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Transition Year is like no other year in the Irish education system and even a global pandemic couldn’t stop it from delivering. How Ms Kilfeather and her team of minions managed to provide the vast array of meaningful activities for this Transition Year (TY) group, in these extraordinary circumstances, we are not quite sure. Impressively though, the pupils reacted accordingly and engaged fully right throughout the year, be in online or in person.

In this final term, our TY pupils continued their fine efforts in class but remained busy outside the class too. They kicked off the term by attending TYTalks21, a brilliant online conference organised by IBEC featuring talks on future careers, entrepreneurship, inclusion, diversity and much more. They also took two full days away from the classroom, participating in ‘Activities Days’. The first day saw them play hurling, bake brownies and cupcakes, experiment with tie-dye t-shirts, learn to knit and play petong and croquet. The final activities day wrapped up their year. There were speeches, awards, an ice-cream van, a drone video and games (even some “accidental” acrobatics from the staff).

The ‘Spirit of Transition Year’ Award aims to recognise the pupil who truly embraced the opportunities presented during TY and this year Marco Trolese received the trophy with Elys Walker a close second. Marco was due to spend his Transition Year in a school in South Africa but, due to the pandemic, his plans changed and he remained in Ireland. He dived head-first into everything; he leaned to cook, coached club hockey, trained as a lifeguard, lead the F1 in Schools team and earned his Silver Gaisce Award along the way. Congratulations to Marco!

Speaking of Gaisce Awards, congratulations to the fourteen TY pupils who received their medals from the President. Full details  about the Gaisce Awards here.

Congratulations to the fifteen Form V pupils who have been appointed as Prefects for the coming school year, to be installed in September:

Akin Babajide, Iona Chavasse, Mia Deutsch, Rory Flanagan, Jack Hayes, TJ Hopkins, Avi Johnston, Edna Johnston, Nathan Kutner, Lioba Preysing (not pictured), Evie Pringle,  Matteo Tafi, Peter Taylor, Thea Walsh, Jasmine Williams.

Congratulations also to Evie and Akin (pictured below) , who will be Senior and Second Prefects respectively.

Gaisce (meaning “great achievement”), The President’s Award, is a self-development programme for young people aged 15 to 25. There are three categories: Gold (for people aged above 17 years), Silver (16 years) and Bronze (15 years). To achieve a President’s Award, you set a demanding challenge for yourself in four different areas of activity:

  • Community involvement – for example, helping older people or learning first aid or lifesaving skills
  • Personal skill – for example, learning a musical instrument, computer skills or driving
  • Physical recreation – for example, swimming, football or tennis
  • Adventure journey – for example, a cycling, canoeing or hiking group trip

Congratulations to the following pupils who completed the programme during their Transition Year, both in the College and during lockdown, and will later receive their medal in a presentation box, a certificate signed by the President and a lapel pin. Well done to all! Hopefully some will decide to continue with the programme and achieve their gold medal in the coming years. Many thanks to Ms Lynch who coordinates the Gaisce Awards in the College.

Bronze Awards:

Hugh Bevan, Matilda Pringle, Nina O’Flynn and Elys Walker

Silver Awards:

Liam Campbell, Johanne Raitz, Nikolai Foster, Marco Trolese, Caleb Owen, Ellen Bevan, Elena O’Dowd, Kate Higgins, Isabel Warnock and Emily McCarthy.

Effective schools value, encourage and listen to the voice of their pupils. School leadership no longer resides simply in the Headmaster’s office and the role pupils play in creating a values-based culture is equally important to the actions of management and staff. We are extremely lucky at St. Columba’s to have a pupil body who uphold the values of the College everyday and take pride in helping those around them. Later today, the Warden will announce the Prefects for 2021 / 2022 and their role as school leaders is extremely important; however, there are leaders right throughout the school and these annual Leadership Awards aim to recognise and reward pupils who embody Columban values and lead by example in all that they do. All of the winners have been nominated for these awards from either pupils or staff and they each received a certificate in recognition of their award, presented to them during Form assemblies this week.

