Dalriada School principal reflects on '˜superb range of achievements'
The headmaster of Dalriada School has praised the 'superb range of achievements in every aspect of school life' in the face of declining school budgets and a lack of decision-making due to the absence of a government at Stormont,
Tom Skelton was addressing pupils and staff at the school’s annual prizegiving ceremony.
“This has been a turbulent year for Dalriada School and indeed for education in general with schools forced to survive on declining budgets yet be expected to maintain their quality of
provision for pupils,” he said.
“The absence of the Stormont Assembly has exacerbated the situation resulting in a lack of decision making in education and all the areas affecting the quality of life in Northern Ireland. As each day passes with no sign of resolution in sight the feelings of isolation and desperation continue to increase.
“However, despite this gloomy backdrop Dalriada pupils, parents, staff and governors have worked hard to help produce a superb range of achievements in every aspect of school life.
“At GCSE every single pupil gained 5 or more A*-C grades including Maths and English, a statistic we are immensely proud of. 95% gained 7 or more A*-C grades, including Maths and English. 13 pupils gained 11 A*-A grades with Ellen Gilmour and Auriel Guarino achieving a maximum 10 A* grades each.
“Congratulations to Jill Hutchinson who was the top CCEA candidate in NI in GCSE Home
Economics. Of last year’s cohort of Year 12 students, 110 of them have progressed to Lower Sixth where they have been joined by 5 students from schools in Ballymoney, Ballycastle, Coleraint, Armagh and the Ascension Islands! We wish the 14 students who left us every success as they pursue alternative courses at various college including Northern Regional College and Greenmount Agriculture College.
“At this stage I must make special mention of our Y11 GCSE Maths results. 57 pupils sat their
GCSE Maths in Year 11 and gained 100% A*-B grades, a tremendous achievement. At AS level 75% of our pupils gained at least 3 A-C grades. With 62% of pupils gaining 3 A-B grades. 22 pupils gained at least 3 A grades each.
“Finally, last year’s Upper Sixth students produced the best set of A level grades since 2008.
“82% of students gained at least 3 A*-C grades each.In fact, 92% of all Dalriada grades were A*-C. Over 40% of all A level grades were A*-A, a fantastic achievement.”
“Emma Hasson and Flynn Faith-Crothers gained at least 3 A grades each, Peter Johnston gained 4 A grades and Eason Chan gained a maximum 4 A* grades. Of 108 leavers, 105 applied to University with 3 students taking a Gap Year. Of those 105 applicants, 91 achieved their first choice, 4 achieved their second choice and 7 gained a course through clearing. In summary 97% of our students gained a university place which reflects well qualified, strong candidates who have received excellent individual advice and guidance from Mrs. Kelly and her Careers Department.
“I wish to thank our Chair of Governors, Brian Dillon for his massive contribution to the
effective management of Dalriada School. Brian has the ability to get governors to volunteer to sit on sub-committees which both suits their interests and expertise. He also somehow manages to attend all Governors meetings despite a hectic overseas holiday schedule. At present we have a Board of Governors totally committed to the wellbeing of Dalriada School.
“Curriculum Deputy Head, Dr. Ian Walker continues to be a source of expertise, enthusiasm and
support. Ian somehow manages to produce a timetable which meets the needs of staff and pupils. His drive to constantly review and improve our curricular offer is one of his greater strengths.
“Pastoral Deputy Head Ms. Louise Crawford has just completed her first year in post and already she has taken pastoral care in Dalriada to a new level. Her ability to listen and reflect before making decisions has gained her the support and respect of staff and pupils alike.
“Our Senior Leadership Team is completed by Assessment Co-ordinator Mrs. Janice Emerson,
Learning & Teaching Co-ordinator Mrs. Heather Millar and Convenor of Capital Development Mr.
John Devlin. These three individuals have played key leadership roles in maintaining Dalriada’s position as one of the outstanding grammar schools in the Province. Former Bursar Mr. David Balmer has played a key role in managing the School’s finances and we look forward to his imput in his new role providing financial and administrative support and guidance.
