Learning from each other
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Welcome to the second edition of Shimna News
As you are aware, I took the decision to close our social media accounts this week. To add a little context, when I took up post, I was conscious of the wide variety of communications emanating from Shimna for which I am ultimately accountable. As I said in my announcement, we are now undertaking a review, which will include a consultation with you on how we best communicate with each other. Please be assured, we will continue to keep you well informed and, when we are ready, we will return with a fuller service.
A fortnight in, I am learning more and more every day about the unique character of Shimna and wonderful opportunities on offer. As well as meeting with students and staff, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of you. I continue to be struck by the palpable sense of community and commitment to our ethos.
This is typified by the many acts of kindness that come naturally to our students and staff. An example is the Christmas Shimna Draw in Aid of the Cancer Fund for Children.
"Integration is an outward-looking philosophy"
We will be launching the 2021 Christmas Shimna Draw next week with lots of amazing prizes, kindly donated by parents and local businesses. All students will be given a book of 5 tickets (£2 each) to sell if they wish. All money raised will be added to the money already raised on 22 October and resented to the Cancer Fund for Children at Daisy Lodge before the Christmas holidays. It reminds us that integration is an outward-looking philosophy.
On the sporting front, on Wednesday we hosted a cross-country race against St. Malachy’s High School.
Outstanding performers in the girls included Kari Foster, who won the Year 9 race, with Emily Mc Mullan third. Sophie Neill won the year 11 and 12 race, with Ruby Ferris runnerup. Helen Barbour and Abigail Buckley were both placed second in the Year 8 and 10 races respectively. Notable performers in the boys included Coehan Murphy McKibben and Connor O’Hare, second in the Year 9 and Year 10 races respectively, with Jamie O’Flaherty third in Year 8.
Meanwhile, the U16 Gaelic girls’ team lost narrowly to St John’s High School in the Erne Cup. Credit goes to Annie Elliot, who scored a goal and a point. Rachel Hodge put in a sterling performance at full back, as did Shanice Trimble in goal.
On Tuesday afternoon, our school hall was transformed into a mini-Oval as boys and girls of all ages attended cricket training. Forgive the pun but the bowling machine, funded by the Integrated Education Fund, was a big hit. I would also like to thank the Grizzly Bear Sports Company for their help with our kit. I am grateful to Jeff Maguire and Richard Shilliday from Dundrum Cricket Club for leading the session. They told me how impressed they are with the talent in our ranks. I look forward to tucking into cucumber sandwiches as our College teams make their competitive debut next summer.
This is also an exciting time for Year 14 students applying for higher education. A number have already received offers from prestigious universities in the UK and Ireland, another indication of our academic excellence. Our A Level teachers are now beginning to prepare their classes for the January mocks. Meanwhile, our Year 12 have been sitting full GCSE examinations in English and Science this week, with Maths to follow on Monday.
After everything they have endured over the past two years, well done to these students!
Underpinning our relationship, I trust there will always be honesty and transparency. With that in mind, I would like to raise a few issues that have come to my attention.
The first is to do with traffic driving up to the back gates at the start and end of the day. Good community relations are tremendously important to us and so I was concerned when, earlier this week, I met with representatives from the sheltered accommodation complex at the rear of the College. As you will know, the residents in this area tend to be quite elderly and regrettably, there have been incidents of driveways being blocked off and heated words.
I plan to post a member of staff on the feeder road to help direct traffic but there will be some days when this is simply not possible. I appeal, therefore, to everyone who drops off and collect students from Donard car park to keep the local residents in mind.
Secondly, there have been problems in the canteen with students arriving at the tills with no credit on their cards. This rather defeats the purpose of what is meant to be an efficient system, introduced last year to make payments safer and easier. It has led to delays in the queue, additional workload for canteen staff and some loss of income for the College. If your children use the canteen to purchase food and drinks, I would be grateful if you would ensure they have sufficient credit at the start of each week. To help with this, we are looking to introduce an automated message when credit is running low.
And then there is the continuing issue of college uniform. While most students are dressed in accordance with college policy, there are a number who are arriving in their own branded clothing and their own hoodies. Late November, a fortnight into my tenure, is not the time to mount a major crackdown. Indeed, I would rather hope to avoid such an approach. For now, I have asked Form Teachers to undertake checks and would ask you to support us in ensuring your child comes to school in the correct uniform.
We are mindful of rising Covid-19 infection rates in Northern Ireland. Staff and students were issued with reminders of our protocols at the start of the week, including the wearing of face masks and hand sanitising. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep Shimna safe in the run-up to Christmas.
On that note, it’s high time to start unpacking the festive decorations. To get you in the spirit, take a look at the fine work of our Year 11 Food and Nutrition class this week.