Local Faces: Shane Cadigan, Principal of St Mary’s National School in Tallaght

By Mary Dennehy

THE times we are currently living in revives memories of a childhood growing up on a rural farm in Kilkenny for Shane Cadigan, when seeing friends was not an everyday occurrence.

The youngest of three boys, Shane, who is the Principal of St Mary’s National School in Tallaght, grew up on a farm in Coon.

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Shane Cadigan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“This current time has very much reminded me of my childhood in rural Kilkenny and the only time you would see your friends or classmates would be in school or through participation in your local sports clubs”, Shane told The Echo.

“I have a keen interest and love of all sports and participated in many throughout my school days.”

As a teenager, hurling took over for Shane, and has been a huge part of his life ever since. 

“I was very lucky to enjoy many successful days on the playing fields with both my club St Martin’s (Kilkenny) and at Intercounty level (2 Minor and 1 U21 All Ireland medals)”, he said.

“In the past year I have become more involved in running to get my physical exercise fix and I was delighted to complete my first marathon in Dublin last October.”

Shane followed in the career footsteps of his older brother Brian, who was embarking on his teaching career when a 17-year-old Shane moved to Dublin to train at St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra.

Shane, who is married to Clare-Marie, a teacher in Divine Word NS in Rathfarnham, and is dad to boys Seán and Cuán, this week told The Echo: “I have been teaching now for 15 years, 15 years of huge change.

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Shane Cadigan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“When I started teaching there was no internet access in many classrooms and there was one television and video/dvd player on a trolley between the whole school.

“This has changed drastically with large Interactive screens the norm in every classroom now.”

Before taking up the position of Principal at St Mary’s in 2018, Shane was based at Holy Rosary National School in Tallaght for 12 years – where he “gained wonderful experience and knowledge of the [Tallaght] area”.

Shane left Holy Rosary to travel the short distance to Tallaght Village, where he took up the position of Principal at St Mary’s in September 2018.

“St Mary’s has a wonderful rich history that I am honored to be part of”, Shane said.

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Shane Cadigan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“There are currently 337 pupils, 25 teachers and nine SNAs.

“It gave me great pride and a nice boost in my first year in St Mary’s when the girls’ football team qualified to play in Croke Park in the Cumann Na mBunscoil finals.”

He added: “It’s a huge honour to be principal of Tallaght’s oldest primary school.

“[St Mary’s] may be Tallaght’s oldest school but it has a young vibrant, innovative and hardworking staff with a bright future.

“My job is to keep St Mary’s at the heart of the community and to continue to serve the community by educating and caring for the future adults of our community.”

Like all schools across the country, recent months have seen change at St Mary’s as the school community stays home as part of national Covid-19 measures. 

“I am extremely proud of how the school, the staff, the parents and children have adapted and supported each other”, Shane said.

“The teachers and SNAs [Special Needs Assistants] are in constant communication with the parents and children through email, phone calls and a variety of platforms.

“Staff and group meetings are held on Zoom on a daily basis and as a teacher/principal I never thought I would experience what seemed to me to be the holy grail of ‘working from home’ but the reality is quite different.

“It can be quite stressful in a meeting with two young children but luckily Fireman Sam and Paw Patrol has come to the rescue on a number of occasions.”

A snapshot of the virtual communication at St Mary’s in recent weeks includes teachers sending messages to pupils on the morning they were due to make their Communion and Confirmation.

A virtual diaries programme is also running for all pupils to share activities they are engaging in at home, with a virtual sports and active week scheduled for June.

“For me and St Mary’s school life is about relationships and our focus now as it has been throughout this pandemic is to maintain these relationships and to keep the connections going”, Shane said.

“We look forward to reopening the school building and restoring school life and I think all schools will be back stronger than ever as we have learned so much and upskilled in new areas during this time. 

“I am extremely lucky to work in Tallaght where many wonderful principals are willing to share their experiences as we work together for the betterment of all our schools.”

He added: “Working in schools in the Tallaght area now for the past 15 years and I really love it.

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Shane Cadigan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“I feel so lucky to be part of the Tallaght community and its many clubs and organisations.”

Looking forward to September, Shane said: “The school awaits national guidelines on measures regarding children coming back to school and we honestly don’t know what school will be like in September but what we do know is that we will make sure the children are safe cared for and educated because that’s what we do.

“With my own son due to start his educational journey I am well aware of the concerns and worries that the parents of incoming junior infants are experiencing at this time.”

As the pupils of St Mary’s stay home for the moment, Shane (aka Mr Cadigan) wished to send a message to them all.

“I am extremely proud of the boys and girls of St Mary’s”, he said.

“I am so impressed by their dedication and maturity.

“The teachers and I love seeing videos, photos and samples of the children’s work and achievements and staying connected in whatever way we can.

“I hope that many of the boys and girls can get out and get active in a safe way over the coming weeks as I know that physical exercise is great for the body and mind and has always been a great help for me.

“We look forward to welcoming our little heroes back.”

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