The College is delighted to be one of 30 schools featured in Tom Sherrington’s new book, The Learning Rainforest Fieldbook, just published by John Catt, with illustrations by Oliver Caviglioli. This is a follow-up to Tom’s hugely successful The Learning Rainforest: Great Teaching in Real Classrooms, and focusses on how schools around the world (mostly in the UK but also in the USA, Lebanon, South Africa, Thailand and of course Ireland) are building on the principles in that book. The stories of these very different schools are fascinating, with in each case articles by teachers and pupils giving vivid accounts of teaching and learning, and of the wider particular ethos.

The section on St Columba’s has articles by the Sub-Warden Mr Girdham, Mr Jameson (on reading), Dr Singleton and Mr Jones (on the re-design of our Science Block in 2016, and the subject of their recent researchED Dublin talk), as well as featuring pupils Shannon Dent and Sam Lawrence.

We are honoured to be included in this book, and appreciate Tom Sherrington’s words in his introduction: “It never occurred to me that the Learning Rainforest might find resonance in anything physical but, for sure, the labs at St Columba’s are probably the best classrooms for teaching science I’ve ever seen; another aspect of ultra-modernity nicely juxtaposing the school’s deep traditions. From reading the school mottto to hearing that one of the alumni is U2’s Adam Clayton (how fabulous is that?!) – there’s no end to the charm and quirkiness of this fabulous school.”

15% of the revenue from all sales will be donated to the Thandulwazi Science and Maths Academy in Johannesburg. This is run by St Stithian’s, one of the Fieldbook schools. The money raised will support the training of specialist teachers working in the public schools in Johannesburg, clearly a very worthy cause in an education system under great pressure.

We were delighted to host researchED Dublin on October 5th: a wonderful day with 350 people on the campus thinking about evidence-based practice, and networking.  Since then we’ve sent out a feedback survey, and below are some of the comments that were made.  They were overwhelming positive, with only a few minor criticisms, and some helpful feedback should we put on researchED again. We’ve removed references to individual presenters, but there were huge numbers of these too, and very appreciative they were. For more reaction online, click here. For a long follow-up  article in the Irish Times, click here.

  • 94% of all present had never been to a researchED event before.
  • 89% indicated they were ‘extremely satisfied’ overall with the day (ie, 5 out of 5).

Some reactions:

