Excellence and Equity Awards 2017

School awards highlight positive initiatives

Excellence and Equity Awards 2017
Productive Partnerships – Purposeful Learning
Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell
Titanic Project

 As a result of changes to SQA exams, staff at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, spotted an opportunity to provide an exciting programme of interdisciplinary experiences for some of our National 4 students. Our aim was to help pupils gain additional qualifications while expanding their life experiences and raising awareness of the options available to them on leaving school, all through focusing on the Titanic disaster.

We are now approaching the third year of this vibrant project which runs over three weeks of the SQA diet. The programme coordinators are PT Pupil Support, Lyn Zambonini, and Library Resource Centre Manager, Jennifer Macfadyen and involves staff from across Our Lady’s High School, local businesses, voluntary groups and national organisations.

Following an initial introduction, the programme is split into four broad areas: ship building and design; life aboard the Titanic; the disaster itself; and the rediscovery of the wreck.

We were stunned to discover that the steel plates that built Titanic had actually come from the Colville Steelworks in Motherwell, making a wonderful connection with our local heritage. Pupils were lucky to experience Tata, now Liberty Steel, in the process of rolling the steel plates with a guided tour by staff at the plant, who also provided pupils with many stories of life at the steelworks and a thorough grounding in Health and Safety routines.

Although the Titanic was built in Belfast, we were able to take advantage of the Clyde’s vast experiences in ship-building, visiting the Titan Crane at Clydebank, and the Denny Tank Museum at Dumbarton. Titan staff explained how riveting gangs worked, how the shipyards were a part of the community and how dangerous life was while the Denny Flotation Tank demonstrated the engineering expertise involved in designing and testing ships’ hulls. The group also discovered that Denny’s was even involved in testing some of Titanic’s lifeboats. This information became invaluable when learning about buoyancy with Science teachers back at OLHS, and designing their own hulls.

Pupils also learned more about some of the passengers and crew aboard and the different lives they led on a luxury liner depending on their class. English showed the films, A Night to Remember and Titanic, and compared the special effects and reliability of each. Our group were able to put their new-found knowledge into practice by working with Lifestyle Development staff to create a shipboard lunch for staff – although staff did not know until the last minute whether they would receive the 1st, 2nd or 3rd class treatment and dining experience.

To bring everything up to date we contacted Greenock Ocean Terminal who kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the Caribbean Princess. We used this experience as a focus on careers, bringing along our Careers Advisor, Miss Ruth Robertson from SDS to provide detailed advice. Seeing aboard a real cruise ship gave pupils a whole new way of looking at the world, and the numerous careers open to them. They were also keen to compare the Caribbean Princess to what they had already learned about ship design. They were definitely impressed by the safety regulations and the numbers of lifeboats.

Turning our attention to the disaster itself, Mr Walter Lee from the RNLI kindly came along to demonstrate what happened with the iceberg and graphically explain what would have happened to the Titanic’s passengers in the water, including the effects of hypothermia – he even brought along his own mini iceberg!

Other activities have included creating a map of the world demonstrating the Titanic’s route (Social Subjects); printing and poster making (Art and Design); trying out Morse code (Science); an afternoon swimming courtesy of NL Leisure (Lifestyle Development); building their own model Titanic (Social Subjects / Art); discussion of moral issues relating to women and children first and the treatment of 3rd class passengers (RE); further moral issues relating to the wreck arose following a screening of Ghosts of the Abyss: should the Titanic be raised? Should material be removed? Should the ship be left to rust to nothing? (English); and multi-lingual newspaper front pages (Modern Languages).

With so many stories being generated from the project, we wanted pupils to be able to record the aspects that were most important to them, from the ‘women and children first’ policy, to the lifeboats, to the role of the wireless operator, so we introduced the group to storyteller, Allison Galbraith, thanks to part-funding from the Scottish Book Trust. Allison demonstrated the art of storytelling, and guided the group through creating and recording their own stories, helping them to record their own voices for posterity. Allison started by introducing herself and just talking with the group, building pupils’ confidence in speaking before a stranger. As a result, although pupils were nervous about recording, they were keen to participate. Allison also demonstrated breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups before recording began, with further advice on presentation as we worked through the stories. Despite occasionally breaking into the giggles, every pupil managed to record their own work beautifully.

