Educate Together Secondary Schools are committed to innovation in education and this year saw one of our secondary schools create a unique online Model United Nations event for students of first year and second year.
Model United Nations conferences usually take place in conference venues with students representing different countries, a press team hungry for news, student leaders chairing committee groups and administration staff bringing everything together. It is a huge opportunity for students involved to develop their knowledge on international relations and to bring a lot of the subjects they study in school to life (history, geography, English, ethical education …). They use the formal language of the United Nations and they learn about the complexities of reaching agreement on the international stage. When a resolution is finally passed, it has gone through an arduous process of being approved for discussion in the first place, passing through a committee debate and succeeding in a General Assembly debate. That’s why there’s a huge round of applause when such resolutions get through – it’s a really great achievement for the student’s country. So how does all of this work in an online context?
In truth, this project was sort of like a grand experiment. The number of schools to be involved was set at eight and these places were booked really quickly with Belmayne ETSS, Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, Drogheda ETSS, Galway ETSS, Sandford Park School, Stepaside ETSS and Woodbrook College joining ETSS Wicklow in this project. With more than a hundred students involved, three committees were set up – GA1 (Disarmament and International Security), GA3 (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) and COP (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Students were assigned to thirty-two countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, DPRK (North Korea), Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Syria, United Kingdom and United States. Each committee had two issues on their agenda to discuss and had to prepare for those from the point of view of their country. During two training days, delegates worked on becoming familiar with the overall structure and their individual roles and started preparing their position papers on the issues as well as developing resolutions they would like to get through the committees and the assembly on the day. Student leaders learned how to chair meetings with all these delegates – ensuring they were following protocols and making sure everyone had a fair chance to speak. The press team were under pressure to make their deadline of publishing a newsletter by the end of the day. One great additional feature planned for the conference was a declamation contest organized for students who wanted an additional challenge on the day – in this competition, students would deliver famous speeches from history or films – twenty students signed up for this opportunity, meaning semi-finals needed to be held the day before the conference in order to select the eight finalists. During all these preparations, learning was happening in multiple ways through the various teams and activities and once everyone was ready, it was time for the conference!
ON THE DAY
The opening ceremony saw distinguished guests Emer Nowlan, CEO Educate Together, and Minister Simon Harris deliver inspirational speeches challenging the students to make the most of the opportunity. A special film was shown to promote the theme for the conference, ‘Building a Better World’. After the ceremony concluded, students went to their committee rooms where the chairs had selected the order of the resolutions to be discussed and started their committee debates. This is where the great skill of the students in adapting to their roles became clear – the chair team of Sonny Anderson, Hannah O’Callaghan, Ava Warrington, Lenna Smith, Michael Puig Lynch, Eve Stokes and Deirdre Toth led the debates superbly, reminding delegates of the protocols, ensuring that everyone got the opportunity to speak and dealing with points of order and information along the way. The delegates from all countries engaged in deep debates about their topics and resolutions were challenged with requests for amendments and amendments to amendments as the process unfolded. The press team got their first scoop of the day when they invited Minister Harris for an interview after his opening ceremony speech. This conference saw student-led learning and active learning at their very best. The chair team chose the most impressive delegates at the end of the day for each committee - Adetola Akinboyne from Drogheda ETSS representing South Korea won best delegate in GA1; Niamh O'Hart also from Drogheda ETSS and also representing South Korea won best delegate for GA3 and Daniel O’Brien from Belmayne ETSS representing the Russian Federation won best delegate in COP. The declamation contest after lunch added even more quality to the day. The challenge was to experiment with the border between public speaking and drama – to use techniques of drama to enhance the delivery of the speech, but to stay authentic and avoid becoming theatrical creations. It is not an easy challenge, but the eight finalists brought the competition to a remarkable level with speech after speech impressing the audience in a wonderful demonstration of public speaking skills. Sadbh Murphy from Galway ETSS won third prize, Jesse Smith from Woodbrook College won second prize and Emma Folen was the deserved winner with her absolutely brilliant version of a speech from the film ‘Network’. The feedback from students showed how much everyone enjoyed the conference and how it made learning so alive for the students and helped develop their confidence in their voice and their public speaking skills.
A TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
One of the greatest learning curves during this project was managing the conference in an online environment. It was actually a huge technical achievement. Students learned to rename themselves as their countries, use flags as backgrounds and engage the ‘raise hand’ function effectively to help the chair team decide the order of speakers throughout the debate. Students had to work out how to deal with echoes when multiple devices were nearby and problem-solve any technical difficulties along the way. The chair team learned to keep things moving, showing flexibility to deal with any technical hitches and using their co-host functions to control sound and reactions, muting and lowering hands when necessary. Resolutions were pasted into the chat area by the Deputy-Chairs, amendments were emailed to the chair team by delegates and students became increasingly skilled at working in this environment. Committees worked in the breakaway rooms in the morning session, learning to assign themselves to their correct committee venue. Overall, students learned a huge amount about how to put together an effective conference online.
NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
For the future, ETSS Wicklow is looking at continuing an online conference for students in first and second year and holding a live event for TY and fifth year students. What this conference showed is that an online version is a super learning experience and that it has amazing potential to grow in the future. It means schools can connect without the costs of travelling to conference locations and that schools from outside Ireland can easily become involved too.
For now, it’s time to say thank you to the team at ETSS Wicklow who created this conference (John Maddock, Shauna O’Toole, Donal Evoy, Amanda Connolly, Ceire Hatton, Jake Firman, Vanessa Murray) and to all the teachers involved in helping their students prepare across the schools. Well done to all students in all eight schools for preparing so well for your roles. You provided a great example of what can be achieved by working together and deserve special recognition for accomplishing an impressive technical achievement in connecting schools all over Ireland in a year where very little collaboration has been possible.
It was a sad moment for the school to see Donal Evoy, first ever Deputy Principal at ETSS Wicklow, leave for the final time on Friday 23 April to take up his new position as Principal of Booterstown/Blackrock/Dún Laoghaire Educate Together Secondary School. Donal has been a great driving force towards the development of the school and will be missed by everyone in the school community. The school stopped on Friday afternoon to take a moment to thank Donal for his incredible contribution with a number of presentations. The staff presented a special voucher for a day out (staycation); students presented a school hoodie which had Donal's name printed on it and Yvonne made a presentation of a handmade book by parents and guardians with thank you comments for Donal's tireless work in supporting the education of the students at our school. The Board of management organised the presenation of a plaque made from Dublin Crystal which was specially engraved with the school logo and inscribed with a thank you message. There were a lot of goodbye speeches during the hour both at the school and virtually (Danny, Chairperson of the Board of Management, joined the event by zoom) - the presentations were livestreamed to all class groups. Two goodbye films were shown, one with people sending their personal good luck messages to a backtrack recorded by June and Mildred and the other a music video recorded by Shauna, Nuala and Cody. You can listen to both tracks below - best of luck Donal from everyone at ETSS Wicklow!
ONLINE MODEL UNITED NATIONS EVENT A HUGE SUCCESS
It was a great story of resilience – a live event planned for a hotel in Wicklow was cancelled in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and a year later, it reinvented itself as an online conference inking schools from all over Ireland in a brilliant example of the spirit of resilience which schools have been showing throughout this time. The day included an opening ceremony with guest speakers Emer Nowlin and Minister Simon Harris inspiring all the delegates to make the most of the opportunity. An inspirational film set the scene for the theme ‘Building a better World’. Then a great display of student-led learning took place with a media team working on a newsletter to be published at 16.00; student leaders running the committees and dedicated delegates presenting their resolutions and doing their best to build support to get them passed. Another huge experiment was a declamation contest during the day where students delivered famous speeches from films and from history. Emma Foley from Galway won the competition with her amazing delivery of the famous Howard Beale speech ‘Mad as Hell’ from the film ‘Network’. Congratulations to every student and every teacher in all the schools involved in this event and a special thanks to the team at ETSS Wicklow for creating and organising it!
