THE ongoing success of Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle was reflected at their prize giving ceremony.
Principal, Mrs Barbara Ward, addressed Reverend Fathers, Sisters, parents and pupils who were joined by Guest Speaker, former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan.
Mrs Ward said: “Our entire school community is represented here this evening, pupils, past pupils, parents, governors, teaching and support staff. As the ceremony proceeds this evening, I hope that you will learn more about us and about what makes this school unique and indeed one from which I believe the education system in Northern Ireland has much to learn.
“I also want to welcome two other special guests this evening, namely our two recently retired Senior Leaders, Michael Dallat and Celia Gormley. Between them have 72 years outstanding service and have carried out numerous roles throughout their school careers. Having spent their entire teaching careers in Cross and Passion and many years in Senior Leadership they have been major players in many aspects of school development.
“Their love for and commitment to the school and the young people who make up that community knew no bounds. Both are passionate about education and the difference it can make to young people’s lives. Both have always viewed education in a truly holistic way and were involved in just about every facet of the school experience possible.
“As well as being expert professional practitioners in the classroom, both played a strong pastoral role in the school as Form Teachers and Year Heads; both were very actively involved in various aspects of the extra curricular provision, in school trips and in professional development of colleagues to name but a few.
“More than anything, both were an inspiration to their colleagues. Both left the teaching profession, energised and enthusiastic about education, about the challenges that lay ahead and their belief that we could get more out of our pupils never wavered.
“I never once heard either of them speak negatively about change and about taking a fresh look at old, familiar and unfortunately recurring problems. They were real leaders and they will be missed by all of - not just on a professional basis but for the unique characters they both are. We wish them much happiness and fulfilment in the future.
“Last year we also said goodbye to Matthew McGuigan and Brendan Brady, both of whom had much shorter service in the school but who nevertheless were valued and respected teachers and colleagues. We wish them well in the future.
“Last year was a very challenging one in many respects. None more so than the loss of our Chair of Governors Dr Mary Burns after a period of illness and the sudden and untimely death of Fergal McCaughan, son of our Vice Chair and very recent former pupil.
“Despite Mary’s illness she remained focused on school life and school issues, continuing to ask the right questions and give encouragement to me and all of the staff in the school.
“Equally Una, despite her own personal shock and grief, continued to provide much appreciated guidance, support and encouragement to the school community. Mary and Una gave the leadership team and staff in the school their complete support in our endeavours to get the best from every young person, and so I know that they and their families and friends will take much delight and indeed comfort from tonight’s event. Both families will remain in our prayers.
“I want to take a moment to speak to the pupils here tonight. Firstly a big congratulations to you all and thank you for taking the time to join us this evening. Sharing in your successes with you parents is one of the aspects of my job which I really see as a privilege. To the Year 14 class of 2011, I want especially to wish you every success in the future and to thank you for the contribution to the life of the school.
“This is an all-ability school and academic success is understood to mean that a young person achieves his or her personal goals and targets and that they achieve their ‘personal best’. We value and recognise the achievement of pupils in all of the ‘Learning Pathways’ in Cross and Passion. It gives our Governors and staff a tremendous sense of satisfaction to recognise and reward ‘success’ from pupils from all types of learners. Yet again, we have improved results on many fronts.
“In 2007 we were designated as a Specialist school for Sport. At the core of Specialist Schools programme is the drive to raise achievement in all areas of the curriculum and across all subjects and ability groups. The programme provided an opportunity for the school to develop a range of innovative approaches to getting more out of our pupils, in simple terms, to provide a ‘personalised’ approach to the educational experience of each young person.
“We set ourselves ambitious targets to improve results and to improve the quality of school experience for each young person. To be selected onto the programme a school had to be already recognised as a high performing school and what the Specialist Schools programme did was challenge us to become an even better.
“More pupils than ever are returning to school for Post 16 education and higher numbers than ever are going on to study at Degree level in University or Further Education Colleges.
“The pupils teachers and support staff of this school have indeed risen to the challenge and not just met, but exceeded the targets set in relation to achievement.
“Excellence in Cross and Passion is about young people, in consultation with their teachers, setting challenging personal goals for progress and achievement and striving to achieve or indeed exceed those.
“Before I finish the ceremony this evening I want briefly to refer to another award this evening.
“Following a nomination by his Year 14 maths pupils for The Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement in education, Michael Dallat was the winner in Northern Ireland. Michael will now go forward to National Finals in London in October - we wish him every success.
“I started by saying that 2010-2011 was a very challenging year. However, it was my privilege to witness the strength of character, determination, tenacity and sense of hope with which our pupils, their families and our staff faced challenging circumstances. Many of the boys and girls and staff here this evening are an inspiration to others.
“Every challenge in life, be it academic, sporting, financial or personal, makes us aware of strengths and qualities we didn’t know we had, and in my experience, those who rise to a challenge, face it head on and dig deep to find the courage needed, will grow as a result.
“There are challenging times ahead in education - not least the financial context in which children over the next ten years will experience school. Young people leaving to go to Third level education will face the challenge of a much more competitive environment as well as financing their degree courses.
“There are many unknowns and uncertainties, however something which our pupils, their families and this community can be assured of is that the Governors and Staff of Cross and Passion will rise to the challenges ahead,
“We will continue to dig deep and focus our energy on continuing to do all we can to ensure that the pupils coming through in the next few years have a wonderful experience at school and leave as well rounded, confident, caring young adults ready to face the world and make really worthwhile contribution,” said Mrs Ward.