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The Headmaster's Speech
Dr Gould, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls welcome to the Prize Distribution for the Academic Year 2004/2005.
I welcome you on behalf of the Board of Governors, Parents Association, Staff and Pupils.
I want to thank Dr Gould, our Chairman for his opening remarks. Dr Gould has been Chairman since 1994 and I thank him for his dedication, his interest and most importantly for his common sense. Thankfully his association goes beyond just chairing the Meetings of the Governors, for he attends our concerts and Musical Evenings. He was present at the launch of the Chamber Choir’s 1st CD and stood with pride when the 1st XV made their long awaited return to Ravenhill to compete in another Schoolboys Rugby Final. The Careers Department also benefited from his words of wisdom when he joined other professionals on our Employability Skills day. The Governors have met 10 times during the last academic year and have now reached the end of their 4 year term of office. I hope many of the present Governors will return to serve for a further 4 years but to those who will be retiring I take this opportunity to thank them for their support, their wise counsel and their unpaid service to this school. They have shared in our successes and stood with us in times of sorrow.
Our opening prayers were said by Rosie Donaldson. Mrs Donaldson joined the Staff in September 1997. After gaining her Masters Degree at Aberdeen University in History and Politics and her Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Ulster University she started her teaching career with us. Since joining the teaching staff she has helped with the Scripture Union and Music departments being herself a talented flute player. Oh her initiative we introduced Critical Thinking onto the A-Level curriculum and since introducing it in 2001 we have never had a failure. Mrs Donaldson has been heavily involved in helping the Senior pupils with their University Applications and from this year she is jointly responsible for the whole UCAS procedure. As the then Miss Fell, her father commented that I was the first man she had ever obeyed, but I assume that since her marriage that dubious honour is now held jointly by myself and her husband Justin. Thank you Rosie for your contribution to the life of the school.
Our Guest of Honour this year is Mr Gordon Topping. Mr Gordon Topping is the Chief Executive of the North Eastern Education and Library Board and as such is my boss
– Good Evening Sir!
Following his graduation from Queens University Belfast Gordon taught in the West Indies on Voluntary Service before completing his Diploma of Education in University College Cardiff. On returning to Northern Ireland he taught in both Grammar and Secondary Schools before taking up an Administrative Post in the South Eastern Education and Library Board.
In 1991 he became Chief Executive of the North Eastern Education and Library Board one of the largest public sector organisations in Northern Ireland employing over 10000 staff and managing a budget of approximately £300 million.
He has served on many public bodies, presently Chairs the Duke of Edinburgh Award Advisory Committee in Northern Ireland and in 1996 Chaired the group that devised Northern Irelands Strategy for the implementation of ICT in schools. In June 2002 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Education. It is not without risk that I invite him to be our Guest of Honour this evening. On many previous Prize Giving’s he has been present to hear me make gentle gibes at the North Eastern Board on matters such as funding, accommodation, resources, security etc but I know he is too much of a gentleman to remember any of these tonight. If it were not for his influence we would not have had the Grainger Centre, Jamison Room nor our security fencing and for that we are eternally grateful. It is a pleasure to welcome you and Mrs Topping as our guests this evening.
This is our week for celebrating success. On Tuesday we celebrated our Sporting and Musical Achievements with over 100 pupils being congratulated for success in their extra curricular activities and on Friday the 125 pupils in Year 11 will celebrate their achievements at the end of their Key Stage 3. Prize Distributions are public opportunities to celebrate the success of pupils both those who have just left and those who are still with us.
It is also an opportunity to catch up on further successes gained by our former pupils in Universities across the British Isles.
The Academic standards reached and the wider educational activities undertaken during this year are evidence of the commitment of members of the community known as Carrickfergus Grammar School to the pupils who sat the examinations, to the parents who supported them and to the Staff and Management that guided their progress.
The A-level results matched those of the pervious two years with yet again 60% of the grades awarded being a Grade A or B and 15% of our pupils gained straight A’s in all their subjects. Special mention to Art & Design, Biology, Music and Photography which had over 50% of their pupils gaining a Grade A. Art & Design had 10 grade A’s out of a class of 12 pupils.
