Over the last 20 years the College has proudly supported the Christmas Shoebox Appeal run by Team HopeTwo years ago we sent a record 260 gift filled wrapped shoeboxes to needy children in remote parts of Africa and war torn parts of Eastern Europe. These boxes were donated by pupils, staff & parents or were put together from fillers that were either donated or were purchased by proceeds from TY mini companies or the Tuck shop. Last year the figure was significantly lower and we would love to return to the heights of 2017. 

The deadline for receipt of filled shoeboxes is after the half term break and it would be fantastic if pupils, parents, staff or indeed friends of the College would take the time over half term to make up a box.

If you want to make up a box wrap a shoebox (base & lid separate) in Christmas wrapping paper. Choose whether you want to make a box for a boy or girl and decide on the age category 2-4; 5-9; or 10-14. What goes in a box? Just follow the 4W rule!

If you are not able to wrap a box then please place all of the items in a bag and we will provide a wrapped box for you. If you have a lot of items lying around your home that you no longer use, and they are in good condition, then please bring them back to school and place them in the plastic crates in Gwynn. It costs €4 per box for transportation – please place the money in an envelope and place it in the box.

Ms Duggan writes:

It has been a busy half term for junior and senior debaters at St Columba’s. Thursday night, saw the juniors Caleb Swanepoel, Caroline Hager, Tyrone Shi and Alex Hinde head for UCD with Ms Morley for the second round of the Junior Schools Debating Competition. The next round of the Junior House Debating Competition will see a change in format due to the increasing number of students keen to get involved. The seniors have been very active as well. Last weekend twelve students from St Columba’s attended the Dublin Session of the European Youth Parliament. For many of them it was their first experience of this kind of event. One of the first timers give a report of the event below. We are looking forward to seeing more students getting involved in the next half of term.

And Gioia Doenhoff from Transition Year writes about ‘My first experience of the European Youth Parliament’


Friday was the first day of the Dublin Session of the European Youth Parliament and most of us were quite nervous and so stuck to our own school group a lot. We started with a short series of games led by the chairmen to warm all of us up a bit. We were then separated into our committees that we had chosen beforehand and led into separate rooms. The topics on the committees were all current issues, for example, foreign affairs, education or constitutional issues. Everyone was able to choose a committee that they were interested in, so everyone was invested in the topic.

There I began familiarizing myself with the rest of my committee with whom I would be working with for the next two days. They were from schools all around Dublin: Alexandra College, Blackrock College, Stratford College etc. Our committee was one of the biggest with nine people, so you really got to know everyone. We didn’t actually start working right away though as we started off with team building exercises that involved very many name games, but also ones where we had to reach group consensus on some topics. This proved to be harder than expected. We had a great chairman so it was a lot of fun during the day as it was very casual and comfortable.


This was the day the work began. After a short period of time spent researching the Palestine Israel conflict, LGBTQ+ problems or Brexit we all gathered all our main points on small post it notes. These were put on one big flipchart and after ordering them into categories we split up into small groups to handle them. Out of these sentences were constructed which would later be refined by the group and then formatted to our list of clauses, or simply points explaining our view on the matter. Two lists came out of this, our list of problems and our list of resolutions. This day was definitely the most exhausting and on the way back to St Columba’s College we were all really tired, but looking forward to presenting our ideas the next day.


As soon as we arrived it got right off to business as the first committee started presenting their solutions on the their researched topic (Brexit)I expected it to be really tiring to listen all of the debates but it turned out to be really interesting as it was a whole new type of debating where the floor was allowed to get incredibly involved, constantly giving points and even attacking speeches. This was completely new to me because I’m used to the old British Parliamentary style with minimal intervention from the floor.
When we presented our resolution it took a different turn than we had expected-  we did not receive the attacks that we had prepared for. Our motion ended up getting dismissed with 50:40 (votes?). This was not a surprise as it was the relatively controversial topic of the Isreal Palestine conflict. It was still very eye opening, both the actual debate as the research of our topic.


I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of EYP as I got to meet loads of new people and saw debating from a whole new perspective-  the aim at EYP was to have an open discussion and gather support rather than defeat the opposition. The food was actually pretty good and the conversations always interesting. I’m looking forward to next year when I hope to get to go again.


In almost a year’s time a major educational event will take place at St Columba’s: the College has been chosen as the location for the first-ever researchED meeting in Ireland, which will take place throughout Saturday 5th October 2019. Check out the event page here, which next year will give details of speakers and ticket sales.