  • Delighted to be at your inaugural ResearchEdDub which was organised exceptionally well. The communications leading up to the event, the staff on board to direct, the presentations and speakers coupled with the hospitality was superb. I very much look forward to the next one. Congratulations to you all!
  • All of the speakers I attended were outstanding and it was an absolute pleasure to spend the day in their company. There was such a good buzz around the entire day and I can not think of a single negative. I am so glad I attended.
  • Well timed sessions and despite the weather for the second half of day it was good to be able to move around, get fresh air en route to another presentation and meet new and interesting people. All of that on a beautiful campus. I feel like I am writing an ad for a travel brochure! Well worth the travel and a day out of my weekend. Well done to all concerned.
  • Best education event I have attended.
  • A fabulous event and really hope that there will be another opportunity for a researchED in Ireland again.
  • Organisation was impeccable/ hospitality was second-to-none.
  • The change-over time was ideal. The speakers making a start on time was appreciated.
  • Excellent, loved it! Totally refreshing in an era where we are all being told to teach the same way with stickers and group work, in an age where the entire standard of education is being lowered, this was the one inspiring hopeful event I have been to. I will definitely consider going to more. It was very funny too, with enormous content. Thank you. Very well organised, beautiful and convenient venue.
  • All of the sessions were interesting and inspirational. It was good to have current practitioners delivering as well as the ‘big names’!
  • I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would and have told many colleagues about it and shared my reflections from the day too. Thank you.
  • It was great to have so many high-profile UK-based speakers. I’m looking forward to next year where I hope that there will be more Irish speakers who are engaging with cog-sci + education debates, but who are speaking to an Irish context … I’d be really interested in being part of a researchEd Dublin (Ireland?) community – to share ideas etc during the year. Such a great day – thank you again.
  • It was an amazing day, I left feeling energized and have used some of this in my classes already this week. I will definitely be attending again and would consider attending abroad.
  • The event was inspiring, invigorating and packed with relevant, research-based strategies and techniques…no one could fail to learn something from the many excellent speakers present.
  • Good variety of sessions, well timed and spaced to allow transitions. I really enjoyed the opportunities to make connections and plans for supporting others as we move forward. I’ve already planned a couple of meet-ups that wouldn’t be happening without researchED with potentially significant impact across  Thank you.
  • It was thrilling to have education CPD of this quality in Dublin. The appetite for it was tangible and I hope it’s the first of many researchED events in Ireland. Well done to all involved for an important and thoroughly enjoyable day.
  • It was an amazing day of learning. So many stand out moments and take away. Well worth the journey from Belfast. I came away fizzing with ideas and things to think about. Can’t wait until next year!
  • Would have loved to have attended them all.
  • Amazing day! Very inspiring!
  • Very well organised, great venue, extremely helpful and friendly organisers.
  • What a wonderful Conference, set in the most magical of places. I hope to see a researchED event return to Ireland again. In light of new and ongoing changes on the Irish educational landscape, I expect there will be an ever-increasing demand from teachers for evidence-based practice and, quite frankly, a bit of common sense. I suspect it would be difficult to overstate its importance at our current junction.
  • Spectacular day, and very inspiring! Thank you very much! It would be excellent if speakers did a couple of sessions each, as often there were numerous places I wanted to be at once! Although I know logistically this may not be possible as more rooms need to be available, and it might be pushing the good will of the presenters.
  • This was the best CPD ever!! I learnt something from every session. The whole experience was so positive and motivating – I just wish I could have gone to every session. Many thanks to everyone involved for organising such a professional and inspiring day.
  • Thank you for all the time you put in to organising this. Having organised conferences myself, I know all too well the logistics. Well done.
  • Thank you to  the organisers , the academic and ancillary staff at St.Columba’s for the excellent organisation and facilitation of the day. It was a quality, ambitious, positive day of genuine CPD (continuous professional development) – as far from exhausting, counter productive ‘Croke Park’ hours as one could get!
  • The day at researchED Dublin was inspirational. I left with a ‘yes, I can teach in ways that get better learning from and for students’. A most positive experience.
  • It was really great to have such a mix of speakers. There wasn’t a single time slot where I was stuck to find something to listen to.
  • I was really impressed with the professionalism of all the presenters and the level and kind of supporting research given not just by the main speakers but also by ‘working teachers’.
  • Beware of education myths and of shiny expensive packages- the teacher is the greatest resource in the classroom. Very well organised and very inspiring. All sessions ran on time and were focused and relevant.
  • It’s honestly impossible to single any one presenter out as each presentation I attended was excellent.  It seems like there’s often a polarising debate between ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’, and while some presenters stated their views in forceful sound bites I really appreciated the nuanced approach to all the issues discussed, from behaviour to curriculum.
  • Very practical CPD – one of the best that I have ever been to!!  Excellent range of speakers – lots to take back to the classroom.
  • Excellent presentations on how to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, classroom behaviour etc.
  •  Very encouraged to see researchers motivated to embed findings in practice. Also encouraged to hear their willingness to share existing research with teachers including negative findings which are as informative as the positive ones.
  • Excellent presentations. Very well organised. Great fun. Great to meet other teachers at coffee break/lunch.
  • The school community were top class hosts. It was a privilege to hear so many leading lights in one place on one day. Please come back soon!
  • I thought the organisation by the school was v impressive.
  • Excellent day with very engaging speakers. Very well organised and a lovely atmosphere. I’d definitely attend again.
  • A thoroughly useful and positive day. It has made me realise I’m not ready to retire yet as ‘the fire still burns’!
  • This was an amazing, inspirational, rejuvenating Saturday after a long and very challenging week for me in the world of my classroom and school. I enjoyed every minute and thanks so much to St. Columba’s College, an educational world so far away from where I teach.
  • I would highly recommend a ResearchEd conference to any educator but it would be extremely beneficial for new teachers to understand the science of learning, before being inundated with educational “fads”.
  • I am teaching 13 years now and beginning to feel burnt out trying to keep on top of all these “new bright ideas” for the classroom. I love to teach, I know what works best for my students and having listened to these inspirational speakers I am now much more confident in my own teaching and what I am doing. The whole day was inspiring for all of us who have taken up this profession aiming to teach our students and bring the best out in each of them. Thank you to all involved.
  • Excellent day with very engaging speakers. Very well organised and a lovely atmosphere. I’d definitely attend again.

