WATCH: Annual prize day at Cross and Passion College

The new principal of Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle has praised the “special provision” given to pupils at the school.

Mr Paul McClean said: “We are here to celebrate your wonderful success and achievements in many facets of school life and it gives me great pleasure and reassurance in beginning to lead the school forward, that you have already demonstrated such capability and determination to succeed.

Ballycastle Rotary Club Award (for service above self) Luiseach Mathers'with Mr McClean

Ballycastle Rotary Club Award (for service above self) Luiseach Mathers'with Mr McClean

“Many schools hold their annual prize giving ceremonies in December, once University students have returned home for their Christmas holidays, but the early nature of this event has allowed me to get a very tangible experience as to the breadth of opportunity and achievement here at Cross and Passion College. The awards and prizes given out today range from those which celebrate academic success, achievements in sport, music, debating and contribution to school, local and global life.

“For the last six years, I have worked as a Senior Leader in St. Dominic’s Grammar School in Belfast. The school was the top performing grammar in Northern Ireland for the last three years, but as well as academic achievement, the pupils there were supported to be the best they could be as young people and in how they gave to others. I always maintained that I would only leave St. Dominic’s to come to the right school and I am increasingly reassured that Cross and Passion is the correct choice.

“On paper, the results reflect the incredible achievements our young people are capable of when they are in the right environment; through awards and public

recognition, we can see the sporting, musical and debating achievements that they can aim for and obtain; but it is only upon joining the school and becoming involved and integrated in the work that goes on here, can one really gain an appreciation of the special provision that pupils experience here.

“In that respect I would like to pay a tribute to the staff of the school. They have supported you all over the years and it is clear that they will always go the extra mile for you. I also wish to thank your parents and carers for entrusting your education to us, and for supporting and enabling us to bring out the best in you.

“Cross and Passion is very proud of the academic outcomes achieved by the pupils here, but we are also about so very much more than academic success.

“At certain points of the year, there is as much going on after school and at the weekends as there is during the school day. I believe that that is the mark of an outstanding school. Thanks to your great commitment, the endeavours of staff and last but not least, the commitment and support of parents, we believe that Cross and Passion College is that outstanding school.

“We are very pleased and proud to welcome the Principals of our partner primary schools here today. The primary schools you all attended cared for you, helped you grow and ensured that you were equipped with all the skills and knowledge you have employed in reaching this success today. You will be fondly remembered by your primary schools, always take time to stay in touch with them and give something back to them in the future if you can.

“I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement I and you have received from the Board of Governors. Being a member of a Board of Governors is extremely demanding and yet this work goes largely un-noticed and unrewarded. The members of the Board bear great responsibility for the success of the school. They give generously of their time and have already been extremely supportive to me in this new role. All of this hard work goes unseen. This afternoon, I wish to put on record my thanks to the BOG on behalf of the whole school community. Without their steadfastness, support

and hard work, we would not be celebrating this success.

“Our partnership with Ballycastle High School goes from strength to strength and indeed the provision, subject choice and availability of expertise is becoming unrivalled through our continued development of collaborative working arrangements which benefit our pupils. Like any school community, we sometimes have to work through difficulties, but focusing on our shared goals of providing the best education to the pupils of the area, we are able to deliver outcomes which are beneficial to all. My personal thanks also goes to Mr Ian Williamson for his support, warmth and generosity of time with me

since appointment.

“There is a very special guest here today who has made a deep impact on your learning and development. I can tell that Mrs Ward is extremely proud of your achievements and hopefully also of the role she played in leading the school as you earned them; but I also suspect Mrs Ward is smiling as this is the first time in 17 years that she has not had to stand up here and deliver this speech and is instead enjoying the very early days of a well-earned retirement.

“Cross and Passion caters for pupils from across the North Antrim area and are proud of the fact that we offer a curriculum designed and tailored to meet the needs of pupils of all abilities. The recent ‘A’ level results achieved by our outgoing Year 14 pupils were the best the college has ever obtained and indeed significantly higher than a large number of grammar schools across Northern Ireland (who by their nature accept pupils based solely on their academic ability).

“As a Maths teacher for the last 15 years, I am dearly going to miss the classroom, and so am going to have to savour delivering the following statistics. The average number of pupils in non-grammar schools achieving 3 A*-C grades at A-level is 48%, the figure for non-grammar and grammar combined is 64%, at Cross and Passion a huge 75% of pupils achieved this feat, demonstrating that not only are we truly all ability, we are also leading the way in this regard.

“Indeed 2/3 of all grades awarded were between A*-B – a tremendous testament to the efforts of pupils and staff. The list of top achievers would be the envy of any school in the country.

“The numbers of pupils obtaining a minimum of 5 GCSEs at A*-C was 93%, again over 10% above the Northern Ireland average. Well done to you all. However, you will see from the prizes awarded here this afternoon, that we believe pupils can experience success in a myriad of different ways in their lives. It’s a fact of life that we all have very diverse gifts and we all achieve in our own unique way.

“Two years ago, I was lucky to tag along with the musical department at St. Dominic’s who were performing at the annual vice-chancellor’s lecture at the University of Ulster. The lecture was delivered by Sir Alex Ferguson, and even from a Liverpool fan, it has to be acknowledged, that he is one of the greatest football managers of all time. That day Sir Alex talked about people who had different gifts and he said that his particular gift was that he could work hard. We don’t often think of working hard as a gift but it absolutely is and as one of the most successful managers we may ever see, Sir Alex should know something about it.

“And so this afternoon, we are here to celebrate your hard work and your endeavours, and what we ask is that you continue to try the very best that you can. Whether you are leaving us for further study or continue to open new doors here at Cross and Passion, I have no doubt that you will find more greatness in yourself and new talents that have remained untapped to date.

“To our Year 14 leavers, who are preparing for further study and for forging their way in the world, I have this message: Remember the great dividends that paid off when you worked hard, you will need to continue; remember your friends whom you grew and learned with and keep in touch with them as the years pass by; remember the school community here at Cross and Passion and that you will always be a part of it; but above all as you grow and move on in the world, remember who you are and what you stand for. We wish you great success.”