The headmaster of Coleraine Grammar School has spoken about the journey towards a one-site school at Castlerock Road.
Dr David Carruthers was speaking during the school’s annual prize day.
Welcoming guests including the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Cllr Brenda Chivers, he said: “In August, many pupils had great success to celebrate when we received the A-Level and GCSE results. Almost 70% of Year 14 pupils receiving their A Level results achieved A*-C grades in all their subjects, which reflects the hard work and dedication of both pupils and staff.
“Across the school, 13 different departments can celebrate 100% of pupils achieving A*-C grades. The pupils deserve to be congratulated for their success and we look forward to seeing how they progress at university and subsequently in their chosen career paths.
Some of the top achieving students were as follows: Ancel Bell and Anna Wallace both received 2 A* and 2 A grades. Anna is taking up her place at QUB in Medicine and Ancel is studying Computer Science at Durham. Holly Woodhead received 3 A* grades, ensuring her place at Oxford to read Theology and Religion. Matthew Logue achieved 2A*s and one A, enabling him to read Law at Cambridge.
“Michael Simpson achieved 2A*s, an A and a B and has taken up his place at Trinity College, Dublin. Courtney Campbell achieved 1A* and 3A grades and is studying Music at Ulster University, and that is to name but a few highly successful pupils. A further 37
pupils were awarded at least 2A*/A grades and 14 pupils in total achieved all A* or A grades in their subjects. In the year group as a whole, there were 118A* and A grades awarded.
“Our Year 14 pupils have been highly successful in securing places in their first choice universities which include St Andrews and a range of Russell Group universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Queens, Liverpool and Birmingham. Course choices include Medicine, Law, Software Engineering, Chemical Engineering, International Relations, Sports and Exercise Sciences, Business Economics,
Computer Science, Music, Food Science and Nutrition, Geography, Accounting & Finance, Teaching and Nursing.
“In the Year 13 AS results there were 20 pupils with 3 or more A grades. Erin Gibson and Andrew Irwin both achieved 4 A grades, plus an A in Mathematics A-Level in one year. Anna Jinks, Sarah Kirkpatrick, Jonah Lennox and Conor Wisener all achieved 4 A grades, and 7 pupils achieved an A grade in A-Level Mathematics in one year, including an A* for Dillon McLennan.
“At GCSE, 67 pupils were awarded at least 5A* or A grades and over half of these pupils achieved at least 7A* or A grades. The following 12 pupils achieved 10 A*/A grades in their full course GCSEs: Matthew Barr, Hannah Campbell, Ben Gault, Shreya Ghaie, Rachel Hunter, Heidi Johnston, Lois Kildea, Kate Leitch, Anna McHenry, Lauren McKeary, Emma Porter and Tamara Walker, with several of these pupils achieving 9A*s and an A. The top achieving students were Shreya Ghaie and Lois Kildea who achieved an A* in all 10 of their full course subjects (plus an A* in short course Religious Studies).
“This outstanding collection of grades is a testament to the pupils’ and teachers’ hard work and dedication across the two years of their GCSE studies and they should be commended for their excellent results. The names mentioned are only a small sample of the students who performed impressively in their exams. These results represent outcomes for the high achievers but it is important to recognise that there has been improvement across the school in GCSE performance in our first three years. We have targeted achievement at A*-B, not just A*-C, and the percentage of pupils achieving 7 or more A*-B grades at GCSE has risen by 6% in the period from 2016 to 2018.
“We have now begun a journey with the Department of Education which will see capital investment on the Castlerock Road campus, and establish the school on one site. This cannot some soon enough in terms of school identity, collegiality and the burden which travelling places on the teaching staff. The funding which we receive to address the split-site is only a fraction of what it really costs to run the school on two campuses. Coupled with the general under-funding of education, we are therefore dealing with a doubly difficult situation financially. The NI Audit Office published a report this week showing that school budgets here have been reduced by 10% in real terms in the last five years.
