Ballycastle High School held its prize day recently.
Here is a slideshow of prize winners’ pictures.
Principal Mr Williamson’s speech follows:
“Once again, it gives me great pleasure to report on yet another year of success and progress at Ballycastle High School. The 2013-2014 academic year, truly has been an outstanding success in many ways for our school.
Sir Winston Churchill once stated, “ Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. I report on a year which saw the fruits of very focused work, commitment, perseverance, dedication and indeed courage of the pupils, staff, governors, our partner schools, the Queens University Sharing Education Team as well as the local community.
“Today is my opportunity to formally recognise the diligence, professionalism and genuine empathy of the staff, pupils, parents and governors of Ballycastle High School and our partners. As we reflect on the successes of the last academic year, it should enable all of us to start a new year with a sense of hope and optimism.
“Investment in facilities, people and relationships are at the centre of Ballycastle High School’s continued success. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”. So when I ask the question why is Ballycastle High School the great place that I believe it to be, I reflect on an article which stated that when compared to those who work in the private sector, those who are involved in education are too loyal to the organisations they work for.
“It was asserted that those in ‘business’ for example move between companies with far less emotional attachment. But in a school like ours, it is these emotional attachments which are so crucial to making it such a success. Indeed, it is these emotional attachments that are the bonds, fusing together those all important relationships between teaching staff, senior leaders, students, parents and the wider school community.
“It is these emotional attachments that sometimes lead to frustrations but more importantly provide us with hope. Hope for our young people, our school and the communities we serve. It is fantastic to have the hope of investment in new buildings, but equally important is the hope achieved by investing in relationships. By investing in building relationships we can move forward with a feeling of genuine excitement and anticipation.
Once again a former Ballycastle High School pupil returns to Prize Day to offer insight and advice to today’s pupils:Our chief guest today, Mrs Elaine McGhee, is a former pupil and Head Girl of Ballycastle High School, and has retained links with the school and community over a number of years and a keen interest in the work of the school.
“A former teacher recently recounted that Elaine was a star pupil, epitomising the virtues of hard work, enquiry and participation in all facets of school activity. He suggested that there was no one better to pass on her experiences to today’s young people.
“As a pupil Elaine achieved 10 grade As at GCSE and after successful A level results, she went on to study at Dundee University where she achieved a 2:1 (Hons) LLB Law Degree.
“As a pupil at Ballycastle High School Elaine became very active in many aspects of school life, with sport being a passion. Hockey, netball and athletics were particular favourites. Indeed the love of hockey inspired during her time in Ballycastle, was taken to university where Elaine captained the 2nd XI university hockey team.
“Upon completion of professional qualifications to practice as a solicitor Mrs McGhee started her legal career in Belfast specialising in commercial property law.
”I am sure that Mrs McGhee can remember fondly the relationships and emotions nurtured during her time here. She exemplifies the potential dividend to be gained from such investments. I’m equally sure that experiences in Ballycastle High School have supported Elaine in nurturing her family life and in developing a successful career in the world of commercial property law, where the dividends sought by clients from investments are perhaps of a much more tangible monetary nature!”
Sound investments bring excellent return for Ballycastle High School.
“What is considered by many to be the tangible dividend or return on investments in a school setting is often based upon the achievements made in external examinations. It is perhaps appropriate that we should examine the returns made on our investments in recent years. Four years ago, the standards of attainment of young people at GCSE in Ballycastle High School was considered to be above the average for non-
selective schools – an average of about 63% of our young people were achieving 5 or more A* to C Grades . We offered a reasonably good curriculum, the best that was available in a small school.
“However, we were conscious that there was scope to take advantage of a range of new types of GCSE and GCE equivalent qualifications which would offer more of our young people, more opportunities to enjoy school and to achieve more success. The additional support from The Shared Education Programme (Atlantic Philanthropies and Queen’s University Belfast), helped us consolidate and build significantly on the partnership with Cross and Passion College which had focused previously solely on the Sixth Form provision.
“GCSE and A level courses related to Agriculture, Land and Environment, Hospitality, Creative Media and Sport amongst others, have been added to the curriculum and with both schools working together the young people have been able to choose courses which suit their abilities, interests and aptitudes.
