Tag Archives: Coláiste Chraobh Abhann

At Seventeen


“Thank you for letting us care for your lovely daughter. She has been a pleasure to have in the house, she’s kind, polite and a gorgeous girl. We enjoyed having her.”

Tingirl is part of the Transition Year Choir at school, and this year they did an exchange programme with a school in Sweden. A lovely girl called Kajsa came to stay with us for four days in February, and in May Tingirl went to Helsingborg to stay with her and her family (our choir had to learn how to spell the name of their town, but theirs had to learn the name of our school, Coláiste Chroabh Abhann, so overall I think we came out ahead).

The words above were written by Kajsa’s mother. In four days Tingirl charmed her with her smile, with her personality, with her all-round Tingirlness.

It was lovely to hear this from someone who had never met her before. Of course we see this all the time, though we also see the slumpage days, where she will appear at about noon in huge Christmas slippers and a zebra onesie. On such days we know that she will lie on the couch and keep up with the Kardashians, who have certainly improved in looks since they used to terrorise the Enterprise in Star Trek.

Such days are part of being a teenage girl, and are few and far between with our daughter. Most days are spent with her huge collection of friends, or with her Drama Group, a close-knit team who have moved up through the classes together for eight years, and who now are at the stage where they write their own shows.

Kajsa’s mother has summed her up perfectly. She’s a pleasure to have in our house, a pleasure to have as a daughter, a joy to have as  my princess.

Tingirl is seventeen today. Happy Birthday, sweet lovely girl.

Tingirl (1)

Down on the Farm

Tinson2 is now in Transition Year, the year students spend between finishing the Junior Cycle and starting the Senior Cycle at school. They do projects, get work experience and go on outings. It’s like Blue Peter, except it’s not on telly, you don’t get a badge and you don’t get to name an endless succession of remarkably short-lived dogs.

Apparently Transition Year students refer to it as “doss year”. I was unaware of this when I asked Tinson2 “is it not just a doss year?”, which shows that I have the mentality of a 15-year old. I was also unaware that Mrs Tin had forbidden Tinson2 from using this phrase. This forbiddenness has now been extended to me.

I am also forbidden from referring to Tinson2 as a Tranny.

Anyway, he’s a couple of weeks into it now. He still goes off to school each morning in his uniform, and oddly still gets homework, which I presume is just being told to sit in his room for an hour and do nothing. Already, though, he has collected for charity, done courses on journalism and computers and visited a stables.

And this week they went on a two-day team building programme on a farm. They were given a list of things to bring (warm clothes, raingear) and things not to bring. Among the things they cannot bring are aerosols, and knowing the boys in Tinson2’s class as I do this will cause Lynx’s profits to fall by about 40 per cent.

He left on Thursday, and on Thursday night his loving mum, dad, brother and sister sat in our warm house watching the torrential rain outside the window, thought of him on his wet, muddy farm and, well, fell about giggling. Perhaps we could do with some Team Building ourselves. The trip involved mud – lots and lots of mud. It’s like Oxygen without the music.

And he had a great time. He did an assault course, he chased a piglet, he milked a cow, the cow milked him, i.e., sprayed him with milk. He arrived home last night glowing with fresh air, happiness and excitement, and very, very tired.

This is my first experience of Transition Year. They didn’t have it back in the last millennium when I was at school (indeed, younger readers won’t believe this, but we didn’t even get driven to school in an SUV). Tinson1’s headlong rush to be a grown-up as quickly as possible meant that he opted not to do it. But it seems to be a great idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year turns out.

Bottom of the Class

The Tinkids go to a Secondary School called Coláiste Chraobh Abhann, a brand new school in Kilcoole and a real pronunciatorial challenge for my overseas readers. 

The school started just six years ago, and last year 82 students, including Tinson1, were its first class ever to face the state’s Leaving Certificate exam. They all seemed to do fine. Tinson1 is (I may have mentioned this) doing Science in Trinity, as is one of his classmates. Other friends are in UCG, UCD and NCI, and these are just the ones that I know about.

But last week the Irish Independent and the Irish Times published league tables regarding students going on to college from each school. And while I don’t read rubbish like that, apparently CCA sits at the bottom of County Wicklow’s list, with just 18% of its students listed as going on to third level education.

The school has sent a letter home to all the parents, pointing out that many colleges didn’t have the school’s name in their database, and simply put down “unknown”. They also point out that many students, from all schools, enter pre-university courses or take a gap year before entering college. In an established school, the roll-over of such students from previous years would cancel out the ones taking time out this year, while our school didn’t have any past-year pupils. 

In conclusion, they tell us that 86.6% of of the 82 are in further education of some sort, and 11% are in full-time employment or apprenticeships.

Hopefully the letter will reassure the parents of pupils in the school. Now all they have to do is find some way of spreading the message to the rest of the county, to the parents of younger children, and even to those just at the child-planning stage.

There was a long and vigorous debate when the idea of school league tables, copied slavishly from the UK, was first promoted. Many of those who opposed them were dismissed as schools or teachers fearing that their inadequacies would be exposed. Others pointed out that schools in disadvantaged areas, many of which would have virtually no pupils going on to college, were in most cases excellent schools doing excellent work, and that a simple league table would not recognise this. These concerns were ignored.

When you see the kind of statistical failings upon which the table is based you see that it’s about as useful as the website ratemyteacher as a basis for selecting a school for your child. But the flaws in the data just mask the real problem, which is that a league table for schools based purely on college placement is as meaningful as a list of top films based purely on the number of people who’ve seen them (for example, do you know anyone who hasn’t seen Sister Act? See?).

A couple of moments’ reflection tells you that the fact that School X has Y% of its pupils going on the college (look, I remember algebra, and my own school probably isn’t very high up the list) is meaningless. How many of them got into the course they had their heart set on? How many will send their own children to the same school? How many, in short, enjoyed their school life?

There is so much more to a school than the number of points that its cleverer students get. CCA (have a quick look at the website, Tinson1 is in one of the pictures) is a great school with remarkable facilities, young and enthusiastic teachers, terrific extra-curricular activities and a real sense of pride in itself.

Our children are happy there, and there is no table for that.