Discussion with pupils led to an additional trip which saw us taking the ferry to Rothesay and the stunning Mount Stuart House. This mansion was completed in 1912, the same year as the Titanic disaster and thus pupils were not only able to experience actually travelling across water – a new experience for all of them – but to see luxurious interiors similar to those of the ship they’d been learning all about.

The Titanic Project continues to develop with partnerships emerging as various individuals and groups express an interest in participating. In 2016, our pupils were even able to join with St Brendan’s Primary as part of their anniversary visit to Belfast to see the Titanic Museum for themselves.

The Titanic Project has been a huge success over the last two years. We have seen the pupils blossom, gaining in confidence, pulling together as a team, and their ideas of what’s available to them in the future have expanded rapidly. Each year pupils have created an exhibition of their experiences which have been visited by classes from across OLHS and visitors to the school, leading to further discussions and expressions of interest. Last year all of the pupils involved achieved the SQA qualifications. “Local investigations” at SCQF level 4.

Feedback from pupils themselves has been outstanding:

”I thought it would be boring, but it was brilliant!”;

“I liked how we went on adventures and explored all the museums”;

“I seemed to get a better relationship with people that I hadn’t spoken to since primary”;

”I actually wanted to come to school!”

The Project continues to explore new ground and build new partnerships. Staff coordinators continue to collect materials, ideas and contacts and we look forward to its continuing success long into the future.



S6 at Carfin Grotto

Pupils from across Motherwell Diocese came together for a special Mass at Carfin Grotto to mark the Year of Mercy.

Our associated primaries, Cathedral, St Bernadette’s and St Brendan’s Primaries also came along. Here are the photos as evidence, because they were all apparently quite quiet on the day.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the celebration of the Year of Mercy, from the sing-along hymns on the bus. While they were a bit shy when asked to cheer for their school, the OLHS pupils were not lacking enthusiasm when asked to volunteer as stewards.

Inter-house Competition

The S6 Caritas group have organised a series of inter-house events which begin 12th September.  For one week, pupils from each House will battle to gain the title of ‘Winning House’ for the whole year.

The events are as follows:

  • Art re-design house board (S1-S4)
  • Logic Test (S1-S6)
  • Social subjects quiz (S3- S5)
  • Spelling Bee (S1-S6)
  • Modern Languages Treasure Hunt (S1 only)
  • European Bake- off (S6 only)
  • Assault Course (S1-S6)

The winning House from each event will be the one which gains the most points.  However, pupils can also gain points for their House by giving to a charity- nominated by their own House- during R.E.

We look forward to celebrating the many gifts and talents of the pupils at OLHS, whilst raising money for charity, as part of our faith mission.

Aid to the Church in Need Rally

Report from Miss McMahon

On Thursday 16th June, the new S6 Caritas pupils will be attending an Aid to the Church in Need Rally at Carfin Grotto. ACN Scotland invites Catholic high schools from all over Scotland to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians worldwide. ACN call on the Scottish Government to promote faith and freedom around the world.  It is hoped that Caritas pupils will gain knowledge about the persecution of Christians throughout the world so that they go on to make a positive impact on social injustices.

Young Christian Workers Training Event

Report from Miss McMahon

On Wednesday 15th June, S5 pupils Rahel Agiwaah, Piroska Horvath and Heather Nugent will attend a Young Christian Workers Training Event at the Conforti Centre.  YCW groups are new to Scotland but are part of a strong global community of young people campaigning on social justice issues from the perspective of Catholic social teaching.

The day will focus on ‘Impact’ which is a programme developed by the YCW for younger members.  It places strong emphasis on action led by young people themselves and helps them to explore the link between faith and life in a way which is fun, innovative and empowers them to action.  It is hoped that the pupils attending will becoming young leaders and make a positive impact on the school through the training they receive.

