Friday 20th June 2014. Grace Bandawe Centre, Blantyre, Malawi.
It’s hard to believe it’s our last full day here in Blantyre. The last few days have passed in a whirlwind. We have had long working days to ensure all projects have been completed on time. Our contribution to the building works at Stella Maris and Chitsime has been completed and our builders are today putting on the roof at both sites. All decorative work and painting is completed at all sites, fully supporting the teaching and learning going on in those classrooms. Given that Chitsime Primary School is in the worst condition of all the partner schools, we focused on that site for the last day and a half and managed to paint a further 2 classrooms which had previously been in desperate condition.
All work on sites was completed yesterday, Thursday, and we went out of GBC for dinner last night. The barbecued food was very well received as being different from normal GBC food, which as been good but a bit “samey”. We all feel a bit carbed out!
We had a Karaoke night courtesy of Ms Dornan on Monday night and a quiz night set and led by Terry Strain on Wednesday. Both were great fun and a welcome evening diversion. Yesterday afternoon we had a meeting of teachers from Holyrood to discuss the learning project around health, nutrition and agriculture. This was very successful and we hope to see the fruition of this preparatory work over the next year.
Today the group split in to two so that we could attend, first thing this morning, a farewell tribute for the group at both Matinde Primary School and Stella Maris Secondary School. There was much dancing, singing and Waza Waza’ing as both groups experienced emotional farewells. The whole group then left for Catholic Institute Primary School where there was a formal opening by Mr Kaladzu, Head of Administration for the Dept of Education, Science and Technology, of the new Library and ASN Support Centre, built by Holyrood Secondary. Mr Kaladzu thanked the 2014 Team and the Holyrood Teams of the past 6 years, for the extraordinary work done by Holyrood RC Secondary School, Glasgow. He was fulsome in his praise of the project, its values and its obvious impact on the children of Blantyre. The group sat through 2 hours of speeches, dancing and singing to celebrate the formal opening with the most oft heard phrase being “all protocols observed” as all those speaking worried about causing offence by not mentioning someone.
We are just about to leave to visit the market in Blantyre. Tonight will be dedicated to packing and, I suspect, to an early to bed. We have loved our time here in Malawi. This has been an extraordinary group of young people who have done so much fantastic work. All family, friends and relatives would be so proud to see the way they have engaged with and charmed local children especially. The group all say they are looking forward to coming home but acknowledge that they will always carry a special place in their hearts for Malawi, truly the warm heart of Africa. The nicest tribute to our young people came from Grace, the Headteacher of Chitsime Primary School. She said, “When you came here, our children were frightened and shy to see so many white faces but you have changed all that. We say in Malawi that white people do not touch the soil .... but your group has worked with spades and shovels and worked side by side with our Malawi building workers. You have played and laughed with our children and you have left a beautiful legacy for our learners.” What a fantastic tribute to our young people.
Slightly later breakfast at 8 tomorrow [where every other day has been breakfast at 7 am]. We have mass at 10 am [and have been assured by Father John that, given that we are travelling, this will fulfil our Sunday obligation], then depart immediately afterwards for Blantyre Airport. Have a great weekend.
Blantyre, Malawi. Tuesday 17th June 2014
We had a wonderful couple of days at the Makokolo Retreat on Lake Malawi. It was great to have a chance to recharge batteries although there was so much going on. We had early morning rises to watch the sunrise, Ms Dastey’s intense fitness regime which so many of the group have taken part in and the games of 5-a-side football and beach volleyball and tennis. Highlight of the weekend was a beautiful mass celebrated by Father Andrew on the beach at the Lake. The sun was dropping in the background as we had our mass by candle light in such a stunning setting. On Sunday it was a lengthy trek back to Blantyre and the Grace Bandawe Centre by minibus. We had a light meal and all had a fairly early to bed on Sunday night.
Yesterday, Monday, saw a full-blown assault at all our work sites to ensure that we can complete all our projects by the end of this week. All groups report excellent progress. We hope that the roof can go on the projects at the Chitsime classroom and Library site and at the Stella Maris Chicken “coral” site by the end of this week. All the painting being done at 3 sites to support teaching and learning is almost complete.
Today we had an astonishing and moving experience as we helped deliver Mary’s Meals backpacks at a primary school in a township on the outskirts of Blantyre. It was an absolute privilege to deliver these rucksacks generated by Scottish schools, to see the love and care with which our team offered them to primary pupils and to see the overwhelming joy and happiness generated by these backpacks in the faces of the recipients. We all agreed that it was a very moving experience and we felt very fortunate to be involved.