On Saturday last, October 5th, the College hosted a researchED conference, the first time this international educational movement has been to Ireland, South or North. 350 educators, including 30 speakers, were joined by 25 of our own staff from morning to late afternoon going to presentations by world-class speakers from England, Scotland, Sweden and Belgium, as well as many presenters from all over Ireland (Derry to West Cork to Wexford to Dublin to Armagh). The programme can be seen here.

researchED Dublin (joining venues in the UK, USA, Australia, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Dubai, Chile, Switzerland and South Africa, with China coming) opened in the brand-new Whispering House at registration, with delegates arriving from 7.30am on (most of course were Irish, but we did have visitors from Switzerland, the UK and even Australia), collecting programmes and having coffee and eats provided by our superb caterers Sodexo. Then the conference proper started in the Big Schoolroom, with everyone being welcomed by the host and organiser, the Sub-Warden. Tom Bennett, founder of researchED, spoke about his delight in being in Ireland at last and gave an account of researchED’s purpose. He then handed over to the keynote speaker, Daisy Christodoulou, author of Seven Myths about Education and Making Good Progress? She showed how cognitive science has had a profound impact on teaching and learning.

After that, delegates chose from 6 strands, with sessions taking place in the BSR, the Cadogan, the Science Lab, the Physics Lab and the Biology Lab. Renowned speakers like Tom Sherrington, Mary Myatt, Alex Quigley, Pedro de Bruyckere and David Didau were interspersed with first-time presenters such as Conor Murphy, Kate Barry and Leona Forde. One of the exciting things about researchED events is how academic researchers meet and interact with classroom teachers, and the former here included University of Limerick researcher Dr Ann Marcus-Quinn and Ulster University’s Dr Victoria Simms (she speaks on the video).

A wonderful lunch (the perfect time to network and chat to strangers about common interests) was followed by three sessions in the afternoon, culminating in Carl Hendrick’s excoriating and hilarious dismantling of feeble pedagogy which sells children short. In the evening, the presenters came back together for dinner in town.

Reaction on the day was immensely positive, and online even more so: read this collection to get a flavour of what has been said since.

Many thanks to Ian O’Herlihy for the video of the day at the top of this post, and Daniel Owen for the photographs below.

There are under 4 weeks to go until researchED Dublin, Ireland’s first-ever such event (on Saturday the massive London conference, with 1500 delegates and 170 speakers, was a huge success).

Our event is of course smaller, but certainly very high quality, and below are the titles of the 30 sessions available to delegates. The timetable will be released before long, and there will be some tough choices to make (5/6 sessions run concurrently apart from the first and last ones). More detail on sessions on the @researchEDDub Twitter account during this week. More on the speakers themselves here.

(in alphabetical order by speaker)

Neil Almond: I structure (most of) my maths lessons: putting research into practice

Kate Barry: Retrieval Practice for Long-Term Learning

Edmond Behan: Teaching students to collaborate: the impact of skills training on student engagement in collaborative learning.

Tom Bennett: Behaviour lessons from the best UK schools.

Fred Boss: Open Digital Badges in Formal Education in Ireland.

Pedro de Bruyckere: The Ingredients for Great Teaching.

Daisy Christodoulou: Seven Myths about Education (keynote address).

Daisy Christodoulou: Comparative judgement: an easier way to assess writing

David Didau: Making Kids Cleverer: A manifesto for closing the advantage gap

Stuart Farmer: Networked Learning Communities – the solution to effective professional learning of teachers?

Leona Forde: Getting research into practice: one school’s story of building a system for teacher-led professional development.

Rebecca Foster: On Bjork’s Desirable Difficulties in the classroom.

Gráinne Hallahan: The Batman Effect: what it does (and doesn’t) tell us about concentration in the classroom.

Eva Hartell: Comparative judgment – unpacking teachers’ assessment practices in STEM education.

