St. Paul’s Students attend Somme 2016 Commemorations

St. Paul’s Community College Waterford the only Irish school to be chosen nationally to represent Ireland at the Somme 2016 Commemorations in France in July 2016

Following a national open competition run by the British Council in Ireland, the UK and France, St. Paul’s Community College Waterford has been chosen from all the school in Ireland to send 25 students to France to take part in the International Somme 2016 Commemorations at the Thiepval Memorial, France on 1st July 2016.

Representatives of governments from around the world, veterans, military and community representatives will gather as a memorial to one of the bloodiest battles in history as a sign of hope and commitment to not suffer such loss again.

The educational project, Remembering the Somme, is funded by the British Council and they will cover all travel and accommodation expenses for the party of 25 students and 3 teachers who will travel from St. Pauls. The project is being led by Mr Ger Lohan, HSCL teacher in the school who was successful in submitting St. Paul’s successful application and letter of interest.  He will be accompanied by Ms Noreen Reilly, Principal and Ms Mai O’Keeffe, teacher and Year Head in the school. In all 600 students from schools in Northern Ireland, the UK and France will be represented on-site at the Commemorations in Thiepval, Somme on July 1st 2016. All in St. Paul’s feel proud and privileged that we will have 25 of our own students there on the day. In addition our students’ will take part in organised workshops in France on the three days prior to the commemorations on July 1st to complete workshops with our partner school Julie-Daubie located in Laon, Somme, France and to prepare our students for the ceremony on July 1st.

The Centenary next year of the Battle of the Somme which began on July 1st 1916 is a very special and historic time to remember all of those who perished in the Great War. Winning the competition gives our school and especially our students the opportunity to become fully aware and participate in a very important event that will be the commemorations at the Somme and will help our students appreciate the significance of 1916/2016 and contribute to our student’s awareness, knowledge and appreciation of the catastrophic event the Great War was.

It will also develop, through the workshops and project work, our students learning in a cross curricular way (languages, art, history, English, geography) and give our students the opportunity to link in with a partner school in France. Through working with our partner school from the Somme we will be expected to produce a piece of project work to submit to the British Council at the end of May. Remembering the Somme will bring the events at the Somme and WW1 to our school’s doorstep. Waterford has a proud tradition (and indeed all over Ireland) of involvement in WW1 though it is only in recent times that their courage and bravery has been acknowledged and rewarded.

Mr Lohan has attended a project planning meeting in Amiens, France where he has met other lead teachers in the project and a teacher from our twinning school in France. Local planning in the school is now underway in earnest. This will be a unique window of opportunity for our students and we look forward to having them represent our own students and indeed all students in Ireland at the Somme 2016 Commemorations this Summer.

President Michael D. Higgins has invited the 25 students and their teachers to his annual Garden Party in Áras and Uachtaráin on June 15th to meet with them prior to their departure to the Commemorations in France. President Higgins will be travelling to the event himself. The school, students and staff in the school are delighted and honoured to have received this special invitation and look forward to meeting the President at his stately home in June. The Mayor of Waterford, Mr John Cummins, has also hosted a Mayors Reception for the group at his offices in City Hall Waterford which was also attended by other invited guests from the school’s Board of Management, Parents Council and teaching staff. We are sure that our students will enjoy this unique once in a lifetime trip, is something that they will always remember and treasure and that they will gain personally and in their academic studies knowing that they are acknowledging the great inhumanity of war in remembering all those who died at the Somme during the Great War 1914-1918. Much credit also goes to Art teacher, Ms Claire Cahill in the school who has worked tirelessly with the 25 students on art projects in collaboration with our Partner Somme School, Julie-Daubie in Laon, France. These projects will be exhibited by the British Council for the Commemorations and made into school resources to be distributed internationally. Much thanks also to the parents of all the students travelling for their support and enthusiasm and for attending the several school meetings we have had to date in our pre-planning sessions for the trip.

Listen to the WLR_FM radio Podcast and interviews of our evening with Mayor Cummins in City Hall by clicking the link below: