An amazing year of achievement!

Students with A*-A grades.
Students with A*-A grades.

The Principal of Dalriada School has praised the tremendous achievements and successes of the school community.

Speaking during the school’s recent Prize Day, Mr Tom Skelton presented his 10th Headmaster’s Report in Dalriada continuing: “Due to the on-going work on our indoor sports facilities, our usual venue for Prize Day, the Belford Sports Hall is unavailable and we are holding two prizegiving ceremonies in the John Armstrong Hall this morning. This also reflects the growing number of our pupils who are receiving awards today.

Lower Sixth prizewinners

Lower Sixth prizewinners

““Achievement” was chosen as the theme of this year’s Dalriad magazine way back in December and what a year of achievement it has turned out to be. The range and quality of achievements gained at Dalriada this year must make 2015-16 one of the most successful years in the School’s long and proud history.

“I will begin with a brief analysis of our pupil performance in external examinations in 2016. At GCSE 100% of our pupils gained 5 or more A*-C grades, including Maths and English. A staggering 98% of our pupils gained at least 7 A*-C grades including Maths and English.

“In Lower Sixth the results were the best in the School’s history with 83% of our pupils obtaining at least 3 A-C grades. Finally last year’s Upper Sixth also produced an impressive set of results with 78% of pupils gaining at least 3 A*-C grades.

“Of 116 leavers, 113 applied to university. 74% of applicants achieved their first choice, 15% achieved their second choice and 6% gained a course through clearing. A further 2% declined all offers and decided to take a “gap” year. In summary, 97% of students were offered a place at university, a more accurate benchmark of student success than examination statistics. This figure also reflects Dalriada’s success in the holistic development of every young person in our care.

Year 12

Year 12

“At the CCEA annual “Celebrating Excellence” award ceremony in December, recognising Northern Ireland’s top GCSE and GCE students, four Dalriada students gained awards. Sophie Sterne was placed 1st in GCSE Geography, Thomas Hancock 1st in GCE Music, Sarah Cassells joint 1st in GCE Biology and Peter Forde, 2nd in GCSE Geography. We look forward to the announcement of this year’s top achievers as I am confident Dalriada students will again be well represented.

The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme goes from strength to strength in Dalriada with pupils gaining awards at Silver and Gold levels in this excellent character building scheme.

“Loyalty is a characteristic found in abundance within the staff at Dalriada. This year, teachers Mme Shirley Marin and Mrs. Pat Crerand notched up an incredible 30 years’ service each, highlighting entire careers devoted to pupils at Dalriada School.

“Unfortunately, due to budgeting constraints, this was a stressful, difficult year for staff with the Board of Governors forced to implement compulsory redundancies. This proved to be a long drawn out process and my sincere thanks are due to our Board of Governors, ably led by Mr. Brian Dillon for giving up so much time and effort to ensure that we followed the correct procedures and protocols.

Tha platform party with chief guest Paula McIntyre.

Tha platform party with chief guest Paula McIntyre.

“As a result of redundancies and other factors, this was a year of significant staff changes. Mrs. Sonya Colville, Head of German, left Dalriada after 14 years of service. She helped to lead the German Exchange trips to Coesfeld and also organised our first school trip to Berlin. We wish Sonya well for the future.

“Mrs. Samantha McCrystal joined Dalriada as a Mathematics teacher in 2014. She also helped out with Scripture Union and the Young Enterprise Group. We are delighted she has secured employment in Castle Tower School, Ballymena and we wish her well in the next step in her teaching career.

“After a long and distinguished career in Dalriada, Senior Teacher and Head of Geography, Mrs. Helen Leighton decided to take early retirement. Helen joined Dalriada in September 1982 and clocked up 34 years of outstanding service to the School. A gifted hockey coach, her greatest hockey achievement came in 1993 when she and Susan Crawford jointly coached Dalriada 1st XI to success by winning the Ulster Schools Senior Cup, a remarkable achievement and the only time Dalriada has ever won this prestigious competition. Her leadership skills were further recognised in 2003 when she became a Senior Teacher. In recent years she has made an outstanding contribution to Dalriada as Convenor of Teaching & Learning, a position in which she excelled. We wish her a long and happy retirement – she has certainly earned it.

“After 18 years at Dalriada, Pastoral Deputy Head, Mrs. Nicola Madden has left to take up appointment as Head of Limavady Grammar School. I thank her for her huge contribution to Dalriada as Deputy Head and for the energy, commitment and efficiency she brought to the post. Her leadership, guidance, encouragement and support have been exemplary. We wish her well in her new challenging but exciting post as Head of Limavady Grammar School.

