Each January on a Sunday evening in the Big Schoolroom we hear excellent music from both pupils and their teachers in the Staff and Pupils’ Concert, and yesterday night was there was a particularly fine concert. As Mrs Malone-Brady said in her introduction, this event is surely unique in Irish schools as a Sunday night treat. Our pupils are certainly fortunate to have excellent music teachers, but they are also fortunate to be able to listen to them performing, and indeed perform with them.

The concert opened with Darren Hatch’s supple playing of ‘Bright Young Things’ on the saxophone (Darren’s group the Chatham Saxophone Quartet was a great success in a BSR concert a couple of years ago). Then there was the first staff-pupil duet, with Steven Kou on ‘cello being supported by his teacher Anne Murnaghan (who plays in the National Symphony Orchestra). Mikey O’Dwyer from Second Form followed on trumpet with the theme tune from The Pink Panther, and Ellen Feely from First Form with a lovely Irish traditional tune on the fiddle: as Mrs Malone-Brady said, the concert featured pupils from First to Sixth Form. The next pupil was indeed a Sixth Former: Songyon Oh has featured a lot on stage this year already in Greaseand the Christmas Concert; this time she gave us a fine rendition from a very different form of music, the famous aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, “Voi che sapete cosa è amor”.

Anne Murnaghan returned on the ‘cello with two lovely pieces performed perfectly, including Fauré’s ‘Sicilienne’, followed by a duet between pupils Steven Kou (‘cello) and Tyrone Shi (guitar), a slow version of the Frank Sinatra classic ‘Fly Me to the Moon’. They were followed by singing teacher, Fearghal Curtis (pictured), who is currently putting together an album of spiritual songs as a tribute to his grandfather, and sang two of them (accompanied by a friend, David), with sustained control: ‘Shall we Gather by the River?” and “Deep River”.

Cosima Schilling has just arrived in the school, and  it was lovely to hear the clarinet played so well in ‘Fantasia’. Tania Stokes is an ‘old hand’: accompanied by Mrs Malone-Brady she played ‘Scherzo’ with fantastic skill (the first and third sections were at a dizzying pace).

Finally, Edel Shannon rounded off the concert superbly with two spectacular solos: ‘Vilja’ from Lehár’s The Merry Widow, and ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Puccini’s Tosca.

Many thanks to all who performed, and of course to Mrs Malone-Brady for putting the programme together, and herself accompanying on several occasions.

The Warden’s first blog-post of 2020 is a personal one:

16th January 2020

I want to tell you about Brian. He was a great man and he died last Sunday, so he has been on my mind all week.

Brian du Toit was the estate manager at Tiger Kloof, the school I used to run in South Africa (above the picture is of the St Columba’s expedition there in 2018). It sits on the edge of the Kalahari Desert just outside a town called Vryburg, which you never go to unless you are heading north to Botswana or west to Namibia. The missionaries built it there 120 years ago because it sits astride Cecil Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo railway, which made it accessible to the children of the Batswana elite, coming down from the north. It became one of South Africa’s greatest African schools, educating the first two presidents of Botswana and all but one of its first cabinet. Desmond Tutu’s mother was a girl there and so was Mama Ruth Mompati, Nelson Mandela’s secretary and head of the ANC women in exile. She was on the board until she died in 2015.

In 1953 the South African apartheid government passed the Bantu Education Act, making it illegal to teach academic subjects to black children. The missionaries pulled out rather than compromise and the school was passed over to the local authority, who quickly ran it into the ground. The final ignominy came when the area in which the school lies was declared ‘Whites only’ in the Group Areas Act. All non-whites were forced to leave, the school was abandoned and the buildings and land sold off to a white farmer. He was given instructions by Prime Minister Verwoerd to destroy all the buildings and he started to do so before stopping. Nevertheless the beautiful buildings, built by the missionaries from the hard rock hewn out of the quarry in the kloof (valley) below the school, were left to rot or used as store houses and barns for livestock. It remained abandoned for 35 years.

