IT was celebration time at St. Oliver’s Community College when they marked their 40th anniversary in fine style. The college started with 900 students and 40 rooms on a vast 20 acre site. On the curriculum at the time were the core subjects, practical subjects, commerce, languages, art, music and drama, dress design and typing and the college offered 3 programmes – Leaving Certificate, Inter Certificate and the Group Certificate.
“St. Oliver’s was ahead of its time when it opened,” said Principal John Halpin. “The new school for the town had a library and was fully wheelchair accessible - the first in Drogheda to cater for all.” With 45 teachers, one Career Guidance teacher and Principal Eamonn Cooney, St. Oliver’s quickly established itself as the school of choice in the area with its wide curriculum and extensive facilities.
“In our 40 years of serving the community of Drogheda, we have expanded steadily to meet the needs of the growing population in Drogheda and its hinterland,” stated John. In 2021, the school has over 1400 students, a staff of 170 and a school more than double the original size. The college currently offers 24 subjects for Junior Cycle, 10 short courses, 36 subjects in Transition Year, 21 subjects in Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and 35 in Leaving Certificate, with every subject available at both higher and ordinary levels.
“This is a very exciting time for our college as we are currently at the design stage of our new extension, which is due to be finished in 2024. We will have an additional 13 general classrooms, 7 Special Education Teacher (SET) rooms, 2 music rooms, 5 science labs, 3 Technology rooms, an additional dining hall, a second PE hall and a new Library.”
Students have a wide range of extra-curricular activities to pick from, with the college boasting a Gaelic / rugby pitch, soccer pitch, basketball courts, tennis courts, a fully equipped gym and sports hall. “All activities have resumed in the college this year, this is an aspect of school life that that our staff and students value hugely.” The college share their facilities with many local groups in the evenings and at weekends including St. Nicholas GFC, Drogheda Town FC, Ace Athletic Club, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and Music Generation Louth.
The college has built a strong tradition of academic success. In 3 of the last 4 years students from St. Oliver’s have scored a maximum 625 points in the Leaving Certificate, with Jack Synnott achieving the top result in Ireland in 2017 with 8 H1 and 1 H3 grade. Just recently Aoife Waldron achieved 8 H1 grades and Egle Juraityte scored an incredible 100% in LCA. In total 29 students achieved over 500 points this year, a ratio of 1 in 8, while 71% of LCA students received a Distinction.
John reflected “in the early 1980’s when emigration was rife, a large number of students left school after 3rd year, and not all students achieved their Leaving Certificate. This year, we had students progress on to courses in Medicine, Veterinary, Biomedical Science, Journalism, Business, Aeronautical Engineering, Primary Teaching, Nursing, Health and Fitness, Engineering, Science and many other domains. Over the years, many other students have chosen to pursue a PLC course before advancing and many have secured apprenticeships. We outperform many other schools with the results that our students consistently produce. Our students and staff constantly break boundaries.
“We are so proud of our school and its standing in our community,” said John, “everybody is welcome here in St. Oliver's Community College. We have students from over 30 local primary schools and 48 nationalities. We have an almost equal split of boys and girls and students coming from rural and urban feeder schools, which creates an optimum learning environment for all. Our strength is our staff and our students, who share their positive experiences with others, who tell everyone what a great place St. Oliver's is, who have reached their potential because of the standard of education that they received here. So many of our past pupils are role models in their chosen field, in the sporting world and are pillars of our community and our town.”