“The auditor general has stated that schools are ‘close to a tipping point’. With inadequate resources schools are nevertheless expected to continue to make improvements and achieve better results, which we are managing to do, through the professionalism of the teaching staff, hard work of the pupils and support of parents. However, the funding situation needs to be addressed, and it is to be hoped that the
discussions between the teaching unions and the employers’ representatives reach a successful conclusion in the near future. These discussions are addressing teachers’ pay, workload issues and inspection, all of which are important components of the wider funding position.
“Parental support for the voluntary contribution has never been more necessary. Your voluntary contributions help to fund the extraordinary range of extra-curricular activities we provide in sport, music, drama, school trips and many other activities. To help explain the importance of these activities in terms of personal development Jasmine Morris, Jonathan Green, Diana Mathewson, Amy McNeill and Matthew Boyce will now share with you their experiences at school in music, drama, the history trip and rowing.”
Jasmine Morris said: “I am fortunate to be a violinist in the Ulster Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. Members of both orchestras are selected through competitive national auditions and represent the best young musical talent Ireland has to offer, both
north and south of the border. The musical programs create opportunities for young musicians like me to engage with each other on a national level and to perform and interact with professional musicians and world renowned conductors.
“In July this year, after a 12 day intensive residential in Kilkenny, I toured with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland to Amsterdam. We performed four concerts, one of which was in the famous Concertgebouw with a homecoming performance in the Helix in Dublin. The conductor was the very talented Tueg-Chieh Chuang. On the first night of one of our concerts I tried not to have a panic attack on his behalf as he appeared to have forgotten his notes. But unknown to me, he conducts from memory and never uses notes. We performed repertoire from Bernstein, Stravinsky and my favourite, Tchaikovsky.
“In August this year, after only being home for a week, I was off on my travels again with Heidi McKee, a fellow CGS pupil and saxophonist, this time with the Ulster Youth Orchestra on their 25th anniversary tour of Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg. It began with a residential at Greenmount, involving rigorous rehearsals for over ten hours a day beginning at 10am and ending at 10pm. There were lots of blisters, not on our feet but our fingers.
“During this time, tutors sorted out wrong notes and advised on topics such as articulation, bowing, style, rhythm and confidence. At the end of the seven day residential, all 91 of us, along with 16 welfare staff, flew from Dublin to Vienna with our violins on our knees and cellos with a plane seat of their own, I’m not joking. We performed our first concert outdoors to approximately 600 people in the museums quarter in Vienna.
“Our conductor was Belfast born Courtney Lewis. The repertoire included Debussy, Gershwin, Harty and a specially commissioned piece by Ryan Molloy called Ogham, telling the tale of Irish Ogham stones. Further concerts took place in the Slovak Radio Hall in Bratislava where we met with the Irish and British ambassadors. Our finale was back home in the Ulster Hall to an audience of over 800. The sense of occasion was tangible and the orchestra summoned up every last drop of energy to deliver an electrifying performance.
“We were a group of musicians who had never played collectively before, playing technically challenging repertoire that we had to learn in seven days to the highest of standards. It was unforgettable. The whole summer experience taught us how to work under pressure, organise our time and how to work as a team, listening to each other. In my final year of CGS, the next stage of my journey is about to begin as I pursue a place studying violin in a conservatoire to fulfil my dream of becoming a professional orchestral violinist.”
Jonathan Green then told the prize day audience: “Ulster Youth Choir was established in 1999 to provide the best of Northern Ireland’s
young singers aged 14-24 the opportunity to sing together to the highest possible standards.
“I was both surprised and delighted that this year I had been selected to join the Ulster Youth Choir. This talented bunch of 60 of the top young singers in NI included no less than four Coleraine Grammar pupils; soprano, Kimberly-Grace Hayes, alto, Moira Dalzell and basses Aled Morton and Jonathan Green.
“The gruelling week-long course, containing nearly 8 hours of rehearsal each day was based in the historic Campbell College. Thanks to the glorious weather that week, some of the warming up and other fun activities were to be had outside. This year’s course was entitled “Strange Fruit”, and explored the music of oppression and protest with a range of works from the recusant music of Byrd and De Monte, through to
Estonian music, as well as modern day protest songs. My favourite piece in the course was the haunting “Wie Liegt de Stadt so Wüst” by Rudolf
Mauersberger. It means, “How Lonely Sits the City That Was Beautiful” and is about the pain and grief he feels as he surveys the ruins of Dresden after the allied bombing and subsequent firestorm that destroyed the beautiful medieval city during World War II. The two hour long final concert was held in the hallowed setting of the Clonard Monastery, Belfast. A truly sonorous experience for all to hear.
