Public speaking is hugely popular in Educate Together secondary schools – at ETSS Wicklow, we organise debating, declamation and Model United Nations. The debate club is always looking for new challenges and that's why they organised a collaboration with the PSA to debate the issue of Covid-19 and whether we are exaggerating the threat of this disease. The PSA team was composed of three parents (Netty, Yvonne and Ian) and one teacher (Vanessa). The student debaters were second years Lenna, Ava, Jack and Noah. The format was to speak for four minutes and then take three questions – every speaker played their part in making this a highly entertaining and interesting debate. We heard all sorts of reasons to suggest Covid-19 is less of a threat than we might imagine, ranging from conspiracies by big tech to take over the world to comparisons with other illnesses such as flu epidemics in the past. We also heard plenty of sad stories and scary statistics to remind us just how serious the impact of Covid-19 has been on our world during the past year. Grace chaired the debate superbly, assisted by timekeeper Sarah who politely reminded everyone when their time was over. The three judges Hannah, Egert and June had the difficult job of choosing the winning team and were given ten minutes to work out their decision. During this time, an impromptu speaking challenge took place where various second year students volunteered to speak about random topics like ‘television’, ‘money’ and ‘birthdays’ for one minute. Seven brave speakers volunteered for this challenge even though they would only learn their topic after volunteering! The judges returned, announcing the PSA team as the winners of this event and everybody expressed their thanks to all involved by unmuting and clapping for a few seconds. Well done everyone on your great preparation and the excellent debate!
Students, parents and staff collaborated today in a debate on the subject of Covid-19 - an audience of fifty witnessed an entertaining and interesting discussion about the way the world has changed since the Covid crisis began.
Shauna's online music classes in the news today (Wednesday 3 Feb. 2021)- as well as Amanda's running club and Michelle's PE programme!
It is going to be a unique debating competition for a number of reasons – students will not be allowed to read speeches; students will be involved in the judging; and the debating will take place online. The competition will be for first and second years. There will be four in a team and they will propose and oppose an agreed motion. There will be additional time for questioning after each speech, so each speaker must learn to deal with challenging questions.
There will be four groups in the league stages, guaranteeing every school 3/4 debates in the first round. The two top teams from each group will progress to the quarter-finals where the stakes get higher because the competition enters a knock-out stage through to the final where the All-Ireland champions will finally be declared.
Now all schools are busy working with their debate clubs and motivating speakers to step up to debate at inter-school level on topics such as social media, online learning, freedom of the press and compulsory vaccinations. The competition will promote debating in our schools and create opportunities for students across the network to share ideas, think on their feet, deal with questions, listen carefully and speak articulately. It promises to be a fantastic event for all participants and a great innovation for Educate Together Secondary Schools!
EDUCATE TOGETHER LAUNCH NATIONAL DEBATING COMPETITION
Educate Together are launching a nationwide debating competition for second level students across the country. Students from Wicklow, Dublin, Galway and further afield will take part in the first round of these Zoom debates in February. A planning meeting creating the debating competition was held on Wednesday 13th January and was attended by more than 20 teachers, principals and deputy principals promoting public speaking in Educate Together’s 21 second level schools. The format will encourage speaking without notes and involve students in judging and giving feedback. Those in attendance selected motions for the league stages of this new competition which are connected to social media, online learning, freedom of the press and compulsory vaccinations. The competition promises to be a fantastic event for all participants - trials for the ETSSW team will be at lunch time on Monday next week in our online school!
Well done to ETSSW’s PE teacher Michelle who ran 5km each morning at 5am for five consecutive days in December to raise funds for the RNLI in Wicklow. Well done also to first year student Sonny who ran the ‘Streets of Wicklow 5km’ for the RNLI over the Christmas break.
RUNNING CLUB ONLINE
Athletics club coach and coordinator Amanda has moved her club online for the duration of this period of online learning. Students are using the Strava app that they’ve downloaded on to their phones to keep track of their times and distances each week. Amanda is keeping the show on the road with her athletes over the next few weeks and the club will continue to meet virtually each Friday.
