Wayside Club Christmas Party for the Homeless

As a Caritas student, on an early 10 am December Sunday, I gave up my time to help with a Christmas party at St. John’s Church. This Christmas party wasn’t a typical one as it was organised for the homeless in our community. At this point, I hadn’t really put much thought into the Christmas party and didn’t know what to expect.

Around 15 other Caritas students and I arrived at St. John’s before the guests. We were put to work quite quickly – we spent quite some time sorting a huge bundle of clothes into piles of male and female. We then put the clothes in bags with other essentials such as toothpaste and deodorant. This wasn’t really the job I thought I would have been doing but we all worked as a team to have everything sorted in time.

5 other Caritas students and I then had the job of serving the food to everyone that had arrived. For the starter, we had given out bowls of soup. When I went from table to table, I noticed that there were always one or two people at each table who would pass their soup over to someone else. I realised that they were making sure that everyone else had theirs before they did. This was quite amazing to me despite it being such a small act of kindness. It just shows the selfishness of people who essentially have nothing to give. On top of that, I don’t think I’ve heard so many ‘thank you’s in such a short period of time. It was clear how grateful those in attendance were. Next, we served the main, then the desert; by the end of it, there was hardly anything left of it all.

We then had a karaoke and so many joined in, both the guests and Caritas students. Personally, I believe it was great for them to have had a social gathering. I’m sure many of them will tend to feel lonely, especially during the festive seasons. I noticed how much their days were brightened up and realised how much some homeless people would appreciate even a smile and a conversation if we were to see them on the streets. We then distributed all the bags of clothes and utilities we had made up earlier on in the day. I couldn’t help but think that their reactions were comparable to those of a 5-year-old on Christmas morning – a sight that broke my heart and mended it straight afterward.

With it being such a busy day, it was only when I was home and tucking into a Sunday roast that I began to reflect on the hours just passed. I tried to put myself in their position and attempted to comprehend the daily struggles they may face every day. I found it unbelievably impossible! However, I do know that on that day, along with many other great people, I helped make the day of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And the price I paid? A few hours out of what would have been a day full of procrastination – nothing. Yet, I got back so much and I’m sure the other students who went would definitely agree. The people I was surrounded with that day were like you and me; the awful truth is that homelessness could happen to any of us. So, why wait to start caring when it’s you? Some of these people rely heavily on the community they’re in and have nobody else. Our school already does so much to help the homeless community out. We donate to foodbanks yet we never realize the impact this truly has. I’m so grateful to have been able to see the changes we can make.

I think it’s amazing that St. John’s Church in Stevenson organises this and I know everybody appreciated it. I encourage everyone to be more of an active role in their community and to help people who need it. You might not get anything materialistic from volunteering, but you gain so much insight and an appreciation for what you have and take for granted. Not to mention how much of a difference you’d be making in someone else’s life.

By Chloe Robertson

The Give Me 5 Campaign

What is it?

Give Me 5 is a campaign which aims to increase child benefit by £5 which could lift 30,000 children out of poverty. An additional £5 a week could cover 7 nutritious breakfasts of cereal, milk, fruit juice and a banana; or over two months, a good quality winter coat or enable to take part in school trips or an activity each week.

Why did we decide to help?

As a group, we decided to help the children who are in poverty to give them a better life so that they can have better opportunities. This could help enable them to get the grades that they deserve and lead to them being successful in their lives. Also, we wanted to show that children living in poverty are no different than any other human and is of no less value. As Christians, it is our duty to help those in need whenever possible. We learn this through the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus teaches us that anyone in need of help is our neighbour and we should strive to help them regardless of race, sexuality, gender or religion. Raising awareness for a campaign such as the Give Me 5 campaign is exactly what Christ calls us to do.

What did we do?

The Caritas students at St. Matthew’s Academy created multiple presentations and delivered them to all year groups through assemblies and presenting in classes. Some pupils also went out to different primary schools and parishes to talk about the Give Me 5 campaign and raise awareness. After all of the presentations, we collected signatures from those who wished to support the cause. We also encouraged people to email their local MPs to further raise awareness.


As a result of all the hard work of the Caritas students, we have managed to spread the word and get nearly 1400 signatures which were then presented to Bishop Nolan.

By Rebecca Williamson and India Cairns

Malawi Trip 2017

A group of seniors from St. Matthew’s Academy were chosen to partake in a school exchange to Mzuzu, Malawi. The trip was amazing but seeing what happened afterwards in terms of fundraising, speeches and awards was unbelievable.