The winners of the Leadership Awards 2021 are as follows. Congratulations to all.

Form I

Dairbhre Murray

Ryan Ovenden

Felix Jellett

Form II

Alison Wang

Sebastian Dijkstra

Form III

Ryan Murphy

Tomas Dwyer

Cameron McKinley

Form IV

Marco Trolese

Johannes Pabsch

Nikolai Foster

Antonia Ladanyi

Form V

Jurre Chukwueke

Thomas (TJ) Hopkin

Avi Johnston

Enda Johnston

Mika Sacolax

Johanna Harms

Form VI

Ailbhe Matthews

Alannah Hassett

Eva Dillenberger

Tim Otway-Norwood

Angus Peacock

If you were not too distracted by the hysteria surrounding the announcement of the European Super League – thank goodness that plan is off the table – you may have been following the verdict following the trial of the police officer who killed George Floyd. I am sure that the whole world breathed a sigh of relief when the verdict was announced and we all hope and pray that it represents a new era in policing and racial justice in the United States.

I was interested this morning to read another headline on the BBC News website, with more encouraging steps to right some of the wrongs of the past. The British have always looked after the cemeteries of their First World War dead very well and they are very moving to visit. However, it transpires that non-white soldiers fighting for the British were never given their own headstones, but were merely listed on memorials, or in documents, or not at all. The actual graves of most are not known. As shocking as it is to our modern sensibilities, it was thought that ‘the average native…would not understand or appreciate a headstone.’ Thus the contribution of thousands of colonial troops to the British war effort has never been properly recognised.

An inquiry has reported that an estimated 50,000 Asian and African troops, who died in the conflict, were ‘commemorated unequally.’ There are now plans afoot to set this record straight and, although I don’t know the form that this will take, it is surely very positive that authorities are not saying merely, ‘let’s make sure we get this right in the future,’ but ‘let’s put right an historic wrong now, albeit 100 years too late.’

It reminds me very much of a trip I made in my last few months in South Africa in 2016, when I visited the historic battlefields of the Zulu War of 1879 and the Boer War, which pitched the British against the Afrikaaners from 1899-1902. At the time these wars captured the imagination of the British public like no other and tales of derring-do were eagerly reported in the British press. Now we are rather embarrassed by it all, although it is a fascinating period of history. My first visit was to Spion Kop, a major battle of the Boer War, as well as an embarrassing British defeat. On a rocky hilltop hundreds of troops from Liverpool were mown down, but their heroism was commemorated in the naming of a new stand at Anfield, the ground of Liverpool Football Club, which, because it was steep and high, was given the name the Spion Kop. As a Liverpool supporter I felt that I was making a pilgrimage.

However, the point of my story is this. On top of this rugged and distant outcrop soon afterwards the British, ever keen to celebrate their heroes, put up memorials to those who had died from their Liverpool regiments. They are all listed and it is moving. However, what was forgotten and not acknowledged was that these white soldiers were supported by large numbers of Indians acting as stretcher bearers and water carriers. Many of them died, but there was no memorial to them. The honest, tough Liverpool soldiers received a fitting monument, but perhaps it was not considered that these Indians would have ‘understood or appreciated’ such a memorial. Or perhaps worse, it was thought quite simply that the life of an Indian was not worth as much as a white man and that it would have insulted the soldiers to commemorate the Indians in a like manner.

Anyway, whatever the original thinking was, it was fitting that fairly recently (within the last 20 years or so) this wrong was put right and there does now exist a memorial to those Indians who died at Spion Kop and a tribute to the bravery of all the Indians who were involved, including, remarkably, a young stretcher-bearer called Mohandas K. Gandhi. Incidentally Winston Churchill was also there, working as a journalist. It is extraordinary that two of the giants of the 20th century were present at what was, in the bigger scheme of things, a minor skirmish.

It is never too late to right the wrongs of the past. The conviction of a police officer doesn’t change the past, but it does send a message to the future. And the building of memorials, even at a much later date, does also help to address the prejudices of the past and help us to look forward to a better and more just future.