MINISTER SIMON HARRIS INTERVIEWED BY ETSS MEDIA TEAM
Model United Nations may be about politics, but it is also about media. As the delegates debated their world problems, the Press Team worked diligently reporting events as they unfolded in real time. The goal was to produce a newsletter chronicling the conference by a strict deadline of four O’clock. Our team of first and second year students included Ayah Mohamad, Dylan Cahill, Calum Joyce, Kelvin Cai and Max Doyle, and delivered right from the beginning of the day! What better way to start the reporting than quizzing Minister Harris on important issues from how good he was at doing homework on time to the future of the job sector for young people of today. After this, they went to all committee rooms and produced well informed articles on everything from nuclear disarmament and women’s rights to entertaining features like an MUN themed wordsearch and a video interview on the theme of “Building a Better World”. We would like to thank all of the participating schools for contributing content for the newsletter. It was a proud moment for the school to see our students involved in self-directed learning and critical thinking and presenting their work at the closing ceremony. Promising careers in media and journalism are on the horizon!
MURAL COMPETITION PROMOTES THEME OF 'HOPE FOR THE FUTURE'
Students of ETSS Wicklow have been asked to enter a design for a mural that will be painted in the next school year. The theme of the mural design is ‘Hope for the Future’. We had a number of impressive entries portraying the theme through drawings of an equal society, tackling climate change and of course a world without COVID-19! The winning design will be chosen this week. A huge well done to all students who got involved.
YOGA OPPORTUNITY FOE STUDENTS AT ETSS WICKLOW
As part of our Well-being logo launch here at ETSS Wicklow, Amanda is a trained yoga teacher and has introduced yoga to our school. Students were taken for an hour-long class this week for a session that included meditation, breathing techniques and of course some stretching. Now it looks like yoga is going to fast become one of the most popular lunchtime activities! The great thing is that all yogis are welcome in our yoga classes, no matter how experienced. Students thoroughly enjoyed their yoga practice and there's talk now about starting a Yoga Club for next year!
THE TWO PEAKS MOUNTAIN CHALLENGE
The PE Department at ETSSW organised a brilliant new challenge to help keep everyone active during the school closure - it was a whole school ‘virtual’ mountain challenge in April, where both students and staff were given a mountain to climb each week! Climbing a mountain is not an easy challenge, even in the virtual world, so it was great to see a lot of students and teachers getting involved.
The mountain challenge was revealed every Monday morning and you had until the following Sunday to complete it. We tackled the famous Sugarloaf in Wicklow and Croagh Patrick in Mayo!
A massive well done to all those who rose to the challenge and completed their 2 peaks. The Joyce Class had the biggest uptake and were crowned the overall winners! We had an almost 100% uptake from the staff too which just shows how FANTASTIC they all are here at ETSS Wicklow!
The students who participated in the challenge will be rewarded with a nice walk down to the beach for some time out of lessons to enjoy some fresh sea air.
Mountain: The Sugar Loaf, Wicklow
Distance: 5.8km / 2512 steps / 182 flights of stairs
Mountain: Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo
Distance: 7km / 3031 steps / 219 flights of stairs
History Week took place in ETSSW last week, and students had a lot of fun selecting items for inclusion in the ETSSW time capsule. The capsule included a face mask to represent the Covid 19 pandemic, a reminder to future generations of the challenges faced by our schools and communities in 2020/21. We raised the Irish, EU, and ETSSW flags each day, and on Tuesday, students read the Proclamation. Everyone agreed that the ideal of ‘cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’ is as important now as it ever was. On Thursday, esteemed historian Breandán MacSuibhne delivered a Zoom talk about the Great Famine to all of the students and staff. Breandán was one of the key contributors to RTE’s ‘The Hunger’ documentary which was narrated by Liam Neeson. Students learned a lot about the Great Famine from Breandán’s talk, and they really enjoyed asking him questions about the past and what it’s like to be a historian. History Week 2021 was a great success, and reminded everyone of the importance of understanding and appreciating the past.
