought. The DES offered a new Overall Schedule of Accommodation that was accepted by the school. There were 30 permanent teaching posts supported by the DES in the school and the deputy principalship was now an ex-quota position.

The Christian Brothers announced to the public that they were handing over their schools to a lay trust body, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) in the coming year.

In 2007 the school gym was renovated with the help of a Summer Works Scheme. The dressing rooms, shower rooms and the toilets were renovated and a steam extraction system was installed. The heating system on the main floor was updated. The total cost was close to €100, 000.
The ICT facilities were also updated. An Internet-connected PC was installed in every classroom and 25 new PCs were installed in the IT Room. Also, a new IT Room for Computer Design Graphics was created with 20 new PCs, also connected to the Internet. Enrolment was 542 students.

In 2008, Paddy McGovern, a French and English teacher in the school since the 1970s, was appointed as acting deputy principal on the retirement of Dave Barron. The Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) was now the owner of our school and the ERST Charter now provided the framework for the running of St. Mary’s Academy. A major overhaul of the Junior Cycle curriculum was undertaken and resulted in a very comprehensive range of subject choices for students going from First to Second year.

Current (2010) enrolment is 575 students and the BOM continues to address our accommodation needs. A catering company is employed to provide hot lunches for students. A Summer Works Scheme has provided funds for the renovation of the two Science labs.

In September 2010, the school underwent a Whole School Evaluation (WSE).

In October 2013 work began on a new extension to the school, providing new specialist rooms in Art, Music, Construction Studies and Science as well as 2 classrooms and new student toilets. The new facilities were ready for students in September 2014. Apart from the work done by the construction firm, Blackstairs, the building would not have been ready without the contribution of our caretaker, Martin Power. Martin worked non-stop during August to ensure the facilities were ready for our students and staff.

The new 2014/2015 school year also saw the introduction of a new teaching and learning environment. Active learning methodologies were introduced into every subject and class periods were extended from 40 minute to one-hour periods. The changes were introduced following extensive research and surveying of students, parents and staff over the previous 2-year period. The configuration of classrooms changed and seating arrangements were changed to facilitate group-work, peer-collaboration and a more investigative approach by students.
The feedback to date, from all parties, has been extremely positive and will be monitored closely over the school year.

The 2014/15 school year was one of the most successful year in the school's history:

  • The new teaching and learning environment was a great success and we look forward to enhanced learning outcomes for our students
  • Our Senior Hurlers reached the Leinster Final C Competition
  • Our Senior Irish Debaters reached the All-Ireland Gael Linn competition
  • Our TY classes were involved in the production of High Skool - The Musical with students from St. Leo's
  • Our Senior Footballers won the school's first ever All-Ireland in Croke Park - The Drummond Cup - and the match was broadcast live on TG4
  • We are one of three schools in the country that was awarded a Passport for excellence in engagement in Development Education, by Minister Sean Sherlock
  • We were awarded an Amber Flag for our involvement in the promotion of positive mental health
  • We were awarded our sixth Green Flag

The next area of focus for our Board of Management is the further enhancement of student facilities by developing the play area for students.

Railway Road

059 9142419

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