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St Aengus post-primary Mountrath, Co Laois attends EP plenary

A group of students from St Aengus Secondary School in Mountrath participated in the Euroscola programme on 16 April 2009. Read Niamh Flynn's account of their visit.

A select group from St Aegnus post-primary school in Mountrath attended the European Parliament's Euroscola in Strasbourg, participating in discussions, presentations and workshops along with other students from all over Europe.

There is no substitute for hands on experience when it comes to education. The Euroscola programme which invites a small number of school children from various countries to attend the European Parliament for a day is one such learning experience and it certainly simulates many of the protocols observed by attending MEPs.  The day offers an opportunity to understand many of the workings of the European Parliament through participation and on Thursday,  16th of April a select group from St Aengus Post Primary School in Mountrath were in attendance to witness these workings.

The Euroscola day brings school children from many of the European Countries together where they can form working groups, address issues of global significance and mix with students from other countries. Christopher Dooley and Regina Phelan from St Aengus were possibly the two youngest students ever to make a presentation at the parliament, opting to deliver their presentation in French to a packed parliament. Reflecting on their day, both students obviously enjoyed the occasion with Christopher pointing out the varying emotions it generated. 'Getting to represent our country and our school was exhilarating. I was nervous at first but then it was great and it was a super experience.' His fellow presenter, Regina was in agreement, having spent all morning perfecting her French pronunciation. 'I really enjoyed it, especially getting to use the voting system.' The voting system Regina is referring to is the voting system used by MEPs' to make decisions on diverse issues affecting Europe. Each MEP has their own seat at the parliament with three buttons; yes, no, and abstain. When they vote by pressing the button their votes are reflected graphically and numerically with an instant snapshot of the results. Mairead McDonagh was also in attendance and having listened intently to the proceedings learnt a lot from the experience. 'I did not know about how people felt that not all languages were recognised as official languages by the European Parliament and I think that there should be just one language or all included.' As Irish has now been included as an official language of the European Parliament this and many other facts were addressed during the day, giving students a chance to comment and ask questions.

Their hosts were gracious and attentive to the needs of the students addressing many of the questions most frequently asked about the Parliament and patiently answering a host of questions from students once they opened the floor for discussion. The only gripe expressed by most of the students such as Leona Conroy and Geraldine Hooban was about the length of the day. 'The voting system was interesting but it was a very long day from 9am to 6pm but we enjoyed working with different schools from all over Europe. The day itself was filled with presentations, discussions and workshops. Paul Croke, Kuba Cywinski and Linda Hayes all took part in the day organised by their school Principal, Marie Moran, and as Linda points out, there were several highlights to their visit.  'To look around and hear all of the different languages spoken was great.' They were, as Ciara Bergin explains, split into groups to work together. 'Being split up into the different working groups was the best part and we had to work together with people from different countries.' Other students such as John Bergin were appreciative of the architecture. 'The monuments outside were impressive and the architecture inside the building was interesting and nicely designed.' For some students, like Dale Cooper the experience proved to be even more enjoyable than anticipated. 'It was livelier than I thought it was going to be and we covered a lot in one day. I enjoyed it.'