ResearchED has become an international phenomenon. Founded in London in 2013 by Tom Bennett, who chaired the Behaviour Management Group for the UK Department of Education and is currently their Independent Behaviour Advisor, it has since spread around the world to venues beyond the UK like Malmo, Pretoria, Philadelphia, Dubai, Melbourne, Auckland, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto and Vancouver.

The goal of researchED is to bridge the gap between research and practice in education. Researchers, teachers, and policy makers come together for a day of information-sharing and myth-busting.

St Columba’s is perfectly located for this event, being on the edge of Dublin with easy access from the rest of the country, and from Dublin Airport. The event will take place in the central spaces and facilities, such as the Big Schoolroom, Lower Argyle, Cadogan, Library and the Science Block.

This event puts the College right at the cutting-edge of Irish education. The best place to see updates is via the dedicated Twitter account, @researchEDDub.

We’d love to hear from potential sponsors, too.

Check out how a researchED day works here, and below see Tom Bennett and others explain.


Emma Hinde, Form III, reports on a very successful Book Week 2018.

There were loads of things to do during book week this year. The week featured two chapel talks in which Kate Higgins and James Park spoke about their favourite books and Mr Swift sang a song about his bookcase. The author talk was probably my highlight: Richie Conroy told us about his career as a screenwriter (he wrote the animated movie “Two by Two” and the TV series “Fran: Assistant manager”, along with many more). He also wrote a book called “An Jailtacht” which is in the library. It’s aboout a teenage girl called Emily who goes to the Gaeltacht.
There was also lots going on in the library. The “shelfies” were photos of teacher’s bookshelves and we had to match the teacher to the shelf. I only managed to get one. We could also estimate the amount of books in the library, and design a cover for our favourite book. There was also an official book week bookmark, designed by Tania Stokes.
The first book club meeting of the year took place during lunchtime and we talked about which book we would be reading for the term. Lots were suggested and eventually Geraldine McCaughren’s Where the World Ends was chosen. The next meeting will take place in the library on Monday, 10 December at 1.20 pm.
First, second and third years had Book Speed Dating in the BSR. This is where we talked for two minutes about a book to the person sitting opposite us and then swapped. It was interesting to see what other people were reading. I kept changing the book I was talking about, but settled on one called ‘The Lost Gate’ by Orson Scott Card. It’s part of a trilogy.
The library was open at break and lunchtime, which was so successful that it was decided it would remain open at lunchtimes for the rest of the term.
I loved book week, and hope that others enjoyed it as much as I did.

In any profession, and teaching is no exception, one stays fresh by learning new things and taking on new challenges. I was 18 years at Wellington College in England but in that time I took on many different responsibilities. I then moved from a very enjoyable and comfortable existence there to a considerably more challenging environment in South Africa, Tiger Kloof, an old mission school serving a disadvantaged community in the boiling heat of the North West province. There I learned about abuse and rape and dysfunctional families and poverty and anger and the pain of history, including having to confront the fact that my own country had played a complicit role in that history. I also learned what a beautiful country South Africa is, with so many fantastic young people of all races. In the school there everyone had a story and many were heart-breaking to listen to. In a tough world where only the most resilient survive and thrive it is not easy to be vulnerable and so people bottle things up and live with their pain, which may result in their passing it on to the next generation. I decided to employ a counsellor, who came from Soweto two weeks during each term and made herself available to listen and support. She is an outstanding woman with a tough story of her own. Many pupils took advantage of her being around to have the chance to talk to someone for the first time in their lives. She used to stay with us and without breaking confidentiality in the evenings she used to tell us some of the things that she had heard during her day. It made one want to weep.

St. Columba’s is very different from Tiger Kloof and the socio-economic profile is definitely not the same. However in some ways young people are the same the world over, with the same hopes for life and the same insecurities. Domestic security certainly helps create confidence in young people but it is not a barrier against the pressures of being a teenager. I remember at Wellington, probably about ten years ago, when we employed a counsellor for the first time. She worked initially for just 8 hours a week – this in a school of 1000 pupils – but it was not long before she was full time and being supplemented by another one, such was the demand from the pupils to talk to someone about their problems, their angst about identity, their battle with relationships and the increasing pressure that they were feeling from school and home about their work. When I left Wellington mental health issues were increasingly on the agenda and that was at a time when social media usage was not at the level that it is now…all experts agree that social media puts huge pressure on young people, with the pressure to fit in and look the part, together with the vastly increased occurrence of online bullying and cowardly gossip, from which one cannot escape any more simply by going home.

