Jiwoo Park writes: The pupil versus staff Christmas debate took place in the BSR on Monday 12thDecember. The staff, represented by Ms. Smith, Mr. Jones and Reverend Owen proposed the motion ‘This house believes in Santa’. Opposing the motion was Harry Oke, Freddie de Montfort and me. The debate was introduced and chaired by Ms. Duggan and Maria Weinrautner was the time keeper. Happily, quite a few spectators came along to join in the festive spirit of the debate.

There were some excellent arguments presented about the human need to suspend disbelief in the bleak mid-winter and make merry with the idea of a benevolent benefactor. The chaplain was given a run for his money by Harry Oke, who quoted liberally from the Bible. In short, there many great speeches, but the emotive arguments –coupled with a dollop of bribery and the appearance from the man in the red suit himself – won out in the end. Minced pies and sweets were shared by all and the debate was settled: St Columba’s does believe in Santa! It was an enjoyable event, and I hope it becomes a permanent fixture on the debating calendar.

Monday, 5th December, Ms Duggan’s Transition Year History students took part in a project where we learned about an emblematic battle of the 1916 Rising, the Battle of Mount Street Bridge (http://mountstreet1916.ie), partially through using an augmented reality app.

The project is a collaboration between researchers at Maynooth University and Trinity College, the Humanities Virtual World Consortium  and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The project team and collaborators include military historians, ballistic experts, architects, digital humanists, developers, and virtual heritage specialists, who have been investigating the site of the battle, to test both ‘canonical’ accounts of the engagement and new, rival hypotheses. The aim is for students to use the app that has been specifically developed to interrogate canonical accounts of the battle and test competing hypotheses.

Catherine Butt writes: We went to the Lower Argyle straight after Chapel. We were given an introductory talk by Professor Susan Schriebamnn and Dr Costas Papadapoulos. After they explained how the app worked we assembled into four groups, each of which were given an envelope (and a tablet with the app on it), with information on certain aspects of the battle. For example, my group was learning about the men that were fighting against the Irish rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising, the Sherwood Foresters.

We logged on, opened our envelopes and set to work. First, we had to scan a picture to find out what we were doing. Then, after watching the video, we had to use the sources given to us by the app to fill out a fact file on the type of men who took part in the battle. We then watched a video about how the men were recruited. Next we used primary sources given to us in the envelopes to find more facts about the men. In the envelope we were also given questions we had to answer and presenters cards. After we had finished finding out all the information, it was time for the groups to present their findings. There was a map at the top of the lower argyle and this aided us in our presentation. I liked this as it was nice to have a visual aid to help us to really see what happened. I really enjoyed this activity as I really love learning about Irish history. I love learning about my country and how far it has come in the last century. I also loved using mixed media to learn, it helped me to remember most of the information I encountered. I very much enjoyed being part of the development of this app and look forward to working with the team again.

Since returning from exodus all the College’s rugby teams have been busy. Our Senior 1st XV travelled to Gorey last week to take on Coláiste Bríd Carnew – for the second time in as many weeks. Having beaten SCC recently in the first round of the cup – before being beaten themselves by Tullow the following week – Carnew found themselves drawn against St. Columba’s in the shield competition. Unfortunately, the game was an ill-tempered affair and Carnew proved just too strong for our boys yet again. Disappointingly for St. Columba’s, the game ended 10-0 to the Wicklow school.

Our Senior Development XV (comprising boys from Form IV and V only) were involved in two really competitive games over the past week. On Friday last, on the wonderful 4G pitch in Donnybrook (and under lights), our boys took on club-side Bective Rovers U17’s. It was a great open game of rugby in which Bective eventually left as winners, despite being down by 7 points with a few minutes to go. But two late tries from the home side saw the game swing in what seemed like an instant – it ended 29-22 to Bective. They will need to learn to close out these tight games in the future. Yesterday the Development XV took on a High School Transition Year side. It was a cracking game with a brilliant try from the ever improving Moritz Boyen the highlight. It was to be our only score though and the game ended 10-5 to High School.

