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How your business can improve children’s learning skills

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Marie Claire Baxter

HR Manager of ABP Clones

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Majella Beggan

Principal of St Tiarnach’s Primary School

ABP Clones has been involved in local initiatives for decades. Now the company has linked up with St Tiarnach’s Primary School in a scheme to improve pupils’ reading, with already striking results.


This year, for the second year in a row, ABP Clones is taking part in the Time to Read campaign, in which their staff volunteer to help second year children in St Tiarnach’s Primary School with reading. Fuelled by their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy in conjunction with Business in the Community, it has had a striking effect on both company and school alike, with both citing any number of benefits for everyone who has been involved. And it has had a marked effect on the pupils.

Striking effect on the children and the volunteers

“This is designed to help children with their reading skills by engaging with volunteers, while it gives the volunteers the opportunity to work with children and encourage their love of reading,” says Marie Claire Baxter, HR manager of ABP Clones. “At the start of the programme each volunteer is matched with two children, who they read with for the duration of the programme.”

A programme vital in the local community

This latest initiative is part of a CSR strategy to become involved with the local community that stretches back over 60 years. “It’s about giving back to the community,” says Marie Claire. “We do a lot of work with the third level through the ABP graduate programme and engage with secondary level schools with the Angus Beef Society, so it’s our chance to do something new at a primary school level. And it was so successful last year that we’re doing it again.”

Amazing results were measured

Indeed, the effect on the students involved has been striking. “We’re delighted and relish the opportunity to continue our relationship with ABP,” says Majella Beggan, Principal of St Tiarnach’s Primary School. “The results have been amazing. The children were tested before they began the programme and again afterwards and every single one of the 10 pupils involved had improved a year in their reading age, while four improved by two years.”

Funding for books and support for all

The books are funded and provided by ABP and pitched at the level of the students. “The investment of one consistent half hour per week with a trained adult is immeasurable,” says Majella. “From a reading age point of view and building and fostering relationships, communications skills or a language, this permeates through all aspects of literacy. There has also been a marked improvement in the children’s attendance: this has been a positive and affirming initiative and we are thrilled to be involved again. We are also delighted to be associated with ABP, not least as it is Clones’ main employer. As a border town with a high disadvantage status, this initiative is only to be welcomed.”

And both parties agree that once it was underway and the logistics involved sorted out, everything has run smoothly. “Parents, pupils and everyone at the school has been genuinely amazed by the positive progress,” Majella says.

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