The principal of Ballycastle High School has praised the school community for their hard work and resilience throughout the year.
Mr Ian Williamson said: “Each year we strive to encourage in our pupils the development of academic success, moral wellbeing, physical wellbeing and increasingly the skill of resilience.
“The Head’s speech on Prize Day in inevitably a little like the bridegroom’s at a wedding;
there are lots of people I want to thank and pay tribute to, and therefore there may not be
much room for hilarity and this year I want to focus somewhat on a theme of ‘resilience’.
“We want today to be a celebration of our academic and extra-curricular success at individual
and team levels. To bring a sense of the school’s ethos and the spirit of commitment and
dedication that every member of the community brings to this ‘All Round School.’
“Our school community is no different from any other, in that at times we can face challenges
and on occasion adversity. The former Australian cricketer Steve Waugh once stated, “I am
always fascinated to watch how a guy handles a pressure situation. Some players become animated, some train extra hard, some withdraw but the true greats keep their self-belief,
trust themselves and continue to work away, knowing that if the foundations have been
established, good form will come”. In the context of a school year which did present many challenges I am delighted to say that our resilience and self-belief strengthened our
community and resulted in continued success.
“Behind that success is the team work and the partnership that exists between the
professionals, parents and carers that make this school the success that it has been and
continues to be.
“In an era of what appears to be continual change, financial constraint, and variable
fluctuations in industrial relations at provincial and national level, it is testament to everyone associated with our school community that our school continues to be the welcoming
supportive environment that it is. Perhaps there is enough good old fashioned North Antrim
common sense, charm and wisdom to help keep everything on an even keel.
“As I have already mentioned, it was another year of considerable success and we were
delighted with the many excellent results achieved by our pupils in external examinations
“At GCSE we maintained a high level of performance, with almost 70% of all examinations sat resulting in A* to C grades or equivalent and almost 40% of all grades awarded being grade B or equivalent or higher. A creditable 49 % of pupils achieved seven or more GCSEs or equivalent including English and Mathematics at grades A*-C. This is 10% above the average figure for comparable non-selective post-primary schools in Northern Ireland and is something we all should be pleased about.
“As I have already indicated we know that the on-going success enjoyed by the pupils of Ballycastle High School is attained with the support of parents and guardians. But once again
I want to publically recognise the key importance of the firm foundations laid in our primary schools. We continue to work closely with a number of local primary schools as part of a cross-phase literacy and numeracy initiative and I want to thank the staff of those and other primary schools who work so closely with us.
“I am pleased to welcome back today, many of last year’s 6 th Form in order to receive recognition for all their hard work. Many of you will be starting university courses this week or have already done so and we wish you every success in whatever path you now decide to take.
“At A Level, there have been some excellent individual performances: Tiegan Hutchinson, Laura McAleese and Holly Reilly achieved three A grades or equivalent, Sharon Hanna, Lois Kane, Eve Lowry, Kathryn McCook and Caitlin Munnis gained grades A* and A or equivalent in two subjects. Congratulations also go to Ronan Colgan, Adrian Ferguson, Rafal Kardas, Amy McCormick, Shannon McFadden, Jonathan McIntyre and Hannah Spence who all achieved three top grades with at least one grade A or equivalent.
“While these individual performances are worthy of note, the vast majority of our students in the Year 14 have cause to be well satisfied and congratulated as once again a high percentage of our students are going to study in Higher Education Institutes and Universities. This year 60% of our Year 14 students achieved 3 or more A levels at grade A*-C. These figures once again are above the average percentages achieved by similar schools in Northern Ireland and
places Ballycastle High School in the top 25% of similar schools in Northern Ireland.
“Almost 90% of pupils were successful in passing at least 3 subjects and 100% of pupils
passed in two subjects. Again both figures are above the Northern Ireland Average for
similar schools Year 13 students also enjoyed excellent outcomes at AS level and we look forward to hearing more about their successes next year.
“Once again this year, an excellent 25% of our Year 12 students have achieved at least 10
GCSEs or equivalent at grade C or better. They include: David Boyd, Jordan Hartin, Laura
Jamieson, Hannah Le Fondre, Jack Lennox, Jordanne McAlister, Ashley McBride, Laura McKellar, Elle McKiernan, Teri Montgomery, Jenny Morrow, Hannah Stewart, Cara Taggart and Ellen Wilkinson.
