The Principal, Kevin Lambe, gave this address at our Open day in January 2016
This is such an exciting time to join Shimna Integrated College. Two years ago, our development proposal to increase our student intake was approved by the Department of Education, which was a terrific vindication of Integrated education and what we are doing here in Shimna. The parents who founded Shimna did so to provide for their children an education which would be Integrated, academically excellent, all ability, student centred and parent friendly. Twenty one years on we are sustaining that vision. Shimna was founded on 1st September 1994, the first day of the IRA ceasefire, which was followed closely by the Loyalist ceasefire. This year, twenty one years on, we are revisiting our Integrated ethos, as we aim for our Excellence in Integrated Education Award. So much has changed and developed in our society since those first ceasefires, that now is the perfect time to renew and reshape Integration for the future.
It’s an exciting year too because we are building for the future, both for our current and for our additional students. You will have seen our beautiful new sports hall on your way in and we hope our P6 and P7 visitors will call in to try out some of our sports. Up here beside me you will see the architect’s plans, just arrived this month, for the extension planned to ensure that further specialist facilities are in place for all our students to achieve their best. However, while we are very proud of our buildings, the real measure of a happy and successful school is to be found among our students, staff, parents and governors.
Time and again in polls and surveys, the vast majority of parents in Northern Ireland indicate unequivocally that they want an Integrated education for their children. However, no parent or child wants an integrated education which is not also an academically excellent education. Twenty one years ago, we were confident that we could provide an academically excellent education in an all ability school, which would offer Integration to every child, and, twenty one years later, I am delighted to be able to present you with the latest evidence of success. Our evidence is our students, and we hope you will get to meet lots of them during this afternoon. You will find our students playing music, encouraging you to try out our range of sports, hoping to elicit your support for their Habitat for Humanity appeal, baking you buns, helping you find your way to what you want to see.
You will hear arguments about selection and grammar schools. Shimna Integrated College was founded for all children and at Shimna we have always offered a full grammar school curriculum to all our students. Just last week at our Presentation Evening, we celebrated the success of our most recent OldScholars. For example, Hannah was back from her first term at Cambridge University where she is studying modern and mediaeval languages. She joined our OldScholar Daisy at Cambridge, where she is studying veterinary medicine. Kirsten was back from Glasgow University where she is studying English and French, Matthew from Huddersfield University where he is studying chemistry. We celebrated our students off to study overseas, Morisi in Utah in the USA studying business administration, Stephen at King’s University, Edmonton, Canada studying chemical engineering. We have further evidence in our university graduations this year: Orla and Laura both graduated in medicine, Orla from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Laura from Queen’s University. Orla’s brother also attended Shimna, and graduated from Warwick University in politics and is now fast tracking through the Department of Education in London. Laura and her brother, however, are the best illustration of the success of all-ability education. David was also a Shimna student. He worked hard for his GCSEs, and achieved good grades, but after a week or two in 6th form, he recognised that this was not the path for him. He had always wanted to be a plumber and, with our blessing, headed off to train and his now fully qualified and is running his own business. And then there is Jack, who called in to see us in the summer, now very happily working as the cobbler in Forestside. All educated together and helped to be their best in Shimna Integrated College.
One of the joys of reaching our twenty-first year is that on Presentation Evening each year, we are now able to invite a successful OldScholar to present the certificates and share their story to inspire our current students. So far, Paul has come to share his exciting story of a career in mountaineering. Paul is now among the most highly qualified mountain guides in the world. Graham came over from Edinburgh where he graduated and is now working in architecture. Anna was able to share the variety of jobs she has had since graduating in art history from Reading University, working both at the BBC and in Queen’s University. Zoe was able to talk about her successful career as a nurse and moving on to graduate top of her class in midwifery. Dana told us about her international career in computing. This year Joeleen made the presentations. She has a Master’s degree in curatorial practice and had tales to tell of her travels in New Zealand, in the USA and in Australia as well as the exciting posts she has held curating artwork in the Tate St Ives in Cornwall, in the Eden Centre and most recently in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
You, the 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 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, 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 loved, that you will be successful and fulfilled. Whichever school you choose for the next exciting years of your educational journey, I wish you every success and happiness.