Caritas Awards 2016

Report from Mr McHugh

Our Lady’s High School was well represented at the recent Caritas Award Ceremony, on Monday 6th June, at the Clyde Auditorium. It was a fantastic experience to see 29 pupils from Our Lady’s High School rewarded for their commitment to their faith when they were presented with their Caritas Award.


The SCES assessment team were particularly impressed with some of the creative final submissions of our students. Two of our senior students, Nicholas Allan and Konner Millar-Brookbanks, performed the songs they had written as part of their final Caritas submissions. Their performances were both inspirational and spiritually uplifting.  Well done to all involved.

Food for Thought Fridays

sciaflogoLast year, the English Department raised almost £400 for SCIAF during Lent by asking people to trade in their Friday lunch money for a slice of bread, cheese or jam, chased down with a glass of water. The English Department is keen to follow on from last year’s success with the help of Mr McHugh and Miss McMahon in RE.

The first Food for Thought Friday took place last week, and has already raised £30. All staff and pupils are welcome to join in on Friday lunchtimes, swap their cash for grub, and enjoy some musical entertainment courtesy of staff and pupils.

24 Hour Fast for SCIAF

sciaflogoReport from Miss McMahon

All S5 pupils have the opportunity to participate in a 24 hour fast for SCIAF whose aim is to ‘make poverty a thing of the past’. The money donated during Lent will also be doubled by the UK government.

The fast takes place on Monday 21st March at the beginning of Mass at 1:20pm and will end the following day at lunch time. Participants will be offered a Dominos pizza lunch to break their fast on Tuesday 22nd March. To participate, pupils should pay £5 and collect as many sponsors as possible.

Please see Miss McMahon for a sponsor form.

Catholic Education Week Newsletter 2016

2016_0128_CEW16-1Click on the image on the left to read this year’s Catholic Education Week newsletter.

You can also read the newsletter by opening this file :2016_0128_CEW16

You will need Acrobat Reader to view this document. Acrobat Reader is free software, available to download here: https://acrobat.adobe.com/uk/en/products/pdf-reader.html 


Day of the Dead – Quiz, Prizewinners and Thanks

The penultimate task of our Day of the Dead event was a multiple choice quiz covering Dia de los Muertos and Hallowe’en. The teams had learned about Day of the Dead over the previous weeks through the departments involved.

The prizewinners were announced by DHT, Mr McQuillan, before Fr Martin closed the afternoon by reminding everyone that this afternoon had been a way of remembering family and friends who had died.

Congratulations to all of S2 whose behaviour was excellent, and thanks to all of the departments involved for another successful Day of the Dead.

Here’s to 2016!

Our grateful thanks to:

all the staff of the Departments involvedArt and Design, Library Resource Centre, Modern Languages, Religious Education;

our Caritas helpersMonica Allan, Louise Black, Rebecca Cairney, Nicole Cassidy, Beth Cunningham, Emma Graham, Megan Green, Gary Harbinson, James Kelly, Sherri Lonie, Sophie Lloyd, Lisa Mackie, Olivia McMahon, Emily Tougher Mitchell, Sophie Tougher Mitchell, Rachael Moore, Roseanne Plunkett, Claire Ross, Keryn Shearer, Beth Knight Townsley;

our Mariachi Band: Mrs Glover, Mr Kerr, Konner Miller-Brookbanks, Paul Hawthorne;

our judges: Father Martin, Mr McQuillan and volunteer, Scott Price;

everyone who helped out the event go aheadSMT, janitors, admin, all the staff who covered classes, and all the staff who popped in to help.

Day of the Dead 2015 – Hats

While the cakes were being judged, Mr Pegard introduced our second activity of the afternoon: designing hats for La Calavera Catrina. Pupils had brought in a variety of decorating materials as part of their homework over the past couple of weeks.

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Day of the Dead 2015 – Cakes!

Our Mariachi Band played Mexican classics as pupils arrived and were welcomed to their tables by S6 Caritas pupils. Mr Pégard welcomed pupils to the Día de los Muertos celebrations and Fr Martin Delaney opened with prayers before our first activity which was cake decorating.