Carl Hendrick: The Pedagogy Delusion: When Teaching Kills Learning

Humphrey Jones & Mary Singleton: A Research-Led Approach to School Science Laboratory Design.

Peter Lydon: Some Hard Truths from Gifted Education.

Ann Marcus-Quinn and Tríona Hourigan: Open Education and post-primary education.

James McCoy: Introducing a knowledge-rich curriculum at Key Stage 3: a case study.

Jennifer McMahon: ‘Learning from yesterday to prepare for tomorrow’: teacher perspectives on applying evidence to practice.

Conor Murphy: The Importance of Film: a brief history of its place at second-level, and how we can embed it in our schools.

Dianne Murphy: Seven Misconceptions About Teaching Adolescents to Read.

James Murphy: Six Kinds of Behaviour Problems and How to Deal With Them.

Mary Myatt: Curriculum: Controversies, Concepts and Conversations.

Mirjam Neelen: Teachers teach but do they learn? How to improve your own self-directed learning skills.

Sandrine Pac-Kenny: What they don’t tell you about learning a language!

Alex Quigley: Closing the Vocabulary Gap.

Tom Sherrington: Why are Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction so popular and so good?

Victoria Simms: Evidence-based primary maths: what is research really telling us?

Claire Stoneman: Senior Leadership: how can we help novice senior leaders learn?

Many congratulations to our candidates, who this morning received their Leaving Certificate results, achieving an average across all candidates of 474 points out of 625, second only to last year. This is another very fine performance, and extends our run of consistently impressive results year on year.

A few statistics:

  • 61 candidates sat the examinations, sitting a total of 453 papers, 85% of which were taken at Higher Level.
  • 18% of all results were H1.
  • 40% were H1/H2.
  • 58% were H1/H2/H3.
  • One candidate received the maximum 625 points.
  • 7% received over 600 points.
  • 46% received over 500 points.
  • 93% received over 300.

On Tuesday night the seventh annual TY Modern Languages evening was held in the Big School Room. Eleven pupils presented in Spanish and French on topics such as El Flamenco, Le Tour de France, Las tribus de América and Les Jeux Olympiques. Leon Moreau also gave an outstanding recitation by heart in Bavarian of a childhood poem. During the interval we we enjoyed lusty renditions of the German and French national anthems.Many congratulations to the winner and recipient of the Alyn Stacey Cup, Sveva Ciofani, for her presentation on Pablo Escobar. In second place was Eliz Kolat (Les stéréotypes français) joint third were Oliver Townshend (Mis aventuras con Diego) and Sinead Cleary (Les fromages français). The standard overall was extremely high. Well done to all those who participated and made this such a successful event.

FORM PRIZES: congratulations to the following, who have been awarded prizes based on their academic work this year:-

SIXTH: Helen Crampton, Georgia Keegan-Wignall, Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, JiWoo Park, Caspar Schulenburg, David White.

FIFTH: Camila Garcia Herrera, Oda Michel, Poppy O’Malley, Eliza Somerville, Tania Stokes.

FOURTH: Imogen Casey, Sinéad Cleary, Gioia Dönhoff, Oscar Yan.

THIRD: Tom Casey, Iona Chavasse, Emma Hinde, Avi Johnston, Marcus O’Connor.

SECOND: Kate Higgins, Emily McCarthy, Cian Slyne, Elys Walker.

FIRST: Elizabeth Hart, Rachel Shaw, Beatrice Somerville, Lorne Walsh.

Form V pupil Megan Bulbulia reports on her recent experience of the ‘Phil Speaks’ debating competition.

When I put my name forward to go to the ‘Phil Speaks’ debating competition in Trinity, I was very nervous about what was to come. What would the motions be? Would I even understand the motions? Would I get lost in the maze that is Trinity College Dublin? And perhaps most importantly, would there really be free pizza there!?

Thankfully I only got lost once and there was pizza ordered in bulk both days! As for the motions, more random than Harry Oke-Osanyintolu had warned us. Our first motion was  “This House Believes that the media has a responsibility to show the full horrors of war.” Katherine Kelly and I had 15 minutes to prepare our five-minute speeches. To say that this was stressful would be an understatement, the 15 minutes flew by and before we knew it we were strongly opposing the motion. It was an interesting and engaging the debate in which we placed 3rd. Not bad we thought, against a strong proposition.