The College’s Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off tomorrow, Monday February 8th, and despite our community being dispersed across the globe we hope everyone can come together and promote the message of positive mental health. Obviously, Mental Health Awareness Week will be a lot different this year with most of the activities taking place online, although there are a few activities for those currently on campus. There are daily morning walks, daily opportunities to CONNECT, baking challenges, TikTok challenges, online Zumba & mindfulness sessions, webinars, a “bring your pet to class” day and much more.

The full programme of events can be found on our dedicated FireFly page here (you will need to log into your FireFly account to access), which also includes loads of recommended videos, movies, music playlists, podcasts, weblink and more (including the first ‘Mind Your Mind’ videos collated from your submissions to your SPHE teachers.

The week’s events are based around a number of key principles of good mental health: connect with friends, engage with hobbies, eat well, be mindful, journalling for good mental health, exercise and sleep well. There are also a number of daily themes. We hope all members of the College community can get involved, including parents and siblings, and we want you to share your photos and videos through the FireFly page also.

We look forward to connecting with you throughout the week! Safe safe and mind your minds!

Our Transition Year pupils travelled to nearby Killruddery House & Estate on Wednesday for another scheduled ‘activities day’. The staff at Kilruddery provided them with an amazing programme of team building & leadership activities, physical and mental challenges, and much more, all safely managed under the current guidelines. Transition Year pupils Kamilla Murphy & Monty Walsh write these short reports on the day and below are some photos from the day.

After completing our exams, we were all delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Killruddery Estate in nearby Bray where we participated in various activities. We had the chance to take part in archery lessons, which many of us attempted for the first time, learn outdoor survival skills, including shelter building and fire lighting, as well as learn car essential skills, such as changing a tyre or using jump leads. On top of learning these useful life skills and attempting various new things, we had team-building exercises like solving riddles and codes or trying challenges as seen on the popular TV show “Ireland’s Fittest Family.” These activities challenged us in many ways but were undoubtedly a lot of fun and a great opportunity to bond with classmates. On behalf of my year, I would like to thank the wonderful staff at the estate as well as our teachers for organising such an event. I think I can safely say that everyone had a good time, became closer with their fellow classmates, and left with plenty of memories to look back on fondly. Kamilla Murphy

 

Recently, The SCC Transition Year group headed out to Killruddery Estate to visit the Alive Outside grounds in which we spent the day doing a number of activities which comprised of exciting things such as team building, bushcraft, archery, car maintenance and obstacles courses which some of which featured in the ‘Ireland’s fittest family’ TV series. Our day started by leaving the college on a chilly winter morning, not sure of what the day would hold, but excited nonetheless. After a short drive, we got into groups and began our day. My group was set straight to work on the obstacle course race. We split into two groups and did numerous challenging events. The highlight being the finale, in which we had to throw multiple water drums over two sets of hay bails, twice, and then build a tower once we had finished. This was a time trial and was a cause of great competition in our group. Secondly, we took part in a Car maintenance class which was although very educational, was still a lot of fun. We learnt how to change a car wheel in the event of a puncture or wheel failure. We also learnt how to make sure our engine oil was in good shape, and to conclude we learnt how to jumpstart a car. The final activity of the morning was archery. This brought out the competitive side in all of us and definitely was one of the highlights of the day. After lunch, we finished with team building and bushcraft, the team building was a real mental test which was a change from the physical effort of the obstacle course. The bushcraft was a really nice way to end the day as we built a shelter and learnt how to make fire from scratch. All in all, the day was a really nice break from the stress and worries you have in normal school life and I think that as a year group we would like to give massive thanks to the Columba’s and Alive outside staff that were involved, as it was an amazing experience despite the living with a global pandemic around us. Monty Walsh

Throughout this academic year, the College has placed a greater emphasis on developing leadership potential amongst the pupil body, amplifying the ‘pupil voice’ and encouraging independent thinking across all forms. The College has an ambitious aim to develop a world-class leadership development programme in the years to come, beginning with the youngest pupils and moving right up through the school. Building on this early initiative, for the first time the College will present ‘Leadership Awards‘, recognising pupils who have shown leadership throughout the year.  Most of these pupils do not have formal leadership roles within the school but have “stepped-up” when required to help improve the school or shown initiative on an independent project. All of the recipients were nominated by both their fellow pupils and their teachers and over one hundred nominations were submitted.

