The children of Ceara School in Lurgan charmed the Secretary of State for NI, Theresa Villiers during a special visit on Monday.
The MP was clearly enchanted by the signing choir who played a number of tunes for their special guest.
The politician’s reputation for aloofness was dashed as she got down on her knees and played with the youngsters.
It was no whistle-stop tour for this busy politician. She took time to chat and play with many of the children in a number of different classrooms.
One little girl who was playing with a toy couldn’t resist grasping hold of the MP’s hand. Ms Villiers clearly made a new friend.
And in another classroom she helped some of the children paint Christmas cards with glitter and glue. She appeared at ease as she hunkered down on her knees to chat to another child.
After a concert with a signed choir and a Ceara School first a Voice Choir, the Secretary of State turned on the Christmas lights.
She told the Mail: “This is clearly a wonderful place which is making a huge impact into the lives of all the children who attend the school.”
Mrs Villiers said she was particularly impressed by the signing choir. “And I enjoyed making a few Christmas cards. All of it has been great,” she said.
Regarding the bomb which was recently left in the school grounds, Mrs Villiers said: “I think it is despicable that this school was targeted but the really strong message I got today was the school is absolutely not defined by that. They are really focussed on the great work they do and they are not going to be deterred by that attempt against them.”
“All attempts to kill and harm people is disgraceful but particularly horrible that they were going to target a school which is serving children with huge vulnerabilities, which is doing great work and which has always been completely cross community. It was utterly unjustified and disgraceful that the school was targeted. The school is determined to continue as normal and continue to do great work.”
Principal Dr Peter Cunningham said the Secretary of State had been invited eight months ago when Mrs Villiers was appointed.
The children had been working on a project on government and decided to invite her.
“We are still trying to find our niche in the education world and any recognition we can get from influential folk says a lot on how far special schools have come along,” he said.
Dr Cunningham said the children had a wonderful time. “I would say 80% of them were wondering who the tall lady was but the tall lady was gracious and very pleasant to them. I was impressed that she sat down at the tables with the children and engaged with their activities. She certainly was not stand-offish or aloof. She really got stuck in there and it really was a pleasure to have her here.”