One local school unveiled an innovative and colourful addition to their school this week – a ‘Buddy Bench’ to promote inclusion and deter playground bullying.

Tiernaboul National School, who recently signed up to become a ‘Health Promoting School’ (HPS), launched the new child friendly bench which was kindly constructed and donated by members of Barraduff Men’s Shed.

“We had heard that other schools around the country had successfully introduced the concept of a buddy bench,” Fiona Cronin, HPS co-ordinator, said.

“The idea is that if a child in the playground feels lonely, sad or isolated and they have no one to play with, they can go and sit on the ‘Buddy Bench’ and then other children will come over and ask them to join in games or just sit and talk.

“We thought it was a great idea; to encourage friendships and inclusion, develop empathy and social skills and prevent bullying by teaching the values of kindness and respect.”

She added that being a small school with a small budget, they are always trying to keep costs down.

“We had read that Men’s Shed groups had occasionally made ‘Buddy Benches’ for their local schools.

“During the summer at a health event, one of the parents, Lynn Swinburne, who is on the HPS committee, met Pat O’Mahony, founder of the Barradubh Men’s Shed, and she asked if they could make a bench for Tiernaboul School.”

Pat kindly agreed to help the school, even though the Barradubh Men’s Shed is only in its infancy.

The bench was then skilfully crafted by Ted O’Leary, a member of the Barradubh Men’s Shed.

It was painted in bright colours by parent John Sheahan, and the school community is incredibly grateful for the time and effort given by everyone to this project, she added.

“The ‘Buddy Bench’ will be used for years to come. It will give children the subtle message that reaching out for help is often a healthy strategy to deal with problems.

“Work will be done on mental health projects in the classroom and children will be encouraged to talk and share their worries, instead of bottling things up; an important lesson to learn for future years.”

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