St. Columba’s College is a small but complex school environment that relies on pupils and teachers working together, through shared values, to be the best school we can be. For the school to be successful and to fully realise its goals and values, strong leadership amongst the staff and pupils is essential.

Leadership can’t be described as a single skill. It comprises multiple sub-skills including communicating, working with others, being personally driven and managing oneself (all identified as key skills in the Junior & Senior Cycle Frameworks). Leaders are also knowledgeable and can apply their knowledge to unseen challenges. Leadership is not about seniority or one’s position within the school – all members of the College community can be and are potential leaders. Neither is it about personality – all kinds of people can be leaders and it is important to stress that leaders are not always the loudest, most charismatic and confident characters; leaders can be quiet, modest and introverted also.

The College is delighted to award the following pupils with a Leadership Award for the academic year 2019 / 2020.

Form I

Aeladh Bradley Brady

Joshua Yang

Aran Murphy

Form II

Hugo Laurenceau

Abbie Murray

Cameron McKinley

Calvin She

Form III

Marco Trolese

Elys Walker

Tyrone Shi

Form IV

Peter Taylor

Avi Johnston

Edna Johnston

Evie Pringle

Form V

Sinéad Cleary

Raphaela Ihuoma

Éile Ní Chíanáin

Tim Norwood

Form VI

Camila Garcia Herrera

Thady McKeever

Margot Aleixandre

Congratulations to all the above pupils on their awards. We are all hugely proud of their efforts to make the school a better place. One cannot mention leadership without also thanking the cohort of College Prefects, who led the pupil body fantastically this year.

Mr. Jones, the newly appointed Director of Pupil Leadership, announced the recipients of the awards and briefly outlined the rationale for their awards in the Warden’s end of term assembly earlier today. You can see a recording of that assembly on FireFly here.

Last Wednesday the Warden, Mark Boobbyer, interviewed Rajmohan Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) via Google Meet.  In a wide-ranging and fascinating interview, Mr Gandhi speaks of his memories of his grandfather and the lessons he can still teach us about navigating the complex world of the 21st century. The full video is available here but below is a short clip on Rajmohan Gandhi’s advice on leadership for the pupils of St. Columba’s College.

Rajmohan Gandhi is a biographer and a research professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois. In the photograph below, Rajmohan is pictured with his grandfather and sister Tara in New Delhi in 1942.

Again, the full interview is available to view here.

The College is delighted to announce details of a fantastic charitable event taking place this April – Run til the Sun! On Saturday, April 25th, Old Columban Alex Panayotou – an accomplished long-distance runner – will challenge herself to run for 24 hours around the College campus. She is looking for your support along the way – both financial and physical – to complete this mammoth challenge.

The event is being organised by a committee of pupils, who have decided that all proceeds from the event should go to Purple House Cancer Support – a fantastic charitable organisation based in Bray that provide hands-on practical support for children and teenagers with cancer. They have set up a fundraising page here where all donations, large and small, will be gratefully received.

You will soon be able to sign up to join Alex on a leg of her journey; perhaps you’re willing to run for a half-hour, 10 kilometres or even something more ambitious? You can run in the morning, afternoon, evening or even at night time – with the course illuminated along the way. The event will culminate with a celebratory barbeque at the Cricket Pavillion on Sunday evening.

The pupils have created a dedicated page for the event here and a donations page here. They have a fundraising target of €8000, which would be transformational for Purple House, as the vast majority of their funding is through donations. We were delighted to welcome Purple House to the College Chapel last Monday to hear about the work they did and some of the organising committee visited their facility in Bray a few weeks ago. Alex is a cancer survivor, another reason why the charity resonated with the pupils.

So please do get involved, donate to the cause, sponsor a runner or run a leg of the journey yourself. We would love the whole community to get involved – pupils, staff, parents, Old Columbans, friends of the College and even local primary schools.

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.