The pupils in Malawi

On the 23rd of November 2017, the Malawi partnership group organised a Bingo Night to help fund for the Malawian students to come to Scotland. The bingo night was a fantastic event with many prices being won, tickets being bought, and family and friends supporting the cause. In total, the Bingo Night raised over £300 which will help pay for them to visit Scotland as mentioned above.

We also found out that we won an award for our partnership with St. Peter’s Secondary in Mzuzu. This award was given to the school by the Scottish Malawi Partnership. The plague given can be seen in the prestigious award cabinet opposite the main office alongside many of the other awards the school has won.

Our hard-earned award!

As part-time of her leadership project, Zara Aird (S6), who went on the trip in July 2017, was responsible for the Christmas Parcel collection to send to out the two orphanages which we help fund- Mary Martha Orphanage and the Women’s Development Centre. We send in total 275 parcels- 200 were sent to Mary Martha and 75 to The Women’s Development Centre. This was an amazing success with pupils from S1 to S6 all donating pens, pencils, small toys and other gifts. This may sound very small to us but to the children in Malawi, this may be their only gift and it brings great joy and happiness. Seeing their smiling faces over the little things that we tend to take for granted, like a bouncy ball or a small plastic toy car, is a feeling no words can describe and for us as a school to do be doing such a thing is incredible.

The children at Mary Martha receiving their Christmas parcels

For me, personally, I’m so thankful that St. Matthew’s Academy has a partnership with St. Peter’s Secondary School. It not only helps those who do not have the same luxuries that we do but gives us a deeper and clearer understanding of what they face and how we can help. The children in Malawi are always smiling even if they have very little and I think their positivity for their Catholic Faith and life is something that is truly admirable.

By Chloe O’Neill

What did our school do in Malawi?

Shannon Fitzsimmons, a sixth year, has kindly given us an account of her week in Mzuzu.

On the first day in Malawi, we were all introduced to our buddies from our partner school, St. Peter’s. Among the buddies I was glad to find out that my yearlong pen pal Mary was there, we only got to chat briefly on the first day as I had to talk to some of the other buddies too before we went to the Mary Martha Orphan Centre. There we were treated to a song and a play put on by some of the girls and even though I don’t know the name of the song they sang, I know it was stuck in my head for the rest of the trip. We handed out toothbrushes and balloons to everyone as well as leaving some other gifts before we had to leave. It was a valuable experience and I enjoyed seeing the kids so happy. At the end of the day, we all sat down and talked about the day. I was awarded the title of being last out of bed that day which I thought was funny and a very me thing to do.

On day two we had to be up for 7 and it was understandably difficult for me to wake up as I don’t even get up at that time for school. After me practically being a zombie during breakfast, I woke up in time for the mass, unlike our usual half an hour masses this mass lasted a lot longer (2 hours longer) and was much more upbeat than ours as there was a lot of dancing and energetic singing. After it was over we followed the procession which was interesting, but I had been sure I’d get burnt during it as my sunscreen had been in my lost case, but alas no I did not get burnt nor did I get a tan during the whole trip. We then got to see our buddies again as we visited the Mzuzu coffee den. I got the chance to talk to Mary and she is just as nice as in our letters, I also got the opportunity to talk to another one of our buddies who was super friendly and outgoing. Overall the day was relaxed, and I really enjoyed getting to talk to the buddies as well as experience the mass.

Day three was the day of the graduation mass which was incredible as it was so lively. I thought it was interesting that everyone sitting their exams got their exam equipment blessed. We then went to the St Peter’s church hall where we got to see the students perform this was amazing because they were very talented and there were some good singers. We were then invited on the stage to perform ‘The Flower of Scotland’ and I was glad that I wasn’t near a mic because, unlike some of the Malawians, I am not a good singer. My favourite part of the day was either teaching the students ceilidh dancing or being able to participate in their disco for a while. We taught some of the students how to do the Gay Gordon’s for which we had to choose a partner. I had originally been nervous about it, but the students were happy to take part which I thought was amazing. We then did ‘Loch Lomond’ which I had seen people in Scotland doing before but like the Malawian’s I, myself, had never taken part until that moment which was fun. After that, it was time for their disco which was much more energetic than the ones in Scotland as everyone was up dancing and a few people even managed to get me to take part. The entire day was amazing and was one of my favourites.

