WATCH: Coleraine College prize day

Year 8 achievement award winners.
Year 8 achievement award winners.

Principal of Coleraine College Ricky Marsh welcomed guests to the annual prizegiving.

Welcoming guest speaker, magician Rodd Hogg, he said: “You know that I like a good quote to start things off.

“Two years ago it was Churchill, last year it was Pele and this year, in honour of our guest speaker I have got a quote from a magician, or a wizard to be precise.

“On Twitter I found the 30 best quotes from JK Rowlings Harry Potter novels. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Aldus Domledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts said: ‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’.

“Making the correct choices in school and in life are important. In school

everyone here has an equal chance to do well but not everyone makes the choice to follow that path and fulfill their potential. I am glad to say that you lot here in front of us have made the correct choices and I trust you will continue to trust your judgment. Doing the right thing and making the right choice is not always easy, but it is always right.

“Today is about celebrating your achievements and we are all extremely proud of what you have achieved, and what you have contributed to our school. You too should be proud of yourselves and strive to continue to be successful in all aspects of your life. The pupils in front of me truly deserve this recognition for their contributions to the life of our school and I personally want to thank you all and congratulate you all.

“In the past twelve months, there have been a number of staffing changes. Mrs

Liz Harris who was our head of PE and Occupational Studies Coordinator decided to retire in June. Mrs Harris was a dedicated and committed teacher and was very highly respected both by pupils and staff. Mrs Harris devoted endless hours to both curricular and extra-curricular sport in this school and its predecessor, providing young people with so many sporting opportunities and developing their sporting talent.

“Miss Barbara Sloan, who had taught Science also left us last year having given

over 30 years of service to this school. Ms Danika Dunlop who was a classroom and Behavioural Assistant left us to take up a new post. Danika had a wonderful way with our pupils and was a very valued member of staff.

“Our groundsman, Mr Alfie Peden retired having seen 38 years of service on this

campus. Alfie, always approachable with a smile on his face helped keep our 32 acres of ground in good order: not an easy task for one man. We also said goodbye to Lisa Paul one of our BSAs who was with us for three years but has now been reallocated to another school.

“While it is always sad to lose old friends and colleagues, we are delighted to

welcome some new members of staff to our school. Mrs Lesley Holmes takes over in Science; Mr Michael Ferguson has joined us, as a general subjects teacher and Mr Ciaran Duffy is also with us in a temporary capacity, deputizin for Mrs Liz Sloane, who is currently absent and to whom we send our best wishes.

“I am pleased to report that Coleraine College celebrated another fantastic set

of external examination results this year as attainment levels continue to rise. In Year 14, 69% of our students achieved three pass grades in their A-Level or equivalent subjects with a fantastic 85% of pupils gaining at least 2 C grades (or

equivalent), and 46% gaining 3 A-C grades or better: this is the fourth consecutive year this particular result has increased. It was exceptionally pleasing that just over half of the cohort (53%) managed to obtain at least one A grade or equivalent.

“Our top performer was Zoe Stirling who was delighted to gain the equivalent of

3A grades. Zoe will now move on to Nottingham Trent University to study criminology. I was delighted with the results which show that hard work, determination and resilience pays off. Attainment and progress at GCSE also improved this year in all the key benchmark areas. The percentage of pupils attaining 5 A*-C grades was up on

last year, as was the key statistic of the percentage of pupils attaining 5 A*-C

grades including English and Maths, with 36% of the cohort reaching this standard.

“The percentage of pupils achieving at least 5A*-C grades also exceeded last

year’s results while a fantastic 96% of pupils achieved at least 5 A*-E grades, also an improvement upon last year. We are also delighted to report that 32%

of students achieved at least one A grade.

“Rebecca McCloy (3As, 4Bs, 1C) and Lauren McConachie (A*, 2As, 4Bs 1C) were our top performers who gained outstanding sets of grades. Lizzie McNougher, Kirsty Kennedy and Jill McKinley also achieved excellent results, obtaining combinations of A,B and C grades, while Andy McCallion flew the flag for the boys, achieving 2As, 2Bs and 3 C grades.

“Special mention must go to Lauren McConachie. Lauren started off in our Learning Support Centre but through a combination of hard work and determination, excellent support both at home and in school, Lauren moved into mainstream school and flourished and thrived in everything she did, especially in Art where she gained an A* grade. In Year 11 Lauren was on an E grade for her Maths but her will to succeed and her personal drive and determination saw her raise this to an overall C grade at GCSE.

“Lauren is an inspiration to all of us and should be to all of you. It goes to show what can be achieved if you put your mind to it and want it badly enough. Year 12 pupils in our Learning Support Centre, left school having achieved a number of Entry Level GCSE Qualifications, GCSE equivalences in Occupational Studies and the equivalent of 2 GCSE B grades from the Prince’s Trust Award.