It was also pleasing that 3 pupils – Jennifer Ireland, Rachael Liddle and David Freebairn were placed in the top 10 pupils in the United Kingdom in Art & Design. Jennifer Ireland was also placed among the top 10 pupils in the United Kingdom in Photography. Jennifer was one of only four pupils in the entire United Kingdom to be placed in the top 10 in more than one subject – congratulations to these talented young people and to the teachers that helped them achieve such high standards. As you can see from our programme virtually all of Year 14 are going on to higher education with the majority favouring the local Universities of Queens’ and Ulster.
Last year we celebrated GCSE results and those pupils who returned for A-level study have now completed their AS studies. Special mention to Accounting, Art & Design, Biology, German and Photography which had over 50% of their pupils gaining a Grade A. Congratulations to the 10 pupils who gained 3 or more Grade A’s but especially to Emma Boal, Joanne Deacon, Christopher Johnston, Bonita Lennon, Mark McKinty and Keith McMaw who each gained 4 grade A’s. However overall we felt that the Year Group had underperformed and it is essential that the pupils increase their efforts before the A2 examinations in June.
This years GCSE results were the best in the history of the school with 108 returning for A level study.
99% gained 5 or more GCSE’s and 93% gained 7 or more. Last year 12 pupils gained 9 or more Grade A or A* but this year that number has more than doubled to 24 pupils. Of those 24 - 16 gained 10 Grade A or A*. Natalie McKee gained 10 Grade A* and was also placed in the top 10 pupils in the UK in Business and Communication Systems. In terms of subjects the greatest improvement was Additional Mathematics which went from 14% to 55% achieving Grade A or A*.
Congratulations must also go to Naomi Deering a Year 10 pupil who was entered for Her GCSE Spanish two years early. Naomi gained an A* and was placed in the top 5 pupils in the UK in that subject.
Achieving good results at GCSE across 10 subjects involving written examinations, coursework, practical work, performing, oral presentations and aural work is no mean feat and the media hype on the values of this examination does a disservice to the pupils and teachers involved – these good results deserve our wholehearted and unstinting congratulations.
While the good results are an occasion for celebration pupils facing national assessments in 4 of their 7 years in secondary education is too much. Last year I also voiced my concerns about the increasing costs of entering the pupils for examinations. This increase continues £47000 - 2 years ago £57000 - last year - up 18% in one year. While the Department of Education claims to have increased our budget they fail to mention the increases in our expenditure over which we have no control.
Part-time study is never easy and for those teachers who combine this with a full-time teaching position and a commitment to Extra Curricular Activities the pressures can be over whelming. Miss Stephanie King had virtually finished her Masters degree but was slightly delayed by becoming Mrs Stephanie Buchannan. Mr Stephen Kinkaid, Mr Andrew Atkinson and Mrs Wendy Strain with no such distractions continue working through theirs while Mr Stephen Lyons has just started.
If academic success was all that a school was about then my speech would end now but as you all know it is about so much more. It is the combination of academic study with life skills, sporting opportunities, the opportunity to appreciate the arts, to participate in team events, to make real life decisions and to have fun that makes an education give each school its unique ethos.
A year ago I commented on the fact that our charity contribution had dipped to £7000 and warned you that we had ways of increasing that amount. Two highlights helped us increase the £7000 to nearly £13000. The day Carrickfergus Grammar School went pink and reached the front page of the Belfast Telegraph and of course the Staff Panto “Snow White and the Eight Dwarfs” – Mr Campbell lost his voice in trying to reach the high notes, Mr Martin showed us a side of his personality that he had up to that point kept secret, Miss Lemon enjoyed her role far too much and Mr Mulvenna --- well the least said about him the better. Thank you to all the pupils, parents and staff who donated monies so that charities such as UNICEF, Cancer Research, Comic Relief, PHAB, Childline, Lepra, Habitat for Humanity and Children in Need gained much needed funds.
This was also our year for School trips. All school trips take considerable organisation by the staff involved, but especially those that last longer than one day. This year over 400 pupils benefited from trips to The Share Centre Co Fermanagh, Bushmills, Castlewellan, Edinburgh, Lake District, Italy, Spain and Strasbourg.
