IT has been another very successful year at Ballycastle High School, Headmaster Ian Williamson, told his Prize Day audience.
Mr Williamson said: “At A Level, there have been some excellent individual performances: Jade Agnew gained four top grades in ICT, Double Award Health and Social Care and Applied Science. Congratulations also go to Richard Beattie, Craig Henry, Claire Kennedy, Luke McMullan, Hannah Pulman, Ellie Reilly, Pamela Sinclair and John Toner-McMullan who gained three top grades.
“80% of pupils overall were successful in gaining at least 3 subjects and this figure places Ballycastle High School in an above average position compared to the Northern Ireland average for similar schools.. Twenty one subject areas enjoyed a 100% pass rate, 63% of grades awarded were in the A*-C or equivalent category and once again and no-one leaves without qualifications.
“The vast majority of our students in the Year 14 have cause to be well satisfied and congratulated as once again most of our students qualified themselves for Higher Education Institutes and Universities.
“At AS level, thirty seven students in Year 13 sat the examinations with 95% of pupils passing at least two subjects. Wesley Ferris, Laura Freeman, Ryan Jones, Ross Kerr, Jodie McBride, David McClure, Anna Rainey and Khara Rennie all have achieved at least three top grades with at least one A grade or equivalent at this level of study. “There is much to celebrate with these results at AS and we wish every success to this year’s Year 14 as they continue with their Advanced level studies and to a number of students who have moved on to vocational training and further education and employment, we wish you every future success.”
Mr Williamson was also proud of the GCSE examination performances.
He said: “Continuing with the successes of this year’s GCSE results, the figure for pupils achieving 5 grades at A* to C or equivalent was 73%, and was the highest percentage figure for over 13 years with 76% of all grades awarded being at grades A*-C or equivalent.
“The figure when we look at 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and Maths - which increasingly is highlighted by the Department of Education as a key statistic for improving the life chances of pupils - was the best ever achieved by the school.
“At an outstanding 56% of pupils achieving this key benchmark figure which once again places Ballycastle High School well above the Northern Ireland average for comparable schools. Also, an excellent 55% of pupils achieved seven or more GCSEs or equivalent including English and Mathematics at grades A*-C.
“This is 22% above the average figure for all non-selective post primary schools in Northern Ireland and is something we all should be very pleased with. An excellent 48% of our Year 12 students have achieved at least 9 GCSEs or equivalent at grade C or better.
“Eleven students achieved 10 top grades at GCSE or equivalent and I would like to mention each of them, they are: Adam Brogan, Leah Cox, Amy Gibson, Sarah Glass, Shelby Jones, Philip Linton, Chloe McLaughlin, Daniel McLaughlin, Joanne McVicker, Laura Todd, Courtney Walker and Aimee Noble, with eleven GCSEs or equivalent at grade C or better being achieved by Andrew Christie, and Charlie McGrath-Hayes.
“Special congratulations go to Laura Todd who has achieved one A* grade, eight A grades and one B grade. Many others should be rightfully proud of their performance and many have returned to study in the Sixth Form.
“I am delighted to report to you that in this all ability non-selective school 98% of our Year 12 pupils gained a grade in 5 GCSEs or equivalent, 94% gained 7 GCSEs or equivalent and no-one left Ballycastle High School without achieving at least four grades at GCSE or equivalent qualification.
“I feel our curriculum provision offering a range of vocational and academic subjects enables the talents of all our pupils to be developed so that they reach the best they are capable of.
“I believe these results show that here in Ballycastle High School, we are indeed closing the achievement gap and breaking the link between social disadvantage and poor educational performance. The facts speak for themselves.”
Mr Williamson said Successful Shared Education continues to broaden choices for pupils, supports academic success and transforms communities.
He added: “In terms of improving further the quality of partnerships which benefit learners, I believe firmly that the effective learning and teaching in Ballycastle High School is supported by the equally effective learning and teaching in Cross and Passion College and the Northern Regional College.
“In a year which has seen further mutually beneficial shared curricular provision at Key Stages Four and Five, tribute again must be paid to Mrs Ward and her staff for the professionalism and courtesy shown to High School students when they study at Cross and Passion College.
“Not only does it allow us to increase the range and number of subjects offered to students, but the relationship between our schools enables the promotion of a culture and ethos based upon mutual respect for each others differences, while retaining individual identity.
“Indeed this year, the publication by the North Eastern Education and Library Board of the Area Based Plan for post-primary educational provision in the Moyle Area, officially proposed that Ballycastle High School should continue as an 11-19 school as should Cross and Passion College with both schools continuing to work together while maintaining individual Governance and identity.
“Indeed we are grateful for the continued support form the Shared Education Programme as governors from both schools seek to put forward a case to the Department of Education for new facilities for both schools, which will help develop schools equipped with modern buildings fit for the 21st Century.
“Governors, pupil representatives and both Principals have already had meetings with representatives from the North Eastern Education and Library Board, Catholic Council for Maintained Schools and the Department of Education to discuss proposals.
“Meetings have taken place with political representatives and a very positive meeting to discuss the issue was held with the Minister of Education. We have secured a meeting with the Education Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly to further push home the need for significant capital investment in Ballycastle. We will hopefully hear more about this in the future.
“It is my considered opinion when examining the issue of transforming communities by improving further the quality of partnerships which benefit learners and by sharing in education, so that young people respect each other, learn together and reach the highest standards of educational achievement, that here in Ballycastle High School by working with our partners, we are providing a service which is unique in Northern Ireland and in fact is of international interest.
“The Boards of Governors, staff, pupils and parents of both schools and the entire community in this area should be proud of what is going on here. In a quiet and often unsung way, lives and communities are being transformed.”
* Mr Williamson welcomed former Ballycastle High pupil and Head Boy Gavin Andrews, a journalist with the BBC, back to the school as guest speaker at Prize Day.