Lake Malawi, Saturday 14th June 2014
Apologies for the lack of posts in the HT Blog. I have been working each day in Stella Maris Girls’ Secondary School with a group of our students and it has been impossible to do this during the day. Each evening we return to the Grace Bandawe Centre and, before we get there, another group has wiped out the Centre’s air time by using Face Time etc.
Anyway, it has been a wonderful week with our team of 45 students and staff here in Malawi. Apart from the initial 2 hour delay in Glasgow, all travel arrangements went well and we arrived to a wonderful Malawian welcome at the airport. All of the group have quickly settled in to the Grace Bandawe Centre where accommodation is clean and pleasant, if not at standards students expect back home. Everyone knows this before we sign up so there have been no complaints from anyone. The group bonded really well together and we’ve had lots of fun and laughter alongside the serious business of the work we’re here to do. All projects are going well and, before we left on Friday for a weekend here at Lake Malawi [where I’m writing this], all groups reported that they now feel we can complete all projects before we leave the sites next Friday 20th June.
The group at Matinde are painting the classrooms built last year, ensuring that the work teachers are doing is supported by language and pictures on learning walls. The group at Catholic Institute are doing likewise. At Chitsime we are building a new classroom and Library. At Stella Maris we are erecting a brick building to house Chickens as the first part of an agriculture project and we are also painting their Assembly Hall and entrance area, including educational art and art reflecting our special partnership. We have had outstanding whole group welcomes and visits to the 3 sites and have also had groups of students working with children with varied Additional Support Needs at Zingwangwa with the legendary John Chikane.
On Tuesday and Wednesday half the group visited Mary’s Meals Blantyre Centre and also visited a pre 5 Nursery. Our students, as they have done throughout the past week, were inspirational in the ways they immediately engage with youngsters, many of whom are orphans, playing games, singing and just loving them. Parents, family and friends would be so proud of them for their hard work but also for their sound values and caring concern they show for others. Some of these experiences have been very emotional.
At present the group is enjoying a well earned break from work to the beauty of Lake Malawi. We were on a land and boat safari yesterday and saw, at close hand, elephants, crocodiles, Hippos, monkeys, baboons, wart hogs and a variety of antelopes. It was truly wonderful. I’m just heading outside for Mass on the beach in the stunning surroundings of Lake Malawi. I hope to get another update posted during the week. Greetings from Lake Malawi. 29th May 2014
"The greatest leaders in God's tribe have been those men who have left room for doubt."
We approach the end of the 2014 exam diet and, by Monday 2nd June, we hope almost all of the present S4 will have returned to school and be attending S4 classes to finish up S4 work.
All year groups except the new S6 make the switch to their new year group with their new timetable on Monday 9th June. Pupils will go to their old registration classes for one last time on Monday morning 9th June, will receive their new timetables and will follow their timetable from Period 2 on. The changes to the timings of the school week start from Monday 9th.
The new S6 are to report in full school uniform to St Francis Hall in Gorbals for 9.30 am on Tuesday 10th June. There they will have their 6th Year Induction Day, finishing at 3 pm. New Sixth Year blazers will be delivered to students on Tuesday afternoon at St Francis Hall.
The Sixth Year Prom takes place on Thursday. Our Team Malawi 2014 leaves from Holyrood on Friday. We wish all Team members a safe and successful Project Visit.
22nd May 2014
Thankfully, the school has returned to a sense of normality this week. Pupils have gone about their busines as usual and SQA exams have run smoothly.
We have also had another Miss Leyden 2 day extravaganza where our International Festival has run in school. All Departments in the school delivered lessons in an International context, particularly with the Commonwealth Games in mind. Young people I saw in workshops over the two days had a fabulous experience very much in keeping with Curriculum for Excellence. In addition to the daytime frolics, we had an evening festival on Wednesday with contributions from a whole host of local companies and organisations. We were delighted that legendary footballer Jim McAlliog, former pupil of Holyrood, opened our Festival. Jim's playing career tracked through some of England's greatest clubs; Chelsea, Man Utd, Southampton, Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday. JIm won a FA Cup medal with Southampton and scored the winning goal to make Scotland unofficial world champions [1st team to beat England after their World Cup win] in a splendid 3-2 win at Wembley in 1967. We are very proud of Jim McAlliog's association with Holyrood and delighted that he gave up his time to attend on Wednesday.
