The Form I pupils enjoyed a jam-packed science trip to Northern Ireland last week. Over three days they took part in a range of themed activities, most with a focus on science or team building, and arrive back in the College exhausted but enriched by the experience. The trip began early Wednesday morning, with Storm Abi blowing wildly, when the pupils boarded the bus. The fabulous Armagh Planetarium was their first stop – an amazing centre for astronomy – with the pupils learning about the origins of the universe, life as an astronaut and how we are all made from stars. Unfortunately the wind prevented them from participating in the annual rocket building challenge but there was plenty of opportunity to explore the exhibits. Later the group travelled to Belfast and the wonderful W5 science museum. They had great fun exploring the various floors of the complex and traversing their climbing frame. That evening the group went for a long walk (they had lots of energy still, amazingly) and did a little star gazing. Under clear skies they learned about constellations and spotted planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars – all visible with the naked eye.

The second day was all about team building and getting to know each other a little better. The group travelled to Castlewellan and Life Adventure Centre. The pupils took part in some fun teach building games before building their own rafts. After lunch the launched the rafts and raced them on the lake, later doing some fun activities in the water. Finally, they worked as a team to escape the ‘Peace Maze’. That evening, on their return to our host town of Portaferry, the pupils competed in a quiz.

The final day was all about ecology – the study of living things and their interactions with one another. After packing their bag, the group walked the short distance to Exploris aquarium & seal sanctuary – another brilliant kid friendly attraction. There they learned about food chains and the impact humans are having on the ocean environments. Later that afternoon they travelled to the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre where they continued the ecology theme. The carried out pond and woodland fieldwork, collecting and identifying the various wildlife in those ecosystems.

It was a wonderful trip. Everyone was rather exhausted by the time they return on Friday evening (including the teachers) but stronger friendships were forged and the pupils scientific interest piqued. Many thanks to Ms Hennessy for the organisation of the trip. Here is a collection of photos from the trip:

Last year the first Book Week, to promote reading by everyone at St Columba’s, was a great success, and this year’s equivalent starts on Monday 24th. Mr Jameson introduced the elements of it in a Chapel talk on Wednesday.

These include:

  • The Library will be open every day at break and at lunch-time as well as the usual hours.
  • There will be competitions in the Library (including staff ‘shelfies’) plus a new bespoke Book Week book token available from Ms Kent-Sutton.
  • Book speed-dating will take place for First, Second, Third and Fourth Forms in the BSR.
  • Drop Everything And Read will take place on Friday. All pupils bring a reading book to every class.
  • There will be an author visit from Richie Conroy on Wednesday 26th from 11.00 to 12.20 in the BSR. There is a sign-up list pinned to the noticeboard in the Library.

You can follow events on Twitter at #sccbookweek.

Term is well under way and settling down into its rhythm. All seems to be going well…a few wobbly new boarders but that is nothing new! The weather is just about holding up, but the great memories of a long hot summer are fading.

On Saturday I was excited to be able to welcome to speak to the school one of my past pupils from South Africa. She is studying in the UK and she has a remarkable story to tell, one of resilience and faith and single-minded determination. She will go far. I was going to quote a few excerpts from her talk but it was all so good: you can read it all here or at the bottom of this page. Please take the time…it is worth it.

I am very excited that my wife and I are going to be taking a group of eighteen Form IV & V pupils back to Tiger Kloof over the October half term. Of course I am excited to be seeing old friends, but also excited to be able to introduce some of our amazing Columbans to some extraordinary young South Africans, both of whom have plenty to learn from each other. Many top schools from round the world have visited Tiger Kloof over the last 23 years because it is one of the iconic schools of South Africa: a producer of statesmen since 1904, alma mater of two national presidents and many struggle leaders, a school that chose to close itself down in 1955 rather than compromise with the racist educational policies of the apartheid government. The prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, the chief architect of apartheid, gave orders for the buildings to be bulldozed, but most of them survived and were restored when the school reopened in 1995. It is a great story.

The school now prides itself on its service of the local community, with its own soup kitchen and involvement in many other social projects and that is why other schools come to visit. Imagine a school having a reputation not for rugby or music or academic results, but for service. So our young Columbans are going to have a full immersion experience in serving other people, while at the same time spending lots of time with the young Tigers, many of whom come from very challenging backgrounds and from homes where the level of expectation and aspiration is very low. I hope that it will leave them a little shaken and uneasy…in a good way!

I spoke a lot when I first came here about service and about how it is not a box to tick for the Gaisce Award, or an experience that one can have on a one-off project, but about how service is a way of life, a thread that should run through everything. Last Friday we hosted a conference for 40 or so senior prefects from around Ireland on the theme of leadership and I was delighted that the team which facilitated the day focused on the idea of service leadership, which chimes with the ethos that I want to try and instil in our Columbans.