The next motion was “This House regrets the American Dream.” This proved difficult to propose, as the debate became centralised on the concept of whether hard work equals reward, a central idea in our society and of course the educational system.
We emerged from this debate in 4th place but with increasing knowledge of debating strategies and approaches which would prove useful.

After a filling lunch of Apache pizza, we were given our third and final motion of the day. “This House Would delete all social media.” Katherine and I were proposing this motion, we used our gained knowledge of how to coherently structure a debate, forming it almost like a mathematical equation, proving points x and y, to our advantage. This round was a closed round, which means we don’t know where we placed, but our tactics were proving effective and became procedure in our two next debates.

The next morning we registered again, with a slight change to the teams. Katherine and I stayed together while Shannon Dent paired with Dmytro Kasianenko in place of Oda Michel who unfortunately wasn’t feeling well. The motion was announced and Katherine and I had 15 minutes to scurry off to the School of Histories and Humanities Arts Building, (this was when we got lost.) We were proposing the motion that “This House Regrets art that glorifies gaining material wealth”. With Dmytro and Shannon on our tea,m we gave the opposition a united Columba’s front! It was an interesting debate, focused around the excessive wealth of popular musicians and online influencers, each team managed to work an Ariana Grande reference into their speech as part of the ‘Goofball Challenge.’

Our fifth and final debate was “This House Believes that occupying vacant buildings in protest of widespread homelessness is a legitimate political act.” For our last debat,e Katherine and I used all of our gained knowledge from the four previous debates into a strategical and tactical argument. We both spoke for the full five minutes and we felt like we had strongly and convincingly proposed our last motion. Unfortunately, we didn’t earn a place in the Quarter Finals but what we definitely earned was a sense of achievement and a wider knowledge of how to structure and deliver a clear-cut speech within a debate. We also met secondary school pupils from all over the country, and we had an opportunity to explore Trinity also! I would definitely recommend The Phil Speaks Debating Competition to anyone and it was a very enjoyable experience.

The Warden has written an article on fee-paying schools for the Sunday Independent ‘School League Tables’ supplement. Here is what he wrote:

Parents love a school league table, particularly when it shows their child’s school in a good light. However, I am rather confused by the way the school league tables in Ireland are currently devised by a media eager to draw comparisons. Schools that send all their leavers to Irish universities get 100% (or even higher by an anomaly that I don’t understand), while schools such as ourselves, that think it is a good thing to encourage leavers to look around at universities in the UK, Europe and the USA, end up in 500th place, because, although every leaver goes on to third level education, only a third of them stay in Ireland, despite two thirds being from the island. Since when has having a narrow world view been a mark of excellence, particularly in a country with such a huge diaspora?

Last year here at St. Columba’s College we averaged 484 points per candidate at Leaving Cert, with a non-selective intake, a result that would probably put us at the top of the tree, or very close to it, if there were a league table based on these results. However, you may be surprised to know that I am delighted that there are no such tables here in Ireland. I have seen the disingenuousness and the shenanigans wrought by league tables in the UK. When a school’s reputation is based on its GCSE or A Level results, as is the case with the government league tables  over there, inevitably schools start to manipulate their exam entries accordingly. If an academically weaker child gets through their vigorous screening process, rather than deciding to do the best for that child, they create barriers for entry into the senior school, saying, for instance, that unless a pupil gets 8 A*’s or A’s at GCSE then he or she cannot continue in the school, or perhaps that unless the GCSE is an A* then the pupil may not continue with that subject to A Level. The child is only valued if he or she can contribute to the school’s awesome academic reputation. If not they are expendable. An exception might be made for a particularly good loose forward, of course, or a first violin.

There is much worse than this. Pupils going into their final year will be told to drop their weak subjects or advised that, if they refuse or ‘do not heed the school’s advice,’ they will be required to enter for the exams privately, so that the results will not appear in the official statistics of that school. It gets worse still. Some schools with international operations will enter their weak candidates through the international centre, thus ensuring that only those who are going to get the top grades are counted in the results that people see. I have even heard of a situation where a school created another school as a separate legal entity, so that weak candidates could be entered through that means, through a school that existed only on paper! It’s possibly not illegal but it is certainly immoral! My own belief is that once a child has entered a school, that school has the obligation to see that child through and do the best for them, regardless of their ability, rather than considering them surplus to requirements if they do not ‘add value.’

