Learning from each other
Dear Parents & Guardians,
The festive break is drawing closer but there’s been no let-up at Shimna this week.
The quiet hum of industry
This week, Years 8 to 11 have been sitting their mid-year examinations. These are important and necessary staging posts, more so given that, thankfully, we have managed to avoid significant disruption since September.
Marc Gribben, perhaps inspired by the five-p method featured in last week’s issue, achieved full marks on the Year 8 French paper. Dylan, who was featured last week, didn’t do too badly either. Bravo, garçons! Of course, effective learning is also about identifying - and addressing - areas for improvement. So, for students who didn’t achieve the marks they wanted, what happens next is what matters.
This includes active engagement which, I’m delighted to say, is in good supply. For example, Science students in 8S were busy making circuit boards this week. Credit to Naomi Keown, Faith Heaton and Zac Asante for their winning design.
Meanwhile, Year 11 Geographers have been conducting experiments on the effects of liquification which can occur following an earthquake, as demonstrated by Aaron McClelland.
Learning outside the classroom
At Shimna, we are committed to holistic education. Extra-curricular activities play an important part in developing character and providing new opportunities.
Yesterday, fifteen of our Sixth Form students participated in the Bar Mock Trial competition at Hillsborough Courthouse. This prestigious national event provides young people with insights into the law and the workings of the judicial system. Mr Smyth, who organised the trip, delivered the following verdict: “The students had a wonderful time and really benefited from the opportunity to practise in a proper courtroom. Their behaviour was exemplary. They are a credit to Shimna.” Case closed, I think.
Following in their footsteps, the Junior Debate Club met this week. This week they chose to debate the relative merits of veganism and whether animal products should be banned in schools.
First, the good news. There was some misreporting in last week’s Shimna News. Mea culpa. Our U16 Boys were not eliminated from the Northern Ireland Football Cup. Hooray! The quarter-final is away at Holy Cross Strabane in the New Year.
Now the bad news: It was the U14s who lost in the last minute at Amagh CBS. However, given they now go into the Plate, so the dream of a silverware double lives on.
Likewise, our U14 Gaelic Boys have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Corn Mac Neasa Cup. We play St. Joseph’s Lisburn on 20 December.
The boys’ rugby season started last Friday, with the U16 way against Lisnagarvey HS. The match was evenly poised until an unfortunate injury to star man Riagan O’Hare in the second half. Reduced to fourteen players, the superior numbers and experience of the home side eventually told. Mr Hanna was delighted with the battling performance, with credit going to Callum Cockburn, Miklas Cross, Owen Cunngham, Justin McTeer, and Freddie Robbins.
Finding our voices
Thank you to everyone who has completed the survey on external communications. We’ve had 186 responses so far, which is excellent. If you’ve not yet had your say, here's the link. The deadline is 4.00 pm on Tuesday.
As an integrated community, it is incumbent upon us to listen to the voice of our young people. Working closely with Mr Mayers, the Student Council recently put forward numerous constructive suggestions, which we are now acting on. For example, we are in the process of converting the assembly hall stage into a Year 14 Common Room; planning for additional extra-curricular clubs in the new Year; and looking at the setting up a Canteen Committee to make menu suggestions.
Even though we continue to live in challenging times, the spirit of optimism continues to prevail.
Another suggestion, made by Nancy O’Baoill-Coyle in Year 14, has inspired the idea of a Pop-Up Christmas Library, which we plan to open next week. So, I would ask everyone - students and staff - to see whether you have a book at home which can be donated for free. Books should be dropped off on the shelves outside Room 193 on Monday or Tuesday. Once they’ve been categorised, we will invite everyone to come and take one to read over the holiday.
And if you’re looking for other suggestions, Mrs Doran-Lahey, Head of English, recommends www.schoolreadinglist.co.uk and www.lovereading4kids.co.uk There’s no such thing as a quiet time of year for the Music Department but this is busier than most.
Recently, our GCSE students have been working on a collaborative project, titled ‘We are Integration’, with the other Colleges across Northern Ireland. This year is a proud landmark - the 40th anniversary of integrated education here. So much has been achieved over this time; and there’s a lot more still to do.
Our Music students have also been busily rehearsing for our virtual Carol Service, which will be recorded early next week at the nearby St. John’s Parish Church. It is wonderful to see such talent in our ranks. Thanks to our versatile IT Manager, Daniel Quinn, for his work with the Music and RE Departments at this busy time.
Shimna and the community
On that note, it was a pleasure to welcome Rev. Myrtle Morrison, who was appointed Rector of St. John’s earlier in the year. As well as having a tour of the College, we discussed ways in which we can work together in the New Year. We also swapped notes on the warmth of the welcome we have received and our good fortune to be living in such a wonderful location.
We place a high premium on our place in the community, which is why I was so pleased to hear about the good work of our A Level Art students last Sunday morning. In return for a donation to our charitable activities from Tesco, Maya Wierzchowiak, Sam Jarvis, Charlotte Brown, Uisce Daley, Alice Ballentine and Rosie Torney volunteered to create a decorative display on the windows of the Newcastle Store. Every little helps.
Over the past six years we’ve also worked with the Pantry Foodbank by collecting for the Reverse Advent Calendar. Our aim is to fill boxes of non-perishable foods and toiletries by the end of term. If you’d like to make a donation, items should be delivered to C2 or at the sanitising stations.
Another very good cause is the Daisy Lodge therapeutic centre in Newcastle, which supports families affected by cancer. Next Friday is Christmas Jumper Day in College and I would ask everyone to support it, including making donations. These will be collected during registration next week by our Classroom Assistants. Our wonderful raffle is also well underway, with great support from the Shimna family and wider community
This is a worthy exception to our dress code.
However, in my virtual assembly this morning I initiated a wider conversation with our students about uniform. While there is an important balance to be struck between standards and personal expression, we are not getting it right at present.
Similarly, I propose to make next Friday a mobile phone-free day.
More to follow on this in due course. My thanks go to the colleagues Mr Dagen, Mrs Forsythe, Mr McCloskey and Mrs Poland, who have been taking the message of Shimna Integrated College to our different feeder primary schools this week.
Farewell and Thanks
Today, we have the bittersweet experience of saying farewell to a good colleague. No one should be irreplaceable in any organisation but Aidan McIlmurray, who leaves us today, isn’t far off. As well as being a highly respected Classroom Assistant, he is our Health & Safety Officer, Fire Officer and Cleaning Services Supervisor.
Aidan has served Shimna with great distinction over the past eight years and leaves with happy memories and our very best wishes. It is reassuring to know he is joining the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.
Good health, everyone
Finally, a reminder of the message I sent out yesterday:
“I write to seek your support as we near the end of term and the beginning of the Christmas holidays. We are all looking forward to precious time with family and friends and want to do everything to avoid needing to isolate during the festive season. Unfortunately, we are experiencing an increase in the number of COVID cases among our students and we need to minimise the risk of transmission from this point forward. We ask that if you have a positive PCR result for a member(s) of your household, you inform us immediately and consider keeping your child(ren) at home for a minimum of four days and do a daily lateral flow test. We will ensure that your child(ren) will be able to access their learning remotely.
Thank you so much for all your support this term.”
On a happier note, I am pleased to say we should have a full canteen service again on Monday. Thank
you for working with us to get through the recent disruption.