David Matthews was a headmaster in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, but he lived on the Garden Route on the southern coast of South Africa. His route north took him past Tiger Kloof and he always used to wonder at the beautiful church and dining hall that sat by the side of the road two hours from the Botswanan border. He asked questions and learned the history of the buildings, of the school that had once thrived and sent forth leaders into Botswana and into the struggle for liberation in South Africa. After Nelson Mandela was released from jail in 1990 he got together a group of Old Tigers, raised some money and set to work rebuilding and restoring the school. Before the school reopened in 1995 he moved on site into the old principal’s house to oversee the work. It was a mammoth task and he needed someone to be in charge of the daunting physical work, so he hired someone, who moved into the house with him a year or two before the school reopened. That man was Brian.

Brian knew every inch of Tiger Kloof and he personally oversaw the restoration or building of every almost building on the site. It is a work that still continues to this day. He loved a project, something to get his teeth into, and his standards of workmanship were high. He kept his large team of men up to the same standard and was tough on them when they cut corners. But he was fiercely loyal to them too and they respected him for it. He didn’t have favourites and he treated everyone the same, myself included. Occasionally he felt that I had not been fair to his crew and he was never afraid to let me know, respectfully but directly…he usually had a point! He was not looking for favours, just for fairness. I admired him greatly for it. If David Matthews was the Nehemiah, who had the vision to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and repair the breaches, Brian was his right hand man who put words into deeds. He was not a man of speeches but rather someone who was happiest doing a job and doing it well, with his team around him.

South Africa is a country of contradictions and it is hard to understand if you haven’t lived there. As a ‘coloured’ (mixed race) South African, he had grown up with a love of rugby. However, like most non-whites, he could not bring himself to support the Springboks during the apartheid years and supported the All Blacks instead. Old habits die hard and to his dying day he could not bring himself to support the Bokke…he was even supporting England in the World Cup Final last year

By the way David Matthews, the man with the vision to reopen Tiger Kloof, did his teacher training in Dublin and spent a year doing his placement at a quaint little boarding school on the edge of the Dublin Hills, none other than St. Columba’s College.

Go well Brian. You were an example to everyone of faithfulness, dedication and loyalty. You deserve a rest. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

The latest edition of The Submarine, edited by Avi and Edna Johnston, is now out, and can be read online (and downloaded) here. Among the articles are ones by Éile Ní Chianáin about her experience of the recent Climate Change Youth Assembly, Elise Williams on the UCD Leinster Debates, Cian Slyne on dystopian societies, and Zofia Cannon-Brookes, as well as lots of pupil art work.

Team Hope’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal is a wonderful charity that provides shoeboxes full of toys, treats, school stationery, hygiene products and clothing for some of the poorest children in the world. The College has been involved with this amazing charity for over 15 years and this year, once again, the Transition Year pupils have been actively involved. Pupils have already created over 200 festively wrapped filled boxes to date and have also fundraised through their mini-companies. They have also visited the Team Hope warehouse over the past few weeks packing the filled boxes into the lorries destined for Eastern Europe and Africa. A particular thank you to Mr Cron who has been driving the College’s involvement in the charity from day one, and to the other staff who accompanied the pupils to the warehouse in the evenings. Team Hope is once again the Gywnn House charity in 2019/2020.

Our Librarian, Ms Kent-Sutton, has put together a list of ten of the best Young Adult books from recent months. It’s below, but you can also download it (with images of covers) for printing out here. Included is the much-acclaimed first novel by Old Columban Sarah Davis-Goff, Last Ones Left Alive.

Read about all ten books on the English site here.

Lioba Preysing, Form IV, reports on her recent class visit to the National Gallery of Ireland

On Wednesday, November 13th, Form IV artists went to visit the National Gallery of Ireland in the centre of Dublin together with Ms. Cullen and Miss. Murphy. First, we went to the permanent collection of the gallery looking in particular at two paintings. The first one was by William Orpen showing a portrait of his parents sitting in their big house on two chairs. The picture does not show much detail in the background because William Orpen wanted people to focus on the double portrait. To add himself to the portrait he draws a mirror with his reflection in it. This gave the picture a personal touch. After focusing on the portrait, we drew a quick sketch of it. We also looked at a painting by Louis le Brocquy. His painting is called `A Family`. The painting had a similar painting style to Pablo Picasso. It is a grey and bleak image depicting a post-war family.