“Our Pastoral Heads, Mr. Richard Mills, Mr. Steven Glenn, Mr. John Devlin and Mrs. Nicola
Johnston have had an extremely busy but rewarding year ensuring that all the young people in our care continue to develop and flourish in a safe and secure environment. Our 35 form teachers continue to build positive relationships with pupils and provide strong links with parents.
“Our Department Heads have had a long year introducing new specifications and making sure their departments work together as effective teams. The excellent examination results are a fitting tribute to the combined efforts of all our teachers. To all our staff, both teaching and support, thank you for your hard work, loyalty and commitment to life at Dalriada. I feel privileged and proud to be Headmaster of such a dedicated workforce.
“This was supposed to be a year of minimal changes of staffing at Dalriada but how wrong that prediction proved to be with a total of ten new staff joining us.
“In June we said goodbye to a number of staff. After a three-year career break Mrs. Marion Hadden left Dalriada to continue her pastoral work in Terrace Row Church, Coleraine. Marion joined Dalriada in 2001 and became Editor of the School magazine in 2005. In 2012 she became Head of English and in this role she led by example. We wish her well. After 14 years’ service English teacher Mrs. Rachel Millican decided to step down from teaching. A somewhat unique teacher Rachel also produced the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night in 2010, previously produced by her late father Mr. Roy Alcorn. Technology teacher Mr. Jonathan Farmer left us to take up employment as Head of Technology in Ulidia College, Carrickfergus. A larger than life figure Mr. Farmer was involved in many areas of life at Dalriada in his relatively short time with us.
“After 33 years of loyal service, Maths teacher and Examinations Officer Mrs. Pat Crerand retired through the Transferred Redundancy Scheme. However, we are delighted that Pat will continue to fill the role of Examinations Officer in Dalriada. Following one year in the temporary post of teacher of ICT and Business Studies, Miss Jessica McKenna left us to take up a permanent position in St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh.
“After three years in Dalriada as a temporary Home Economics teacher Mrs Noirin Henry left us to take up employment as Head of Home Economics at St. Patrick’s College, Maghera. After four years at Dalriada, Assistant Head of English department Miss Lynsey Turner found the lure of Bermuda too much and she has decided to take a Career Break to sample life in that part of the world.
“Assistant Head of PE Mrs. Bridget Clelland, Head of Business Studies Mrs. Lynda-Jayne Parkhill and Art teacher Ms. Alison Kirkpatrick have reduced their teaching hours to pursue other interests but their commitment to Dalriada remains undiminished. As a result of all these changes Dalriada recruited heavily in the summer term and my sincere thanks to the governors, senior staff and Heads of Departments who made up the various interview panels to ensure that we appointed top quality staff.
“As a result, the following appointments were made: Mrs. Rachel Divin and Miss Leigh Snoddy joined the English Department from St. Pius X College, Magherafelt and Rathmore Grammar respectively. Miss Caroline Getty joined the Art Department from Dominican College. Miss Claire Diamond joined the Business Studies Department from Joyce Frankland Academy, Cambridge. Miss Laura Trolland joined the Home Economics Department from Carrickfergus College. Mrs Patricia McIvor joined the ICT Department from St. Pius X College, Magherafelt.
Mrs. Anne Patterson joined the Maths Department from St. Joseph’s, Coleraine. Miss Victoria Orr joined the Technology Department from Royal School Armagh.
“In addition, we welcome Mrs. Kelly O’Neill Skelly and Miss Maria Doherty who are covering
maternity leaves in Home Economics and PE respectively and we look forward to welcoming
former pupil Miss Amy McIlhatton who will join us after half term to work in the History
Department covering Mrs. Danielle Irwin’s maternity leave. Not much change then!
