Newsletter Winter V1 1

The Newsletter
Spring 2015
Chaplain’s Welcome
A very warm welcome to the latest edition of the
Aquinas Newsletter. I am sure that, as a pupil, teacher,
past pupil, parent or casual visitor to our website you
will find lots of interesting articles that will give you a
flavour of life in Aquinas, be it the enthusiasm of the
four school houses and their members fundraising for
our Trocaire Lenten campaign, our Spring Concert and our sporting achievements
amongst many other events.
A major event in the second term was our General Inspection by the ETI during the
week beginning 9 March and we would like to thank the inspectors for the many compliments that they paid to every aspect of school life and their acknowledgement of the
value of an Aquinas education.
The third term not only brings the warmer weather but also the public examinations at
GCSE and A levels. It is a nervous time for both parents and pupils and we would like to
assure all our students that they are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this time.
Furthermore, if there are any ways in which we can be of extra help to anyone, get in
touch with us straight away.
The third term also means we must bid farewell to our Year 14 students, who now begin
their preparations for the exciting prospect of third level studies or the world of work. .
During the second term, several of our teachers and pupils suffered the loss of family
members and close friends and we have prayed for the happy repose of their souls at
the morning mass in the chaplaincy and in prayers in the classroom. On Palm Sunday, 29
March, a past pupil of Aquinas, Connor Lavery, died in Liverpool at the age of 25. To his
parents, Adrian and Patricia, and younger sister, Una, also a past pupil of Aquinas, we
extend our deepest sympathy and an assurance of our prayers for them at this very sad
time. May the Risen Lord grant eternal rest to his gentle soul.
Father Grant - Chaplain and Senior Teacher
Open Day
From pancakes in Home Economics, to dissecting a rat
in Biology, Open Day 2015 was an overwhelming success. Children from all over the city and beyond came
to see our school.
The student body was an essential and core part of
the open day. As families entered the building, they
were greeted by a large group of eager students that
would guide them around the building. These guides
came from every year group, and the feedback we got
from parents was great. Some of our young visitors
may have been slightly overwhelmed by such a large
and vibrant school community but a friendly face was
there to put them at ease and turn their apprehension into excitement!
Open Day (Continued)
Music played a large part in the event with regular performances in the mall. The traditional group stole the show with their signature pieces. They managed to attract a large crowd,
and they even started clapping along! Other acts such as Niamh Kelly on violin, or Meabh
Cleary’s vocal performance were outstanding and certainly impressed our guests.
You certainly knew you were in the science corridor when you were hit by some very
strange smells. Every science classroom had a multitude of experiments and demonstrations and, as usual, the dissected rat was the star of the show. Some were repulsed by it,
others utterly amazed.
Spanish was a great place to be on open morning. A table had been laid out with tapas and
drinks and there was a Spanish guitar playing traditional Spanish music. Aoife Maguire
painted a wonderful board through which children and parents could stick their head and
pretend to be Lionel Messi or a flamenco dancer! It was all great fun for the parents and
the prospective students.
By Barra Doherty, Editor.
Fundraising in Aquinas
Fundraising is a big part of life in Aquinas. Throughout the year, we have a variety of different appeals and events to help raise money for different charities.
Before Christmas, we had a food drive for Storehouse, an organisation which helps people
to get back on their feet after financial difficulties, by providing them with food packages
for a limited time. Some of the Sixth Form students who volunteer each month to make
food packages, came up with a list of items that were always in short supply, and each
form class brought in a selection of these items to help fill even more packages.
At Christmas, each form class raises money to help buy Christmas presents for needy children. They also make up a food hamper to help the families get through the expensive
Christmas season.
Aquinas also has a link with the NI Hospice, and many of the older students help out with
collections throughout the year.
Fundraising (continued)
Aquinas prides itself on its successful Trócaire Campaign throughout Lent. This year, to celebrate 22 years of fundraising in Aquinas, the theme was ‘Throwback Thursday’. This took
ideas from the best campaigns we’ve had in Aquinas, including a ‘Great British Bake-off’
bun sale competition between each of the four houses, and a dance-a-thon. This year, we
were focusing on our awareness of those nations blighted by climate change. Each class
also completed individual fundraising activities to contribute to their house totals, with the
aim of winning the inter-house competition. On the next page, our head boy Matthew has
compiled some data on our fundraising performance this year, which highlights the excellent fundraising individual form classes have undertaken.