We also went to the Zurich Portrait Prize Exhibition, 2019. This is an annual competition showing portraits by Irish artists to encourage interest in contemporary portraiture and to raise the profile of the National Portrait Collection. First, we looked at the portrait of the designer John Rocha by Geraldine O Neill. This image shows the subject in his design studio behind the scenes surrounded by all the materials with which he works.

This year’s Zurich Portrait Prize has been awarded to Enda Bowe, one of 27 shortlisted artists, at the National Gallery of Ireland. He won the prize for his photograph of a young mother with her baby, Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu.

In a different section were also the works of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize Competition, which is new this year. Applicants are children and young people of up to 18 years of age. The winner was a 12-year old girl!  Her work is also a photograph showing a self-portrait in black and white. It was fantastic to see all these works, especially the ones from the young children who are in our age groups. Our class really enjoyed the excursion and we look forward to trying out our own portraits in the classroom!

Science teacher (and closet musical theatre fan) Humphrey Jones reviews last weekend’s performance of Grease.

I turned forty a few months back. Almost exactly one year earlier the movie Grease reached a similar milestone: it has aged far better than I have. The music still remains as catchy as ever and the dialogue is still relevant (to all audiences); it remains witty, more than a little bit rude, cheeky and full of innuendo. I have particularly fond memories of watching Grease as a young lad and aspiring to be as cool as Danny Zuko. I never was (and sadly never will be). The prospect of watching a school performance of this well-loved musical, I must admit, made me a tad nervous. How would a young cast, from Forms I right through to VI, do the classic songs, dialogue and dance routines any sort of justice? However, as it turned out, there was no need to doubt them.

The College production of Grease delighted and entertained. Performed over three cold November nights the young cast brought huge enthusiasm and energy to the stage. They sang their hearts out, danced with gusto and delivered their lines with perfect dramatic and comedic timing. As a full cast, they did remarkably well. My biggest disappointment with the original movie was that some of the characters were almost too cool, too gritty and were old beyond their years (the actors, of course, were much older than the characters they portrayed). The younger cast in this production softened the story a little which, in my opinion, was a good thing. I’m not sure if that was deliberate or not but deserved credit to the team of directors (Ronan Swift, Geraldine Malone Brady and Tristan Clarke) for nurturing the clearly natural talent of the young cast.

And what talent! The lead actors, Emily McCarthy (Sandy) and Marcus O’Connor (Danny), were both excellent. Emily’s powerful yet melodic voice perfectly suited the role and her performance of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ was memorable. Marcus’s performance was natural and nuanced and it was clear he had studied Travolta’s Danny. They worked really well together, particularly as a singing partnership. It was hard to believe that they’re in Form III and IV respectively. No doubt we will see them on stage again in the coming years.

Jack Hayes (Kenickie), Abigail O’Brien (Rizzo), Songyon Oh (Marty), Peter Taylor (Doody), Leo Moreau (Sonny) and Sakhile Khumalo (Roger) were all perfectly cast and gave brilliant vocal performances. Imogen Casey (Frenchy) caught the naivety of her character superbly while Stella Jacobs (Jan) was energetic throughout (she even managed to do some cartwheels during the final number). Phoebe Grennell (Patty) was cast in her role just two weeks before the first performance but you would have never guessed; she was convincing and confident whenever she was on stage. Oscar Yan (Teen Angel) brought the house down with his rendition of ‘Beauty School Dropout’ (I still love the line “Missed your midterms and flunked shampoo”). The surprise packages were Alex Hinde (Eugene) and Nelly Ploner (Cha-Cha) who momentarily commanded the stage during their “dance” number (some say Alex may never recover). Nelly, it must be said, took a relatively minor character in the original production and brought her front and centre. As a whole, the school dance scene was brilliantly done and huge credit to Fearghal Curtis and Edel Shannon too for their clever and tight choreography of the hand-jive (and other dance numbers). All these young actors, it must be said, were supported by a strong ensemble of would-be ‘Pink Ladies’ and ‘T-Birds’. The whole cast performed with zest and without inhibition – again credit to the team of directors in facilitating this.