“Outstanding results are a direct consequence of individual hard work and co-
“As a direct consequence, this year we have achieved record results at GCSE or equivalent level, which can only be described as being outstanding and which place Ballycastle High School in a most favourable position when compared to similar schools both locally and indeed throughout Northern Ireland.
“I am delighted to welcome back today, so many of last year’s 6th Form in order to
receive recognition for all their hard work and everyone has enjoyed individual success. Many of you will be starting university courses this week or have already done so. Almost 80% of last year’s year 14 students have succeeded in gaining entry to university. A number of others having achieved the required grades have opted to defer entry and take a gap year or start a different course of study.
A Level Success:
“At A Level, there have been some excellent individual performances: Laura Freeman, Ross Kerr, David McClure and Anna Rainey, gained three A and A* grades or equivalent. Congratulations also go to Jason Boal, Wesley Ferris, Carrie Flemming, Georgina Hiscock, Ryan Jones, Jimmy Mariano, Rachel McMullan, Khara Rennie and David Stirling who gained three top grades. The top 10 students achieved 26 A* to B grades between them – and in 12 Subjects 100% of the grades awarded to our pupils were A* to C.
“Over 80% of pupils overall were successful in gaining at least 3 subjects and twenty subject areas enjoyed a 100% pass rate, 69% of grades awarded were in the A*-C or equivalent category. Once again, the vast majority of our students in the Year 14 have qualified themselves for Higher Education Institutes and Universities.
Best ever and truly outstanding results at G.C.S.E. and equivalent level, keep
Ballycastle High School in a sector leading position.
I have already made mention of the superb performances at G.C.S.E. level examinations this year. The results achieved are truly exceptional, with the figure for pupils achieving 5 grades at A* to C or equivalent being 93%, which is the highest ever percentage figure. The figure when we look at 5 GCSEs or equivalent at grades A* to C including English and Maths – which is highlighted by the Department of Education as a key statistic for improving the employability and life chances of pupils, was again the best ever achieved by the school. With an outstanding 78% of pupils achieving this key benchmark figure, Ballycastle High School is significantly well above the Northern Ireland average for comparable schools.
An excellent 73% of pupils achieved seven or more GCSEs or equivalent including English and Mathematics at grades A*-C. This is 38% above the average figure for all non-selective post primary schools in Northern Ireland and is something we all should be very pleased about. An excellent 46% of our Year 12 students have achieved at least 9 GCSEs or equivalent at grade C or better. Special congratulations go to Daniel Kennedy who has achieved two A* grades and eight A grades. Many others should be rightfully proud of their performance and you will hear more of their successes later and we are delighted that many have returned to study in the Sixth Form.
I have already highlighted the benefits for everyone, of our close relationship with educational partners and with that in mind I again pay tribute to Mrs Ward and her staff for the professionalism and courtesy shown to High School students when they study at Cross and Passion College.
Department of Education Shared Campus announcement brings sense of excitement and anticipation to Ballycastle. Indeed this year in early July we were delighted to learn that the Department of Education had accepted the joint application for a Shared Education Campus in Ballycastle.
Especially significant was the fact that we were one of only three successful bids. This announcement is a ringing endorsement of the commitment of this community, the schools, the various churches, local employers and other organisations, who have given this concept of sharing their whole-hearted support. Collectively, we have convinced the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Assembly that Shared Education is an idea which really works. It is an arrangement which allows the expression of religious and cultural identity in a way which promotes mutual respect for each other’s difference.
Our plans are for investment in two new state of the art shared facilities. One will provide facilities for Sport and Creative Arts including Art and Design, Dance, Drama and Music, the other will provide facilities for IT, Science, Technology, Food Sciences and a range of other related subjects.
“The plans also include two new Core Schools – school buildings which will cater for the remainder of the core curriculum areas which don’t require specialist facilities and for Key Stage 3 classes.
The proposal is line with the published Area Plan for post primary education in the Moyle area, which sees both schools retaining their own ethos, identity and governance arrangements.
“As has been proven this year, Shared Education has allowed us to achieve excellent outcomes for even more of our young people. It has transformed their experience in relation to promoting mutual respect and understanding. It has allowed us to provide a curriculum which meets the needs and interest of the local community and hopefully we will continue to enhance the employability skills of our young people and their ability to contribute positively to this community.”