Principal Philip Smyth gave a “warm welcome on one of the coldest nights of the year” to an assembly hall packed with parents and primary school children on Tuesday evening as Dunluce School opened it’s doors in their annual open night.
Principal Smyth then went on to recognize the massive decision those present would be making in his opening speech; one that he himself would be making as a parent this year.
He talked about the three key issues facing parents deciding which post primary school would be appropriate for their children: “Will my child have access to a broad and balanced range of appropriate courses. Will my child be safe and well cared for? And finally, will my child be happy?”
“We can say that we, here at Dunluce, having received the best set of GCSE results in our 40 year history, received them because we can say ‘yes’ to those questions”
He went on to outline the wide range of options available to Dunluce pupils at Key Stage 3 and 4. “We offer the full range of subjects in the Northern Ireland Curriculum at Key Stage 3 as all post primary schools are required to do, but we do so with class sizes often smaller than the pupils experience in primary schools.”
In recent years Dunluce has opened up the range of courses they provide at Key Stage 4 and Mr Smyth listed the wide array of options available in the Bushmills school through GCSE, BTEC, Occupational Studies and Essential Skills. He affirmed the principle that Dunluce can offer subjects and courses that are appropriate for the ability levels of the children in their classrooms. “None of this is set in stone. We know that the children coming through the door can change and we remain flexible enough to adapt our curriculum to suit each intake of pupils.”
Mr Smyth then sought to reassure parents that their children would be well cared for in Dunluce through a thorough pastoral system that begins before the children even become Dunluce pupils: “We run an induction programme that allows pupils to see if the school is a good fit. “ Special days are also arranged to give the new pupils a chance to settle in to their new routine quickly. “After that the pastoral system involving Form Teachers, Year Heads, Duty Teams, Prefects, and the Medical Officer, make sure that each child is well cared for throughout their time at Dunluce.”
He was keen to stress that any success could only come about through partnership: “a partnership between the parent and the school; between the school and the pupil.” And no partnership can succeed without communication.”
Dunluce prides itself on the levels of communication they have with parents. Communication through an new ‘Call Parent’ system where parents can be contacted quickly should they need to be updated about aspects of their children’s education; communication through three sets of assessment reports each year; through regular parent teacher meetings.
Before inviting the assembled guests to tour the school and challenging them to talk to the staff and pupils in order to see “what makes Dunluce such a happy place” Mr Smyth handed the microphone over to four people who know more than most about what life is like in Dunluce:
Emma Howard, head girl and former Ballysally Primary School pupil, called her experience at Dunluce an “unforgettable one for all the right reasons.” She encouraged new pupils to make the most of their time by joining lots of after school and extra curricular activities. “Time has flown in for me. One thing you notice here is the great friendship between pupils and staff.”
Emma Knowles, one of Dunluce’s year 8 pupils, and a former pupil of Bushmills Primary, called Dunluce “a fun and caring school. There’s a lot to get up to after school.” She described it as being “a warm and welcoming school, and if you chose to come here you’ll enjoy your time at Dunluce.”
Another year 8 pupil, Ellie McNeill, a former pupil of Portrush Primary added, “If you ever have a problem there’s always someone there to listen to you. The first few months have flown in and I’m looking forward to my future here in Dunluce.”
Head boy, Isaac Malcolm, a former Castleroe pupil, brought the opening speeches to a close by describing Dunluce as “one of the best, if not the best, school on the north coast. The attitude staff and pupils have towards their school is second to none. Pupils get to go on trips and rewards; the school gives opportunities that would be difficult to have anywhere else. “I have so much love for and pride in this school.”