“During the course, I was fortunate enough to be selected to become a member of the prestigious Ulster Youth Chamber Choir. The 18-member chamber choir is selected from the pool of Ulster Youth Choir members and this year featured 6 sopranos, 3 altos, 6 tenors and 3 basses. We performed two songs at the “BBC Last Night of the Proms from Titanic Slipways in Belfast” alongside the soloists Karl McGuckin and Kim Criswell, accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra. This was all to a receptive audience of 11,000 in Belfast, as well as over 15 million people on TV, radio and online.
“Our song “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary”, was chosen as part of a collection of songs popular during the First World War to commemorate its centenary. We also performed the upbeat and exciting “No Business Like Show Business” alongside broadway legend Kim Criswell. We wearily ended our performance on a high and were treated to a fabulous display of fireworks marking the end of the 123rd proms. I am very grateful for the musical and many other opportunities this school has given me in its three-year existence, opportunities to learn, have fun and develop my skills.”
Diana Mathewson then continued: “The rumours were true… Coleraine Grammar School was about to hold its first ever production! Never mind Britain’s Got Talent, Coleraine had talent and we all got ready to showcase ours at the auditions. Auditions began at the end of September 2017 in front of a panel of Miss Stewart, Miss Magee, Mr Pepin and Mr Evans. After two weeks of waiting patiently, the news arrived - the parts had been decided.
“We all faced separate challenges as we portrayed each of our individual characters - we wanted to make sure we really conveyed the truly inspiring messages and enchanting characters contained within the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Rehearsals started in September and they continued - after school, two or three days a week, most Saturdays and well...in the weeks leading up to the performance we saw more of each other than our own families!
“Rehearsals consisted of a lot of hard work and we were guided by Miss Stewart and Miss Magee as they made sure we had it just right, as they asked us to ‘Just try that again… and again… and again!’ It was an extremely enjoyable time - we all have many fond memories as we bonded as a team and had many laughs together. Not least was the thought of the Dominoes we got delivered on a Saturday to keep us going!
“As we neared opening night teachers, staff and pupils from all areas and departments came together to make the play the success it was. They helped in the making of sets, sound and light, costumes, props, make up, hair and much more. We appreciated all the help and reassurance.
The three performances took place from February 21-23. Everyone was incredibly nervous but as soon as we stepped on stage the nerves disappeared and we transformed into the characters we had worked so hard to create.
“I know I speak for the entire cast when say that we would do it all again in a heartbeat, and thanks must go to Miss Stewart and Miss Magee for bringing it all together.”
Amy McNeill then spoke: “One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918 World War I ceased as Germany surrendered, stopping what was the deadliest conflict of the time. I’m Amy McNeill and I have been asked to speak about the Key Stage 3 history trip that twenty-six pupils,
including me, and three teachers went on to reinforce our knowledge of the war that shaped our world. Our trip began in the early hours of Monday, June 25, as we set off to visit beautiful Belgium. 40 million people suffered as a result of the First World War. Between 15 and 19 million people died in action, fighting in the trenches and in no man’s land. It’s also been estimated that around 8 million people who died were civilians, their deaths being caused by war related famine and disease.
“A great number of men who fought were never found again, and many of their bodies were unidentified and buried in mass graves due to shell
explosions. We toured the Essex Farm and Tynecot cemeteries on the trip. We stood at the graves where the men from Britain, New Zealand and South Africa fought in the war and lie to this day. We also stood where the battlefields would have been 100 years ago. Seeing and standing in the places where so many men lost their lives really put it into perspective. It’s one thing to learn about the war in a classroom, with a textbook. To then go and experience the aftermath of this event was definitely emotional.
