Coleraine Grammar School held its inaugural prize day on Friday.
Headmaster Dr David Carruthers said: “It has been a year of great change for all of us and I would like to begin by thanking the whole school community for the way in which pupils, teachers, parents, support staff and governors have addressed and embraced that change.
“Following many years of discussion and consideration our timescale to manage the reorganisation was, in the end rather short. The Education Minister’s approval came on 26th September 2014 and Coleraine Grammar School opened on 1st September 2015. The Interim Board of Governors under the leadership of Mrs Nancy McCollum worked tirelessly to deliver on behalf of the pupils. The layers which needed to be addressed were legion and gallons of midnight oil were consumed during the 2014/15 academic year.
“There remains a lot to be done. Significant investment by the Department of Education is required to provide teaching and extra-curricular provision, in addition to our current provision, to enable Coleraine Grammar School to be located on one site. We will continue to work with the Department of Education to secure the necessary funding and, having engaged with department policy on Area Based Planning and school reorganisation, having worked together and delivered and having addressed and embraced enormous change, there is a moral case and argument that funding to complete this reorganisation should be forthcoming quickly.
“The needs of the pupils were always foremost in our planning and one of the easier decisions as we prepared for the new school was that Year 12 and Year 14 should continue in the same classes, and where at all possible, with the same teachers to provide continuity as the pupils prepared for their GCSE and A Level examinations, and we were delighted with the outcomes.
“In GCSE results, ninety pupils achieved at least 3A*/A grades in their exams, eighteen pupils received all A*/A grades and sixty five pupils attained at least one A* grade. The most outstanding sets of results were our top achieving girls, Anna Wallace and Holly Woodhead who both achieved 10 A* grades in full course GCSEs and Anna also achieved an A in short course RE. Calum Beggs and Laura Strawbridge each achieved 9 A*s and one A and Ross Moore achieved 8A*s and 2As. Other excellent performances were Courtney Campbell, Ruth Carson, Chloe Dalzell, Rebekah Rea and James Richmond who all attained 7A*s and 3 As in their results. In addition Jessica Ballantyne, Nikki Barr, Sarah Bleakly, Alison Cargin, Ellen Davis, Niall Evans, Zara Hegarty, Faye Hill, Zoe Jackson, Olivia McClean, Emma McClure, Ellie McFarland, Georgia Rainey, Alice Reid, Ellie Swaile-Blemmings and Adam Wallace all achieved 9 or 10 A* or A grades.
“This outstanding collection of grades is a testament to the teachers’ and pupils’ hard work and dedication across the two years of their GCSE studies and both teachers and pupils should be commended for their excellent results. The names mentioned are a small sample of the students who performed impressively in their exams.
“Several subject areas achieved high numbers of A*/A grades; there were 71 A*/A grades in Maths, 69 A*/As in English, 63 A*/As in ICT, 53 A*/As in Biology and 45 A*/As in Chemistry.
“The overall measure of success on a whole school basis is the percentage of pupils achieving 7 A*-C grades including English and Mathematics. When this 7 A*-C figure is calculated for pupils in Year 12 who came into school with an AQE score of 94 or more, we exceed the NI grammar school average, which is very pleasing from the more academic point of view. Equally, for the pupils who entered school with an AQE score of less than 94, we far exceed the NI non-grammar school average for 7 A*-C grades. I believe that this demonstrates we are doing our very best to meet the needs of all the pupils in our school.
“In the Lower 6 examinations, nine pupils attained their A Level Mathematics in one year whilst also studying their other AS subjects. These pupils were George Clarke, Sam Clarke, Jordan Kilgore, Thomas Lavery, Jeff Mitchell, Ciara Richmond, Grace Richmond, Scott Torrens and Ben Turner. Grace achieved an A*, which is an outstanding result.
“Fifteen pupils achieved 4 grade As and there were a further fourteen pupils who received 3 grade As in their AS exams. Amongst these pupils are Coleraine Grammar School’s new Head Boy and Head Girl, who both achieved excellent results. Grace Carson received 4 A grades in French, German, Maths and RE, whilst Zachary Hutchinson gained 3 A grades in Maths, Politics and RE.
“In terms of subjects, there were 22 A grades in Biology, 20 in English, 26 in Maths and 22 in RE. The AS results are very pleasing and the pupils and teachers should be proud of their achievements as they move forward into their final year of learning and teaching before university. In the Upper 6 A Level examinations 37 A* grades were awarded in fourteen different subject areas: Art, Chemistry, 6 in Biology, 8 in Maths, Further Maths, French, Geography, History, ICT, Physics, Spanish, Technology, English and Health and Social Care. In total, 21 pupils gained at least 3 As or A*s in their Year 14 courses.
“Omer Nalbant and Abigail Lynas were the top performing pupils. Omer achieved 4 A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry, plus an A in Biology. This is a truly outstanding collection of grades which enabled him to take up a place at Oxford to study Material Science. Abigail Lynas also achieved an impressive 3 A*s in Biology, French and Spanish, which means she can begin her midwifery course at Sheffield Hallam.
