We recently welcomed parents and carers to our campus to visit our science departments, which are housed in our Clavius building, and learn more about what science at St Aloysius College' can offer their children. We spoke with Head of Chemistry Mr. John Anderson, who helped to organise the Meet the Departments day, and asked him to give some insight into the world of chemistry at the College:
I started teaching at St Aloysius’ College in 1999, after a short spell teaching in Sunderland. At that time, the Sciences were all on the top floor of the Hanson Building – which currently houses our Classics, History and Business departments. There were 3 labs in Chemistry, none of which had a fume cupboard, and the Prep Room was tiny! Plans were already drawn up for our new Clavius building and in 2002 the big move took place. Being the youngest member of the department at the time I was given two days off timetable and along with the janitors had to move all our equipment and chemicals across to our new building.
We were given the top floor, affording great views over to the Campsies, and four very well-appointed labs, each with its very own fume cupboard. Our technician’s prep room was much larger than the previous one and was now fit for purpose.
In 2006, after spending five years as Assistant Housemaster of Loyola House, I was promoted to Head of Chemistry. I feel very fortunate being a teacher - having the opportunity to help a pupil’s formation is so rewarding. To be able to do it in this amazing school makes it even better. I am very lucky to work with some great colleagues in Chemistry - their help and support makes my job a lot easier. Pupil uptake in Chemistry, and in the Sciences in general, is excellent. In fact, when we moved from A Level to Advanced Higher we were afforded two additional (industry standard) fume cupboards to deal with the numbers taking the subject on to Advanced Higher!
There is more to Chemistry than pupils sitting in a classroom. I firmly believe that pupils need to be given access to trips, competitions and specialists. In Chemistry we have various activities that cover all age ranges and we bring in guest speakers when possible – either in person, or online. A highlight for me was having the 2021 Chemistry Nobel Joint-Prize-winner Professor David MacMillan give a talk to all of our Higher & Advanced Higher pupils – a real coup.
So, why Meet the Departments? Initially, it was going to be Meet Chemistry, but I was encouraged to open it up to some other subjects and it made sense to showcase our Biology and Physics departments and the great work they do also. Fortunately, Dr Swan – Head of Biology and Mr O’Duffin – Head of Physics, wanted to help out. I am a firm believer that we need to include parents when possible to support their child’s progress. The National Improvement Framework lists the usual criteria for raising attainment: leadership, quality teaching etc but I think parental involvement is just as important.
I envisaged this session being open to P7 – S6 parents and carers, allowing them the opportunity to tour the labs, mingle with others, and speak to subject teachers about... anything!
Feedback from everyone was extremely positive. It was lovely having parents and carers back on campus.
- Mr. Anderson, Head of Chemistry