The cast were accompanied by an extremely slick live band and looked every bit the part thanks to Karen Hennessey and her team in the costume room. The set design was minimal with the colourful digital backdrops, projected onto the large screen behind the stage, more than adequately setting the scenes. The Art Department, in particular Lynn Murphy and her pupils, prepared some additional props including the famous Grease Lightning car. There were many more individuals involved in the production, far too numerous to mention here.

All in all, everyone involved in Grease should be extremely proud of their efforts. They took a challenging musical, with challenging themes, and more than did it justice. Everything about Grease was excellent: the music, the dancing, the singing, the acting. There have been some unforgettable College musicals in recent years (Oklahoma and Guys & Dolls come to mind) but Grease will live long in the memory for me, for many reasons. Vince Fontaine (played by Guy Fitzgibbon) famously says in GreaseIt doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes”. This young cast clearly worked those dancin’ shoes: they were all winners!

Humphrey Jones (Teacher & closet musical theatre fan)

Sunday 17th November 2019 is the 100th anniversary of a sad event in the history of St Columba’s College.

The Warden in 1919 was Reverend William Blackburn. He came to the College in September 1909 from Oriel College, Oxford, where he had been Chaplain for some years (he had previously gone to school at Repton in Derbyshire). On arrival he paid from his own funds things needed at the College, including the refurbishment of the Warden’s Drawing Room, and as G.K.White writes in his history of the College, “the ten years of his Blackburn’s Wardenship were something of a golden age in Columban history, “with numbers rising to a record 118 during the War”. In addition, “the financial position remained sound throughout, proving that the Warden was a good manager” and for once the College did not suffer from a financial crisis. He was “a born schoolmaster with an impressive personality and infectious enthusiasms… [his] popularity sprang chiefly from his friendliness, approachability and sense of humour.” In 1919 also the Masterman Library opened, thanks to the efforts of Mrs Blackburn, née Masterman, in memory of her brother, who had died in the Great War.

And then “in the prime of life, in the full flood of activity, apparently in perfect health [he] died in his sleep in the early hours of November 17th 1919.” At breakfast that Wednesday, the Sub-Warden, Mr Attwood, stood up and announced to the boys that the Warden had died during the night.

The black-framed Editorial in The Columban magazine of December 1919 reads: ‘It is with deep grief that we record the sudden death of the Warden, Rev William Blackburn, 40 (he was actually 41], M.A., which took place in the early morning hours of November 17th. In losing him we have been deprived not only of a master but of a true friend. He knew us all intimately, and watched over us with kindly care. He was always ready with wise counsel in all the trials and difficulties of school life… The funeral took place from the College to Whitechurch on November 20th. The first part of the Burial Service was read in the chapel, the Rev R.M. Gwynn conducting the service. The hymn ‘On the Resurrection Morn’ was beautifully rendered by the choir. The school then went in procession to Whitechurch, the bier being pushed by all the prefects, where the service was concluded.’ Warden Blackburn was buried beside Warden Morton (who died in office in his early 30s). On December 1st Mrs Blackburn and her children left the College and Ireland, moving to Brighton.

For the second time, Reverend ‘Robin’ Gwynn became Acting-Warden. In July 1920, there is one item in The Columban under ‘Birth’: ‘Blackburn – June 11th 1920, the wife of late Warden Blackburn, of a son.’ So Mrs Blackburn had been just two months pregnant when her husband died.

The memorial to Warden Blackburn was installed in Chapel on Easter Eve 1921 (around the same time as the Old Columban Memorial for the Great War – the Chapel Square cross and the plaque in Chapel). It is on the reredos (the screen covering the wall behind the altar), being is a figure of The Risen Christ in a mosaic by Sarah Purser (1848-1943) of the stained glass co-operative An Túr Gloine (she also restored the Founders’ windows in the Dining Hall) with below it a brass plaque reading:

TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN THE MEMORY OF
THE REVEREND WILLIAM BLACKBURN,
WARDEN OF THIS COLLEGE, 1909-1919.

