The release of the Secondary Entrance Assessment results marks the end of one era in the lives of our Standard Five students and the beginning of an entirely new phase in their academic lives.
It is also a silent marker in their approach to adolescence. These life-changing events are exciting and full of promise but they also present anxieties and fears which must be acknowledged and which parents, teachers and other trusted adults must help them to navigate and manage.
Catholic schools acknowledge that, among other priorities, they bear a great responsibility in terms of spiritual direction and support to all their students, but more immediately to the youngest members of the community.
Some may enter their new schools with a strong grounding in their faith but there are considerable numbers of our young people who are either lukewarm or have little or no faith-awareness.
All our nation’s schools with their multi-religious student bodies make provision for religious instruction or classes in ethics. However, unless students, staff and parents take these subjects seriously, schools are “spinning top in mud”.
If our scholastic focus is only on examinable subjects, those ‘worthy’ of our time and energy, we are failing in our most important duty to our very vulnerable children.
They cannot be adequately prepared for the hilltops, the valleys or even the plains of life if they do not have a strong relationship with Almighty God. We are not only creatures of the mind and the body for we are spiritual beings too, made out of love by our God, who has made us in His own image and likeness.
In a Catholic context, it is imperative that our students develop, first of all, a familiarity with the Holy Mass and a strong reverence for the presence of Christ at this highest form of worship.
Bolstered by interesting, relevant and serious religious education classes, meaningful daily worship sessions or assemblies and committed parental support, schools stand on solid ground as they strive to establish and maintain a Catholic ethos which the child will carry with him for life.
Outreach activities that target children’s homes, homes for the aged, meals for the homeless and fundraisers for financially disadvantaged students, teach children what practical Christianity is – the implementation of care for our fellow man, without hope for praise or reward.
These activities inevitably create a sense of fulfillment, teach teamwork, and turn out to be great fun for all involved.
They also engender confidence and a sense of self-worth and teach school loyalty, community responsibility and a real sense of patriotism. Surely these are values upon which great institutions and great nations are built.
In the schools themselves, while academic excellence is important, with each student and teacher aiming for the best standards of which they are capable, a sense of genuine caring and concern for all must be stressed.
Students learn best when they are in environments which support, encourage, and uplift them. They must feel that their school is their second home and that their well-being is a top priority.
Scholarship winners and struggling learners must be treated as equally deserving of the school’s time and efforts. Past students who express undying love and loyalty to their alma mater remember the warmth, care and respect that they experienced there, the feeling that they ‘mattered’.
Sports and family days, bazaars, school clubs and organisations like Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Girl Guides and Cadets, inter-school competitions, intra-school competitions and faith-building groups like the Legion of Mary and prayer groups are important and integral parts of a child’s school life. Even those on the periphery of such groups benefit in some way from them.
We welcome all our new students to their new schools. We also laud all the schools whose thoughtfulness and joyful efforts created an atmosphere of warm welcome for their little Form One brothers and sisters. You are passing on to them, from the very start, your legacy of care and excellence.