“On the trip, we visited several cemeteries and museums, and we also visited memorials, some of which had the names of teachers and past pupils from CAI. We visited Vimy Ridge and Passchendale museum where we got to experience the trenches for ourselves. We all got to walk through the tiny wood lined passageways and imagine how the soldiers would have lived their lives. As we were there on a school trip, and representing the school, we got the incredible opportunity to lay a wreath of poppies at the Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres to commemorate those who lost their lives. We also brought a plaque to present at the Ulster Tower, where many men from this province who died at the Battle
of the Somme are commemorated. This plaque accompanied the pre-existing ones presented by Coleraine Inst and Coleraine High School.
“The trip wasn’t all educational, being in Belgium we had, of course, to sample some of their delicious chocolate and go shopping in the iconic city of Bruges. We walked among the locals, down cobbled streets, while enjoying ice-cream and the experience of being away with friends.”
Matthew Boyce then addressed the audience: “First off, I am very proud of being the captain of one of the most successful clubs in the
school. However, public speaking is new to me so here goes. Rowing is fun! Or so I was told, when I happened to be on an enforced break from rugby during the middle of fourth year. And that was the first time I met head coach, Mr Johnson, or Jeremy as he loves to be called.
“However, what he failed to mention were the endless hours of sweat, blisters, cramps and tears, that I would subsequently endure, both on an indoor rowing machine and on the water, often before breakfast. But seriously, in the past two and a half years I have come to discover that there is a tremendous amount to be gained from this sport. Yes, the training is tough but the rewards are in equal measure, from the wonderful people whom I have met and become friendly with, the amazing places I have been and the skills and discipline I have learned, which I know will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life.
“Those of us at the boat club have enjoyed comradeship, teamwork and success throughout the year. Our season kicked off in April at Dublin, when the girls’ 16 eight won, the beginning of an unbeaten run of five regattas. At the Irish schools’ regatta two weeks later, both the J15 and J16 girls’ eights became Irish schools’ champions, Molly Curry stormed her way to victory in the under 23 single sculls, but more on her later. Along with boys’ crews making finals this meant CGS finished joint 3rd out of 77 schools who entered. At this time of year, events take place every two weeks, with boys’ and girls’ crews winning regattas such as Portadown and Belfast. I want to commend the younger end of the club, as 28 of the Junior 14/15s travelled to Carlow and competed ferociously to win some 32 gold medals, making it a fantastic day out for all involved.
“Craigavon was in June, and the Junior 18 boys’ and girls’ eights dominated from northern schools and were placed first in both categories.
With spirits high, and armed with a top eight boat appropriately named the Richard Archibald, we headed to the Irish rowing championships in Cork. The boys’ 16 eight had an exceptional row winning the semi-final against St. Joseph’s from Galway and ultimately finishing fifth overall.
“And that wasn’t all...my doubles partner Hugh Moore attained 7th place out of 46 in the men’s Junior 18 scull, and later went on to join me in the final of the Irish Championships J18 double scull, in which we came 5th out of 33 boats who entered. We were ecstatic with this result. The girls J18 8 came 4th , and even though they had hoped for a better placing they still did phenomenally well in securing this position. Rachel Bradley became the Junior 16 single scull Irish champion and Molly Curry, aged 16, became the fastest under 18 single sculler in Ireland by winning the junior 18 women’s single scull category. To put Rachel and Molly’s achievements in perspective, the last
time any Coleraine school rower won an Irish championship was in 1990, 11 years before Molly, Rachel or I were even born!
“This was the start of an impressive summer when Molly was also the youngest member of the 7-female sculling squad to represent Ireland at her first European level rowing competition – The Coupe De La Jeunesse. Molly was in a double and went on to secure a bronze medal against 12 other European teams, gaining the only medal won by any female team from Ireland. Molly travelled to Eton Dorney to compete in the British
National Schools Rowing Championships where she won the U19 “B” Final in the single scull making her the 7 th best junior female in the UK. Molly is a member of the school’s women’s junior-16 “eight” team who are Irish Schools Champions 2018, having previously won the U16 Irish Indoor Rowing Championships in Cork in January 2018.”