Day four was another day I really enjoyed. We had to be up for the half six mass which, like the ones in Scotland, lasted only half an hour with much more energy. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would as it woke me up. We also got to experience classes in St Peter’s secondary school which I enjoyed as I got to talk to some of the students during the break while the teachers moved class. I appreciated that the students made both me and Chloe feel very welcomed in the class as it made it even more enjoyable. The lessons we sat through were English and science and it was interesting to see the differences between our lessons and theirs. We then were invited for a small lunch in the staff room where I discovered my love of Malawian tea – it was so nice! We then headed for a village where we were honoured to be invited into the chief’s house before they showed us how they make their food and where they used to get water from before having a water pump installed. I’m incredibly glad that they no longer must make the long walk down the steep hill where their previous source of water was as when we walked up and down it (without buckets of water to carry) I was terrified I was going to slip and fall. I was a good experience to see the village and I think it was an important thing to see. Plus, it was cool to have a shot of the water pump.

Day five was the day we got to visit the reserve with some of the students from St Peter’s. We all had to be ready for 6 am so we could prepare food before we went to the six thirty mass. The bus ride to the reserve was long and bumpy in places but I was just glad to be able to nap for a bit. When we arrived, we got to see elephants and hippos almost immediately and they were really close too. I’d never seen elephants or hippos in real life before, so I thought that it was cool. I also got to find out more about Mary which I enjoyed.

On day six we visited St Peter’s primary school where we all split into groups to teach the students about Scottish culture. I was in a group with Mr Cullinane and Chloe and we did a true or false quiz. We got a lot of questions about the Loch Ness Monster which was fun to talk about and the students seemed genuinely interested. We then split into two groups again while one group visited the local hospital and the other group – the one that I was a part of – visited St John of God’s psychiatric unit. We learned all about how they’ve made great progress in helping people with mental health problems and how substance abuse is common in Malawi. I thought the work they were doing to help the community was amazing.

For day seven we got to meet the Bishop of Mzuzu, Bishop John Ryan. He seemed very kind and I was glad to make his acquaintance. After that, we visited the primary schools, which I believe was very valuable to see. We split into two groups, with half going to the St Peter’s Primary and the other group – which I was a part of – going to the partner school of my old primary, Lunyangwa which is an all-girls school. I got the honour of handing over St Mark’s (my old primary school’s) pen pal letters as well as a few other things they had sent over which I was very happy to do. We then visited some classes and taught the kids how to sing ‘three craws’, ‘head shoulders knees and toes’ and ‘if you’re happy and you know it’. It was heart-warming to hear the children singing the songs as we left one of the classes. The experience was eye-opening as there were so many students in one class. We then visited Mary Martha’s where we got to give gifts and play with the children for a while which was fun. Some students also recited poems which I appreciated as it made the afternoon even better before we had to leave for Nakata Bay. I don’t know how much the other girls enjoyed the aesthetic of our dorm at Nakata, as you could see through the wooden floorboards and it was completely made of wood, but I loved it. I thought it was a wonderful experience and I won’t forget it. Plus, I was hyped to get the top bunk!

Day eight in Nakata Bay was interesting, I had been looking forward to a long lie but instead, I ended up still getting up early. The girls were the first awake, so we got breakfast first. We got to relax for a bit until everyone else woke up and then we headed out to the market. There were lots of shops, possibly 15, and I made sure to buy from each one. I ended up with a bunch of random objects ranging from a bag, necklaces, paintings and carvings. I got everything for a fair price and by the end, I had spent most of my remaining money. I even got customised keyrings, so I was very happy. We had some more time to relax by the water and enjoy the view before we had to leave. I enjoyed Nakata Bay a lot because it was cool.

On day 9, we got a ‘long’ lie before going to the 7 o’clock, English mass. The mass was relaxed and the singing was great as always. After it, we got to go to the Tumbuka mass for another few hours. This mass was livelier and even though we didn’t have a clue what was being said, the energy of the choir and everyone dancing kept it interesting. Near the end, while the announcements were being read, we got the opportunity to tell the everyone how thankful we were to have been warmly welcomed. We then got to relax for a bit before we saw our buddies for the last time. Unfortunately, I had to use my relaxation time to pack – if you call cramming things in a case with no order packing. I received Mary’s final letter in response to my previous one and we exchanged contact information so I can still be in contact with her now. Then we went for lunch in town and I regret playing it safe and only getting chips because the pizza was delicious. Finally, we had a social with the priests and other people who help out in the community. I got the opportunity to talk to Joseph, who helps with the Saint John of God, and Dominic who helps with the Saint Vincent de Paul. I got to learn about their SVDP and it was good to hear about what they are doing for the community and to see the differences in their work and our own at home.

Everyone enjoying their dinner.

Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen

Heather, Rebecca, Maddison and Niamh at the Wayside Club

Shortly before Christmas, I was one of the Caritas students who visited Glasgow’s Wayside Club. Myself and three other girls travelled up on a Tuesday evening to help assist the dedicated volunteers, many of which have been helping at the club for many years. The club wouldn’t exist without these selfless individuals who have devoted themselves to helping others. We spent three hours at the club, helping to prepare and serve the dinner for the homeless frequenters and even helping to run their nightly bingo game, a much anticipated and intense game that is enjoyed by all.

When we were informed in our Caritas classes that this opportunity to volunteer at the Wayside Club would be available, I felt driven to sign up because it felt it was a more direct way to volunteer. It allows you to see first-hand how an act of charity impacts on the lives of others.

Although I had previously taken part in the Wayside Christmas dinner at St John’s Church, before we arrived there was a nervous feeling I couldn’t shake. Luckily, all the people who made use of the club’s services were so polite that this quickly disappeared.

All the volunteers were especially kind and welcoming, and the experience was quite eye-opening to the goodwill of the people of Glasgow. The club is entirely funded by donations, and we were informed that local hairdressers and barbers would visit and offer free haircuts. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a local Pret-A-Manger donated sandwiches and salads to the club.

It was an extremely worthwhile experience, and I would definitely consider returning to volunteer again.

By Niamh McLaughlin



P1030685The girls before the bake sale!

Who are they?

SCIAF are the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. They are the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland. They are inspired by Gospel, guided by Catholic social teaching, reach out with love to global neighbours in need regardless of gender, class, race and religion. They are strongly driven by their values of dignity, empowerment, solidarity and hope.

Their vision 

A world without poverty, where the poorest of the poor can survive by equipping them with the tools and teach them the valuable skills they need in life. With their values they believe that in caring for the whole person, including emotional, spiritual wellbeing, political voice, culture and community life, as well as how they support themselves and their families. They want to help people to be in control of their life and be able to provide for themselves and their families, learn skills, live in peaceful communities with power over decision which may affect them so they know their full potential. SCIAF work with local organizations and charities overseas so people who need the help the most will get it first. And closer to home they inspire schools, public and parishes to all work together to build a better future for all, especially those who need it. They want to help the poorest of the poor to thrive.

Real gifts 

Real gifts are a great way of giving an ethical gift that makes a difference in the world for people, their lives and communities. When we buy a real gift we are providing something that is of vital importance to families that live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The idea behind SCIAF’s real gifts is for people to support the charities work in poor countries around the world by making donations instead of buying a present for a relative or friend that may end up being unwanted. SCIAF real gifts provides lots of essential items from school books and farming tools to chickens and goats. They even provide a water lifeline to help farmers keep their crops alive.

What we are doing to help

We have held a bake sale in school to help raise funds so we can buy real gifts for those who need them most. As a school we can help buy smaller items like seeds, books, blankets, tools, farm animals and a shelter for a family. We could put the money all together and buy something bigger for a community or we could buy lots of little gifts to help those in need.

P1030689Barely anything left! What a successful bake sale!

How did we really help?

Through our bake sale we raised £106.20. A lot more than we had anticipated. Using the money that we raised, we purchased real gifts from SCIAF. This included chickens, warm blankets and emergency water supplies among many other things. It is important to remember that the bake sales we hold are not for nothing. Sure, it’s great to be able to purchase some home baked goods. However, your money is having a big impact on the lives of those less fortunate than us. We’d like to thank everyone for the donations given.


The letters received to confirm the purchases.

By Maddison Mayhew, Rebecca Crossan and Rebecca Williamson

Lourdes – The Experience of a Lifetime

The summer of 2017 was a big one for me. I went on my first trip abroad without my parents. Now, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a big holiday with a group of friends clubbing somewhere sunny. Actually, it was quite the opposite…

1st photo The official Youth for Lourdes photo for 2017.

I first heard about Youth for Lourdes late 2016 when Fr Jim came to the school to talk about it. He told us that Youth for Lourdes was a Catholic organisation that sent youth (16 – 23) over to Lourdes to assist pilgrims and explore their faith every 2 years. It was a 10-day trip that would cost us £650. It sounds like a lot, I know. However, the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket. It comes from fundraising, whether that be a bake sale, sponsored walks or curry nights! It was hard work but we all managed it. Plus, if we ever had any problems with ideas, the team were always there to lend a helping hand.

I went with the Galloway and Dumfries Diocese. I had agreed to go with a friend but honestly, I was still terrified. Around 50 youth went this year and I was worried that maybe we’d clash or just simply not get along. However, you aren’t really going with strangers. The amazing Youth for Lourdes team organise multiple meetings throughout the year before you depart on your journey. This gives you a chance to get to know one another, to check on how you are doing with your fundraising and to learn more about where you’re going and why. I loved these meetings because it helped me to feel more at ease about going away without my parents and I met so many amazing people. The meetings were always lively and fun as there were ALWAYS some little ice breakers. At first, they felt very abnormal and awkward but towards the end, you were just having such a good time that you forgot you were completely embarrassing yourself. Also, it helped that halfway through the 3-hour meetings, we got some snacks. However, way faster than I expected, we reached the last meeting and finally our trip was in our sights.

photo 2Our blessing mass where we received our badges and uniform.

Before I go on to talk about the journey to Lourdes, I believe that it’s essential to talk about why Lourdes is such a special place. On 11 February 1858, a young girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous was with her sister and her friend looking for wood. When the other two girls went through the cold river, Bernadette decided against following because of her persistent asthma. She reportedly heard “a noise like a gust of wind” but “none of the trees were moving”. She looked up to see a young lady in a hollow of the rock (where there is now a statue) who looked at her and smiled. At this time the Grotto was dirty and damp, known as the “pigs’ shelter” because the pigs feeding in the area. This is where the Virgin Mary (Immaculate Conception) appeared to Bernadette. In total there were eighteen apparitions, spanning from February to July. You learn more about these at the meetings you attend for Youth for Lourdes. You also get the chance to take an assisted pilgrim and yourself through the Grotto. You must remove any hats and be quietly respectful. You get the chance to run your hand along the wall which is incredibly smooth after many people doing exactly this. I feel the Grotto looks especially beautiful at night as there are candles lit and a light shone onto the statue of the Immaculate Conception.


Our rainy mass at the Grotto.

I feel I should also mention that Youth for Lourdes have a dress code. You can buy a polo shirt which comes with a Youth for Lourdes logo on it, or you can buy a hoodie (which is BRIGHT red) or a poncho sort of thing in case it rains. However, you get a free polo and are expected to wear a polo shirt whenever you are on duty. You can also bring plain white polo shirts, but I feel for picture day it looks better if you have a Youth for Lourdes polo shirt on. You also cannot wear jeans or leggings. It’s preferable that you wear dark trousers or a kilt if you so wish. Make sure that these trousers cover your knees because it’s frowned upon to have exposed knees in the domain. When they tell you it’s best to bring old trainers to wear on duty, listen! You will have an identity card and emergency numbers on a lanyard. You must always wear this on duty and when entering the domain. Personally, my favourite part of the uniform was the two badges we were given. They now have pride of place on my school blazer!

Now, I won’t lie. The journey to Lourdes is exhausting and endless but also fun. I was the first pick up point, lucky me! I had to be at St Matthew’s Academy at 5:45 AM at the latest! I am not a morning person and never will be, so you can imagine how horrified I was when I found out the news. After a couple hours of sleep, I was off in my onesie, armed with a blanket, a backpack and a suitcase. The word “excited” doesn’t even begin to capture what I was feeling when I first saw the bus. After getting on the bus, we had a few other stops until we eventually wound up in Dumfries. The journey there overall took around 2 hours, and can I just say, everyone in Dumfries is so lucky that they didn’t have to make the journey up there. I am still insanely jealous of the fact that they didn’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour. However, when we got to Dumfries, we were greeted with rolls and bacon. I think it’s safe to say that that right there was probably my favourite part of the 36-hour long journey. After our breakfast, we took a group photo and then we were truly off. It was happening, there was no turning back now.


Everyone bright eyed and bushytailed in Dumfries at 8am, ready to head off!

After a long drive, we boarded the ferry to France. This gave us a chance to socialise a bit more and stretch our legs. Also, we got to freshen up which was very needed. After around an hour and a half, it was back to the bus. I wasn’t unhappy per se, I just really wanted to get to our hotel. I know I said that this bus journey was fun, and I am well aware how bad I am making it sound at this point. However, the bus gave us a chance to watch movies, mainly musicals which included a lot of singing along. It also provided us with even more time together. Now, you’d think we’d all be sick of each other at this point, but I think we may all have been a bit too fed up and tired to really experience that. It also helped that everyone there was entirely unique in their own way and, as a result, there was never a dull moment. The bus journey, for me, was full of short lived naps, crazy sing-a-longs and cherished memories. After a day and a half, we were in Lourdes. This was it. We were here. Now the adventure was truly beginning.

Now, I won’t give you a play by play of our week there. I won’t lie, I can’t remember every single moment exactly. Instead, I’ll give you some of my highlights.

Now, meeting the pilgrims was an experience of its own. I was nervous about what the assisted pilgrims would be like. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that everyone was lovely. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone else I had met had been lovely, why wouldn’t the people we were helping be? I had a somewhat regular pilgrim that I would assist. She was hard of hearing and could see very little and was also a complete sweetheart. Despite wheelchair training, I was horrific at steering at the beginning of the trip. This woman tended to laugh about it and jokingly complain about how much I would run up peoples’ heels. Luckily, I eventually got better at it and it was smooth sailing from then on. Anyways, the pilgrim I usually assisted had come with her friend. They had been friends since school and they had such an amazing friendship. They helped each other if they had any problems throughout the day, they bought candles for each other and were always asking for each other. Everyone’s experience with the assisted pilgrims is different, however, I believe they are always positive. I consider the assisted pilgrims my Lourdes family, as well as the group I went with and all the other volunteers.


Our team leaders and some of the pilgrims at our goodbye party.

I believe the Lourdes experience is a very religious one, but you do not have to be religious to attend. You will have to go to church at least once a day every day whilst, however, they just become second nature whilst there. I strongly advise that if you get the chance to go to Lourdes, whether it be with Youth for Lourdes or another organisation, then go. You won’t regret it. They warn you of the impossible-to-shake Lourdes Blues. You don’t think much of it at the time, however, in the last six months since returning, I have found myself missing Lourdes time and time again. Just writing this article makes me wish I was right back there in Lourdes!

I have barely touched upon what happened at Lourdes so if you want to find out more, see more photos or get some information about the next pilgrimage, then head along to the Youth for Lourdes (Galloway) Facebook page. Whilst you do that, I’ll be counting down the days till the next pilgrimage. I can’t wait for the summer of 2019!

By Chloe Anderson

Rights Respecting Schools Award


The Rights Respecting Schools Award recognises achievement in putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) at the heart of a school’s planning, policies, practice and ethos. A rights-respecting school not only teaches about children’s rights but also models rights and respect in all its relationship: between teachers, adults and pupils, between adults and between pupils. By aiming for this award, we hope to let children and young people in our school community learn about children’s rights by putting them into practice every day.


Through doing this award in our school, we hope to gain a UNICEF Rights Respecting School community where children’s rights are learned, taught, practised, respected, protected and promoted. We hope to have a significant impact on the school by providing a set of values which improve the climate for learning, improve relationships and provide a deeper more cohesive way of working. In addition to this, we are adamant that this award can impact positively with the pupils and adults in our school community. For pupils, it can improve their self-esteem, increase levels of respect, improve attainment and attendance and overall help to provide them with a wider understanding of the world in which we live. For adults in our school community, through aiming for a Rights Respecting School, it can help to strengthen collaborative working, increase consultative approach and provide a platform for parental engagement.


Currently, our Rights Respecting School group meets every Monday at lunchtime and through doing this we have managed to plan various things to help inform others in our school community about the rights of every child. We have attended parent’s nights for a wide variety of year groups in order to raise awareness and survey parents. Also as part of the World’s Largest Lesson, which is a UNICEF initiative, we were able to use this platform to show a short information clip both in the Daily Bulletin. We also issued questionnaires to both staff and pupils in order to provide an idea of where we are now and so that we are able to plan on how best we can move forward. Ultimately, this feedback has been extremely effective with it showing us how many people within our school community are not aware of what the award is. We have tackled this issue specifically in the past couple of weeks by making posters and placing them around the school in order to inform pupils and staff about what we are hoping to achieve.


In the following months, as a group we are planning to recruit junior pupils in order to carry this specific initiative forward next year. We are hoping to deliver additional year group assemblies and presentations to the pupil council and the Senior Management team. We want to issue badges to our Rights Respecting ambassadors and work towards drawing up a whole school charter by focussing on the rights which most relate to our school community specifically. Also look out for our interdisciplinary event with S1 in June in order to raise awareness of the problems facing refugees as part of UNICEF’S Refugee week.Rights Respecting Schools

We hope that you support our group throughout the school in order to achieve this award and use it as an opportunity to learn about your own rights!

The Things I learned from The Boy Who Lived.

When the first Harry Potter novel was published in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I wonder if anyone recognised its potential to develop into a $25 billion franchise. However perhaps the biggest impact it has made is the way it has influenced the lives and minds of millions of children and adults across the globe. In celebration of Harry Potter day we asked some of our resident Potterheads what they learned from growing up in the magical world of Harry Potter.


For me, one of the most important messages that Rowling conveys through her books is that of strong female role models. Professor McGonagall, the Head of Gryffindor House, exemplified strong females in a  leadership position. McGonagall forced us to admit a grudging respect for our teachers: we didn’t always lack her, but her decisions were consistently backed with firm reasoning.  Molly Weasley was everything a stereotypical mother could be. She was strong, caring, considerate. Molly took in her children’s friends as if they were her own ad was never afraid to speak her mind.  Ginny Weasley taught us that girls can be warriors too. She made us want to be sporty, adventurous and outgoing. Luna Lovegood taught us that it’s okay to be different, better in fact, and as long as you believe in yourself it does matter if few else do. This brings us to one of the most well-known female role model the Harry Potter series has to offer. Hermione Granger was the character most young girls, myself included, grew up idolising. She was fearless, feisty, passionate and intelligent beyond belief. Above all, she was human, a character young girls could relate to, she was imperfect she was flawed, but that made her even better. Hermione stood up for what she believed in, even going so far as to start a House Elf Protection movement in her 4th Year.

I think that the number of strong female characters throughout this book series is reflective of the way Rowling wishes young girls (and anyone, really) to perceive themselves. Rowling wanted us to grow up to be a leader like Professor McGonagall, to be caring like Molly, to be outgoing like Ginny, to believe in themselves like Luna, to stand up for what is right like Hermione.

Lauryn Reid, S6


JK Rowling’s use of characterisation meant that we could each find someone we found relatable – whether it be a member of the famous golden trio, or a character with less focus such as Luna or Ginny. Harry’s 3rd year Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Remus Lupin, is a perfect example of this. Lupin struggled in silence as a werewolf, which in the wizarding community was surrounded by a strong stigma. The perception that it was an issue he struggled with primarily alone can be related to those suffering with “invisible illnesses”, which despite being profoundly disabling, is often trivialised to seem less intense or painful because there are no obvious physical signs of illness. These invisible illnesses often include mental illnesses (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders) or chronic illnesses (e.g. diabetes, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis). In such a subtly way where it

was barely noticeable, JK Rowling taught me to be patient and understanding – everyone has things in life that they find difficult to deal with, by being patient and giving them the space or support they need you could potentially make a huge difference and take a small portion of the weight from their shoulders.

Erin Henry, S6
The introduction of the prophecy in the Harry Potter novels sets up the idea of fate within the series.

The prophecy set up in the novel was that a boy “… with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”  to “…those who have thrice defied him… and that “…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal..”

The criteria reveals that the boy who could defeat He-who-must-not-be-named would be born in July and the son of those who had fought against Voldemort. Obviously this criteria fits Harry exactly, his birthday is in July and his parents fought in the Order of the Phoenix and with his scar marking him as Voldemort’s. So, it seems pretty clear cut. Harry is the chosen one. Prophecy is done and dusted.

However, there is another character in the book who fits this prophecy and that is Neville Longbottom. He too was born in July and had parents who fought in the order, who were notoriously tortured to insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange, but he obviously doesn’t have a scar like Harry.

Now this is when the prophecy gets real interesting, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that Neville could have been the chosen one, that he, like Harry, had fit the criteria of the Great Prophecy. This scatters the premonitions of fate set up earlier in the series. It suggests that you choose your own future, that your fate is not set in stone but moulded by your actions.

This aspect of Harry Potter novels teaches the reader that your future is yours to decide and shape. That your life is not set in stone. That you can control your own destiny.

Niamh McLaughlin, S5 
Whether you are a fan of Harry Potter or not J.K Rowling must be commended for her world building abilities, creating an authentic and intriguing world with an inbuilt sense of culture. When I look at Harry Potter now I see how issues effecting our world today were exemplified in her work. One example of this is her treatment of the media, particularly in The Goblet of Fire and The Deathly Hallows. Through the characterisation of Reeta Skeeter, a scheming and vindictive journalist, Rowling conveys how individuals and stories can be manipulated to create the kind of scandal which equates to a rise in newspaper sales. Later in the series she explores the interaction between government and the media, demonstrating how the two are closely interlinked. The Daily Prophet, a popular newspaper, essentially becomes a source of government propaganda while the alternative and much less popular publication, The Quibbler, manages to remain apart from media influence. Although initially dismissed for its irregular conspiracy theories and odd content this newspaper becomes the only reliable source of information in a time of crisis.  Overall her portrayal of the media is extremely negative and represents many criticisms of the press today. By immersing myself in Harry Potter only to be brought sharply back to reality it is clear that mistrust of the media is not simply an issue for the muggle world.

Kate Ross, S6


J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is one of the most critically acclaimed book series of all time. After receiving 12 rejections in a row from different publishers, Harry Potter  and the Philosopher’s Stone went on to become a seven book series, and then an eight movie franchise with a theme park and studio tour, amongst other things. Both JK Rowling’s novel and her own personal story have provided inspiration to million of people across the globe.

Study Tips

With exams only 5 months away and exam practise fast approaching we have some advice to get you through this stressful time.

  • Plan ahead- there is nothing worse than sitting in an exam hall regretting those hours spent procrastinating on your phone when you should have learnt the solutions to global climate change. To avoid this horrible feeling, create a checklist of everything you need to revise and use this to create a schedule. However, be realistic, do not schedule 3 topics for the one day. In addition to creating a schedule, record all deadlines in a notebook to keep on top of your workload.
  • If possible try to find a place with no distractions to study, this also includes leaving your phone in another room to avoid temptation or if you need your phone delete social media apps or turn off notifications.
    Try out different methods of studying and find what works for you- everyone has different ways of learning. Not everyone can revise by repeatedly reading over their notes.

For more information go to https://blog.prezi.com/the-four-different-types-of-learners-and-what-they-mean-to-your-presentations-infographic/.

My preferred methods of studying include-

  • Making Flashcards- Flashcards are effective as they make revising notes much easier and interesting than simply rewriting them out.
  • Creating Mind Maps- Mind Maps are also a great way to memorise and consolidate notes. Tip- use colours to make the mind map more engaging and interesting. However don’t waste too much time colouring in your mind map!
  • Past Paper Practice- Past paper practice is crucial to succeed! You may find it useful to note down certain questions from past papers in your study plan like, “Sunday Evening- Proteins Q16, 17, 22 & 24, 2012” instead of “Sunday Evening- Chemistry”.

My last piece of advice is equally important for your health as well as your success in exams.

  • Get enough sleep- Sleep is just as important as food and water. A lack of sleep can lower your concentration significantly making it difficult to learn and study. A lack of sleep also has numerous negative effects

By Rebecca McNicoll

Has Christmas Lost its meaning?


Christmas is different for everyone. For some it’s a time to spend with families,for others it’s a time of giving and unfortunately, for many, the focus of Christmas is centred around receiving.

Has Christmas become a marketing ploy for multimillion dollar companies
to lure innocent shoppers into spending hundreds of pounds on presents and Christmas dinner and decorations? We, the naïve public, spend this
money and for what? One day. One day of joy in materialistic good that is over in twenty-four hours. One day people look forward to and one day that others dread for the whole year. It has become a month or two of commercial nonsense being constantly advertised in shops and on the television. With lights decorating every house in sight rising, rising the electricity bill, plastic Santas and decorative reindeers on every street corner. All of this contributing on destroying the planet for one day of the year. One day for fake happiness, family arguments and presents that you pretend to love. No one, except maybe some young oblivious children, is completely happy on Christmas Day. Many adults are penniless by the time Christmas arrives and are scrapping by until their next pay check.

Christmas, from a Christian perspective, is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to give and not expect anything back. Although no one knows the exact time he was born; the
25 Th. of December is the date which Christians have selected to celebrate
him coming into the world, or at least they are supposed to.

It is a time that should be about religion and people’s relationship with God. How they view themselves and each other in terms of religion and morals. In children’s minds Santa and what he leaves under the Christmas tree is the most important thing about Christmas. Should children be brought up this way thinking that it is only about receiving? Believing that everything is materialistic and that it is a selfish affair; that Christmas is only one day that everyone should be looking forward to all year. One day out of three hundred and sixty-five that is celebrated for no real reason in the eyes of many.
Although Christmas means different things to each individual person it has become a selfish affair; where few cares about what they give and only
what they receive. It’s is all about shopping for pointless presents, that no one will ever use, and spending large amounts of money on nothing. As bright Christmas lights flash all around us, insistent on being noticed, and presents rise is piles around plastics tress coated with colourful baubles and miles of tinsel I can not help but wonder if Christmas has lost its true meaning. How did we get so far away from our saviour in the manger?


By Aisling McAllister