Our U/18s did brilliantly to make the final of the Glasgow Cup last Saturday. Mr Soares U/18 team faced tough opponents in Scottish Shield finalists Springburn. Holyrood were in the game right to the end and arguably played the better football but frustratingly lost 1-0 in the end. Have a great weekend.
16th May 2014
Dear Parent or Carer,
I am writing to give you an update on some recent events in the community and around Holyrood Secondary School.
As you will be aware, we have had two recent events which have caused concern but can I please confirm that neither of the events took place in the school.
In the first, a fracas took place outside the school at the Sports Centre end of Dixon Road then individuals entered the building allegedly to avoid the bother outside.
These individuals were quickly removed from the entrance area once the outside threat had disappeared. Those involved in that threat appear not to be nor to ever have been Holyrood pupils. The 2nd incident took place in the local community around Cathcart Rd. where it is alleged some pupils from Holyrood were injured in incidents involving other youths.
The school has fully cooperated with Police in investigating these incidents. Young people in the school have done everything they can to give Police information about those alleged to be involved in incidents. As you will understand, as a Police investigation is now ongoing , we are unable to comment in any way which would be prejudicial to their investigations and might impede their ability to take action.
We have sought to allay parental concerns by offering to keep young people in the school at lunchtime as a temporary arrangement. Parents have had the option of sending in a note to indicate that they wish their child to go out of school for lunch rather than be looked after in school. Young people have been extremely cooperative and have dealt with this temporary situation with understanding and good humour, fully appreciating that this arrangement is temporary and comes out of love and concern for them.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
I have spoken at assemblies to all our young people present in school to help them understand what is happening and to give information without impeding the police investigation.
Police will take action where they find it necessary. However, can I please reassure parents that I have taken action, including exclusion of some pupils where we have felt it necessary. We continue to work with Police and they are giving advice on the security of our campus along with our colleagues in the council.
I should emphasise that no child has been injured inside Holyrood and there has been no disturbance to classwork. Again I commend our young people for simply getting on with the job of being very good students and of going through their school day positively and with purpose.
I also thank those parents who have taken the time to confirm to us that Holyrood is an excellent school, that their children are very happy here and that they have confidence in this school and the staff.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter and we will continue to work together to maintain the reputation of Holyrood Secondary school.
Laurie Byrne, Head Teacher
Friday 9th May 2014
Thought for the Week
“The men whom I have seen succeed best in life have always been cheerful and hopeful men, who went about their business with a smile on their faces, and took the changes and chances of this mortal life like men, facing rough and smooth alike as it came.”
This has been a busy week yet again. A quick note on some events. I understand that there has been unrest among rival groups in local communities in recent weeks. There appears to be continued bad feeling associated with this which resulted in an incident at the front entrance to the school last Wednesday at lunchtime. The matter is being fully investigated. Once again we are very fortunate to have our Campus Police Officer here to support us. She is working with us and with colleagues in the Police to try to ensure that Police can deal with issues in the community and endeavour to ensure that we keep our beloved Holyrood as a safe, calm environment for young people. We have contacted a number of parents of pupils who were involved in unrest this week.
I ask all parents and carers to pass on to Depute Heads, to Pastoral Care staff and to Constable Campbell any rumblings they hear about in the community which might impact on our school. All information is welcome.
On more mundane matters, our U/16 football team, who won the Scottish Shield last Friday, are playing tomorrow morning [Saturday 10 am] at Glasgow Green in the Glasgow Cup Final against All Saints Secondary. Good luck to the boys.
Preparations are steaming ahead for our International Festival, in anticipation of the Commonwealth Games, organised by Miss Leyden and a supporting cast, to take place on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st May.
Have a great weekend.
Friday 2nd May 2014
Thought for the Week
“Three men are my friends~~~he that loves me, he that hates me, he that is indifferent to me. He who loves me teaches me tenderness; who hates me teaches me caution; who is indifferent to me, teaches me self-reliance.”
J. E. Dinger
This week has seen a calm and purposeful atmosphere around the school as SQA exams have begun. S5 and 6 continue on Study Leave although I know many teachers continue to meet and support senior students where necessary. S4 pupils will return to school this week but those sitting Nat 5 exams have the day before and the day of an exam off for exam preparation.