Our Junior boys have also played two games since the exodus. First up was a friendly against near neighbours De la Salle Churchtown at home on Kilmashogue Lane. In a scrappy game, Thady McKeever again stood tall as a strong leader nabbing a try himself and converting one from Philip Shekelton. But it was their defence which really stood tall and the game ended in victory for our boys, 12-5 to the home team. Their second game of the week was against Gorey Community School in the Junior Shield match. Ireland’s largest school were simply too strong for them and they ran out comfortable winners 48-12. Again, Thady scored one try and converted another, scored by Julio Perez Cervera. They now look forward to a well earned break and a new league campaign in the new year.

Our youngest boys were also in action. The Leps had it tough against St. Michaels 2nd Year C’s, losing 38-0. The Ducks played in a ’round robin’ series of games against Terenure College and Belvedere College (both their 1st Year C’s). They lost their first game against Terenure by just two points. Tries from Jack Hayes, Marcus O’Connor and Tom Larke (also with one conversion) weren’t enough and they lost 19-17. However, they picked themselves up and defeated the Belvedere side, on a scoreline of 12-5, with Tom Larke again touching down (and converting) and Dennis Cullen getting the winning score.

It’s been a really busy term for our boys. Luckily, despite some of the results, the atmosphere has remained positive and there is a tremendous willingness to learn. Perhaps the relatively mild and dry weather also played a part, as well as trips to the Aviva to see Ireland play Canada, New Zealand and Australia. A huge thank you to all the rugby coaches for their dedication and commitment this term but, in particular, to Head of Rugby (and Boy’s Sport) Paul Cron for the huge amount of (often unseen) work done to ensure all teams train and play regularly in a safe, fun and enriching learning environment.

Merry Christmas!

It is time for a few thoughts on my first term here at St. Columba’s. If I leave it till next week it will get taken over by reports. The end of the Michaelmas is always a crazy time in the life of a school!

One of the things that I have started to vocalise for myself is the realisation that life here at St. Columba’s is very busy, but it is not mad. If that does not make sense what I mean is that while the children here are constantly engaged in activities from lessons to sport to music, they do not seem to be chasing their tails. Life at school in South East England was also very busy but there seemed to be more pressure, more living on the edge…and more mental health issues. Whenever I have articulated this to friends or colleagues who know the schools down there they have recognised what I mean. I have many friends running schools in and around London and there is a general feeling that many kids are only just hanging on amidst the pressures from society, from peers, from parents, from schools and even just from themselves. Perhaps it is Ireland, perhaps it is St. Columba’s, but the madness is not so mad, if you know what I mean….and that is a good thing.

The next thing that I have realised is that however good a school may be there is a danger of complacency. Just because we were good last year, it doesn’t mean we will be good this year; just because our systems worked last year, it doesn’t mean they don’t need reviewing this year; just because we are on top of bullying issues this year, it doesn’t matter we will remain so. Any school is only ever one incident away from dealing with something unsavoury, because schools are full of adolescents, who are unpredictable and sometimes behave stupidly or selfishly. There needs to be a constant commitment to search out ways to improve in every area of school life, be it academic, pastoral or spiritual. Just because we win the premier league one year, it doesn’t mean we are immune to relegation the year after (apologies to Leicester fans!).

Another thing that is on my mind is the need to engage more with parents. In boarding schools we see far less of our parents than in a day school and it takes a bit more effort to make sure that their own experience of their children’s school days is as good as it can be. Next term I am going to run some parents’ forums, while also taking a large group away to Rome for a weekend. 27 signed up for that within two days! Strange though it may be to say, most parents are actually very nice and reasonable and supportive! (Any parents reading this please take note…).

So there are some thoughts. I have no regrets about coming over here. There are certainly many challenges in keeping the school on an upward trajectory, but life would be boring if there were no challenges. When you run a business, or a school, you do not expect it all to be plain sailing and there will be occasions and days or spells when you shake your head and wonder what you are doing here. Recently I was at work in my office dealing with some heavy stuff when it came time to go and listen to ten instrumentalists playing pieces for their music scholarships….then I dropped over to see our junior girls win a very tight hockey match. How wonderful to get out of the office and remind myself of the best bit of doing this job…working with fantastic young people.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season. Despite the over-commercialisation of it there is still something very special about it and much at which to wonder and be thankful for. I hope that I never lose that sense of wonder.


Mark Boobbyer