Dr Carruthers then resumed his speech: “Music is a leading and successful strength of our school, offering opportunities for individuals and groups to excel and also offering many pupils the chance to be part of a collective effort, enjoy the experience, grow in confidence and make new friends. The same is true of all the activities we offer, which are too numerous to describe in detail this afternoon, but full details will be available in the school magazine to be published shortly.
“Some particular success last year included Hermione Skuce representing NI at the London mini-marathon and Matthew Beveridge representing Ireland at cross country in England, both pupils from the school’s Harriers Club. In swimming we competed again at the prestigious Bath Cup gala against leading GB private schools with considerable success. The girls’ team retained the Whitgift Trophy and Molly Curry won the 50m breaststroke for the third year in a row. In the Bath Cup itself, the girls and boys were placed 23rd and 24th out of 70 schools in the freestyle relays, the girls reached the final of the Bath Cup medley relay and the junior boys’ and senior girls’ relay teams both won gold medals in freestyle and medley relays at the Ulster Championships.
“Representing her school, Ulster and Ireland, Molly Curry had an incredible 2017/18 swimming season and her achievements included becoming Ulster Junior and Senior Long Course Champion in 100 and 200m breaststroke, becoming Irish Schools Intermediate Breaststroke Champion, becoming the Irish Junior 100m Champion and becoming a double Ulster Champion in both 100 and 200m breaststroke.
“In representative sports, well over thirty pupils competed at Ulster or Irish level or represented Ulster or Ireland in a range of sports. This includes five boys with Ulster rugby teams, seven girls training with or representing Ulster at hockey, five pupils in golf, three pupils in cricket and both individual and team success in athletics and cross country. Badminton enjoyed success at Ulster and Irish level and, of course, the rowing club has been leading the way.
“The Rugby Club had another solid season and a dependable, hardworking 2XV brought home the school’s first silverware by winning the plate completion. The Medallion XV lost in the quarter final of the shield to Campbell College, and there is strength in depth for the future with the U13s winning twenty-one of their twenty-two games. Similarly, the U14XI hockey team was defeated only once, early in the season against
Strathearn. Further strength and resilience in junior school hockey was shown by the U12XI who were narrowly defeated in the final of their first tournament, and bounced back very quickly to win the Derry and Antrim league at the Dalriada Tournament. The 1st XI had a particularly
successful tour to Glasgow during which they defeated Cheltenham Ladies College and reached the quarter final of the tournament against national opposition.
“There are many non-sporting activities; we have heard about music, drama and the history trip to Belgium and France. There were also history trips last year within Ireland, a geography trip to Iceland and a STEM trip to Munich, to name a few of the opportunities available. Shreya Ghaie and Jonathan Green represented the school very ably in the BT Young Scientist Award in Dublin in January. Their personal projects in biology and chemistry attracted much praise and Jonathan’s work received a Highly Commended award for overall research and Best Presented Project award.
“Many more clubs and societies operate on a weekly basis in school, and again there will be full details in the forthcoming school magazine.
In new addition last year was the Junior Magistrates Competition in which we won the NI heats, and represented NI in the UK finals, losing only to the eventual winners. Last year’s Prize Day guest, Diane Nixon (former pupil of CHS) gave considerable support to this young team from Year 10, using her experience as a barrister in Belfast and London. The Coleraine High School Old Girls’ Association, Coleraine Inst. Old Boys’ Association, the former pupils rowing association and the Friends’ Association were all actively supportive in very practical and meaningful ways last year, and we are grateful again for their support.
“I hope you can all see the progress we are making in the classroom, the progress in terms of results, the opportunities pupils have
and what wonderful young women and men we have as pupils in our school and the successes they are achieving. I would like to congratulate the prize-winners on their achievements and equally the many, many pupils who work very hard, make good progress and contribute to school life in a wide variety of activities, and who are not necessarily here today.
“I would like to thank parents for your support in helping secure this success, and on behalf of the parents, governors, and myself, I would like whole-heartedly to thank the teaching staff for the immense hard work required to make the school successful and enable celebrations such as today.”