WORLD WISE GLOBAL SCHOOL AWARDS
It has been a fantastic year for ETSS Wicklow as we have received a bronze award for the World Wise Global Schools. Global Citizenship education was brought through many areas of our curriculum – Ethical Education, CSPE, SPHE and through our own commitment to learning more about international issues through two major innovations at the school on a national level - building a Model United Nations event and creating a national online debating competition for junior cycle students. Global citizenship education is a powerful way of learning, in which the students can better understand the world we live in and take action to change it as informed global citizens. It also teaches the students about values and how to act ethically in the world that we live in. Well done to all students involved in receiving this award and we look forward to next year already!
PEN PAL LETTER EXCHANGE PROGRAMME
Last term ETSS Wicklow's English department invited all first-year students to participate in an exciting Pen Pal Letter Exchange Program. Partnering with Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, Co. Kildare we encouraged the students to write to each other on a regular basis as part of a unit of work on ‘letter writing’.
The program provided many benefits for our students, particularly during lockdown. Firstly, it provided them with an authentic writing opportunity to ask and answer questions. It also encouraged them to see writing as a way to express themselves and engage with another form of communication besides social media.
Another clear benefit was that our students got to make new friends and could share their different experiences of the pandemic. The pen pal program was a very rewarding and relevant learning opportunity for all of our students and some have continued to write to each other.
FIRST YEARS TO THE RESCUE
While, some of our 1st years were completing a project outside, they discovered a small marine animal near the science lab. They brought this small animal to Alicia, the science teacher, to find out what it was. This discovery led to a lesson in marine biology. After some investigation, it is thought that this is one of three whelk species found on the East coast of Ireland. These students volunteered to return the animal to the beach in the hope that it was still alive. They will also carry out further research, practicing their classification skills from science to discover more about this little whelk. It looks like this whelk had a lucky escape from a bird, as the shell has been damaged. Keep an eye on our social media pages for an update on the students’ investigation and the whelk’s return to the sea.
After a great week of chess with 36 contestants battling it out to be this year's champion, the competition reached the final on Friday 26 February with the two most exceptional chess players in this tournament remaining - Little Rose & Cody! The promotional film below set the scene for that final with a number of great quotations, including quotations from the players themselves, and on the day of the match, after a really close game, Little Rose, last year's champion, completed the double - winning the final with some great tactical chess for the second year in a row - what an amazing achievement!
ETSSW students have been asked to create a design for a mural that will be painted on an outside wall on our school grounds. The design brief is to create an image that captures the theme Hope for the Future. All students have been encouraged to participate, whether they are part of an art class or not. There has been a lot of interest so far and we are looking forward to seeing all the designs when the deadline arrives on Friday 26th March.
The ETSS Wicklow Running Club continues to motivate students despite the lockdown. Students work on their distance, technique and pace in practice runs. Athletes have enjoyed running in the sunshine and look forward to more runs as the nice weather returns. Everyone is also looking forward to going for a socially distanced run together when we get back to school!
Our students in the second year Joyce tutor group have started a project with a European Secondary School, Athénée Royal Orsini Dewerpe located in Jumet, Southern Belgium. The objective of the project is to communicate with native French speakers. The ETSSW students had their first contact with a second-year class of native French speaking students learning English online. Both classes were learning vocabulary about clothes last month, allowing ETSS Wicklow students an opportunity to describe their outfits. Everyone enjoyed the whole experience and realized that native speakers can speak really fast!
MODEL UNITED NATIONS MOVES ONLINE
Our new online version of Model United Nations is in full swing - 8 schools are joining the event - 87 delegates - 3 committees will discuss lots of important issues on the agenda such as reducing carbon emissions, nuclear disarmament and upholding the rights of media & journalism. Preparation involves two training days for delegates in March, as well as training for the press team and the chair team. Delegates have to create resolutions and policy statements, represent different countries and prepare opening speeches - delegates are diplomats and they have to learn diplomatic protocols. The chair team leads the committees and organise the discussions. The press team gathers all the information and publishes a newsletter by the end of the day. All the work will hopefully lead to an engaging educational experience for everyone where students work on solutions for world problems from multiple perspectives. Everyone is looking forward to the conference which is happening in April!