By Mrs McCrossan - Head of Home Economics, Fundraising Co-ordinator.
Annual Spring Concert
The 30th March saw the music department hold its annual spring concert. Over 100 pupils
took part in a variety of different musical groups and solo performances, involving students
from all year groups. Highlights included an original arrangement from the jazz band; the
junior choir's performance of a Frozen Medley; the orchestra's rendition of Burt Bacarach's
greatest hits and, of course, the performance of Fauré's Requiem. The spring concert has
always been a really important event in my school calendar. It's great to be able to showcase our hard work, and the hard work of the music teaching staff, at the end of each year.
This year was also the last spring concert for 20 upper sixth students including myself. It
was a surreal experience to step onto the stage one last time, after so many years of
lunchtime practice and musical activities. It was sad in many ways, as music has been such
a huge part of my Aquinas experience and this year I have been lucky enough to have been
leader of the school orchestra and string ensemble. It's strange to think that my time in the
music department, and in the school, is coming to a close. However it was also a very happy occasion as it's so exciting to see the talent of our younger pupils. I had the honour of
presenting the first violin to our new orchestra leader Aoife McHugh and I would like to
congratulate her, as well as the new leaders of the Jazz band and folk group. I wish them
every success and I can't wait to attend the fantastic concert next year.
By Niamh Kelly - Head Girl & Leader of the Aquinas Orchestra
Spring Concert - Pictures
Ski Trip
The annual Aquinas Ski Trip was another success this year taking pupils and teachers to Ehrwald, Austria. The six days doorstep skiing was fantastic and was made all the more memorable by the excellent snow; activity packed apres ski and sense
of camaraderie shared by the group.
As always, a large group of over ninety students enjoyed the
2015 trip and were blessed with sunny skies and good snow.
The valley in which we skied is part of the Zugspitz Arena and
the village of Ehrwald is encircled by tall peaks, the biggest of
which is the Zugspitz, the highest mountain in Germany.
Aquinas pupils skied in three resorts throughout the week;
Ehrwald itself, the more advanced Lermoos and the spectacular Ehrwalder Almbahn (see picture on the right of the black
The après ski activities included ice skating, shooting, quiz and a disco so a fun packed skiing adventure was had by all. The 2016 trip will be located at the same resort.
By Mr Leneghan, Senior Teacher and Head of Geography.
Cinemagic Sucess
Year 9 students took part in a Cinemagic Culture Heritage Project, working in collaboration
with students from Wellington College.
Twenty year nine students from Aquinas teamed up with students from Wellington College
on a Cinemagic Cultural Heritage documentary film project. This exciting project will involve two full day sessions and two half-day sessions across both school sites. The participating students will get the opportunity to complete workshops in film making and storytelling with local film director Patrick Maxwell and storyteller Stephen Hall. Each session
will also be supported by Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive and the Ulster Museum education team.
All participating students will be encouraged to collect interesting stories from their older
family and community members. We are particularly interested in stories on the topics surrounding WW2, the Troubles, Technological Change, Hobbies/Interests, Job prospects and
Changes in Community Cohesion. The intended outcome will be a short documentary film
that will be showcased in the summer term at both Botanic Gardens and Belfast Castle.
Students are pictured below with local storyteller and cultural heritage specialist Stephen
Hall at the first of four events.
Solar Panels
Aquinas is taking the next step towards becoming a greener school. The school has secured
funding of £25,000 to install 48 x photovoltaic solar panels on the south side of the building. This comes with many benefits.
Solar is now, after hydro and wind power, the third most important renewable energy
source in terms of globally installed capacity, and has arrived at Aquinas!
The main benefit that comes with the solar panels is electricity savings. This means that
when the panels are generating electricity, it will be used in preference to importing electricity from the grid. Therefore, any electricity that is generated and subsequently used is
electricity that the school would otherwise have had to purchase, leading to a reduction in
energy bills.
Also, the school can take advantage of the export tariff system. Any electricity that the
school generates and which is not used on site can be sold back to the electricity grid. The
amount of energy the school exports is measured by a special export meter. The current
rate of payback for each kWh of electricity exported is 5.10p. This is great as the school is
not only saving money, but also earning it.
This is a very exciting project and we would
like to thank the Investment and Infrastructure Directorate for assisting with the funding and installation!
Right: The solar panels on the Aquinas roof, taken from
an aircraft by Head Boy Matthew McCrudden.
Spanish—Subject Focus
The Spanish Department is a vibrant, dynamic team which aims to offer our pupils a variety
of interesting and challenging learning opportunities. Through the study of language and
Hispanic culture, the department strives to equip Aquinas pupils with a learning experience which allows them to develop as effective, responsible and ethical contributors to
their local and global community. Not only this, we want our pupils to have fun and enjoy
learning Spanish! Bienvenidos! – Miss Maguire, Head of Spanish
The department offers lots of different opportunities to the students. We have connections
with so many people, from Matthew Bennett from the Spain Report answering our questions over twitter, to the Spanish Embassy popping in for a visit. We have made great links
with the University of Ulster, Queens University Belfast and now Trinity College Dublin
Spanish Department.
A2 Spanish this year has been lots of fun. At the end of last year, the class took a trip down
to Dublin. We managed to get a lot squeezed in. Our day started with a trip to Trinity College to get an insight into how Spanish is studied there. We then went to the Instituto Cervantes, an organisation that advocates the study and the teaching of Spanish language and
culture. Finally, we visited Conall McDevitt at Hume Brophy, a PR company. Conall was
brought up Andalusia, Spain and it was great to talk to him in Spanish and learn about his
This year, the department is encouraging the use of an app called Duolingo. It is a free app
that makes learning languages fun.It is like a game,
with ‘lives’ and points. It eases you into it very
gradually with easy vocab and grammar structures, and if you are skilled enough it gets quite
challenging towards the end. This app can be used
to learn other languages, such as Italian, French
and Dutch. Download it at
By Barra Doherty, Editor.
Aquinas Leavers
AS the end of the school year fast approaches, our current upper sixth students are preparing for their final
A2 examinations and will soon move onto pastures new. Our sixth form Leavers’ Dinner was held in the Hilton Hotel in Belfast and as our current year fourteens prepare for their final A Level exams, I felt it would be
nice to create a map of where the last year 14 group, who left in 2014, are now to be found. There is an immense diversity of Universities and courses undertaken by Aquinas pupils and the current year group, when
they leave, will be no different. Many aspire to careers in Medicine, Law, Teaching , Business, Finance, ICT
and Engineering to name but a few. There is also a large number of pupils applying for apprenticeships with
firms such as Deloitte which allows them to earn a salary whilst studying for a degree. The Careers Department in Aquinas expertly supports pupils through UCAS and offers impartial advice on careers and university
courses to our pupils. On behalf of all the pupils I would like to thank the Careers Department for all their
Our ‘Mass of Thanksgiving’ was held on the 7th of May and was an emotional time for us as a year group. I
would like to thank, on behalf of year 14, Father Grant and the RE department for organising such a meaningful and memorable liturgy which was experienced by students and family members alike. On the next
page I have included some photographs from the last day.
By Matthew McCrudden - Head Boy
Other News
Aquinas Broadcasting Live
Four of our Year Twelve Drama Pupils broadcasted live
from Forestside Shopping Centre on January 29th. Lucy
Elliott, Kara Donaldson, Michael Morgan and Alex Brown
completed a four-week course in radio broadcasting with
renowned local BBC and Cool FM DJ, Mairead Campbell,
in conjunction with Roy from Forestside Shopping Centre Management. There was
lots of great music, including a live session from our own Ben Giles-Cutler.
Chemistry at work
65 Year 11 Chemistry Students took part in the Queen’s
University, Belfast ‘Chemistry at Work’ event. The event
aims to celebrate the variety of careers within STEM and
the chemical sciences and get students participating in
hands-on activities. The Chemistry at Work programme
has been running for over ten years with over 100 events organised across the UK
each year. Chemistry at Work provided our students the opportunity to talk to scientists and explore the application of science by showcasing local businesses that
use the chemical sciences.