STUDENT COUNCIL AT ETSS WICKLOW
The ETSSW Student Council will continue to meet virtually over the next few weeks and will continue to represent the views of the student body. Under the guidance of Student Council Liaison Teacher, Shauna O’Toole, the student representatives will meet to discuss important issues about aspects of virtual school life including how students learn best online and how to support student wellbeing during lockdowns. Student Council President Hannah O'Callaghan’s observation that the strength of the council is that it ‘gives students a say in decisions that make the school a better place’ is as important now as it ever was.
Christmas Pancake morning took place on Tuesday 22nd December and it was a great success. Festive pancakes were enjoyed by staff and students alike on this final day of the term in a carefully worked out system compliant with our Covid-19 Response Plan. Sue and Alex teamed up again to prepare and cook the delicious pancakes using their now famous secret recipe. It was a real team effort and well done to all of the staff and students involved!
With school closures a feature of life in the past year, the question has been - how can we provide the most professional online learning product? As a new school with only first years and second years, we have been in the perfect position to develop a prototype for online learning - a prototype that allows us to keep education going!
In terms of our journey with online education, we were the same as everyone else last March when the first closure was announced - we had little experience of online education. We decided back then to take as progressive an attitude as possible in working online and looked at the possibility of providing students with live classes. This involved training staff and building confidence in a form of teaching way outside everyone's comfort zones at the time. We developed protocols for teachers and students and organised a normal timetable. As skills and confidence grew, we were able to introduce new initiatives: (a) an online ASD class for ASD students; (b) an SNA support plan using breakaway rooms in Microsoft Teams; (c) a very modern online detention system which thankfully we never needed to use; (d) a system for tracking and working with students struggling to engage; (e) a homework club; (f) wellbeing initiatives such as assemblies, student of the month awards & online chess competitions; (g) a full set of online exams for the summer; (h) invitation days [for the incoming first years to attend classes for a day; for the Board of Management to see how the online school functioned; for parents to join classes and meet the teachers]. School ran as normal every day and teachers and students settled into the new routines.
In September, when the school reopened, we decided that we wanted to hold onto this expertise and ran a training day in November to prepare for any future closures that might happen. We trained all new teachers and students into our system and now we are perfectly placed as a school to deal with the new school closure happening in January. The staff at ETSS Wicklow will run a fully functional virtual school during this school closure - the entire timetable, online! Of course, there are challenges to think about such as how we can work best with practical subjects, but teachers are showing great creativity in this regard and students have brought plenty of resources home to help improve the quality of their practical classes.
The core points of our online learning plan are:
We are proud to be pioneers in this new and challenging era and to be able keep everyone's routine as close to normal in an extraordinary time. Everyone at ETSS Wicklow is committed to making the most of this opportunity to work with an emerging educational model and it may well be that what is happening now will lead to changes in the way education works in years to come - ETSS Wicklow students will be ready!
TIME TO REFLECT
As we come to the end of 2020 and reflect on the 16 months since the school opened, a huge thank you is due to all the staff, students and parents/guardians who have worked together to build this new school community. One of the greatest gifts has been the opportunity to work with an innovative spirit and question every assumption in the educational system – how can the sport in the school and in the community link together better; how can teaching and learning be more enjoyable and meaningful in the classroom; how can we provide a different and forward-thinking curriculum. Our hope and our goal at ETSS Wicklow is to merge the best from the past with the ways of the future. It's a unique opportunity to get a new start and we are looking forward to continuing that journey in 2021. Happy Christmas everyone!
June’s Media Club students have been busy working on the publication of their reflections of their first term at Educate Together Secondary School Wicklow and there’s been no shortage of topics to reflect on. The Media Club students have been very active since September and they have made a great contribution to school life. Their eye-catching posters promoting various themed weeks have caught everyone’s attention, and we are all looking forward to seeing the interviews and photographs the Media Club has contributed to the Christmas newsletter, which will be out later this month. A great 2020 for the Media Club; 2021 promises to be even better!