“Wesley McCartney achieved 2 A*s and 2 A grades whilst Sarah Barr, Jonathan Martin, Marie Richmond and Emily Scott all achieved 2 A*s and 1 A grade. Wesley is embarking on a degree in mathematics at Bristol University, Sarah is studying medicine at Queen’s, Marie is going to Liverpool to study dentistry and Emily is studying accountancy at Queen’s. For these pupils to have received not only one, but multiple A* grades each, is testament to dedication and consistent effort throughout their AS and A2 courses.
“The first Head Boy and Head Girl of Coleraine Grammar School also produced excellent results. Emily McConaghie achieved an A* in French and 2 As in Music and Spanish, while Connor Skuce received an A* in Biology, 2 As in Chemistry and Maths, plus a B in RE. Emily was awarded a place at Queen’s to study French and Spanish, and Connor, following a year out, is planning to study medicine.
“The teachers and pupils deserve to be congratulated for their hard work and success and we look forward to seeing how the pupils progress at university and in their chosen career paths.
“A positive home environment for pupils is vital for this level of success at GCSE, AS and A2 to be achieved, and I would like to thank parents for their continued support for their children and the dedicated work teachers do at school.
“A number of teachers left us at the end of the school year; Mrs Holmes, Miss Marks and Mr Haggan were temporary members of staff in Biology, Mathematics and History and we wish them well as they pursue their careers elsewhere. All three deserve our thanks for their work in classrooms and with extra-curricular activities. Mrs Knipe, Mrs Tweed and Mr Graham retired from teaching in 2016 and, in some cases, this was quite early retirement.
“Mrs Janette Tweed joined the staff of Coleraine High School in 1991 to teach English and went on to fulfil a number of whole school roles during her career. These included Key Stage Year Head, Literacy Coordinator and Special Educational Needs Coordinator. Outside the classroom her leadership of the public speaking and debating societies did much for pupils’ confidence and the societies also enjoyed considerable success in competitions.
“Mrs Marion Knipe began teaching Art, Geography and English in Coleraine High School in 1987 before moving exclusively to Art a few years later. Mrs Knipe was a boarding mistress, environmental officer, teacher governor, SEN Coordinator and a Head of Year for 10 years. Both of Mrs Knipe’s children attended the High School and many pupils were inspired to follow careers in the visual arts, calling back to school regularly to update her on their progress.
“Careers which began in the 1990s, 1980s, and now the 1970s. Mr Stephen Graham took up his post teaching PE at Coleraine Inst in 1978, the final year of Dr Humphreys’ tenure. He was one of the first teachers in NI to deliver GCSE PE and his contribution to games, rugby in particular, has been immense. He coached first year pupils, the Medallion and the 1st XV, winning the Schools’ Cup in 1992. He organised tours to Japan, South Africa, South America, Fiji, the Cook Islands and New Zealand. Mr Graham served on the Ulster Schools’ Committee for over 20 years and also on the Irish Schools’ Committee. 63 of his pupils played for Ulster Schools, 23 for Irish Schools and 2 pupils became full internationals; quite a legacy.
“Janette, Marion and Stephen, thank you from the whole school community for the impact you made on so many young lives over so many years in the High School, Inst and Coleraine Grammar and please accept our best wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement, whether that is an early retirement or otherwise.
“Dr Pamela Frizelle joined the teaching staff in September 2015 as Curriculum Leader for Biology and has settled in to this role with confidence. Two new colleagues joined us this year; Mr Tim Smith in the Art Department and Miss Naomi Montgomery in Business Studies, both in long-term covering positions.
“In planning for and opening Coleraine Grammar School we were always wishing to build on the foundations of CHS and CAI. For example, the choice of subjects offered to pupils for GCSE and A Level combines everything that was on offer in the two schools, so pupils have access to a broad and relevant curriculum.
“We have done the same thing with extra-curricular activities and this has led to significant strengthening of some activities, for example, we now have girls rowing and boys singing as you will see at the Bann Head of the River and Carol Service.
“We are pleased to be able to offer so many opportunities to the pupils. Sport, music and drama help to develop our pupils’ confidence and leadership abilities which, alongside academic achievement, will help ensure further success whether at university or in the workplace.
“We are offering around 20 different sports, the same again in clubs and societies, educational trips within Ireland, Britain, Europe and further afield, and musical opportunities with five choirs, two orchestras and a swing band, as well as many other ensembles.
“In sport we gained representative honours at Irish level in angling with Aaron Galbraith; junior badminton at Ulster level; cricket at Ulster and Irish level with Varun Chopra and Marcus Poskitt; Varun played for Ireland in the U19 Cricket World Cup; hockey at Ulster level with Grace Bradley and Helen Tweedie and Irish honours for Helen; rugby at Ulster level for Max Bailie, Matthew Mooney, Matthew Norris and Callum Smith; Charlotte Anderson, Molly Curry and Liam Webb in Ulster swimming with Molly winning two Irish gold medals in the summer; and Zara Hegarty competed for Northern Ireland in volleyball.
“School was represented, in our first year, by pupils travelling in Ireland, to Britain, Europe, US, Scandinavia and Bangladesh for a range of educational and sporting activities.
“We have formed the Coleraine Grammar School Friends’ Association and, together with the High School Old Girls’, Inst Old Boys’ Association and COBRA, these organisations have provided considerable financial and practical support throughout the year.
“It has been a busy and successful first year; good foundations have been laid and we can look forward to the future with great confidence,” he concluded.