Learning from each other
Dear Parents & Guardians,
Welcome to the final issue of Shimna News for 2021. It gives a taste of the many good things that have happened in the run-in to the end of term, which has included Christmas carols sung in a variety of languages.
Shimna is a very welcoming community, with a strong sense of purpose and an admirable commitment to holistic education. It is a privilege to serve as Principal.
Last week, I met with our classroom assistants, who do invaluable work across the College. I asked what integration means to them. Their words are reflected in the headings.
Teaching and learning is our core business. Well done to students and staff for their efforts over the course of this term, both in the classroom and, when necessary, working remotely. They have demonstrated tremendous dedication and resilience.
Students in Years 8 to 11 sat their mid-year examinations in recent weeks. I commend them for their efforts, including those who achieved notable successes. More importantly, it was a valuable opportunity for everyone to recap their learning up to this point.
Mocks are scheduled for Year 12 and the Sixth Form in January. Timetables have been published on the respective Google Classrooms and circulated by email. These are an important step on the road to the Summer examinations so I wish all the students well with their revision.
Behaviour is grounded in the mutual respect between students and staff at Shimna. There has been a marked improvement in uniform standards over the past week and, I’m delighted to report, Mobile Free Day saw an increased level of interpersonal communications.
Making a positive contribution to the local community is at the heart of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which is overseen here by Mr Scott. As the year closes, we have 14 students participating in the Gold Award, 44 in the Silver and opportunities for Year 10 to get started on the Bronze in the New Year. Examples of their good work include a volunteers’ project with Ulster Wildlife, litter picking around our grounds and Sixth Form students supporting our younger participants.
Respect for the Highway Code is another important example. Last week we hosted the team from New Driver NI. Students in Year 13 and 14 attended a presentation on starting out on the road, driving lessons, insurance, car maintenance and staying safe. Attendees signed a new driver pledge and will now receive a road safety newsletter.
Yesterday saw another heartening event, with Peer Mentor training for twenty-two Year 13 students. They will now join the twenty-five Year 14 students in supporting year groups across the school.
We are also tremendously proud of Beth Connolly, Max Kilmurry and Odhran Behan. Confronted by a very difficult situation in Newcastle earlier this year, these wonderful young people responded with courage, compassion and a deep sense of responsibility. We are delighted to see their actions recognised in a PSNI / PCSP community award.
Christmas is a time for giving. Our students have engaged in a variety of charitable activities over the past week, including the Prince’s Trust Fair, run by Miss Lindsay’s Year 12 class, the Food Bank appeal and the raffle for Daisy Lodge, which raised a fantastic £7000.
At a time when the news headlines can make for depressing reading, these are reassuring and timely reminders of the charitable nature of our students.
2022 will see the launch of new student-led extra-curricular activities. Thank you to the Year 13 students who have offered to run Chess, Anime and Dungeons & Dragons clubs.
They will join the array of clubs already on offer. Over the past six weeks, eighteen students have been learning the art of juggling at Mr Archer’s Circus Club - a useful life skill in a place as busy as Shimna.
The festive spirit has been alive and well across the College, typified by the Christmas carols sung in different languages. We’ve seen some spectacular Christmas Jumpers and run a quietly successful Pop-Up Library.
Our Christmas Carol Service recorded last week. My thanks go to Rev. Morrison for hosting us at St. John’s Church, to the students who took part and to Mrs Fitzpatrick, Miss Maguire and Mr McCloskey for making it happen. It will be shared with students during Form time on Tuesday afternoon, the last day of term.
Looking ahead to the New Year, we will have exciting news to share in the next edition of Shimna News and, once the groundwork has been completed, via our re-launched social media channels. Thank you to everyone who participated in the communications survey. Your constructive feedback is already shaping our approach.
In January, we will begin the process of building a new College Development Plan. In keeping with our founding principles, it will be a collaborative project, involving students, parents, guardians, governors and staff. It will be less about change and more about renewal.
Before then, and in accordance with advice from the Minister of Education, I would ask that your child undertakes a lateral flow test before our scheduled return on 5 January.
In the meantime, I wish you, your family and the wider Shimna community a happy, healthy and restful Christmas. We are living in challenging times but these things shall pass.