PRINCIPAL’S OPEN DAY ADDRESS
12 JANUARY 2019
This is a wonderful year to be choosing Shimna. Just before Christmas, we got the wonderful news that the money has been released for our new school building. We have wasted no time, and the first planning meeting has already taken place, and exploratory work on the site will begin soon. You might well wonder how we will manage to run our school while the building work goes on. The plan is that the new building will go up in the area in front of the school, and we will be able to work on in our current building until the new one is ready. Included in the plans for the new school are wonderful new Shimna sports facilities in Donard Park which we will be proud to share with the Newcastle community. We already share our sports halls our grounds and our building with lots of local groups, so the new arrangements will follow in a great tradition of community involvement.
We first moved into this building almost twenty-five years ago, and you might well wonder why we need a new one. This much loved building was put up by the founding parents, all paid for on a bank loan, and very temporary in its construction. We are very, very proud of this building and its history, and how we have been able to keep adding accommodation and facilities to ensure the very best for our students. But it will also be very good to move into a purpose, built, permanent home with all the upgrades and additions our students will need in the future.
Of course a school is not just a building. What really matters is who is in it and what we do in it. The core value of an Integrated school is that we live and learn together, Catholic, Protestant, other faiths and none, students of every and all abilities. The support of parents/guardians is as important today in preparing for the new school as it was in building this one, as is the ongoing support of our Board of Governors. As well as creating a building for us all, as well as founding our Integrated ethos, those founding parents wanted a guarantee of academic excellence. Now, in this our twenty fifth year, we have a long history of evidence to prove that all-ability education produces academic excellence. We held our Presentation Evening in December and welcomed back our students from last year’s U6th, returning from universities across the UK and Ireland: prospective medics, lawyers, accountants, film makers, performers, engineers, chemists, architects, computer programmers, nurses, teachers, sports people. We are very, very proud of every one of them. We also this year have students on new higher-level apprenticeships, earning as they study. We have also done a survey of our OldScholars to see how many of them have taken the entrepreneurial route, starting businesses of their own. We have a successful winner of Ireland’s “Dragon’s Den”, we have a student who has set up her own nail art academy, we have a tree surgeon who plans to use his degree in adventure management and his experience in working in education to set up a tree surgeon training and apprenticeship scheme. We have a self-employed and very brilliant saxophonist, who, after his degree in music, specialising in jazz, makes his living performing and teaching. He even offers skyped saxophone lessons. We have elected representatives, and very senior civil servants. We have ardent campaigners leading the charge against investment in fossil fuels. We have engineers, one of them fitting out government buildings literally across the world and your transatlantic flights will be safe in the hands of two OldScholars of Shimna Integrated College who are based in Cork and Shannon. We have an expert horologist, one of very, very few graduates in horology, and now working for a company designing, making and servicing the most complex watches for divers and astronauts. We have published novelists and an actor making his way on the New York stage. We have a PhD anthropologist studying craft knitting traditions on Shetland, and at the same time teaching an MA in Art and Social Practice, teaching online with students across the world. We have a PhD in biomedical science saving lives in the City Hospital. We have our very own returning veterinarian, who graduated from Cambridge last year and is now working in our local veterinary clinic. We also have happy, productive members of our local community raising lovely families of their own and bringing the high expectations of Integration and inclusion honed in Shimna Integrated College to their families and working lives.
Our current students are clearly heading for equal success. This year Mia achieved joint first place in Northern Ireland in GCSE German; our further mathematicians have covered themselves in glory in competition at Queen’s University Belfast and in the UK Mathematics Challenge; our Mock Bar Trial team won three of their four rounds at the High Court in Belfast; many of you will have seen our musicians and actors perform in our “Beauty and the Beast” just before Christmas; our senior rugby and football squads both reached the finals of their respective Cup tournaments; our netballers won the East Down League and our hockey players came third in the Integrated schools tournament. Our gaelic squad has expanded and is ready for competition in the coming term. We have all Ireland champions in track and field events. Our cross country runners came second in the South Down Championships last term. Our Habitat for Humanity team raised the money for their trip to build houses with the local community in Delhi last summer, and this year’s team are already fundraising hard to build in 2019 in Romania. Our Amnesty International group has done trojan work raising funds and raising awareness of the plight of refugees.
You young people here today are about to make one of the most important decisions of your lives thus far. I 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 girls and boys and your parents here today will have decided to sit transfer tests or not and either decision is absolutely fine and you can and should be proud of your decision and your result but that decision or result should not in itself be the determinant of where you should go to school. You should choose the very best school for the very best and most informed reasons.
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 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 students here today 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.
Every school organises their Open Day differently. We invite you to visit every part of our school. We provide you with a map and a guide booklet, and you will meet students, staff, parents and governors throughout the building who will help you find what you are interested in. We have four buildings. Make sure you find all of them. There is this main building on three floors, there is the Forbes Building which you reach by going out through the canteen and turning right. There is the Croí, the small wooden building at the back of this main building, and there is the Sports Hall. Don’t miss any of it.
We also invite you to join us for tea and a bun in our canteen, and to hear music and song and drama and languages and to take part in experiments, art activities and sport.