I love what Malebogo says in her talk when she challenges the pupils: ‘All of you seated here are so blessed to be equipped with the tools that will lead you exactly where you want to go. But what a lot of people fail to understand about education is that it’s a service. A service to yourself and the world you in live. We live to serve and we learn to serve people and to pursue a purpose that is bigger than ourselves. How are you using your gift of education and how do you intend on using it? Are you fulfilling the responsibilities that come with it?’

A challenge for all of us, for parents, teachers…a challenge for me.

We were joined last week by Malebogo Modise, a former pupil of the Warden Mr Boobbyer when he worked at Tiger Kloof School. She assisted in the All-Ireland Head Prefects’ Conference training on Friday, and then on Saturday morning spoke powerfully about her own story. Her address follows below:-

“It is such an honour and privilege to serve and inspire leaders and history makers of tomorrow.

My name is Malebogo Modise and I am in the process of redefining myself. I am from a secluded village in South Africa where dreams are known to die or simply not exist. I am from a privileged but yet fully dysfunctional home, a home that sees it okay to insult and dehumanise people, more especially if they are children. I don’t have parents, I never have.  I went to a very prestigious school that produced world leaders like the late and former President of Botswana, Sir Quett Masire. I started primary school in Tiger Kloof and completed High School. I believe that makes me quite a special alumna.

I have had quite an interesting life, mainly because of the experiences I have had. For 20 years I have cried tears that could last an average human-being a lifetime. Here’s why:

  • My mother abandoned me when I was two years old and throughout my childhood I was always reminded that the reason she left me was purely because she wanted nothing to do me.
  • I was under the care of my father (traditional and wealthy man) who believed that raising a child was paying someone else to do the job.
  • I moved from 5 to 6 homes for a variety of reason and being the observant child that I was, I knew it to be because no one wanted to carry a burden that’s not theirs.
  • I made mistakes and with came the talks where my father expressed how useless I am. My mistakes would sometimes result to me not having school supplies or clothes.
  • My father stopped my school fees because I chose not do science.
  • My father disowned me when I was 15 for simply not apologising for something I didn’t do. It was quite an eventful night I must say. That was the night where I was told of how I would never amount to anything, how life has nothing in store of me among many other things.
  • My sister took me in and I lived with her family for the remainder of my High School career.
  • Being made aware of my situation, my former Headmaster, Mr Boobbyer, ensured that my education was not compromised. I was awarded a bursary that covered my tuition and boarding fees for three years.

I could have been homeless and I could have not had the opportunity to complete school if it had not been for the people that stepped in and saw me worthy of being given a chance. That is how I got to be the person I am today. Because I had practically lost everything, and I took it upon myself to fully gain something that one could ever take away from me, my education. I made that decision and I committed to it. If anything, I was quite aggressive and protective when it came to my learning because it was the only thing that I could ever say was mine.

Within those last three years I excelled academically, and I was elected for various leadership positions. I was honoured with opportunities to represent the school both nationally and globally.

All of that came to be because of the people, the teachers and institutions that believed in me when there was not much to believe in and more importantly when I didn’t believe myself. Tiger Kloof consists of individuals that encourage young people to trust themselves enough to have a dream and live it. Tiger Kloof is a Christian school and what makes it stand out is that it gives its students and community the exceptional gift of getting to know the Lord Jesus. And that is what I did. That is how I got to know myself, my worth and my purpose. That is how I became bold and brave enough to chase after dreams and opportunities my father said I would never get.

I am now a student at the University of Buckingham and I am one of the first recipients of both the tuition and living scholarship. I am doing a Bsc Honours Psychology degree. I chose to study this because I find it to be a powerful educational tool where one is granted the chance to understand human behaviour and in the process, themselves.

I am studying psychology in order to break down the societal principle that we as human beings must just survive and measure our strength according to the painful situations we have found ourselves in. I dream of a world where we can confidently turn away from a lack of self-worth regardless of past disadvantages. I am working towards becoming a political psychologist and life coach mainly because the political state of my country is in shambles and because I want the political sector to serve their citizens by first understanding what they need and deserve as individuals. That is my purpose. A purpose that can successfully be fulfilled through education.

The chance to learn and develop socially, emotionally and academically is a privilege each student in Tiger Kloof is given. But what is the point of having opportunities when students there have broken prospects of their own futures and their ability to succeed in anything because of homes and environments that completely destroy their sense of self-worth. Issues such as domestic and emotional abuse, poverty are often the sad reality that many of us students in Tiger Kloof have to face outside of the classroom. And because in collectivist culture such as ours, we kids are taught to merely survive rather than heal. But here is some questions: how does a young girl survive rape? How does a young boy survive drug addiction and abuse? How is it absurdly expected for a young person to survive and try make something of themselves when no one has showed them how to do so?