Congratulations to Anne Abraitis and the Holyrood netball teams on their outstanding performance in the Glasgow Cups. Our S1 and S3/S4 Teams were Champions and our S2 Team were narrowly defeated runners up.
Congratulations to Fr Bathgate’s U/13 Team who qualified for the final of the Glasgow Cup with an excellent victory last week.
Special congratulations to John Wilson and the U/16 Football Team who, on Friday evening at Airdrie FC’s Stadium, became Scottish Champions. They showed grit and determination as well as great skill to cope with St Margaret’s Academy scoring a last minute equaliser and then kept their nerve to win 3-2 on penalties. See match report on
Friday 25th April 2014
Thought for the Week
“Every generation needs the ones before it and owes those who follow. And this, in great measure, is what it means to be a community: to understand ourselves as continuing the work of other men and women who have done their part.”
Thanks to all staff for their hard work in what was a particularly difficult first week back after the holidays. I am hoping for and looking forward to a quieter week next week.
S4 have this coming week as Exam Preparation Leave other than when they have an exam. From Tuesday 6th May S4 pupils are entitled to one day off before an exam for preparation plus the day of the exam. S5 and S6 have traditional Study Leave from Monday 28th April on.
On those occasions when they don’t have exams, S4 students should be in school as normal. I expect there will be some teething problems in the new S4 Preparation Leave arrangements but I know all staff will do their very best to make these arrangements work.
Thanks to Ms Dastey and Mrs Margo Brady in particular for all their work to make Thursday’s S6 Leavers’ Mass such a success. It was lovely to have Father Martin Kane there to celebrate mass. Thanks also to all staff who helped prepare for and supported the mass. A very special thanks to Mrs Forrest, Mrs Cosgrove and the Home Economics Department for all their wonderful work in catering for the event.
A reminder that our U/16 football team plays next Friday in the Scottish Cup Final at Airdrie’s stadium at 7 pm. Good luck to the boys. Congratulations to the U/18s who reached the semis of the Glasgow Cup last Wednesday.
Have a great weekend
Friday 28th March 2014
"The most obvious lesson in Christ's teaching is that there is no happiness in having or getting anything, but only in giving."
There is no sense at present of things slowing down as we approach the Easter break. On Monday evening we had a Parent Consultation/ Focus Group representing parents and carers of children from all stages at Holyrood Secondary School. We particularly focused on the Parent Voice regarding Homework Policy, Configuration of the school week, proposed changes to the delivery of Pastoral Care, SQA “Study leave” and parent views of future areas where they would welcome consultation. We worked in a Cooperative Learning style and had excellent levels of participation and feedback from all parents there. This meeting matched up well to the excellent Pupil Voice exercise we had the previous week with over 50 members of the Whole School Council.
Congratulations to Ms MacInnes for the success of our Comenius Partnership visit, culminating in Friday night’s ceilidh. It has been a real meeting of the nations this week with our visitors from Turkey, Germany and Spain. Our EAL Department made Tuesday a special “Respect in Our Community” day with representatives from many voluntary and community as well as educational organisations making a great contribution. The whole of S3 joined with our Comenius guests to celebrate the rich diversity of our and their cultures. A special thanks to all those parents and families who have hosted our Comenius guests as well as to all staff in Holyrood for their welcome and for their flexibility this week.
Miss O’Reilly has also had a really busy week in the lead up to Friday’s SCIAF 24 hour fast. As well as the large number of students, staff and family supporters taking part in this and raising sponsor money, we took the opportunity to make Friday a non uniform day and raised over £1500 from staff and student donations alone. We look forward to hearing Miss O’Reilly’s final figure for SCIAF donations next week.
Our U/13 team sadly lost in the quarter final of the Scottish Shield this week after a great Scottish run. Congratulations to all the boys and to coach Father Bathgate for a fantastic season so far with more to come. The U/16s play in the Scottish semi final at Neilston Juniors at 5.30 on Wednesday v Saint Ninian’s, Giffnock. Good luck to the Holyrood boys.
Have a great weekend
Friday 21st March 2014
“It is from pain and our own limits where we best learn to grow, and from our own flaws surges the deep question: haven’t we suffered enough to decide to break old patterns?”
Pope Francis while still Cardinal Bergoglio [25th May 2002].
Thanks to all parents and staff for encouraging excellent attendance at Mass over the past week. Please continue to do so. I also highlight the SCIAF 24 hour fast this Friday 28th.