Each table was provided with bowls full of fairy cakes, decorations, icing, food colourings and squares of fondant icing. Their task was to shape and decorate fondant skulls to sit on top of their cakes with the help of our 6th year helpers.

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Day of the Dead 2015 – Altar

An important part of Day of the Dead celebrations is the altar containing memories dedicated to loved ones.

Our altar was filled with skulls created by Art and Design classes and memories of family and friends and well loved famous people created by Religious Education classes as well as a statue of Our Lady.

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Day of the Dead 2015 – Decorating

Our Day of the Dead celebrations took place on the afternoon of Friday 6th November, a fabulous interdisciplinary project involving Art and Design, Modern Languages, RE and the Library Resource Centre.

Art and Design worked with S2 to create posters and decorations to liven up our Kamwokya Room. The posters showed traditional Day of the Dead skulls on illustrated black paper backgrounds, with more skulls appeared on top of tissue paper, strung together and hung across the room.

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Finally, we also had some living skeletons as the Caritas class painted their faces as Calavera Catrina, or Elegant Skull.

S1 retreats

Report from Mr McHugh

The S1 retreats took place on 21st and 23rd October at Carfin Grotto and centred around the theme of Recognising God.  The day was divided into three distinct sessions. The first of which was entitled THE NAME OF GOD and was led by, our school chaplain, Father Martin Delaney.  During this session pupils were given the opportunity to reflect on the importance of having a name. They were also encouraged to explore the names used in scripture to describe God.

The second session of the day was entitled THE FACE OF GOD and was led by Mr McHugh.  During this session pupils were asked to consider how God has made himself visible to us throughout history and how this impacts on our daily lives. Our pupils took part in a variety of activities ranging from creating acrostic poems to undertaking the Face of God Treasure Hunt. The pupils were also asked to reflect on the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist when they attended Mass.

The final session was entitled THE PRESENCE OF GOD. During this session the pupils also enjoyed a guided meditation led by Father Martin which was a very peaceful and calming exploration of a different way to pray and reflect on our relationship with God.

S6 Caritas students assisted pupils and staff throughout the day of retreat.  Their help and support was very much appreciated and only added to a very enjoyable and worthwhile day.

The Room

RMPS pupils in 6th year are working on ‘Dysfunctional Families and Crime Unit’, investigating whether there is a link between dysfunctional families and those who commit crimes later in life.

Mrs King recreated ‘The Room’ from the novel by Emma Donoghue, using one of the old staff bases, some mouldy cheese to provide a musty smell, some tea-lights for a dark atmosphere and stickers to indicate the low height of the ceiling – pupils over 5’6″ had to bend down.

After experiencing the room for a short time themselves, pupils discussed how such horrible conditions would affect young people, and whether criminal leanings were an inevitable result of such an up-bringing. Miss McGinness and Fr Martin Delaney contributed to the class discussions.

S4 Ur Space Retreat

Report by Mr McHugh

Some S4 pupils attended the Ur Space Retreat on Monday 8th June in St Thomas’ Parish Hall.

The retreats were led wonderfully by Sister Bernie, Sister Jill (Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco) and Elizabeth Miller (Motherwell Diocese Youth Officer) and centred around the theme of Prayer and Our Relationship with God.

The pupils, who attended the retreat, enjoyed a series of activities based on the theme of the day. These ranged from a creating a Prayer Web to designing and making a Prayer Candle.

The pupils also enjoyed the guided meditation led by Sister Bernie which was a very peaceful and calm exploration of a different way to pray and reflect.

Caritas 2015

Report by Mr McHugh

Our Lady’s High School was well represented at the recent Caritas Award Ceremony, on Wednesday 3rd June, at the Clyde Auditorium. It was a fantastic experience to see 41 pupils from Our Lady’s High School rewarded for their commitment to their faith when they were presented with their Caritas Award.

The Caritas Choir’s hard work and endeavour was duly recognised when they were invited to contribute to the Opening Prayer and Closing Reflection of the Award Ceremony. The performance of the Caritas Choir was both inspirational and spiritually uplifting. Well done to all involved.