I was delighted and honoured to accompany Mr McKittrick and 10 of our Senior Pupils who won an all expenses trip to the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg as their prize in winning the United Kingdom’s entry for the European Studies Euroscola Competition.
Our pupils continue to avail of the opportunities to enjoy Rugby, Hockey, Basketball, Netball, Tennis, Cross country and Athletics.
Congratulations to the 1st XV Rugby Team runners up in the Ulster Schools Bowl Competition.
In Hockey the 2A’s were Semi finalists in the McDowell Cup and the U14 Hockey Team were Finalists against Methody.
The U16 Football Team won the East Antrim Cup and the Year 8 Cricketers won the Myles Cup.
In Netball the Year 8 were NEBSSA finalists with the Year 12 NEBSSA winners.
In Bridge we won the Ulster Schools Championship winning the Phyllis Bell Cup and in Tennis the Intermediate Girls Team were semi finalists in the Ulster Schools Cup.
With all our winning and successful teams and groups of pupils it was very difficult in choosing a recipient for the Headmasters Trophy for Team Excellence. This year the winner after a photo finish is the Chamber Choir in recognition of their performances during the year, the cutting of their 1st CD and only last Sunday performing on the John Anderson luchtime programme on Radio Ulster.
Individual pupils have also seen success at local and national level
Our House system continues to flourish and provides the opportunity for sporting and other activities to be competed for in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry. Sports Day was won by Fergus and Knockagh won the Millennium Shield as the overall winners.
Scripture Union and Army Cadet Force meet regularly each week while Debating and Quiz Teams frequently enter province wide competitions.
The number of pupils involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme continues to grow with 32 going for Silver and 23 for Gold.
Our Extra Curricular programme became even more diverse with the commencement of a Bridge Club run by Mr Reid and our Salsa Dancing Club run by Mrs Claver and Mr Brown. Mr Brown assures me he will continue running the Club during the absence, due to an expanding waistline, of Mrs Claver.
With Mr Lynas’s return, after an absence of six months due to illness, the Music department quickly got down to deciding on the choice of a Musical which is always performed just before the Halloween Break. Instead using our own home grown talents a script was written to celebrate ‘The Musical’ and music over the years. ‘Bound for Broadway’ was a runaway success – playing to packed houses and with Brian Lynas’s ability to squeeze half the school on the stage it was truly a whole school production. Thank you to all the pupils and staff that worked so hard to produce such a professional show. This was just the start to a packed school year for the Music department. At Christmas we enjoyed our biannual Christmas Concert and the Spring Concert was another opportunity to hear individual artists as well as our Junior, Senior and Chamber Choirs.
Towards the end of the Year we were delighted to welcome back to the staff Elaine McBride and Brenda McClean both returning after major surgery and post operative treatment but at the same time we were also having to say goodbye to 4 long serving members of staff.
Due to a changing curriculum and reduced budget, Mr Brian Lynas, Mr Mervyn Shaw and Mrs Bernadette Martin from the teaching staff took early retirement. Mr Jim Hanley our Technology Technician also decided it was time to have a more leisurely pace of life which didn’t include looking after numerous GCSE and GCE Technology projects and three relatively young technology teachers.
At the end of June the Governors, Staff, Former Staff and Former Pupils celebrated the dedication and service of these 4 distinguished members of Staff with a wonderful evening entitled ‘A Fond Farewell’. We never do anything by half at Carrickfergus Grammar School and when the curtains were pulled back the assembled audience were entertained by a full orchestra made up of staff and former pupils. I hasten to add when I said a full orchestra I used the word full in the context of complete. We take this opportunity to thank the retiring staff for their contribution to the life of the school and hope that they enjoy their retirement.
Congratulations to Mr Peter Bell who replaces Mr Mervyn Shaw as Coordinator of Mathematics and Mr Edward Craig as Teacher-in-Charge of Music with responsibility for all things musical.
We welcome to the staff Mrs Servane Murray to the French Department and Miss Karen Simms to the Music Department as permanent members of Staff. Mrs Barbara McKeeman as a part-time Biology Teacher, Mrs Sarah Service as a temporary member of staff as Mrs Lesley Kane takes ‘time off’ to await the birth of her 1st child – due tomorrow and Mrs Helen Reynolds as a Home Economics Technician.