STUDENT COUNCIL AT ETSS WICKLOW
The ETSSW Student Council, under the guidance of Shauna, is at the heart of the Educate Together ethos with its emphasis on partnership and democracy. The Student Council role in representing the voice of students is greatly valued, and the Council’s contribution to policy development and the Board of Management has been a very important one over the last year. In recent weeks, the Student Council representatives have raised the flags outside of the school for Science Week, promoted lunch time clubs and supported the school’s Covid safety plan. In the words of Student Council President Hannah O Callaghan: ‘The Student Council is great because it gives students a say in decisions that make the school a better place.’
Pegasus is a creative short course offered at ETSSW. As the name suggests, Pegasus invites students to soar above the curriculum to pursue topics of interest to them. Students identify a theme or concept that inspires them and Pegasus teachers Amanda and Vanessa guide them through the planning, designing and, generation process. Students have pursued courses in digital drawing, taught themselves new languages, explored heat convection currents in homes, documented a course in equine fitness, and constructed beautiful pieces of wooden furniture. Communicating, being enterprising, and managing a design project are just some of the skills that students have the opportunity to develop from their engagement with this innovative short course.
The Speech and Drama students have had a fantastic term under the guidance of teachers Vanessa and Ceire. Students explored the impact of the influencer generation by investigating aspects of the phenomenon on Youtube, and they subsequently learned how to speak effectively on camera. When it came to public speaking, students demonstrated their excellent oratorial skills on the topic of whether or not teachers had the right to interfere in the lives of young people. The spooky season of Halloween afforded the Speech and Drama students and teachers the opportunity to delve into the Witches’ Spell from ‘Macbeth’ and Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’. And now all roads lead to the ETSSW Talent Show in early 2021. The Speech and Drama students are counting down the days!
Art Club is a co-curricular activity for students who are interested in any areas of Art, Craft and Design. Members of the Art club are encouraged to express themselves across a wide range of Art practices, such as painting and drawing, textiles, ceramics and much more. Art Club is an excellent opportunity for students who study Art to broaden their artistic horizons by experiencing practices that they may not always have the chance to do during their timetabled Art class. Art Club is also a great opportunity for students who do not study Art to express themselves creatively and to enjoy exploring their imagination and inspiring others with their new ideas.
Students at John’s Maths Club have recently taken a dive into the fascinating theory of the ‘infinite’ coastline. Known as the ‘Coastline Paradox’, students this month have been discussing the proposition that the Irish coastline is in fact infinite, when measured in smaller and more accurate increments. This discussion has since led us to the fascinating world of fractals in mathematics. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales, and this month has seen us examine one of the more famous fractals, Sierpinski’s Triangle!
ONLINE LEARNING DAY
On Wednesday 11th November, the staff and students of ETSSW swapped the real-life classroom for the online classroom for a day of live lessons. The purpose of the online learning day was to ensure that the staff and students would be prepared in the event of another closure, and everyone agreed that the day was a great success. Although one perceptive student pointed out sadly that for their generation there will never be another snow day thanks to the wonders of technology and online learning! Fingers crossed, schools won’t have to shut again, but if they do, ETSSW will be ready!
Science Week provided students with the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of science related activities and events. During science class, a live chat session with scientists took place where students were invited to ask questions about a wide range of research topics. Students also attended virtual talks & demonstrations including: ‘A walk on the wild side’, ‘Meet the inventors’ & ‘The human guinea pig’. Throughout the week, students participated in art & written competitions based on this year's Science Week theme – 'Choosing our Future'. The week ended with a whole school inter-class competition where the second year Heaney tutor group were crowned champions.
The Monday lunchtime Bike Club has been a huge hit with students. The Bike Club offers students who cycle to school the opportunity to practise and develop their bike skills in a fun, controlled and safe environment. The students are coached by Michelle, who as well as being a PE teacher, is also one of Ireland’s top Enduro racers. New members are always welcome.
ETSSW had its first zoom call to Belgium last Monday during Esther’s lunch time Language Club. Athénée Royal Orsini Dewerpe Secondary School in Jumet, Belgium and ETSSW teamed up for this exciting event. It was a fantastic exchange experience for everyone involved and marks the beginning of what promises to be a really exciting project. C’ètait super!