“These staffing changes allowed us to make a number of internal promotions. Miss Cath Coey takes over as Head of German, Miss Anne Graham steps up as Head of Geography, Mr. Steven Glenn as Head of Years 9 and 10, Mrs. Nicola Johnston as Head of Sixth Form, Mrs. Heather Millar joins the Senior Leadership Team and Ms. Louise Crawford takes over the role of Head of Pastoral Care.

“Due to illness our highly esteemed and much loved Biology teacher and former Head of Years 9 and 10, Mrs. Janice Wylie, has been forced to take extended sick leave. Our thoughts and prayers are with Janice and we hope that she makes a speedy and complete recovery and return to Dalriada before the end of the school year.

“Although only in place since June, our new look Senior Leadership Team of Mrs. Janice Emerson, Mrs. Heather Millar, Ms. Louse Crawford, Mr. John Devlin and Deputy Head Dr. Ian Walker have been working hard developing strategies to ensure that Dalriada maintains its position as one of the top grammar schools in the Province. I am grateful to our Bursar Mr. David Balmer who manages out finances effectively.

“In particular I want to thank my Deputy Head, Dr. Ian Walker for his outstanding leadership and support. Following the decision not to replace Mrs. Madden as Pastoral Deputy Head, Ian has taken on even more responsibility and workload, yet continues to meet and solve every challenge which comes his way. I greatly value his professionalism and friendship.

“Our Head of Department and pastoral Heads continue to provide effective leadership as middle managers of the School and lead their colleagues with drive and enthusiasm, meeting the demands of delivering high quality teaching, assessment and pastoral care to bigger classes with fewer resources and less preparation time. Indeed, to all our staff, both teaching and support, thank you for your hard work, dedication and commitment to life at Dalriada. A special thank you to Mr. Vincent Doherty and his staff committee, who ensured that staff were able to enjoy a number of excellent social events and helped maintain staff morale during a difficult year.

“We continue to work closely with our neighbours Ballymoney High School and Our Lady of Lourdes through the Ballymoney Area Learning Community. We wish Ms. Eilish Gillan, Head of Our Lady of Lourdes, a steady recovery following a recent illness. Best wishes to acting Head, Mrs. Maura Buckley for the year ahead. “We are delighted that our revised bid for SEP funding has been successful and already this term we have enjoyed joint senior leadership and middle leadership training across the three schools with exciting projects planned for increased pupil collaboration. Our plans for improved sixth form provision are already at the consultation stage.

“Regarding Dalriada’s development proposal - “To increase Dalriada School’s admission number from 125 to 130 pupils (in Year 8) with an increase in enrolment number from 815 to 897 pupils, starting from September 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter” the consultation period closes on 11 October, 2016. The consultation document can be accessed via a link on our school website. Please take the opportunity to read the document and respond in a positive manner! The acceptance of this proposal by the Education Minister is crucial to the financial sustainability of Dalriada School.

“I also encourage everyone here today to consider joining the Friends of Dalriada, a newly formed group aimed at generating additional income for the school whilst creating opportunities to enjoy a range of social events and receive regular school updates. Our fundraising convenor Mr. John Cartwright has been working really hard to draw up an exciting programme of events for this year. I do hope you can support these events.

“We look forward to the completion of our new indoor sports complex, fully funded by the Department of Education. The contractors are on target to have all work finished by the completion date of 30 November 2016. My thanks to our PE department for making alternative arrangements, and our pupils for their patience during the construction of these facilities. Our Ground Breaking ceremony in April, to celebrate the construction of these sports facilities was a memorable event and we were delighted to welcome the First Minister Arlene Foster and local MLA Mervyn Storey to the ceremony.

“The Common Entrance Assessment continues to be an effective method of selection maintaining the support of parents in favour of academic selection. Over 200 children sat the three tests in Dalriada and I am indebted to our teaching and support staff who voluntarily give up their Saturday mornings to ensure that the Orientation Day and the three tests run successfully. We currently have 210 children registered to sit these tests in Dalriada this autumn. I welcome the decision of the Education Minister Mr. Peter Weir in allowing all primary schools the freedom to prepare children for the selection tests as part of their curriculum.

“This was a busy year in terms of major school trips with various school groups visiting countries including America, Israel, Rome, Spain, France and Belgium. These trips help to broaden horizons and give pupils experiences they will not forget. My thanks to staff who give up their holidays to give pupils the opportunity to visit other countries and experience different cultures. Thanks also to our pupils whose behaviour on these trips is impeccable and indeed to parents for allowing your children these opportunities.

“Staff and pupils worked together to produce high levels of achievement in school performances including Oklahoma, the Christmas Concert and the Evening of Music. The quality of these events was simply superb.

“Regarding individual musical achievements Hannah Christie has gained her LTCL performers diploma – a very high level of performance. Michael Diamond, Lois Barr, Reanna Craig, David Loughridge and Andrew Hutchinson are all current members of the Ulster Youth Choir and Michael, Lois and David are members of the Ulster Youth Chamber Choir.

“In sport, the achievements of our teams and individuals were outstanding. Our 1st XV rugby team had a memorable cup run which culminated in a deserved semi-final appearance at Ravenhill. Although we lost to a strong Campbell College team our team and supporters helped to raise the profile of Dalriada in Ulster School’s rugby.

“Our Under 16 Boys and Girls volleyball teams enjoyed unprecedented success with both teams winning their respective All Ireland Finals to become Irish Champions, a wonderful achievement.

“In athletics our pupils also enjoyed great success with seven athletes qualifying to compete in the Irish Athletics Championships. Pride of place went to Esther Lear, who won Silver in the Junior Girls Discus. Later in the year Ross Fallows and Luke Pollock qualified to compete in the Irish Multi-Events Championships.

“Congratulations to the many pupils who have gained representative honours this year in hockey, rugby, volleyball and athletics.

Our Chamber Choir enjoyed unprecedented success in the BBC Choir of the Year competition. After winning their heats, they produced a memorable performance in the final of the competition in the Ulster Hall to deservedly win the title of BBC Choir of the Year, much to the delight of their vocal supporters! Since then, they have been recorded for “Sing Out”, another BBC Radio Ulster broadcast and sang at a televised show in Stormont. This December they will perform two pieces with the Ulster Orchestra.

“Our Bar Mock team won the Northern Ireland heat of the competition to qualify for the UK Finals. The team travelled to the Old Baily in London for the finals where they outperformed all other finalists to claim the title of UK Bar Mock Champions. The team are now preparing to travel to New York in November for the World Championships.

“Our Top of the Bench team won the Northern Ireland heat of this competition and went on to perform admirably in the UK Finals. In the British Biology Olympaid competition, Dalriada pupils were amongst the 7,000 A level students taking part. Three pupils received a certificate and a bronze medal for finishing in the top 15% and two pupils Tara Devers and Gillian McNaugher received certificates and silver medals for finishing in the top 10% of the competition.

“Dalriada pupils also competed successfully in three mathematics events during the year, provided by the UK Mathematics Trust (UKMT).

James Hancock was Dalriada’s representative in this year’s Sentinus Young Innovators competition. In his category James gained first prize in the Ulster University’s Special Award for best use of ICT. As a result he has been invited to the UK Science Fair Final in Birmingham in March 2017. We wish him well.

Life in Dalriada never stands still and this year even more activities have been added to our extra-curricular programme. In June, after months of preparation Mr. Gamble and his team of pupils from Years 8 – 10 launched Mine Craft which involved creating a virtual Dalriada School, enabling prospective pupils to experience the layout of the school before they actually start!

“In partnership with the Institute Francais of South Kensington in London, the French department of Dalriada now offer a French Cine-club to Sixth Form pupils studying French for A level. The film selection fits with the topics in the curriculum and helps further pupils knowledge and understanding of French culture.

“Finally the Agriculture Club was launched by Mr. Hodges in 2015. The group meet every Thursday at lunchtime and have been involved in the Ultimate Farming Challenge and also visited Greenmount Agricultural College.

“Time does not allow me to mention all the achievements of our pupils or all the various club and societies which flourish in Dalriada. My sincere thanks to all staff who run these clubs and societies on a purely voluntary basis and to the numerous parents and friends of the school who help out in many activities. We are also indebted to our numerous sponsors who provide vital financial assistance for various school activities.

“For a detailed account of all that happens in Dalriada please read this year’s edition of The Dalriad, packed with features and colour photographs. My thanks go to the Editorial team superbly led by Mrs. Leanne McShane for another outstanding publication.

“In conclusion I thank our governors and staff for their dedication and devotion to the pupils and the work of the school. I commend our pupils for their commitment and study at school and at home to achieve outstanding success and also for their huge contribution to extra-curricular activities. I congratulate all our prize-winners today on your wonderful achievements. Finally thank you, the parents for the many hours spent supporting your child and for supporting all that we do in Dalriada. You have every right to be proud of your child’s achievements today.

“This has certainly been an historic year of achievement in Dalriada. Despite the difficult financial challenges which are forced upon us, with your support we will continue the relentless pursuit of excellence within and beyond the classroom. We will also strive to ensure that our unique Dalriada ethos remains intact.”