“Special congratulations go to Zoe Todd who has achieved 2A* grades and 6 A grades and 2Bs, Megan Rooney with 2A* and 4A and 4 B grades, John Weir with 2A*, 2A and 6 B grades.
“Moving on to sporting and extra-curricular successes I am pleased to report that once again a
wide range of activities were on offer.
In girls’ hockey, we fielded four Hockey teams (Year 8, U13, U14, 1XI) who played in the
North Coast League from September to March. Top Goal Scorer and also Under 13 Captain was Nancy Lynn. Under 14 Captain was Lois McConaghy and 1 st XI Captain was Teri Montgomery with Zoe Todd and Ellen Wilkinson as Vice-Captains. The first XI came second in their league.
Pupils enjoyed a new TAG Rugby team consisting of 15 members from Year 12 to Year 14.
The girls, captained by Caitlin Munnis, came first in their group at the Ulster Development
Tournament at in March. Having only been introduced to the sport 7 weeks prior, the girls have developed their skills and tactical awareness readily. Special thanks to Mark Culbertson
and Stephen Tweed from Ballymoney Rugby Club for coaching and encouraging the girls
“Other activities included: The Netball Club which consisted of a Senior Team for sixth form and an Intermediate Team for Years 11 and 12. The intermediate and senior girls were entered into Coleraine Area, District League last year. The girls had a very successful run with the senior girls coming 2 nd in their section.
OurDance Club consisting of 15 Members and driven forward by two enthusiastic pupils:
Bonnie Taggart and Lauren Laverty and the group performed admirably at the Christmas
Concert in December 2016. A new Cheerleading Club also performed their routine during the Christmas Concert 2016.
“Once again our successful Trampolining Club enabled pupils to develop their confidence
and skills and practice their short and competitive routines.
“Turning to Athletics: Ruth Lowry and Anna Gray represented the school and competed in the
NEBSSA competition at Antrim Forum, against some of the toughest competition in
Northern Ireland. In relation to Girls’ Year 9 football: the squad took part in the annual Coleraine Grammar School Soccer 7’s tournament, each girl thoroughly enjoyed the competition and once again proved to be excellent ambassadors for Ballycastle High School.
“Last year proved to be another strong one for Boys sports. In relation to football, the Year 8 team narrowly missed out on a semi-final place in the Coleraine and District League led by
captain Scott Munnis. The Year 9 football team were narrowly defeated 3-2 by St Patricks, Dungiven, in the ompetition final after finishing second in their group.
“A young Prior Shield Hockey team had a good season in the group along with Grosvenor, Sullivan Upper and Bangor Grammar. They were captained by Craig Cunningham and goalkeeper Jamie Kane enjoyed a particularly outstanding campaign. The Taylor Cup team, captained by Jack Price, had an equally successful season beating Ballyclare HS and Antrim Grammar en-route to a semi-final place against Portadown College, who eventually edged us out 2-0 after an enthralling game.
“In athletics the school competed well at the NEBSSA athletics competitions with Callum
Munnis among the successful athletes making the finals and claiming 3rd in the 100m sprint.
Year 8 student Kurt Wright also capped off an excellent year in athletics by being selected
for the Rising Stars Athletics Development squad which begins training this October.
“Kurt’s talent was spotted after jumping an incredible 1.48m in the High Jump at the Bishops
Athletics competition. Our Year 8 and 9 collaborative Rugby team with Cross and Passion College continued throughout the year. Pupils were able to build their confidence and skills which benefits the schools and local rugby clubs.
“Outside school, we very proud of our pupils; Lee Culbertson who was selected to play on the
Ulster and Ireland Under 19 Rugby teams and Deanna Parke who was chosen by the Ulster Boxing Council to represent Ulster at the European Championships held in Yorkshire. Deanna won with a TKO (Technical Knock Out) and will seek to defend her title later this year.
“The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme enjoyed another successful year with two Silver
Groups and one Gold Group. Pupils met once a week to learn navigation, camp craft, first aid
and plan their expedition route. All groups successfully passed their expedition section and
are currently finalising the other sections.
“The award scheme assessors were very impressed with all the groups and in particular their
determination and how well they worked as a team. Our pupils exceeded expectations and
were excellent ambassadors for the school.
“Once again, the range of non-sporting activities was equally wide and varied. Scripture Union had another enjoyable year, with the Senior Group taking responsibility for organising their own programme. It was good to see the senior pupils developing the confidence and leadership skills to lead their own group and befriend the younger pupils. Pupils also enjoyed a number of SU trips to destinations such as Jumplanes in Coleraine, an evening event at the Ulster Hall and going to Castlewellan Castle for the annual weekend.