“In terms of results, Coleraine College is punching above its weight and this is in

no small measure to the excellent teaching, support and guidance from both our teaching and non-teaching staff who go the extra mile to help our students fulfill their potential.

“Our excellent pastoral care system in school is also a major contributor to our

academic achievement. The fusion of the pastoral and the academic is an essential ingredient to success. We pride ourselves here in the numerous supports our pupils can access, whether those be internal provided or delivered by external agencies. “Teenage lives can be complicated, especially this era of modern technology, and we see it as vitally important to help guide our pupils through the minefields that they encounter on their journey through adolesence.

“However it’s not just about exam results, important as they are in an ever

competitive world. We want to enrich the lives of our students, providing them

with the skills and capabilities in and out of the classroom to make them effective contributors to our community and cater for the holistic development of each child.

“As in previous years, our pupils have enjoyed considerable sporting success

both in and out of school over the last 12 months. Year 12 student, Stuart Wallace continues to develop as an exceptionally talented swimmer. Stuart won 2 gold and one bronze medal in the Special Olympics regional swimming finals in Bangor. In June, Stuart will represent Ulster in the all Ireland Special Olympics in Dublin, and if he qualifies from this, he will represent Ireland in Abu Dhabi!

“In October year 8 and 9 girls were involved in a district hockey tournament and

achieved 3rd place. The girls are showing a lot of promise and hopefully they will have an even more successful season this year.

“Netball remains a very popular sport for the girls who played a number of competitions this year, improving with every game. In March we hosted a very successful Under 12 NEBSSA netball competition with 8 other schools in attendance. Our girls played very well but it was our neighbours from Loreto who came out victorious overall. Congratulations however to our Junior netball team who finished runners-up in the Coleraine and District B League.

“Students in our Learning Support Centre participated in the Special Schools
Sports Hall Athletics Competition in Londonderry and came away victorious in the Secondary School category.

“Cheerleading is another very popular activity and last year a team of Year 8-11

girls finished in 4th place in their section of the Northern Ireland Championships in Belfast. Thanks to Mrs Harris and former College College student Shania, who trained the girls and choreographed the routines. Year 8 students participated in a council run cross community event called stick and ball. Here they got to experience some sports that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so. As well as playing hockey and football our students also had an introduction to camogie and gaelic football.

“In May and June the athletics season resulted in a number of excellent results

for the girls. Most notable was Jessica Tindle, who took gold in the NEBSSA athletics long jump finals and 2nd at the Bishops Athletics Competition in the 100m. She also qualified for the heavily contested Districts athletics and achieved a very creditable fourth place in the long jump. With this level of

success Jessica was invited to be part of the Ulster Athletics Development

squad. Katie Millar another year 8 also achieved a place on this squad. In June the girls took part in the local Coleraine and district Athletics competition and

came away with 33 medals.

“The junior boys football team competed in the Coleraine and District League and the arrival of a lovely new Nike kit kindly sponsored by Danske Bank seemed to have a positive impact upon results, with the boys only narrowly missing out on a semi final place.

“Year 10 student Aaron Downes, one of our very talented footballers was selected to represent the Northern Ireland Boys’ Football Association in the Nordic Challenge Trophy earlier this year. Aaron, who currently plays for Linfield FC, jetted off to Salou in Spain where he competed against teams from the Ukraine, Sweden, Finland and Spain. A fantastic experience.

“Ben Moore in Year 12 also secured representative honours playing for Club NI

in the Northern Ireland SuperCup in the summer. Special mention must also go to a couple of our Year 9 sportswomen. Scarlett Williamson is a very promising local gymnast. Scarlett competed at the NI championships and was 1st in the floor category, 1st in the vault, champion in the handstand competition and overall 1st in the competition. Really well done Scarlett. Congratulations also go to Hannah Rodden, our super karate kid in Year 9. Hannah is became Irish champion in the girls age 12-15 category. Given that she was the youngest in her age group, this is some achievement. Two very talented young athletes.

“For those not of a sporting disposition, our Drama Society is going from strength to strength. In June, our Year 8 and 9 drama students worked with the Ulster Scots Society to deliver a performance in this hall of Jonthan Burgess’

play, ‘Old Glory’ telling the story of the Ulster Scots influence in America. Many thanks to Mrs Black our Drama teacher and the Ulster Scots Society for their support, especially Codie, Gary and Jonathan.

“There were numerous curriculum based trips and opportunities for ou students throughout the year. Our Year 10s participated in an ‘App Hackathon’ event run by the I’m Happy Team at the University of Ulster where three of the girls, Renate, Abbie and Lauren won prizes. Some of our year 10s attended the Bring IT on event

at NRC Ballymoney and were highly commended along with Dalriada and Domincan.

“A group of Year 9 students were involved in the Poetry in Motion initiative where they collaborated with local poet, Elaine Gaston to write and perform individual and group poems. The group poem ‘The River Bann’ along with poems by Lewis Wilson and Aaron Kennedy were included in a published anthology entitled ‘A Word in the Hand’ and they later had the chance to perform their group poem at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. Thank you to Mr O’Doherty who oversaw the project and guided the students so well.

“Our 6th form Double Awards Sports Studies class went paintballing at the Jungle in Moneymore. This activity related to a module they are studying in outdoor adventure activities and Health and Safety studies. No health and safety issues to report following their trip, other than a few nasty bruises.

“The undoubted highlight of the calendar was our languages trip to France in

June when Madame Skobel led an intrepid band of staff and Year 8 and 9 pupils to visit and sample the cultural delights of Paris. The group experienced the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Cours, a music festival at Montremart and a full day and most of the night as well visit to see Mickey Mouse and his friends at Eurodisney.

“Over the past year we have been pleased to be part of the Building employment through Education or, BEE Programme, delivered by Eye 4 Education. BEE is an OFMDFM project to help support a number of selected schools across the country. Eye for Education have been in school on a number of occasions, delivering various programmes including transition events for Year 8s, subject mapping for Year 10s and a careers event called Assessment Centre, for senior students who had to complete mock application forms and aptitude tests before undergoing mock interviews with representatives of the Navy, the Army, Danske Bank and other businesses. They are also engaged in a mentoring programme with some of our Year 11s and are planning a range of activities to support and engage our parents. I look forward to this really taking off this year.

“The Year 11 Princes Trust group, working with Age Concern welcomed a group of senior citizens into school where they were treated to a lovely Christmas Dinner, and entertained by local musician and former member of staff, Plug Torrens. The whole event was organised and run by our students who did a fantastic job under the guidance of their teacher Mrs Sloane. The Year 12s put together a number of Christmas hampers which were distributed to the Simon Community in Coleraine.

“We also hosted a community concert this year, where a number of schools came together to showcase their talents to a large audience drawn from the local community.

“We are lucky to benefit from the extended schools programme which provides extra funding to enhance and extend the pupils educational experiences. The initiatives funded by extended schools last year included a Breakfast Club for our pupils (serving Hot chocolate, fruit drinks, cereal bars, fruit and pancakes in the mornings throughout the winter months), the Accelerated Reader Programme which promotes and develops literacy in junior school. Extended schools also helped fund extra tuition and small group intervention for both Maths and English students at GCSE level: this has had a major positive impact upon results. Pupils also gained Sports Leadership awards and a Level 2 Award in Food Safety in Catering through Extended Schools.

“So many positive things happening at our school. I want to record my thanks and gratitude to all of our staff: both teaching and non-teaching, for their professionalism and dedication to ensuring that each child gets the best possible educational experience here at Coleraine College. This sometimes involves spending a lot of their own money on resources and equipment for their students because of the financial crisis in education. This should not be the case in modern Britain but there is a lack of investment and interest from the Department and the Education Authority in this school.

“At prize day last year, I called for investment in Coleraine College to help make

it an even better school, providing us with the facilities and resources that our young people and the young people of Coleraine deserve. I said last year that I was going to invite the Minster to the College to discuss the possibility of a new build or at the very least, significant investment into our school estate and facilities. “Peter Weir did come to visit, he recognised that the school buildings were in urgent need of regeneration, but he left saying he couldn’t commit any capital spend to our school. I have had meetings with various other politicians and people of influence to try and promote our cause and I must thank the local MLAs for their backing.

“However, as you are aware there is a deep financial hole in education at the minute which is extremely worrying for everyone. I want to see our elected representatives back in Stormont and getting our assembly working again as soon as possible, for the good of all the people of Northern Ireland and especially those in this area. The current impass is having a detrimental effect on many key areas, such as health and education.

“School leaders across the country have voiced their concerns in many forums about the difficulties faced in education. I would love to see a proportion of the £1.5 billion that Teresa promised Arlene to be spent here to upgrade our school to provide an even better educational experience for our young people and facilities that we can

be proud of and share with the local community.

“We will continue the fight and the more that you young people here continue to thrive, succeed and flourish, the more the powers that be will have to sit up and take notice of us.

“To conclude and to return to our theme of magic, the 18th Century German

Writer and statesman von Goethe said “Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

“To the boys and girls in front of me: keep on believing in yourselves, because

we believe in you and we believe in our school and we will endeavour to make great things happen here at this school and give you a high quality learning

experience. So: believe in yourselves, aspire higher and achieve more.”