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.



Advent and Christmas update

Many thanks to Fr Martin for House Advent services and for mass being available for pupils and staff daily. Our thanks also to Monsignor Millar for a lovely Mass celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which was very well attended. Staff and pupils had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on 9th December.

As we gear up for Christmas, pupils are looking forward to panto visits and parties, with ceilidh dancing practices being as popular as ever. Our thanks to the Catering staff for a sumptuous Christmas dinner which had the largest ever attendance. The party for staff children was also very successful, and final preparations are underway for the Seniors Christmas Party.

Never content to rest on our laurels, Mr Deans in Performing Arts is organising a Nativity to be performed by S1, entries are coming in fast for the Best Worst Christmas Joke competition dreamt up by Mrs Macfadyen, Miss McShane in Technical has more 1st years working away on Christmas Crafts and a Christmas jumper day is on the horizon!

Queensferry Crossing Trip

Day trip to the Forth Replacement Crossing Education Centre in South Queensferry on Tuesday 10th March by Ms Mc Shane

Our Higher Design and Manufacture and Higher Graphic Communication pupils were invited to the Forth Replacement Crossing Education Centre, the biggest transport infrastructure project in Scotland, to learn more about the project and the construction of the new bridge taking shape across the Forth, the Queensferry Crossing. Pupils were able to participate and enjoy interactive and inspiring educational activities related to bridge construction, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


The centre’s trained and knowledgeable staff hosted the educational visits in their stunning exhibition area and viewing gallery providing a real life insight into the engineering and construction of the 21st century Queensferry Crossing along with information about the 20th century Forth Road Bridge and 19th century Forth Bridge.

The Exhibition Area provided an excellent learning environment with bridges models, information boards, audio visual resources, interactive activity resources and spectacular panoramic views across the Forth.

OLHS Easter School, 8th-9th April 2015

Easter School will run on Wednesday 8th April and Thursday 9th April. During this time there will be tutorials in each subject which will last for one and a half hours. Each day will start at 9.30 a.m. prompt and finish at 3.00 p.m.

Pupils who attended last year’s Easter School found it extremely useful,  enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere with staff, but noticed that they covered far more than they might have managed studying alone.

Please note there will be no transport or catering facilities available during Easter School, However it is hoped that each day there will be an ‘Upper Crust’ run organised for those who do not wish to bring a packed lunch.

You will be asked to sign up for 3 tutorials per day. Each tutorial will only have space for 20 and not every subject will be represented. You will NOT be allowed to opt for the one subject 3 times in one day.

Easter School 2015 Timetable. Click to enlarge.

Easter School 2015 Timetable. Click to enlarge.

There will also be opportunities for supervised study and/or relaxation sessions.

Pupils who intend to attend Easter School should fill in the form they were given at the S4 assembly last week or at Senior PSHE Day on Thursday 15th January and return it to Mrs Mulholland by Monday 19th January. 

Parents/Carers also need to countersign this form.

A copy of the form is available below.

OLHS Easter School pupil 2015 (PDF version)


CABEC 2012

Thanks to Collette Whitson for the information

Congratulations to our team of ten 2nd year pupils who reached the final of the Construction and Built Environment Challenge (CABEC) at Hampden Park. The team was split into two, each with a team leader, namely Collette Whitson and Lewis Donnelly, to take on a series of plumbing, electrical and construction challenges. The tasks included building a mini Wendy house, copying a plumbing system using a variety of pieces of pipe, connect a solar energy system, building a picnic bench, making water flow through pipes, creating a picture in tiles and wiring up a series of lights.

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Everyone had a great time and learned a lot about communication and the benefits of not arguing with your team as well as gaining a lot of construction experience.

CABEC West Challenge

Congratulations to the 2nd year team who won the Construction and the Built Environment Challenge (CABEC) West at Motherwell College on 25th November.

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The ten pupils were selected for their work rate, behaviour and team working abilities which were put to good use in the three stages of the challenge:

  • The painting exercise required the pupils to work as a team using stencils to mark out and paint a wall.
  • Next, the pupils had 30 minutes to recreate a monoblock design in 30 minutes, with each team member completing a different task.
  • Finally, the pupils had to calculate how the new Riverside Museum had been built and add their results to a planning calendar.

Mr Paul Cavanagh, Technical teacher said, “I believe the Our Lady’s team won because they worked together as a team and they never rushed into it, they took their time and calculated each task out. I’m very proud of them.”

The team will take part in the Grand Final at Hampden park on 24th January.