Celebration of Achievements
Brother Nolan Cup Finalists
The Senior Gaelic Football team at Aquinas reached the 2014/15 Br Nolan Cup
Final, eventually losing out by 2 points to St. Joseph’s, Donaghmore. The team
and coaches set high targets at the start of the year, and trained hard to get to
the final. The team trained twice a week since September, and trained twice
over the Christmas holidays and twice again during the February mid-term
break. Both players and coaches put in a huge effort to improve throughout the
competition. Aquinas qualified as group leaders after three good wins over Corpus Christi, CBS, and Bearnageeha.
The team then went on to face Lismore, Craigavon, retaining a first half lead to
win by a point with 14 men. It took a huge effort to beat Lumen Chirsti, Derry,
in the semi final, again winning by a single point. The whole squad was very
confident in the lead up to the final after the amount of preparation that had
been done throughout the year, and everyone involved was bitterly disappointed to lose the match at the end by 2 points on a score line of 0-10 to 1-05. Everyone worked very hard throughout the competition, and the coaches deserve
a lot of credit for the effort they put in to push the team on.
By Kaelon Power - Deputy Head Boy
Celebration of Achievements
The Aquinas Community would like to congratulate:
Aquinas Under 14s — Brother Ennis Ulster Champions
Congratulations to the Aquinas Under 14’s who won the Ulster title by beating
Lumen Christi College, Derry in a blustery Garvaghy Centre of Excellence in Ballygawley. The Captain, Niall McAreavy, proudly
lifted the trophy today and thanked his teammates and his coaches, Mr Brownlee, Mr Savage, Mr McAteer, Mr Lynch and Mr Evans.
Conn Nagle — National Young Wheelchair Hurler
Congratulations to Conn Nagle in Year 10 on winning National Young Wheelchair Hurler of the year. Conn received
his award from the Uachtarán Chomhairle Uladh, Martin
McAviney, whilst also picking up an All-star.
Aquinas students win “Most Creative Film in Post Primary”
Aquinas Year 10 students won “Most Creative Film in
Post Primary” in the CultureTECH ‘Big Video Challenge 2015’ which was sponsored by Seagate and
Belfast City Council. For this challenge, Aquinas students investigated how codes are made (and broken)
and how they can create their own codes.
Celebration of Achievements
The Aquinas Community would like to congratulate:
Sinead O’Kelly — BBC Young Musicians’ Platform Award
Congratulations to Aquinas past pupil Sinead
O’Kelly who has just been awarded £5000 by
BBC NI as part of its BBC Young Musicians
Ulster Swimming Championships Success
Aquinas Pupils produced outstanding performances at the Ulster Under Age Group Swimming Championships. Mark Doherty won gold medals in the 16 – 17 year old category and
Ulster Titles in the 100 and 200 Back Stroke, two Silver medals in team relay events and an individual Bronze medal in the 200 Breast Stroke. Ellen
O’Neil won a individual Silver medal in 15 – 16 year old category 100 Breast
Stroke and two Silver medals in team relays. Conor Doherty had extremely
tough competition in the 13 year old age group but managed to have 5
personal best swims obtaining 3 national qualifying times.
Year 10 Basketball Title
The Year 10 basketball team claimed the
Ulster title with a 36-25 victory over St
Pat’s Dungannon and qualify directly into
the All-Ireland play offs at the end of April.
Celebration of Achievements
The Aquinas Community would like to congratulate:
Aquinas Hurling Team Success
The Aquinas Year 12 hurling team made history for the school on Thursday 12th
March 2015 after winning the Danske Bank Maguire Cup, beating the competition’s previous holders in a closely fought final. This is the first time an Aquinas
hurling team has won an Ulster Colleges competition during their 20 year involvement with Ulster Colleges and is a major accomplishment
Upcoming Events
Monday 25th May
Staff Day
Tuesday 30th June
End of Term 3
Contact Information
02890 64 39 39
02890 69 37 28
518 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, BT6 0BY
[email protected]
Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School
To contribute to this newsletter, or if you have any comments, please contact Matthew McCrudden: [email protected]