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Shimna News - September 2023

Shimna News

Learning From Each Other


Dear Parents & Carers

We are barely a month into the new school year and it is remarkable how much has happened already. In addition to the daily business of teaching and learning, there have been educational trips, training and fixtures are well and truly underway across different sports and a rich and varied extra-curricular programme has been launched. It is great to see our students making the most of the opportunities on offer.

As always, the foundations of the College lie in the commitment and enthusiasm of staff. That said, our new school is rising from the ground and it’s very exciting to see the progress being made each week.

Our 30th Anniversary celebrations

And then there is the remarkable coincidence that this is also our anniversary. Thirty years ago, a group of determined and courageous parents and staff welcomed 60 students to the temporary lodgings at Murlough House.

It is such an incredible tale that we decided to make a film out of it. You may have seen the trailers on our website. ‘The Shimna Story’ will be released in the coming weeks.

The film is just one of the ways we will be marking this special year. Other ways include 30-themed monthly activities for the students and farewell tours of the current building for former students.

I am delighted to say we will also launch an annual lecture in memory of Gordon Wilson (1927-1995), the celebrated peace campaigner who, on 5 August 1994, cut the sod for the building of our current school. Save the date: Wednesday 29 November. Further information on our guest speaker to follow.

Next Wednesday, 4 October, we will be hosting a celebration event in the Slieve Donard Hotel. As well as a screening of ‘The Shimna Story’, the programme will include musical items, drama and a review of the last school year, presented by Levi Johnston, Head Boy, and Anna Young, Head Girl.

This venue was chosen because it offers a larger capacity than any of our own assembly spaces in College. Even then, there is a limit to the number of invitations we have been able to extend However, I am delighted to say we have managed to secure additional places. If you would like to join us for this special event click on the link to sign up .

In order to ensure students from last year’s Years 8 to 13 are represented, invitations have been sent to those who accumulated the highest number of Achievement Points. Over the past year, these were awarded by staff in recognition of effort, uniform, respect, engagement, kindness and academic endeavour.

There are, of course, other ways in which students could have been selected. If this becomes an annual event, we will look at ways of opening it up to larger numbers.

In the meantime, if you cannot join us on 4 October, we will be running the same event in the College on the evening of Thursday 19 October for those who would like to join us. We will send out a link nearer the time to sign up.

As published in the calendar, next Wednesday (4 October) is a Staff Development Day and the College will be closed to students.

Our Mission, Values & Vision

On 2 October 1993, the Founding Parents agreed thirteen statements as the Guiding Principles for the College.

Our 30th anniversary is a timely opportunity to take stock and to refresh the language by adopting mission, values and vision.

  • Our mission statement will communicate our purpose

  • Our values will describe what we believe in and the behaviours we display and expect

  • Our vision will set out our aspirations for our students

Over the past few months, with input from staff, students and governors, we have drafted some provisional statements as a way of initiating engaging parents, carers and the whole school, which you can read and review by clicking on the link.

We welcome your input and would appreciate your thoughts and responses by Monday 16 October.

News from the Board of Governors

I am delighted to announce the appointment of David Waddell as a Parent Governor. As the father of three girls - one who completed her Sixth Form studies last year and two still at Shimna - he already knows the College well and will be a great asset to the Board.

Student Leadership

The Young Ambassadors scheme was launched a year ago and those students who signed up made a positive impact, representing the views of students and contributing in different ways across the College, for example by leading extra-curricular activities and by helping out at events like Open Evening. Alongside our Peer Mentor scheme, Young Ambassadors provide valuable leadership opportunities.

With our Year 14 Student Leaders now in place, applications are now open to students in Years 8 to 13 to become Young Ambassadors. Students who signed up last year are encouraged to re-apply and new applicants are warmly invited to join. Our aim is to build on the good work of last year.

Students can apply by clicking on the link. This will also be shared in school next week.

Parent & Carer workshops

On a daily basis, Shimna staff interact with many of our families, often working together to address challenging issues.

Over recent months, we have been exploring ways to build on these relationships and, on that basis, would like to trial a half-termly programme of open-door sessions for parents and carers. These would be aimed at providing guidance, support and the opportunity for discussion around student well-being.

We recently asked for expressions of interest in the first of these, focusing on keeping our children safe online, and many of you have expressed an interest.

I am delighted to announce our first session will be led by the leading online safety expert Wayne Denner and take place on Monday 9 October at 5.00 pm.

Click on the link to sign up.

You can find out more about Wayne’s work at


I am delighted to introduce the following members of staff who have joined the Shimna ranks since the start of term.

Teaching staff

Left to right - Anthony Bennett - ICT & Digital Technology / Kirstie Curran - English & Literacy Support / Letitia Kerr - History & Integrated and Religious Studies / Laura Rafferty - Art and ICT / Stephen McCormick - Head of Science / Ruairí Leckey - Science & OCN PS and Well-Being / Luke McWatters - History and Politics / Catriona O’Neill - Business & Integrated and Religious Studies

Classroom Assistants

Left to right: Shelagh McCann / Maria Curran / Joanne Cartwright / Julie Cousins / Caelan O'Hare / Monika Rupeikyte

Canteen Staff

And, just in case you are curious, here’s our fantastic Canteen Team: Cheryl, Michelle, Majella, Rebecca, Mary, Jeanette and Jools

Coming up

The next edition of Shimna News will follow in the next week or two as there will be other items to share, including information about a Department of Education survey on Relationship & Sexuality Education, as well as plans for the long overdue return of our Parent Council.

Kind regards,

Steve Pagan


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