CABEC Team: Stephen Adair, Monica Allen, Louise Bell, Lewis Donnelly, Kyle McCarron, Konner Millar-Brookbanks, Emily Tougher Mitchell, Sophie Tougher Mitchell, Kevin Ward, Colette Whitson

Grease is the word!

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Report by Mr Dunn and Mr Harding

This year Our Lady’s High School decided to put on a performance of Grease the Musical! Mrs Smith the drama teacher / director was backed up by an enthusiastic strong cast of willing pupils of all ages, and lets not be forgetting the key staff i.e. Mrs Glover – Musical Director, Mrs Mitchell – Musical Director, Mr Cooper – Lead Guitarist, and fellow members of staff who were brought in from all over North Lanarkshire to kindly help within the band.

When we first started rehearsals everything was going smoothly although the cast had a packed schedule full of singing, dancing and acting rehearsals to attend. The cast thankfully took these rehearsals in their stride and everything was looking hopeful. Until a mere 4 weeks before opening night ……  things started to look not so promising, with people not learning lines, cues and dance moves at the speed expected of them.

Thankfully things started to come together 2 weeks before opening night. Dances started to look more fluent, and acting started to look more natural and realistic to the era (1959).  This was helped by the lighting and sound technicians  (who shall NOT be named!!! :@) [but thank you Science people] who added another overall texture to the show making it just that little bit more exciting! Another key feature was of course THE CAR (Greased Lightning itself) which was kindly made by Mr Cavanagh and Mr Nimmo, and decorated by Ms Steinert and her classes, and not forgetting all the help from staff from right across the school for props, costumes, make-up, promotion, publicity, designing tickets, collecting tickets, raffle, tuck shop and all those little extra bits that get the job done [NB the programme will appear here soon with all the details].

Overall the cast and chorus put on a great show which was enjoyed by many [in particular the appearances of certain guest artistes from PE, Maths and English seemed to go down well]. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to making this year’s show such a triumphant success!

Mr McKenna

Mr McKenna retires this year. 2nd years, Lorna and Caroline, went to interview him before he escaped.

Why are you leaving ?
Because I am too old to stay

How long have you been at OLHS ?
I have been at this school for 15 years

Have you enjoyed working here?
Yes, I have enjoyed working at Our Lady’s

What’s your best memory of OLHS?
There have been lots of good memories

Did you always want to be a teacher?
That is a hard question

What do you plan to do after leaving OLHS ?
Nothing. I’m going to relax at home.

What will you miss most?
The pupils, especially my registration class (now 3A).

What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to be a teacher?
Don’t be daft

Who was your favourite person to work with?
There are lots of favourites. Can’t mention them all

Would you come back to the school if you had the chance?

Any last words?

International Education Award

Our Lady’s is proud to be one of only three secondary schools in North Lanarkshire to receive the North Lanarkshire International Education Award for promoting pupils’ knowledge of global issues and Scottish culture.

The Award recognises both classwork and extra-curricular initiatives such as the school’s continuing links with the Kamwokya Community in Uganda, our Citizens’ Cafe, the Sensory Garden and St Andrew’s Day celebrations, along with a variety of research tasks including Scottish mysteries, musical instruments worldwide and food culture in Italy.

Headteacher, Mrs Kathleen Sinclair and Depute Head, Mr John Crossan received the award on behalf of the school from Mrs Christine Pollock, Executive Director of Learning and Leisure Services for North Lanarkshire Council.

Design Challenge at Caledonian

Report from Mr Allan



Five senior pupils went Caledonian University to take part in a Design Challenge on Wednesday 25th February.

The teams were given drawings, research documents and a budget. They had to determine what facilities for people with disabilities were appropriate and possible, given their design constraints. They had to calculate the costs and present their solution to the client. The team that presented the best solution and best costs would be awarded the contract.

The pupils were split up and were working in teams with pupils from other schools. The team that included Luke Duncan was awarded the contract.

The pupils representing Our Lady’s are Luke Duncan, Alexander Findlay, David Hamilton, Stephen McShannon and Neil Cutler.

Visit to Rotary Club

Mr Allan took two pupils, Steven Cahill (S6) and Daniel Kennedy (S5) to the Rotary Club Design Evening held in the Bentley Hotel last night.

The pupils gave separate Powerpoint presentations to the members, discussing assignments that they had carried out and how they developed their design from brief to design proposal.

Daniel presented work created for Intermediate II Product Design and 6th year Stephen discussed pieces from his Higher Product Design folio.