Maybe in Ireland some of these excesses would be avoided, since schools are by definition non-selective, but you can see where the introduction of Leaving Cert league tables could lead and I don’t think anyone here wants to run the risk of creating a league table monster such as exists in the UK. So up here on the hill we’ll just have to continue to grit our teeth each year when the current league table is published, until someone comes up with a moremeaningful way of judging schools in the overall context of the education they provide and the future opportunities they offer their alumni, both in Ireland and further afield.

Irish private schools are becoming an increasingly attractive option to many overseas parents, especially if they are looking for boarding. Being the only English speaking country in the EU after March 29thmay have benefits. Coming from the UK I am dismayed at the ever-increasing expense of a private education there and I cannot help feeling that the costs are out of control, as schools compete to build more and more state of the art facilities. Most private schools in the UK were founded to assist the sons (usually) of merchants or clergymen to get an education, but now that a full boarding education can cost £40,000 (45,000+ euros) a year, and even day fees are often upwards of £20,000, most hard-working professional parents can no longer afford to send their children privately, even if both are earning a decent salary.

Private education in Ireland is considerably less dear than it is in the UK and, while I do not deny that the cost is still a stretch, it is at least within range of more people. I therefore see private schools in Ireland as less exclusive and elitist than in the UK, especially since schools cannot screen pupils academically before offering places. We may be relatively expensive here at St. Columba’s, as journalists are often quick to point out, but we are still less than half the cost of the equivalent in the UK, while offering, I think, an equally good product.

Heads of private schools here may be reluctant to defend their schools because they have a perception that they are not popular in the public imagination.Indeed, when I moved here I was told to keep my head down and not court publicity, since ‘it is best to fly under the radar’. I don’t really subscribe to that approach because I believe very strongly in the service that we offer and which is offered by the excellent private sector as a whole. There will always be naysayers but there is certainly nothing to be ashamed of and plenty of which private schools can be very proud.

 

 

 

The Art Department has issued the themes for this year’s Art Craft & Photography Prizes, for both Junior and Senior pupils. The themes for this year’s prizes are JOURNEY and IDENTITY and a wide range of styles and techniques are welcome. This year’s competition will be judged by artist and Old Columban Conrad Frankel who will also speak on the night of the prize giving. One of his paintings is shown above.

Click here for full details of the brief, with useful tips for entrants.

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.

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.

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.

A hearty congratulations to the Leaving Certificate Class of 2018 on their record breaking average points score of 483. This, we are confident in saying despite the lack of national statistics, places St. Columba’s as one of the top performing schools in the country. 7% of our pupils achieved over 600 points, with one candidate attaining 6H1’s and therefore the maximum points score of 625. A phenomenal 48% of our pupils achieved over 500 points, 81% achieved over 400 points and, finally, 97% of our pupils achieved over 300 points. On the grades obtained across all candidates 17% of all exams sat were awarded H1’s, 41% either a H1 or a H2 and 61% either a H1, H2 or H3 – which is extraordinary. A considerable 85% of all exams were sat at Higher Level.

Our pupils worked extremely hard over the past two years, and in particular in the final term, and we are delighted to celebrate their achievements today. We celebrate every pupils’ results – from the pupil obtaining the maximum score to the pupil who struggled throughout but obtained their target, however modest. Of course, although it should seem obvious, the results obtained in these exams are not a true measure of a pupil’s life in school. Pupils are not remembered for their CAO points total but for their contributions to St. Columba’s on the stage, sports-field or in the classroom, for their attitude, work ethic, personality, humour and talents, of which this cohort had many.

We now wish each and every pupil success in their next big adventure, be that university, a gap year or another path entirely. Congratulations once again – we are all extremely proud of you!

Last night in the Big Schoolroom Mr McCarthy wrapped up this year’s Transition Year Programme, speaking to the pupils about their successes and progress throughout the year. He thanked all the TY staff team, and in particular Mr Noel Coldrick, who contributes a huge amount to the Year annually, and who is retiring from the College.