Warden Blackburn’s grave in Whitechurch features an inclined granite cross in a kerbed space for two graves. By this century, the lettering on the cross had become severely eroded, so much so that the lower parts of it were unreadable, so the College decided to mark the centenary of the death by restoring it. However, family permission was needed for this, which was challenging: the (English) family left the country one hundred years ago.

There was one promising avenue of inquiry. At the time of her father’s death, Barbara Blackburn was 9 years old. In the 1980s under her married name she become famous as a TV ‘celebrity’ on the BBC as Barbara Woodhouse (1910-88), presenting ‘Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way’ and appearing in many other programmes. Eventually the College was able to be in touch with her daughter Judith, and thus received permission to improve the grave.

The restoration has now been completed by M. Roe and Sons, with the cross cleaned, smoothed and re-engraved, and the kerb also cleaned (the grass in the picture is natural for graves in Whitechurch). At a short ceremony, the College has just marked this with prayers and a simple commemoration by Canon Horace McKinley, Rector, our Chaplain Reverend Daniel Owen, the Warden, Sub-Warden, former Chaplain Reverend Michael Heaney and two Prefects, representatives of the pupil body. On Sunday 17th itself the Sub-Warden will give a presentation to the College at the start of Evensong on this part of our history, with ‘On the Resurrection Morn’ again being sung, by the Chapel Choir.

I have spoken a lot about service over the last three years and about how to develop an ethos of service amongst our pupils. I am not going to repeat myself now. What I have perhaps spoken about less is leadership, which is actually the other side of the same coin. It is certainly not contradictory or paradoxical to talk about service and leadership in the same breath, because the best leaders are also servants, prepared to sacrifice on behalf of their followers and determined to get the best out of other people. A good leader should not be afraid to empower others, to give opportunities to them and enjoy seeing them grow in confidence and stature. A poor leader will happily see his or her followers stay dependant on the boss and wait for instructions. Ultimately that style of leadership saps initiative and leads to resentment. Of course, giving people responsibility is risky, because they might fail, but there is nothing wrong with failure, as long as you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and learn from it.

When it comes to developing leaders I am thinking right now of the pupils, rather than the staff. How do we help our pupils to become leaders, to take initiative, to be prepared to stand up and not be afraid to fall down? My concern is that when it comes to choosing prefects, for example, those who will lead the pupil body in their final year, we go on hunches and pick those who we think will be good role models, but we have given them precious little in the way of actual training, or encouraged them to stretch themselves prior to their final year. Surely leadership training should not be something that begins in the 6th form, or at the end of the 5th form, but something, a bit like service, that we try and inculcate into our pupils from the 1st form onwards.

What do I actually mean by leadership, particularly in the school context? Well, let’s examine that by looking at what an aspiring young leader at school might look like, divided into being and doing, who they are first and what they do second:

So who are they?

  • They are prepared to stand up for others and to speak out when they see something that they think is wrong;
  • They are not easily influenced by the crowd or their peer group;
  • They don’t mind being a little bit different, because they are thinking about the bigger picture of who they want to become rather than being popular right now;
  • They lead when others are not looking, not just to get attention.

And what might they do?

  • They might volunteer to run or help run activities;
  • They might act as mentors for younger or new pupils;
  • They might put their hand up for jobs that are not very glamorous;
  • They will look out for those around them who are struggling and not be afraid to bring it to the attention of the appropriate people;
  • They might have a quiet word with someone who they think is behaving poorly or making someone’s life unpleasant;
  • They will take on tasks or responsibilities that stretch them, rather than always doing things with which they are comfortable.

And what should the teaching staff do?

  • Allow pupils, right from the earliest years, to take responsibility and then support them…and praise them and lift them up when they fall;
  • Encourage them to take initiative, rather than wait for a member of staff to suggest something.

These are just some initial thoughts and I am sure that it would be easy to flesh them out a lot more. Although prefects in the 6th form are necessary, actually all 6th formers should be leaders and, in fact, all pupils should be encouraged to see themselves as leaders, whatever year they are in. I want to see how we can do that better than we have done, so be prepared for me to be speaking a lot about leadership in the months to come.

