The Principal, Kevin Lambe gave this Address at our Open Day, 2018
13 January 2018
This is a really exciting year to be joining Shimna. Shimna has been selected for the Fresh Start building programme, and plans are due very soon for either a completely new building, or a refurbishment of our current building from top to bottom. There are also exciting plans for additional sports pitches, to complement our current grass and astroturf pitches. As you will know, Shimna was built on a bank loan by the very committed local parents who wanted an Integrated, academically excellent, all ability, student centred and parent friendly education for their children. It is a fantastic vindication of their vision that the Department of Education and the Integrated Education Fund continue to invest in ever better facilities for our students. Just this year, we were presented with the funds to fit out an additional software systems development room, by the Communication Workers Union and the Royal Mail, partners with us since Shimna’s opening.
But a school is not just the buildings and facilities. When you are choosing a school, you will want to know what we actually achieve in here. As one example, this year Aidan won, for his outstanding A Level results, not only one of the two JP McManus Scholarships awarded in Co Down, but also the James Martin Scholarship, worth £40,000, to Queen’s University, where Aidan is now studying mechanicial engineering. Just in case you think he is a one trick academic pony, you should know that in the same week when he was presented with the JP McManus Award, he was also named Shimna Junior Wheelers Cyclist of the Year. Sé won himself a place at the prestigious University College London summer school in English literature, and Gabriel has secured a place at Villiers Park in Cambridge for a masterclass in mathematics.
We believe strongly in academic excellence for all our students, and we start young. Students from year 8 to year 12 are members of Queen’s University Junior Academy, travelling to Queen’s a number of times each year for masterclasses and study skills sessions. We have student members of Queen’s Sports Academy, linking academic achievement with sporting excellence. We have 6th form members of Queen’s Senior Academy, benefiting from additional tuition, and a summer school at Queen’s.
Our students take part in the Mock Council of the European Union, and we currently have a team preparing for the Mock Bar Trial competition which will see them competing in the High Court in Belfast. The great thing is that now, in our twenty fourth year, our team is mentored by two barristers, who are both of them Shimna OldScholars. Our bank of wonderful OldScholars grows by the year. This year I have been particular pleased to welcome back to Northern Ireland Daisy, just graduated in veterinary medicine from Cambridge University, Orla, returning to take up a post as a doctor in the Royal Victoria Hospital and Stuart, who has graduated first in his year in dentistry and began working in a dental practice in Banbridge. For so long Northern Ireland was a place that our brightest and best fled. I strongly believe that Integration, and the hope it brings for the future of this place, is a factor both in sending our students out to experience the world, and also bringing them home to build the ethos of Integration into the fabric of our society.
This year has seen outstanding sporting success, with track and field Gold, Silver and Bronze at All Ireland, Ulster and Down Championships. We have teams competing in rugby, gaelic, hockey, netball, football, cricket and camogie. We have Duke of Edinburgh Gold groups out on the hills, and climbers at HotRock.
Just last week, Shimna was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Five Star Award for our students’ work in our school garden. We collaborated with our neighbours GlenFold in gardening and have planted up waist height, accessible planters with winter vegetables for the residents. Our Student Council is about to start a major drive to reduce our use of single use plastic, inspired like so many of us by “Blue Planet”.
We love to travel: our ski trip to Italy heads out in February, and our languages departments take students to France, Germany, Spain and the Donegal Gaeltacht. We have partner schools in France, Spain and Germany and our students take part in the Northern Ireland Global Learning project.
Our whole school supports our work with Habitat for Humanity. In 2016, our students travelled to Ethiopia to build houses and sanitation projects alongside the local community, and this year, our Habitat group heads to Delhi.
You P7 students are about to make one of the most important decisions of your lives thus far. I will have met some of you on my primary school visits, some of you will have visited for P6 or P7 day and others will be here for the first time. You are about to choose the place where you will be educated for the next seven years. If you choose Shimna Integrated College you will find a school which is successful, academically excellent, forward-looking and outward-looking, a school which is exciting and which cares for you and caters for all your needs, a school which has chosen diversity, plurality and inclusion. I wish all the P7 students well and hope that you will enjoy your visit to our college. Talk to our students and talk to our staff. Ask them the questions which matter to you. I hope that you will choose our school for the next stage of your education. Should you choose Shimna I am confident that you will be happy, that you will be challenged to be your best, that you will be loved, that you will be successful and fulfilled. I do hope you choose Shimna Integrated College but, whichever school you choose for the next exciting years of your educational journey, I wish you every success and happiness and I thank you all for coming.
Schools organise their Open Days in different ways, sometimes with guided tours. We would like to invite you instead to explore everywhere in our school at your own pace. You won’t however be left to your own devices. I will be here in the hall or in the canteen throughout, and Karen, our vice principal and our support staff will be available here at the front of school to answer any of your questions. You will have been given a guide to all our departments and their displays and activities on your way in, and a map, and you will meet plenty of staff and students throughout the school to help you find your way. We have four buildings to visit. Make sure you get to them all. This main building is on three floors, the Forbes building is at the end towards Donard Park, the Croí building is at the back of the main building, and you will have seen our sports hall on your way in. Don’t just start with the first rooms you come to. Head off down to science in the basement, or upstairs to the languages departments with lots of delicious food tasting. Escape the early crush and head out to the Croí or Forbes or the Sports Hall first. Turn right out of this hall to visit drama, or left to visit technology, art, music and English. Last of all, don’t forget a cup of tea and a bun in our canteen.