“Pupils enjoyed a wide range of activities in a number of other clubs including the Science
club which continued to meet at lunchtimes in school and provided creative insights in to the
world of science. A newly established Chess and Games Club was well supported and pupils enjoyed taking part in a number of in school competitions.
“Three teams of girls from Year 10 and Year 11 entered the CyberFirst Girls competition;
organised by the National Cyber Security Centre. Although the teams did not make the national final, everybody enjoyed cracking codes and solving puzzles in what could become a crucial future skill.
“We were delighted again to be able to link with a number local schools and Primary 6 pupils
who enjoyed our Fantastic Plastic event,where activities relating to Science, Food Technology and Technology and Design were greeted very positively by a large number of primary school pupils and staff.
“I am glad to report that again this year, pupils benefited in school from a wide range of
external speakers, visits and careers events. A number of Year 12 and Year 13 pupils gained substantial career insight from placements in a wide range of work situations. Also, our young entrepreneurs gained much from the 6 th Form mini-business Crazy Crafters, which again enjoyed a successful year. Pupils again travelled to St George’s Market, Belfast to trade their goods at the regional Young Enterprise trade fair. We are grateful to the many
businesses and other organisations in the local community who do so much to support our young people as they try to navigate their journeys into future careers.
“Once again some of our senior girls competed in the Soroptomist Public Speaking competition while junior pupils participated in the Read On sponsored reading challenge, raising money for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children. World Book Day was celebrated with our now annual book quiz for Year 8 pupils and we continued using the Accelerated Reader Programme to encourage reading for pleasure.
“In the evenings, our Youth Club continues to go from strength to strength and provides opportunities for leadership development in our young people our thanks again go out to
Tracey Walker and her team. Several Year 12 girls also benefited from participating in a varied and interesting visit to Finland which was organised by the Youth Service.
“We again recognised our role within the wider International Community by celebrating the
European Day of Languages with a range of activities taking place and staff being encouraged to participate and use their linguistic skills.
“Both Historical and European cultural insights were combined in January with a successful
trip to Paris and in October the History Department trip to Berlin. Pupils had the opportunity to enjoy the main sights of Berlin, as well as exploring its fabulous culture.
Pupils Rebecca McGowan and Darach O’Mullan from CPC, represented both schools on the Lessons from Auschwitz programme organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust,which involved a visit to Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
“Our 6th Form Charity Committee again supported a significant number of local charities and
this year in association with Blythswood collected a large number of gift boxes for the Christmas Shoebox Appeal. Other charities supported included the Royal Air Force Association Wings Appeal, The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, Causeway Food Bank, Simon Community NI, the Cancer Fund for Children and Tiny Life. with almost £2000 being raised.
“A number of our pupils took part in designing a logo for the newly established Moyle Living
Well group. This provided an opportunity for pupils to develop community awareness
relating to inter-generational engagement and support. Logo designs were displayed in the
Causeway Hospital and Lesley-Ann Devenney had her design chosen for the group’s official
“Our Student Council and Joint Councils continue to develop the leadership roles of our students. Helping to review and guide practice within our school and indeed between our school and our partners. Representatives of the Council met several international visitors
including a group of educationalists from Los Angeles, Israel and a group of high ranking officials from the Royal College of Defence Studies. This multi-national group of high
ranking military and civil leaders were very impressed by the quality of our young people. All the visitors were very taken with our model of Shared Education and how it might be
used within their own countries.
“In relation to our musical talent, instrumental lessons are still very popular and the Music
Groups including Choir, String Group and Ukulele Group continue to be well supported. In
the Music department our pupils benefit from the expertise offered by the peripatetic teachers tutoring a variety of instruments. I thank them and I again commend our parents and
guardians who invest so much time supporting pupils at home and encouraging their musical development.
“Year 8 pupils also enjoyed a workshop with pupils form Cross and Passion College, where
they explored the similarities which exist in traditional folk and cultural music from within
“Once again this year, I would like to note the practical assistance, support, training and advice from the various departments of the Education Authority. I also want to acknowledge, the important role of many partners in helping to support the pastoral and academic development of our pupils. Organisations such as the PSNI, Northern Health and Social Services Trust, Youth Service and Family Works counselling service who actively worked with pupils during the year. Thanks again, goes to Mr Paul McClean and the staff and governors of Cross and Passion College for their continued professionalism and friendship.