On Sunday night we had the annual First and Second Form plays. These are a relatively low-key introduction to the Big Schoolroom stage for pupils who may so far have little experience of performing, but are important as first steps, given how much drama happens further up the school.

This term the First Form play Hiss the Villain! was directed by Mr McCarthy (he also accompanied on piano, and there was indeed a lot of hissing of the villain). The Second Form play (directed by Mr Swift and Mr Girdham) was an old favourite, King Chicken, the story of a Tarzan who is very far from being the legendary hero of the jungle.

Both productions plainly gave pleasure to performers and audience alike.

Below is an album of photographs taken by the Chaplain on the evening.

Maxim Meddah gives an account of the annual TY House Speech Competition:

On Sunday 29th September, the annual Transition Year House Speeches took place once again in St Columba’s College. Each house was represented by two pupils. The topic the pupils could choose was up to them. Some were serious and some were humorous. The contestants were marked out of ten points for delivery and content and five points on lack of reliance on notes. They each spoke for three to five minutes.  

Glen was represented by Antoine Dulauroy who spoke about how Astrophysics can change your view on the world and Akin Babajide who spoke about why the idea of world peace is naive. Gwynn was represented by Tom Casey who spoke about why the earth is flat and Peter Taylor who spoke about anxiety. Stackallan was represented by Marcus O’Connor speaking about the profound message of Kung Fu Panda and Andrew Maguire on the importance of team sports. Edna Johnston spoke about being a twin and Amalia Falkenhayn speaking about being tall represented Iona. Representing Hollypark were Emma Hinde talking about ‘the power of words’ and Caroline Hager speaking about Flying.  

The event started with the announcement of the first speaker Edna Johnston by the evening’s MC, Guy Fitzgibbon. Edna then commenced with her speech which was about being a twin. She talked about her least favourite response to people finding out she has a twin which was “Oh I know a set of twins” and her favourite response being when people look in shock with their mouths wide open. In retrospect, her speech was really about being her own person and that she and her sister are not one and the same person but two individuals that merely look alike. The next speech was by Antoine Dulauroy. He talked about the two different ways someone’s view of the world could be affected by astrophysics, showing us how big the universe really is. The first point was that you feel tiny in such a huge world and that nothing matters. The second being seizing that feeling of feeling small and meaningless and use it as a pretext to trying scary and challenging new things. In the end, he mentioned his dream, or rather his objective of becoming an astrophysicist.

The third speech, a humorous one, was given by Tom Casey and he talked about the earth being flat with the example of a grapefruit. His first reason was that if the earth was round an aeroplane which flies from the northern hemisphere to the southern one should arrive upside down, which quite evidently does not. He also reasoned that all the water would pour down the face of the earth if it were round. His speech entertained the audience well and by the end of his speech the whole room was filled with laughter. Next up was Amalia Falkenhayn talking about being tall. She started her speech with a quote from a recently released Netflix movie called Tall Girl. She compared how the movie portrayed being a tall girl and how it really is. But what her speech was really about was that you should feel comfortable in your body and be confident about something you simply cannot change like your height. The next speech was about the power of words and was held by Emma Hinde. She began with reciting a fact about bird species being extinct in the Amazonian rainforest sounding quite convincing but then telling us that that was not true. She then continued her speech about how someone can sound convincing spreading lies and how powerful that could be and then talked about how these powerful words could also be used to comfort people and make them feel good. The next speech was by Andrew Maguire who talked about the importance of team sports. He talked about his first days in the school not knowing anyone and not being able to make new friends during class because he was not allowed to talk but then proceeding to the hockey pitch and finally being able to talk to someone. He talked about how the friends he made on the hockey pitch that day later came to be his best friends. He talked about how team sports binds people together and strengthens relationships.

