THERE were scenes of celebration at Dalriada when the Headmaster, Mr. Tom Skelton, informed staff, pupils and parents that Dalriada had won the prestigious Sunday Times "Northern Ireland School of the Year" award.
Each year, the newspaper compares the top 2000 independent and state schools, ranked by their recent external examination results and in 2008 Dalriada came out on top in the Northern Ireland region. As a result, the school featured in the Sunday Times Educational supplement on Sunday, 16th November along with the other five UK regional winners.
The full report on the school can be accessed by the Sunday Times Website and going to the section titled Parent Power.
At the November meeting of the School Governors the Chairman Mr Brian Dillon congratulated the Headmaster on the school gaining such a prestigious award. On behalf of his fellow Governors he asked the Headmaster to pass on to the pupils and staff the great delight and pride felt by the Governors.
Mr. Skelton has since given a number of radio interviews about the award. When asked about the school's achievement, he commented: "This is a great honour for Dalriada to win this prestigious award and reflects the hard work and commitment of pupils and staff, both teaching and ancillary, and the support of parents and Governors. Our external examination results last summer were outstanding and I feel that everyone associated with Dalriada can feel justifiably proud.
This has given us all a tremendous boost. We are proud of our unique school ethos where each person feels valued and respected in a caring, learning environment. We strive to help each pupil, whatever his or her background or range of interests, to develop personally and socially as well as academically".
Dalriada is a co-educational voluntary grammar school which provides education for pupils transferring from primary schools with high grades in the Transfer Test.
Traditionally Dalriada draws pupils from the entire Causeway Coast area and from all religious backgrounds. This, together with an emphasis on the happiness and wellbeing of pupils, provides a basis for them to gain maximum benefit from their time at Dalriada.
Over 95% of Dalriada Sixth Form leavers enter university degree courses. In 2008, over half of all A level grades obtained by Dalriada students were A grades. 87% of Upper Sixth form students gained 3 A levels at A-C grades. 39 students obtained at least 3 A grades including 10 students who obtained 4 A grades or more. Two students, Natasha Robinson and Jeremy McCauley, achieved an outstanding 5 A grades each.
In addition to academic success, the variety of activities carried on in Dalriada reflects one of the great strengths of the school. This year's achievements have been both outstanding and diverse – from British Debating Champions to All Ireland Volleyball Finalists, from Irish Chemistry Olympiad to Duke of Edinburgh Awards, from World Aid Group charity events to the school gaining eco-school status. The list goes on.
This year the school staged a memorable production of "Joseph" which was watched by over 2000 people. The school "Evening of Music" highlighted the musical talents of pupils in the school. Members of the choir and orchestra have also performed at Hillsborough in the presence of Prince Philip and appeared on television in the "Our Wee World" programme.
Sport continues to flourish in Dalriada with success in rugby, hockey, football, volleyball, netball, cricket and athletics.
In conclusion Mr. Skelton stated: "Dalriada consists of a huge variety of teams, teaching and non-teaching staff, pupils, parents and volunteers all striving towards the pursuit of a common goal – the pursuit of excellence in an environment where we all feel valued and respected. I feel this common goal encapsulates the unique ethos which exists in Dalriada."