Sunday Times Secondary School of the Year 2023

St. Mary's Grammar School

Pupil Welfare

In St. Mary’s, we regard the mental and emotional health and well-being of each pupil to be as important as their physical well-being.

We believe that mental and emotional health and well-being are necessary to enable pupils to be effective and successful learners.  As a school, we recognise that pupils’ mental and emotional health and well-being can impact upon their:

  • happiness, confidence and self-esteem;

  • ability to build and sustain positive relationships with others, including peers and teachers;

  • engagement in the learning and teaching process and their motivation to learn;

  • level of achievement;

  • behaviour and attendance; and

  • level of resilience and their ability to cope with challenges and setbacks.

We seek to enable pupils to understand and manage their emotions successfully. We aim to provide an environment in which pupils can be happy, content and confident about expressing their feelings and asking for emotional support, if required.

The school’s Pastoral Care System and the Personal Development Programme contribute significantly to the promotion of pupils’ mental and emotional health and well-being.


In St. Mary’s, we understand that counselling in schools can make an important contribution to supporting the emotional health and well-being of young people. Pupils experiencing stress or emotional problems can find it difficult to engage in the learning and teaching process and to reach their full potential. At any time, pupils may need extra emotional support beyond the normal pastoral care in school to help them to cope with experiences such as bereavement, trauma or family break-ups. Very often, pupils can benefit from a ‘listening ear’ that is not a parent/guardian, friend or someone involved in their education.

Counselling is a way of helping young people through a process of talking, listening and empowerment. Pupils are provided with a safe place to express their feelings and thoughts about what they perceive to be an issue in their life. Counselling can help young people to understand themselves and their situation better. It can give them new ways of coping with issues that cause them upset, therefore increasing their capacity for learning. Successful counselling is based on trust, self-motivation and commitment.

In St. Mary’s, all pupils have access to an independent professional counselling service. This service is currently provided by Familyworks and is an integral part of the school’s pastoral care system. The School Counsellor attends St. Mary’s on a weekly basis. Pupils may arrange an appointment with the School Counsellor through confidential self-referral or by speaking to the Form Teacher. A secure Referral Box is discreetly located close to the Pupil Reception for pupils who wish to confidentially make an appointment with the School Counsellor.

The counselling relationship by its nature is confidential. The independence of the service is an important aspect for pupils, particularly those who prefer not to discuss issues with school staff.

All pupils within the school are made aware of the counselling service. As far as possible, the School Counsellor will attend each Year Group Assembly at an early stage of each academic year to deliver a short presentation on counselling.


As a Health Promoting School, St. Mary’s aims to:

  • provide pupils with information on a range of health-related issues;

  • equip pupils with the knowledge, attitudes, values, skills and behaviours that will empower them to manage their personal health and well-being; and

  • enable pupils to reach their full potential in terms of educational and health outcomes.

Health Education within St. Mary’s ensures that pupils have access to information on a broad range of matters such as smoking, healthy eating, fitness, alcohol, drugs, sex, and mental health. Many subject areas contribute extensively to Health Education. Subjects such as Home Economics, PE, Science and Personal Development include a range of health-related topics. In addition, St. Mary’s pupils benefit from the support of various health agencies which deliver programmes within the school, including activities, talks and seminars.

A designated teacher with responsibility for Health Education throughout the school ensures that St. Mary’s adopts a whole-school approach to the promotion of health and well-being.

In St. Mary’s, we are fortunate to have a Student Health Officer who, in addition to responding to the medical needs of pupils on a daily basis, also contributes to the school’s Health Education Programme.


In St. Mary’s, we aim to develop pupils’ awareness of the importance of personal fitness and regular exercise and their understanding of the benefits of a physically active lifestyle.

Our pupils are encouraged to engage in regular physical activity in school through curricular and extra-curricular opportunities such as:

  • timetabled PE lessons for all pupils in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4;

  • designated ‘Gym Periods’ for students in Key Stage 5

  • training for school sports teams and matches e.g. football, camogie, hurling;

  • participation in sporting competitions and events e.g. swimming galas;

  • participation in coaching sessions e.g. tennis;

  • KS3 Aviva School Mile Challenge

  • Duke of Edinburgh expeditions; and

  • Year 8 Fun Sports


Family Works Flow Chart

Family Works Helpline

Family Works ReferralsText A Nurse - Parents, Carers & School Staff

 Emotional Health and Wellbeing Flyer Feb 2024