Then Caroline Hager talked about how she has always dreamed of flying an aeroplane, not the big commercial airline planes but the four-man acrobatic planes in which she could do loops and nosedives. Marcus O’Connor followed, and talked about the profound message of KungFu Panda. The message here was that there is no secret ingredient, no quick way to earn success and that you should always believe in yourself and focus on being your best self and not someone else and that you should believe in others and that they can change for the better. The next speech about a controversial topic was by Akin Babajide. He talked about why the idea of world peace is naive. He talked about how human society is based on conflict and that it is a primal part of us we cannot simply ignore. He said that for millennia humans have been at war and millions of people have died because of this but yet we still continue waging war on each other with no end in sight simply ending one war does not mean peace it just means a temporary agreement to a ceasefire. He said that because war has always been there that it is impossible to keep away. The last speech was by Peter Taylor who talked about anxiety. He talked about the effects this disorder can have on a person and how it can affect their life, and how some of the most courageous people have the highest level anxiety and as an example, he mentioned his friend who is one of the bravest people he knows having crippling anxiety.

While the judges were deciding on the placements of the contestants there was a very entertaining performance of Irish dancing performed by TJ Hopkins. When the placements were announced it was announced that there would be a tie for second place. Both Tom Casey and Peter Taylor were awarded this position. First place was given to Akin Babajide. Thank you to Ms Kilfeather, Raphaela Ihouma and Reverend Owen for their excellent adjudication of the event.

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.

PUPILS’ COUNCIL: the following have been elected for 2019-2020 –

  • SIXTH FORM: Tassilo Thürwachter, Katherine Kelly
  • FIFTH FORM: Caspar Ladanyi, Elise Williams
  • FOURTH FORM: TJ Hopkins, Evie Pringle
  • THIRD FORM: Harry Harbottle, Kate Higgins
  • SECOND FORM: Josh Branagan, Phoebe Landseer
  • FIRST FORM: Euan Flanagan, Holly Murray

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.

To celebrate the opening of the College’s new social and cultural centre, Whispering House, an exhibition of Leaving Certificate artwork from 2019 has been displayed. The artwork on display in Whispering House comprises the coursework elements completed by the Leaving Certificate candidates of 2019. Pupils had to produce two works of art for the coursework element, one craft and one imaginative composition. These entirely original works of art were conceived through the development of specific themes; ‘Balance’, ‘Indentation’ and ‘Familiar’.

Eight pupils sat the Leaving Certificate Art in 2019 and all at Higher Level. Their results were excellent – collectively they scored 718 points out of a potential maximum of 800! Two of the pupils have since gone on to study Art at third level.

The artwork was erected yesterday – see photos here.

Exhibitors:

Antonia Bullrich, Lucas Cho, Emily Devereux, Clara Eck, Florentine Kolb, Josephine Krieger, Jeanne Levesque, Isabelle Townshend

The programme for researchED Dublin at the College on October 5th is now available. Check it out below (to see it in closer detail, click the full-screen icon in the middle and navigate via the arrows).

We are delighted to announce details of this year’s Cultural Trip to London.  The trip will take place over the January Exodus (Friday Jan 24th to Monday 27th Jan) and is open to pupils in Forms IV and V, but is currently limited to 40 places (but this may increase). Places will be allocated on a “first come, first served” basis. The estimated cost of the trip is an all-inclusive €550, which includes:

  • Return flights between Dublin to London.
  • All bus, rail and underground transfers.
  • Three nights luxury hostel accommodation in Meininger Hotel, South Kensington (adjacent to the Natural History Museum), with breakfast, packed lunch and evening meals.
  • Tickets to a West End musical (show to be confirmed).
  • Ticket to cinema in Leicester Square.
  • A Thames cruise.
  • Dinner in Leicester Square restaurant on one night.
  • All entry fees & tours for museums and attractions including: The Science Museum, Covent Garden, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Tower of London, Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum.
  • A visit to China Town during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There is a jam-packed itinerary for the pupils, catering for a wide array of interests, and is a great way to experience London and see all its major attractions and museums.

To secure a place for your son or daughter please complete this online permission slip (please note, passport details are required at the time of booking). A deposit of €220 is also required and can be paid by cheque (made payable to St. Columba’s College). Alternatively, the deposit can be lodged directly into the College bank account (details available upon request).

If you require more information please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Jones or Mr. O’Shaughnessy.