Amanda’s lunch time Running Club has been very popular with its members who have been training hard since arriving back to school in September. Runners have been training for both long and short distances and are currently working on their pace, technique and overall fitness. While it’s not possible to compete in traditional competitions at this present time, students will be partaking in virtual races in the near future, and the members of the Running Club are also keen to put their training to good use and raise some funds for some worthwhile causes in the run up to Christmas.
Jake’s lunch time Active Club has been a huge hit with students and the Wexford footballer has been busy teaching the students some of the skills he has learned over the years. The focus over the last few weeks has been on the traditional Irish game of handball. The students have learned the rules of the game and are now coaching and refereeing their own games under the watchful eye of their teacher who has yet to be beaten by any student in ETSSW! The Active Club is a great way for students to engage in exercise each day in a safe outdoor environment and new members are always welcome.
STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Our Strategic Development Committee continues its work with local and national political representatives to ensure that the DES prioritises the purchase of a permanent site and the completion of a permanent school building for ETSSW. The Strategic Development Committee is very grateful to the political representatives for their generous support and time. Many thanks to Senator Pat Casey, FF; Simon Harris TD, FG; Stephen Donnelly TD, FF; Steven Matthews TD, Green Party; John Brady TD, Sinn Féin; Councillor Paul O’Brien, Labour Party; and Councillor John Snell, Independent. Míle buíochas.
By the end of the day of the holidays, some were even saying it was the best Halloween party ever! That's pretty amazing! Thanks to everyone who planned this event, set it up on the day and made it such a great afternoon for everyone at the school.
And very importantly, this report must finish with a special mention for June, our amazing Events Organiser at the school - June motivated and inspired everyone and put a huge amount of work in behind the scenes to make sure the plan was a success - thank you for bringing everyone together for such a special day at ETSS Wicklow!
We had a really fun and engaging Maths Week in October which was coordinated by our Maths teachers, John Maddock and Alicia Devlin Byrne. Well done to Brian Nolan, Fionn Fallon, Ava Mulhall, Sofia Noonan and Michael Moorehouse who were all winners of our daily Maths puzzles. Our students also took part in the National Maths Olympiad Competition during Maths Week with some very high scoring results - more details below.
Two first year students, Atilla Diament and Egert Reisma, have been working hard over the last few weeks under the supervision of their Science teacher, Alicia Devlin Byrne, on their Young Scientist project. Their project explores the effect of blue light on students who use iPads and investigates the potential design and development of a case that would have a blue light filter incorporated into it. Well done to the students who spend their Tuesday lunch times with Alicia engaging in research and investigation as part of their Young Scientist Club work.
The ETSSW lunch time Media Cub, led by June, enjoyed working with the Student Council on the design of ads for the various competitions that were held during the Halloween party on the afternoon of Friday 23rd October. The Media Club has also been busy photographing and interviewing students and staff over the past few weeks. These interviews and photographs will be used in an online newsletter that the Media Club are very excited about publishing soon.
The ETSSW Language Week was coordinated by our French and Spanish teacher, Esther Byrne, who grew up in Belgium speaking both French and Spanish at home (and now, as her surname indicates, is very much part of the Wicklow community!). The week was a great success. Students and staff learned to greet each other in different languages including Polish, Hungarian, Latvian and Spanish. Irish, French and Spanish music was played over the speaker system at lunch time, and the week ended with a European languages quiz which was enjoyed by all. C'etait magnifique!
Thanks to all the staff who participated in the livestreaming service during these past two months - a great example of the innovative spirit at ETSS Wicklow.
Educate Together Secondary School Wicklow’s (ETSSW) Strategic Accommodation Committee has been working with local and national political representatives to ensure that the DES prioritises the purchase of a permanent site and the completion of a permanent school building for ETSS Wicklow. The Strategic Accommodation Committee is very grateful to the political representatives who linked up with the school in September and October and very much appreciates their generous support and time. So many thanks to Senator Pat Casey, FF; Simon Harris TD, FG; Stephen Donnelly TD, FF; Steven Matthews TD, Green Party; John Brady TD, Sinn Féin; Councillor Paul O’Brien, Labour Party; and Councillor John Snell, Independent.