This past week has been a big Sports’ Week. It saw a great win for our junior Netballers. Our Girls’ Football Team won the Glasgow 7s tournament and qualify for the West of Scotland finals. Our 2 boys’ 7 a side teams came first and second in the Glasgow tournament.
Congratulations to Holyrood’s former chaplain on his ordination to become Bishop John Keenan [great things still to come for Fathers John and Ian????]. John Wilson and I took 3 students to the Ordination as Holyrood representatives. Although we were there for three and a half hours, it was a beautiful and moving ceremony and didn’t feel anything like as long. Even the students agreed.
Well done to Miss Leyden for the organisation of the Mothers and Daughters evening on Thursday. Lots of great feedback from that as usual, and Miss Leyden has made more contacts to call on to the benefit of Holyrood pupils.
We had an excellent Pupil Council Meeting last Wednesday, done Cooperative Learning style with excellent participation from over 50 students S1 to S5. It has allowed us to hear “The Pupil Voice” regarding a number of areas such as Homework, Pastoral Care and the School Week. We also have a series of areas of interest for future discussion.
We have a Parent Consultation Evening on Monday 24th March at 7 pm in the Assembly Hall. Invites have gone out to those parents who signed up to be involved at the S2 and S3 Information Evening and have also gone out via pupil post to all S1, S4 and S5 parents. Even if you haven’t signed up in advance, you’re welcome to come along on the night. We’ll look at the same subjects as at the Pupil Council mentioned above.
On Monday we welcome Exchange Students from Spain, Turkey and Germany who will stay with Holyrood S2, S3 and S4 pupils next week. Well done to Ms MacInnes and her team of organisers for bringing this programme together.
And finally an acknowledgement that today is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day. We noted this in our Reflection on the Tannoy today as our pupils read out “Today is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day. Today let us pray for all those special children in our communities who bring such joy to families and communities by their difference.We thank God for the gift of all children who are special, whether through Down’s Syndrome or in other ways.We ask God today to give us the gifts of love, understanding and caring so we always respect and appreciate special children.”
Have a great weekend.
Friday 14th March 2014
“Tears are often the telescope through which men see far into heaven.”
Henry Ward Beecher
We had a visit from Education Scotland Inspectors on Monday as part of a national sampling exercise on approaches to English and Literacy. They indicated that they saw lots of good practice and gave some useful advice as to ways in which we might move forward with some of the challenges teachers are faced with at present. Their visit was part of a national sample being done, bit by bit, across all curricular areas.
Thanks to all staff, students and family members, including Mums and Grandmas and Grandads, for the excellent attendances at mass over the past week. I ask all parents, carers and staff to keep reminding pupils about mass, to speak about the fact that we are in Lent whenever you get the chance and to encourage young people in giving, self-sacrifice and prayer.
Congratulations to our Junior and Senior Netball teams for their success in winning their respective Glasgow Netball Tournaments on Friday. Congratulations also to Coaches Mrs Abraitis and Ms Limond.
Well done to Mrs. Bonner and her landscaping team for their excellent work at the Patio and in front of the school. It’s great to see the beauty around us as plants and flowers prepare for spring [not knowing that another dose of winter will no doubt hit us soon].
Assembly topics this week – Litter and the community, SCIAF our Lenten charity.
Friday 7th March 2014
“Some people would grumble at the accommodation in heaven if ever they got there.”
A busy week just gone by.
A successful S2 Parents’ Evening on Monday with very positive feedback from parents.
Thanks to all those, especially Father John, Father Ian and our Pastoral Group for making last Tuesday’s Holyrood Community Mass such a wonderful experience. Photos were taken by Mr. James Birrell of our Art Department and they look great.
Well done to Father Ian and the U/13 boys for reaching the last 8 of the Scottish Cup with a last minute 1-0 win versus Lasswade. Well done to Mr. Wilson and the U/16 boys for reaching the semi finals of the Scottish Cup with an excellent 3-1 win against Cardinal Newman HS.
Thursday was the usual extravaganza for the Holyrood Fashion Show, produced as always by Margaret Leyden with great support from staff across the school and a cast of thousands! Miss Leyden manages to rope in people from all across the West of Scotland to support the show. We hope to have raised almost £2,000 for local charities.
We welcome visiting Inspectors from Education Scotland on Monday 10th March, as part of a national sample of schools to look at practice in English and Literacy. Most of the focus will be on English, EAL and Support for Learning.