I became a teacher because I loved coaching sport, enjoyed my subject and got huge satisfaction from seeing young people grow up through adolescence to make a positive contribution in society. It is the best profession in the world. I did not however learn about mental health in my teacher training and most teachers would I am sure say that are having to work beyond their comfort zones and their original professional training in the way they are needing to support children with mental health issues.

All pastoral leaders in schools, whether heads or housemasters or housemistresses, or even just form teachers, are needing to become experts in mental health issues, afraid that if they don’t make the right diagnosis or report things correctly to the right person or fail to recognise certain signs, that it will reflect poorly on them and could even have much more far-reaching consequences. It can be quite a heavy burden to carry.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not in a crisis here, but the mental health agenda is on the rise and we are having to adapt and learn. We have a fabulous team of very caring staff who support our pupils wonderfully well. As a school we are no different from all other schools in Ireland and the UK but because of our support networks we are probably better off than most. What does worry me however is the fact that an increasing number of young people are needing to seek help in the first place. What sort of society are we creating in which so many young people are brought to the point where they cannot cope? It makes me more determined than ever that here at St. Columba’s we create a community in which all the pupils feel cherished and valued and where their self-esteem can be built up. I am sure that all parents would agree that while they want their children to achieve as highly as possible both inside and outside the classroom they want them even more to be self-confident, to love themselves as well as loving their neighbours, to be supportive of others, to be kind and to develop the tools to cope with the slings and arrows of life without risk of breakdown.

That seems to be the greatest educational challenge of this generation.

On Tuesday twenty Transition Year pupils visited Microsoft Ireland’s newest building, One Microsoft Place, to explore their ‘Dreamspace’ – a wonderful space for young people to learn more about technology. On arrival, the pupils were given a tour of the amazing award winning building, where some of the highlights include the yoga cube, the wellness centre, the amazing “mountain” stairs, the roof garden and the LED waterfall. After the tour they settled into the amazing Dreamspace – a vibrant learning environment – discussing Microsoft’s contribution to technology in their lives before exploring their latest innovations in assisted technology for those with disabilities. The learned about the skills needed to thrive in STEM careers, with a focus on development of soft skills. Then their first challenge – a team building / problem solving task – the Marble Track. With a few assorted household items, each team had to create a track for a marble to travel before settling within a small square of graph paper. There were no rules except that is couldn’t be pushed and had to stop on the graph paper. Each team took a different approach (there was some astounding creativity on show) but all ended successfully completing the task (one team broke the record). But then it was on to the main task – a brief introduction to coding via the Mirco:bit software and hardware. The pupils learned about the basics of coding before programming their own devices, using Microsoft surface tablets, to play a game of rock, paper, scissors. Later they learned how to send messages from one device to another.

The pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience and, no doubt, stoked their interest in STEM and coding (incidentally this week is European Code Week). We would like to thank Microsoft and their Dreamspace team for a most enjoyable, wonderful learning experience.

The Parents’ Association would like to inform parents that the National Parents Council Post-Primary Conference will take place on Saturday October 13th 2018 at the Clayton Hotel Liffey Valley. Full invitation and event details here.

Last night was the first night of the UCD Junior Schools Debate. Our team consisted of Alex Hinde and Tyrone Shi (Second Form), as well as Caleb Swanepoel and Caroline Hager (Third Form). All did well and Tyrone and Alex were placed second in the debate in their room.

Tyrone Shi writes:

The first round of UCD Junior Schools Debating Competition took place last night in the Newman building. In all, there are 192 teams entering the competition, making it the biggest Junior competition in Leinster. I found it was a great experience and I learned a lot from it. The event was quite challenging but I still found it quite fun and I will definitely participate again. Our motion was ‘that this house would abolish trial by jury’ and Alex Hinde and I were opposing this.

I’ll start off at the second when the first speaker started her speech: she spoke with great confidence and extreme speed. It was overall a great speech and made me quite nervous.

The 2ndand 4thspeakers in our round were amazing and it wasn’t a surprise that they came in first place.

As I was the first speaker out of our team I went up to the podium and took out my speech. I started off by making everyone laugh with my introduction and the rest went quite well. Alex was the eighth speaker and he was disappointed other debaters did not take all of his points of order as he had quite a few!

In the end we achieved an amazing second place and came home with a proud result.  The competition continues next week.

Last weekend saw the first round of House Debates on Saturday evening, both Junior & Senior, and the Transition Year House Speech competition on Sunday night – always a lively affair.