“As you already know, Ballycastle High School and Cross and passion College are pressing
forward with a development plan which will provide modern facilities for both schools and
improved educational provision for the future. I am pleased to report that work continues on
our Shared Campus Project. With both schools’ retaining their own ethos, identity and governance arrangements yet sharing a site and certain facilities. The Project Board for the new Shared Post Primary Campus, continues to meet on a regular
basis. We look forward to being able to progress with our plans in the near future.
“As you will be aware form recent press reports, Causeway Coast and Glens Council have also
indicated their interest in investing in and maximising the community use of the enhanced
sports provision, that the Campus would provide. This has the potential to bring significant
added benefits to the project and this community.
“Additional support for our collaboration was provided by way of our involvement with the
Signature Project for Shared Education . The resources provided by this project have helped
to develop a programme of learning for Key Stage 3 pupils and has helped facilitate further
staff development to support our collaborative curricular and pastoral arrangements with
Cross and Passion College
“I now report on staff changes through the course of the year. Mrs Simpson returned to post in the Science Department after being blessed with a baby girl. Mrs Laura McCormick also
returned to post after her period of maternity leave, having given birth to a baby boy. Not to be out down and in what appears to have been a concerted attempt to increase the numbers of males in the population; Mrs Caldwell, Dr Davidson, Ms Harpur, Mrs McBride and Mrs Cochrane were all blessed with baby sons throughout the year.
“I want to acknowledge the work and commitment of a number of temporary staff during this
period and to thank Mrs Marian McCormack for her much appreciated work and support during this period. Marian finished her post in June having covered a number of support roles
“Our team of highly competent Classroom Assistants and General Assistants continue to
provide an invaluable contribution to the life and work of the school and I thank them for all their support. I also note the assistance and expertise of our Extended Behaviour Support
Assistants who provide a welcome service to the school. Our team of supervisory, technical
and support staff play an invaluable role in the smooth running of the school and I am more
grateful than ever to each and every one of them. Thanks too goes to all our ancillary, auxiliary, administrative, technical, buildings and catering staff. Each and every one of you goes way above what is expected of you. I sincerely thank you all.
“Once again I want to note the hard work and support of the Senior Management Team; Vice-
Principal Mrs Stewart, Mr McPeak, Miss Elliott and Mr McCandless.
“To our teachers, I just want to let you know how much your co-operation, and hard work
means to me and to the pupils of this school. In what was a busy year in relation to staff
absences I am very grateful to each and every one of you for having gone the extra mile on
“We are fortunate once again to have such experienced and enthusiastic individuals as
Governors. I thank them and the Chairman, Reverend Patrick Barton for all their support and
invaluable assistance during the last academic year. I would also like to express my gratitude to everyone involved in helping to organise this award ceremony. It involves a huge effort from a large number of staff – thank-you all and to Mrs Topping and her able helpers, who once again have demonstrated such creative flair with our floral arrangements and decorations today.
“To our pupils and in closing, I think of the observation made by astronaut Jim Lovell,
Commander of Apollo 13, “There are three types of people in this world; people that make
things happen, people that watch things happen and people that just wonder what happened.” You are being educated to be individuals who can make things happen.
“It is clear, from the evidence of government reports and statements from the whole spectrum
of employers, that there are more people than ourselves who know that what the world needs
is a majority of young people who are well rounded, who are good communicators, who are
both the expert and the ‘doer’.
“This demands of young people precisely the kind of dispositions that we absolutely know the
world needs: resilience, determination, leadership, co-operation and social responsibility. We are very clear that this is the educational ethos that informs this school and that the staff believe in and articulate.
“As I have already mentioned, the one aspect of your education that requires a particular
focus is that of resilience. Your success will be built on being true to yourself, warts and all, including moments of fragility, doubt and lack of self-belief. The resilience you do have is because, from an early age, your parents encouraged you to develop a sense of perspective.
“In an interview with Andy Murray, one of the top tennis players in the world, after he was
knocked out of a major tournament in the first round by a much lower ranked player. The
media frenzy raged and yet his press conference statement was straightforward and wise:
‘nobody died here. I lost a tennis match.’ Andy Murray, said that what his coach had instilled in him and what had made the difference
to him is that he now learns more from his losses.
“It is right that we celebrate our many successes whether it is on the sports field, workplace or classroom but most of all in life, we need to be creative, adaptive and resilient in all that we do!”