Updated: Feb 14
Learning from each other
Dear Parents & Guardians,
It’s been another eventful week at Shimna. Just as we were putting up our festive decorations, we received news that a member of our canteen staff had tested positive for Covid. The decision to close the canteen on Thursday was both difficult and necessary but, once our Covid protocols kicked in, it brought out the best in our community. Our caretaker Mr Mulholland immediately took charge of the deepclean operation and, after the appropriate length of time, we were able to reopen that area of the College in time for lunch.
My thanks go to Mrs Donaghy, and to Mrs McDowell and our classroom assistants for stepping in. We will, of course, keep you posted on the return to normal service.
For the time being, we will continue to provide free school meals for those who are eligible and ask that, otherwise, packed lunches be brought in.
Of course, we must remain vigilant and I thank you for supporting this approach by ensuring your children arrive in school with masks unless exempt.
Creativity at Shimna
The talent and commitment of our students and teachers, inspired perhaps by our location, is a powerful combination.
Our Year 11 Art classes, taught by Mrs Skelcher and Mrs Walsh, recently finished work on two pieces as an homage to the great David Hockney. Both pieces were collaborative projects, entitled ‘The Lawnfield’. They capture our current building in its full glory. One now decorates the wall of my office and will be exhibited when our new building is opened.
I am delighted to say the other piece will be presented to my predecessor and Shimna’s founding Principal, Mr Lambe.
In a cross-curricular venture, the Languages and Art Departments joined forces to take part in a ‘Design a T-Shirt Competition’ for the European Day of Language. Congratulations to our three Year 8 students Chloe McPolin, Charlotte Doran-Lahey and Emma Bowie, for their winning entry. Their reward is a voucher for Nugelato!
Not to be outdone, a series of festively themed objects have been created in the Technology Department, including this decorative tree. It’s one of the fantastic prizes on offer in our Christmas Raffle. A book of five tickets costing £2 each has been given to each student.
Since my arrival, I have been struck by the breadth and ambition of academic opportunities on offer at Shimna.
This week, two of our Year 13 students, Maya Alsabone and Emily Prosser, took part in the highly prestigious ‘Female-Only Coding Workshop’, sponsored by the award-winning Kainos software. Kainos is one of the first companies in Northern Ireland to offer high-level apprenticeships in this sector and to support a degree in computing systems from Ulster University. Credit goes to Maya and Emily for seizing this exciting opportunity.
Likewise, Shimna continues to enjoy an important relationship with Queen’s University. Four Year 11 students, Vilte Budryte, Arabella Kinkead Beattie, Leah Britton and Eva Brady, recently travelled to Belfast for an outreach event. As well as touring the campus, they took part in an Engineering workshop and were commended for their efforts at the end of the day.
Congratulations also to Year 14 students, Grace Cutler and Dara McAnulty, for being invited to interview by Oxford and Cambridge University respectively. Given the fierce competition for places, this is a not inconsiderable achievement. We wish them well as they approach the final hurdle. Credit to Mr McMillan and Mrs Rooney for their work on our Oxbridge programme.
On a related note, this week I received a touching reminder of the transformative power of great teachers. Here, former student Gabriel Corrigan pays a fitting tribute to Miss Jones and, more generally, to the benefits of integrated education.
Although this has been a long and demanding term, it’s also been highly productive. Well done to Year 12 for their efforts in the GCSE examinations over the past fortnight. We are now gearing up for next week’s school exams for Years 8 to 11. Thank you to Mrs Rogan, our Examinations Officer, who works wonders behind the scenes.
On the eve of the school exams, here's an example to all students - Dylan Magorrian in 8D gets ready for his French exam with handy cue cards. He demonstrates the five
Purposeful preparation prevents poor performance.
On the sporting front
Sadly, our run in the Northern Ireland Football Cup came to an end on Wednesday when our Under 16 team went down 2-1 at Omagh CBS. Agonisingly, they conceded a last-minute goal in extra time. Mr
Pagen was very proud of the boys’ battling performance but, simply put, we didn't convert our chances. Well done to Calum Simmons for his goal.
The dream of silverware isn’t over yet; the team now enters the Northern Ireland Plate.
Sporting success necessarily follows hours of practice and hard work so, earlier in the week, it was great to see our Year 8 Girls’ Rugby squad training with Shel Laffin from Ulster Rugby.
Praise too for Rhianna Speers in Year 11, who completed her first equestrian assessment this week at the Mount Pleasant Club.
Engaging with the community
Your ongoing support is an integral part of our work at the College.
Thank you, therefore, for responding so positively to my requests last week. Before the disruption to the canteen, we were experiencing fewer delays due to cards with insufficient funds. There has also been a marked decrease in the volume of traffic on the private road leading up to the back gates. This has been much appreciated by the elderly residents of the sheltered community living there.
We have also seen an improvement in uniform standards on corridors and in classrooms. On that note, the need to keep the College properly ventilated means we accept students may wear overcoats in some areas but, just to make clear, our uniform policy does not include hoodies. If worn to school, students are reminded that they should be put in school bags at the start of the day.
Next week you will be invited to participate in a survey on our external communications. As well as giving feedback on Shimna News, this will be your opportunity to inform our wider approach in future.
As we look ahead to the end of term and a welldeserved break, it is a time for reflection and catching up with loved ones. In that spirit, the Amnesty International group at Shimna has launched a Write for Rights campaign, sending seasons’ greetings and messages of solidarity to victims of persecution and injustice across the world.
The high number of students keen to participate is such that we are running out of cards so if you have any spares, you can donate. Mr McCloskey and Mrs McCurdy would be delighted to receive them.
Thank you for your attention. Best wishes for a restful weekend.