This year’s awards:
Margot Aleixandre: Spanish
Sam Lawrence: Biology
Shannon Dent: Physics
Sakhile Khumalo: Business
Calina Sacolax: Design
Charlotte Klingmann: Music, Chemistry, Economics
Tania Stokes: Art, Music, English, French, Latin
Eliza Somerville: Geography, Maths, Irish, Religion, Classical Studies

Congratulations also to:
Tania Stokes, winner of the Columban Award Scheme Cup.
Shannon Dent, winner of the Spirit of Transition Year Cup.

Last night, a very successful Transition Year Modern Languages Evening was held at Trinity College in Dublin, in which ten pupils gave talks and presentations in French and Spanish. Tania Stokes won The Alyn Stacey Cup for her presentation on Les Bandes Dessinées (you can view Tania’s presentation by clicking the link below). Joan Clivillé came second with his talk on the La Légion Etrangère. In third place, were Charlotte Klingmann & Calina Sacolax; their subject was La Música Latina.

All ten participants are to be commended for their efforts and high quality presentations. Mr Clarke’s set also made a very entertaining video on life at St Columba’s College. Tania was a clear winner because she had prepared her topic in depth, used her own words and was able to speak without excessive reference to her notes.

Special thanks go to Dr Alyn Stacey for allowing us to have use of the Swift Theatre as well as the three judges for giving up their evening to listen to our pupils.

Tania’s Presentation – Les Bandes Dessinées

 

Antonia Bullrich and Isabelle Townshend write short reviews on recent art gallery expeditions – the Grayson Perry exhibition at the RHA and the Emil Nolde exhibition at the National Gallery.

Last Thursday, the senior art pupils visited the RHA for the Grayson Perry exhibition. Grayson Perry is a British contemporary artist. He is known for his tapestries, vases and for cross-dressing. The exhibition is called The Vanity of Small Differences and it consists of six tapestries expressing modern life based on classical paintings. Perry is very interested in the emotional attachment we place on objects. The tapestries were hung up in a very spacious white room and each of the colors stood out individually. Each one told a story about the different social classes, and some harsh truths were depicted. As I walked around I realised each tapestry had small details that are hard to notice but they are exceptionally meaningful. When I gave each one of them a second look I noticed one or two new details I hadn’t noticed the first time around. Overall it was an amazing exhibition and we really enjoyed the day.

Last Thursday, the fifth and sixth form art pupils went to the Emil Nolde exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland. Nolde was a German expressionist and at the time (1867-1956) which an attempt to creat a new style of painting. Nolde was so daring for his use of colours and topics that he painted. His paintings have a way of speaking to you in a way that I have never experienced before. For example in his self portrait of himself his piercing blue eyes feel like they are staring into your soul. The gallery was split into five sections ranging from paintings based on his homeland to when he went travelling. The most appealing section to me was called ‘conflict’ in which he painted his view on religious events which would have been really outrageous at the time. My favourite painting has to be Nolde’s interpretation of Adam and Eve, the use of colours and form of Adam and Eve is really interesting to look at. I would recommend this exhibition to anyone.

Jeanne Levesque reports on the recent Sculpture in the Garden Exhibition in the Warden’s Garden – an Arts Week event.

In October, the Form V art class went on a trip to The Botanic Gardens, to see the “Sculpture in Context Exhibition”. Our task after this trip was to create our own exhibition in the Warden’s Garden for Arts Week 2018. Each of us had to come up with our own unique idea and create a sculpture. We had to plan our sculptures carefully, and we had to think about what materials we could use to ensure our sculptures would survive outside in rain, wind (and snow!) so in other words, Irish weather! We all had to think carefully when choosing where to place our sculptures as we had to make sure they would be visible to the people walking past the exhibition. Our trip to The Botanic Garden gave us lots of inspiration for our sculptures. For this project, each of us had to make two development A2 sheets to show how we designed our sculptures from start to finish and what challenges we faced during the project. The human form was an inspiration for many of the works. Identity was another common theme. For my project I constructed three giant rabbit heads in geometric form to hang on the garden wall. We spent almost a term on this project. It was really fun and we learned new skills and techniques that will help our future artwork.