Tiger Kloof is situated just outside a broken township where domestic violence and drug abuse are rife, understandably so because that’s how (according to them) you survive life.  In such a circumstance, a broken child, a rape victim has to set aside their bad reality and go to school, that’s where they find their peace. School was and still is an escape for many students back at home like myself and you will find that students recognize academic excellence as their only strength, the only thing they believe is their right.

That’s the beauty and wonder of education; it sets you apart, challenges you and makes you see yourself beyond your hurt, your struggle and your condition. Most importantly education is the greatest tool we as students have been given to serve those who are in desperate to see themselves outside of poverty and lack. It is not easily accessible to many young people across the globe and sadly enough it is not used to overcome socio-economic issues that tear young people apart. That is the reality. That is the situation back at home and that is the challenge each of you see in different communities.

The world currently needs a lot of things. But most importantly it needs for the young people have been blessed enough to be educated to use it to radically transform themselves and the world around them.

All of you seated here are so blessed to be equipped with the tools that will lead you exactly where you want to go. But what a lot of people fail to understand about education is that it’s a service. A service to yourself and the world you in live. We live to serve and we learn to serve people and to pursue a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

How are you using your gift of education and how do you intend on using it? Are you fulfilling the responsibilities that come with it?

I urge you to discover your purpose and serve through your right of education because knowledge can only be of value when used to change a situation, more so another person’s life.

For those of you that will be making their way to Tiger Kloof, go there with an open-mind and open-heart that is ready to serve, experience and grow. It is a beautiful place that is made up of young people like yourself that are finding it hard to dream and believe in themselves. It is a sanctuary where people like you are needed. Essentially what I am saying is, get ready to change someone’s life just by simply being there and experiencing it.

Thank you.”



A large cohort of pupils joined Rev. Daniel Owen for the first episode of the Nua Film Series last night – a new series of short videos which offers a different perspective on Christian faith. In total, there are eight videos in the series and each is around 15 minutes. According to their website ….

“NUA is all about exploration: it’s a film series that encourages questions, acknowledges doubt, and offers an engaging perspective on the Christian faith. NUA equips you with the ability to intelligently explore and understand what you believe. We give you tools to discuss your worldview with credibility and confidence, while encouraging you to wrestle with the things that just don’t seem to make sense. At the end of the day, this film series is about impact—immediate and personal, as well as the long-term, life-changing experience of working out your faith.”

The first video certainly was popular – I’m sure Rev. Owen’s vast biscuit collection had little to do with its popularity – with plenty of discussion afterwards too. Here’s the first episode of the series (in case you missed it).

Senior Prefect, Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, reports from the All Ireland Senior Prefects Conference.

The All Ireland Senior Prefects Conference took place last Friday September 7th 2018, with over 40 pupils from 11 schools taking part, from both North and South of the Irish border. Now in its second year, the event once again took place at St. Columba’s and I am happy to report that it was a great experience. We were really honoured to be led by Ms. Katy Granville-Chapman and Ms. Emmie Bidston, from Wellington College Leadership Institute, who made it clear to all of us present the kind of leaders we should work to become. In addition, we all were deeply moved and enlightened by the words of Malebogo Modise, our guest speaker and former pupil of Tiger Kloof School in South Africa. The day really allowed us reflect on what it means to be a school leader and it was great to be with people who understood our responsibilities and our challenges. Many thanks to Mrs. Cathy Boobbyer for organising such a wonderful event and to all who attended.


A very important part of what we do is to continue improving our academic practices. This work is largely unseen by pupils and parents, but is a strong under-current of school life. As well as individual teachers and Departments working on their practice, there is also a formal programme of school-wide training, partly organised by the Teaching and Learning Team.

As an example, on Tuesday 4th September, the day before pupils arrived back for the school year, we set aside the morning and afternoon for thinking about assessment and feedback in teaching. This day was facilitated by a presentation by Tom Sherrington, an education consultant from England who was previously Head of two schools, and a Physics and Mathematics teacher. He is much in demand, travelling world-wide to help educators, and his recent book The Learning Rainforest: great teaching in real classrooms has been hugely successful.

Tom gave teachers a fascinating overview into current evidence-based thinking in education about assessment, and subject departments will now take ideas from this event into their own discussions in the months ahead, re-examining practices in the spirit of School Self-Evaluation which is currently a priority for secondary schools.