Shannon Dent reports on the Senior Debate:

The topic discussed in the first round was Voluntourism and if it should be banned or not. Some of the major key points that were brought up in the debates were the negative after effects of voluntourism and how it can be detrimental to a small disadvantaged community. As well as how voluntourism can have a positive effect on both the voluntourist and the people receiving the help by being able to provide an experience for both sides. This topic is a bit difficult to discuss because it can go either way. It brings up many questions such as: Do people receiving the help from voluntourism get used to it and do not try to improve their well being? What happens to the people after the voluntourists are gone? Are buildings created by voluntourists of good quality? Why would it be wrong to volunteer while on your vacation? Is it really helping? Do people benefit from it? The subject is different for every case but the debaters on the night did a very good job supporting their argument. Debating in the Cadogan, with a very thought provoking debate there was a combination of Beresford and Tibradden proposing against Gwynn. Speakers for Tibradden and Beresford: Caoimhe Cleary, Georg Mueller-Methling and Noah Leach. Speakers for Gwynn: Toby Green, Killian Morrel and Alexander Casado. Debating in the Lower Argyle, a very strong and interesting debate between Iona and Glen took place. Speakers for Iona: Amy Cosgrove, Éile Ní Chianain and Sinead Cleary. Speakers for Glen: James Park, Dmytro Kasianenko and William Zitzmann. Finally debating in the BSR, with a very engaging debate was Hollypark proposing against Stackallan. Speakers for Hollypark: Georgia Wignall, Alexandra Murray and Sofia Leach. The winners were Gwynn, Glen and Stackallan.

To finalize, this first round of debates was a great way to start a new year of debating. Congratulations to the winning houses and to all the speakers involved. Thank you to Mr Brett, Ms Lynch and Ms Morely for being the adjudicators of the evening. Well done to Amy Cograve, Jiwoo Park, San Lawrence and Toby Greene who awarded “best speakers” for the first round. Also a quick reminder that for the next round, electronic devices will not be allowed while debating, handwritten notes are accepted. Once you have your debaters for the next round we ask you to email them to Ms Duggan as soon as possible. Good luck on the next few rounds and do try to get involved!

Thea Walsh, Form III, reports on the Junior Debates:

My debating team consisted of Sophie Webb, Rachel Mungavin, Henry Johnson, Christopher Atkins and myself, Thea Walsh. We were proposing the motion ”This House Believes that Fast Food Should be Banned’. The opposition team was Emma Hinde, Akin Babajide, Miles Bubulia and Wolfgang Romanowski. There were some thoughtful and provocative speeches  presented on the night and also some very intelligent points of order, which put each speaker on the spot. A special well done to Christopher Atkins, new to the school in September, who was the only first former debating on the night. As there is growing interest in debating, Miss Dugan and I are floating the idea of a junior house debating competition to mirror the one taking place between the senior houses. At the end of the night, after questions from the floor, the winners were announced. The team proposing the motion won. Rachel Mungavin won the accolade of best speaker. A special thank you Miss Morley for adjudicating and Miss Duggan for making all of this possible.

Ms Duggan facilitating the Junior Debate.

It was a fantastic night overall and a great start to the year’s public speaking events. However, much like Dublin buses, you wait weeks for one public speaking event and the second one follows soon after. On Sunday, ten inspired Transition Year pupils spoke passionately on a wide range of subjects – from gun control & dyslexia to religion & the Leaving Cert – but it was Raphaela Ihuoma who emerged victorious. Iona were named the House winners. Well done to all on providing interesting, entertaining and thoughtful speeches.

Well done again to our Sailing Team who competed at last weekend’s All Ireland Schools Sailing Event in Sutton. Alas, neither crew finished among the medals but they competed valiantly. After a successful first day, bad luck followed them on the second. One of the boats, crewed by brother Denis and Max Cully, capsized while the other boat, with Katherine Kelly & Jack O’Hora onboard, broke a mast when colliding with one of the safety boats. These unfortunate series of events scuppered their chances but they still managed to finish a respectable 13th out of 18 schools competing.

The College’s top sailor, Transition Year pupil Tim Norwood, unfortunately didn’t compete at the schools event this year as he was attending the Irish Sailing Association’s Helmsman’s Championship in Dun Laoghaire. Tim has had an extremely successful summer of sailing, winning at the RS Feva Eastern Championships in May and the RS Feva Inland Championships in July and, most recently, the RS Feva Southern Championships in Baltimore. He finished third at the RS Feva National Championships and fourth at the European RS Feva Championships, sailing the only Irish boat at the UK hosted event. He is currently ranked the number one RS Feva sailor in Ireland – a fantastic achievement.

Sailing is becoming an increasingly popular sport amongst our pupils and hopefully we will see further success for our pupils in the coming years – watch this space!

Tom Norwood, on the right, competing for Ireland earlier this summer.