Over the years the school has been involved in a number of pilots for the Department of Education and this year is no exception. 15 Schools in Northern Ireland were chosen to pilot the new Key Stage 3 curriculum which will start in all schools in September 2007. This year groups of teachers will be working on a new curriculum for those pupils entering Year 8 in September 2006. This gives us an opportunity to take stock of what is currently on offer – keep what is good but introduce new content, but more importantly look afresh at how we teach and how pupils learn, try some innovations and attempt to overcome the difficulties that some pupils experience in the transition year from primary school to secondary school.
Benjamin Disraeli said
“Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant”
This is certainly true of Education in Northern Ireland.
We are all affected by this change – pupils, parents, teachers, governors and all the various educational bodies and if you started to list all the changes that lie ahead you would be so frightened you would be frozen into inertia but change is a fact of life and must be managed, introduced gradually and supported continuously. There is a new curriculum at Key Stage 3, changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum, new subjects such as Learning for Life and Work, changes to the funding of schools, new assessment procedures and of course the changes proposed by Costello from 2008 onwards.
Each school must ensure that they balance these changes so that the pupils presently in the system are not disadvantaged by concentrating on planning for the pupils of the future. Changes will occur if the school has a shared vision not one on a piece of paper or one stuck in a drawer. Changes will occur if you can source extra funding. We have been successful in securing 4 tranches of money by applying to the North Eastern Education and Library Board under the Dissemination of Good Practice initiative and European Money under the Youth Education Social Inclusion Partnership.
Changes will occur if you participate in pilots which often give you extra time and money to research possible changes and of course change will occur when those involved are fully aware of the changes and fully aware of why these changes are taking place.
However change will only be really effective when our partners i.e. the Department of Education, the Regional Training Board, the Education and Library Boards and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment communicate clearly an overview of the whole picture of change, deliver the same message, give us realistic time scales, provide adequate funding of time, resources and exemplars, simplify our bureaucratic procedures, streamline the external examinations system, provide truly effective ICT support systems, enable school staff to have effective ownership of their tasks and participate in meaningful consultation.
And have the changes we have already made been effective?
We though they were – we felt that we have created a learning environment that facilitates learning and teaching to take place. We have tried to learn from each other and share good practice and hopefully our sense of community and emphasis on Pastoral Care and Child Protection has led to an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Our results have improved and our pupils are better prepared for all that life after school holds for them. That is what we thought, through our Parental Satisfaction Surveys we have some idea what the parents think, through discussion with pupils we have some idea what they think, but the acid test comes when the Department of Education conducts an Inspection.
That dreaded letter arrived on my desk earlier this year. When I regained consciousness I read that we were to have a Pilot Focussed Inspection focusing on Leadership, Pastoral Care and Learning and Teaching. The Inspectors while looking at the teaching and learning in all subjects would concentrate on History, Chemistry and ICT. The findings of the Inspection Report are on our website but as a staff we were delighted by the comments of the Inspectors.
If you are doing your job properly you should always be questioning yourself. Am I doing it right? So it is reassuring to hear others say “You are!”.
Special mention was made by the Inspectors of the
· excellent caring supportive and purposeful ethos of the school
· excellent work of the Management Team AND
· excellent quality of the Pastoral Care system
I want to take this opportunity to also thank the Management Team for their work and dedication.
Mr Mulvenna and Mrs Lively for their work with Pastoral Care.
Mr Graham as our Curriculum guru.
Mrs Myers as Timetabler and Examination Officer.
Mr Shaw for his work with the budget.
Mr Donaldson as Senior School Coordinator and
Miss McKinley as Careers Coordinator.
They are an excellent team to work with, they keep me under control – well most of the time – I value their collective contribution and their vision for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen when Staff and Pupils together feel engaged with the change process then real change will take place and the sky is the limit.
Mr Gordon Topping - Chief Executive of the NEELB was the Guest of Honour at our Annual Prize Distribution.
Year 9 Prize Winners
Top GCSE Students
Top Year 10 Students
Top Year 10 Students
Top GCSE Students
Top AS Students
Top Year 11 Students
Top Year 11 Students