SEACHTAIN NA GAEILGE
Bhain gach duine taitneamh as ‘Seachtain Na Gaeilge’ ar line tríd na seachtaine! Rinne na daltaí go leor gníomhaíochtaí cosuil le, tráth na gceist, ag foghlaim seanfhocail nua, agus ag éist le hAmhráin gaeilge!
Seachtain na Gaeilge is an important week in school where we make a special effort to incorporate Gaeilge into every part of school life. All in all it was a fantastic week of immersing ourselves in the Irish language. Special mention must go to all our competition winners throughout the week. Go raibh míle maith agat Shauna agus Jake, na múinteoirí eile agus na daltaí chomh maith! Ná déan dearmad – Ní neart go cur le chéile!
MATHEMATICS SUCCESS CONTINUES AT ETSS WICKLOW
Students in ETSS Wicklow continued their winning ways in Maths this March with a number of high scorers in the Irish Mathematics Teachers Association’s Junior Mathematics Competition. Topping the scores were Elliot Potts and Alex Barry of First Year! Well done guys! The second years were not to be outdone, however, with Sonny Anderson, Little Rose Shipman and Cody Grove of the Joyce class rounding out the top five. Well done to all who entered - you have done us all proud and the top ten students have all received certificates from the Irish Mathematics Teachers Association!
Our first year and second year students have taken part in a number of excellent debates over the last few weeks as part of the Educate Together national debating competition. As the weeks progressed, students became more confident speaking without notes, incorporating rebuttal into their speeches, and really engaging with some very interesting and topical motions. Our first-year team, Caleb Gunn, Ayah Mohamed, Niamh Taylor and Fillip Polycyn had a great victory over our neighbours North Wicklow ETSS by convincing judges to oppose the motion that 'The voting age should be changed to 14'. Our second-year team, Ava Warrington, Eve Stokes, Dylan Cahill and Duncan Godfrey proved they were a debating force to be reckoned with when they came up against Malahide Portmarnock ETSS to debate against the motion that ‘Social Media is beneficial to the world.’
It has also been wonderful to see some of our students including Hannah O’ Callaghan, Jack Campbell, Lenna Smith, Sarah Doherty and Grace Wernick have the amazing opportunity to act as chairpersons, timekeepers and judges. The insightful feedback given by the student judges really highlights what our wonderful Educate Together pupils are capable of when they are given the opportunity to lead.
WORLD BOOK DAY - 4 MARCH
ETSS Wicklow participated in World Book Day with great enthusiasm this year! All students received book tokens to be used in book stores when they reopen. Students were encouraged to enter one of four competitions for the event ‘Get Caught Reading' - well done to winners Tommy Lee and Kayla Murphy who won prizes for their illustrations of Star Wars and The Diary of Anne Frank! The ‘Create Your Own Bookmark’ competition was won by Calum Murphy with the catchy slogan ‘Next one’ illustrating the mystery and allure of reading. Finally, Daniel Monahan won two categories ‘Best Dressed’ and ‘Recreate a Book Title Using Household Items’.
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!
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.
One of ETSSW’s newest students, Ayah Mohamed, made history on Friday 23rd October when she attended an Irish lesson in ETSSW from the comfort of a library near her home in London!
Ayah logged on to her live lessons in the morning and her first lesson was taught by her Irish teacher, Jake Firman.
Speaking about her remote learning experience, Ayah said, ‘I really enjoyed the session on Friday 23rd and I'm really looking forward to live classes at ETSSW in November.’
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.
This year’s ETSSW Halloween party was a massive success and probably the spookiest yet!
It was coordinated by English and Philosophy teacher, June Robbins, who specialises in all things ghoulish and ghostly! Science teacher Alicia played the part of Dr. Frankenstein and used her scientific expertise to perform all kinds of fantastical tricks!
The overall costume competition winner in first year was won by Georja Coster, and Alicia Corcoran and Garbhán Byrne were joint winners in second year (two years in a row now for Garbhán!).
The winners of the Halloween Short Story Competition were Zakaria Laasri, Fionn Fallon, Little Rose Shipman, Daniel Monahan and Egert Reisma. Well done to all of our winners and everyone who entered the competition.