“This influx of new staff has added new life to the staffroom and we look forward to their
contribution in the classroom and beyond. In October our Chair of Governors officially opened our new Sports Complex, a world class facilit which is used extensively by pupils and members of the local community. An exciting new development has been the appointment of fitness partner, Route 2 Fitness who run fitness classes before school and in the evenings for members and non-members at a reasonable rate.
“Our partnership with Ballymoney Kidz Club goes from strength to strength and due to demand, a second mobile classroom opened in early September.
“The Shared Education Programme continues to meet the needs of the three post-primary schools in this area, Ballymoney High School, Our Lady of Lourdes and Dalriada. The additional financial support provided allowed us to set up a joint website, a Learning Community Student Council, provide bespoke literacy and numeracy support, develop joint ICT provision and provide additional Careers guidance. The joint pupil activities and collaborative classes at GCSE are now embedded within the life of all three schools. Mr. Andrew Surgenor has been appointed as Hub Co-ordinator and already he has made an impact identifying and meeting the needs of staff involved in Shared Education. An interesting and innovative development of our collaborative culture has been the creation of the Ballymoney Cuchulianns GAA team, comprising of players from Our Lady of Lourdes and Dalriada, who won the Ulster tournament and went on to reach the quarter finals of the UK tournament in London in July before losing to the eventual competitions winners Tara from London.
“Unfortunately, the decreasing budget allocated to schools continues to hamper the ability of schools to deliver high quality education and Dalriada is no exception. In the present challenging financial situation any future capital development projects have been put on hold. However, despite the financial challenges Dalriada somehow manages to maintain our outstanding curricular and extra-curricular provision and I am indebted to staff, governors and parents for making this possible through sound management, hard work and payment of school fees.
“Thanks Mr. Mervyn Storey, MLA for his continued support for Dalriada and indeed the Area
Learning Community. His pressure on the Education Authority helped in the appointment of a
school patrol person after a prolonged delay. The Friends of Dalriada group has now been in existence for just over two years and during that time has managed to raise over £20,000, a tremendous achievement. As well as providing financial support for the School, Friends of Dalriada also provide a programme of well supported, highly enjoyable events. Membership now stands at almost 100 with direct debits providing over £600 per month to financially support the School. Repainting corridors and classrooms, new classroom furniture and carpets, and refurbishment of toilets have all been made possible by this financial support.
“Our programme of extra-curricular activities continues to develop the talents and skills of our pupils and utilises the range of expertise within our staff. Drama, debating, music and sport goes from strength to strength in Dalriada and we continue to “punch well above our weight”.
“Sustainability is an area where we hope to make a significant contribution as a school in the years ahead. After some sterling work by a few Sixth Formers we now have drawn up a 10-point action plan which will help reduce our carbon footprint in the years ahead. However, we all need to play our part if we are to realistically promote sustainability in Dalriada.
“This was another busy year in terms of major school trips with school groups visiting countries including Rome. Spain, France, Belgium and Germany. This week our Digital DNA & Sentinus competition winners Chloe Bond, Jessica Pinder and Lana McArthur accompanied by Mr. Gamble and Mrs. Williamson are in Silicon Valley in California having a fantastic experience.
“This year’s School production, ‘Hairspray’ took us to Baltimore in 1962 and what a show it was. The quality of acting and standard of music were simply outstanding and the show attracted rave reviews and was enjoyed by packed audiences at each performance. Hairspray must rank as one of the best shoes ever performed at Dalriada. The Christmas Concert and Evening of Music again provided delighted audiences with music and singing of the highest quality. My thanks to Mrs. Montgomery, Mr. McGavock and everyone else who worked so hard to produce these memorable musical events.
“This year’s School Formal proved to be an event that was enjoyed by pupils and staff alike. Other notable successes this year included Benedict Anslow and Shane Devers winning the
Northern Ireland Schools’ Debating Competition and then Benedict went on to win the Northern
Ireland Individual Debating Competition.
“Sporting achievements included our First XV rugby team reaching the semi-final of the Subsidiary Shield, the First XI hockey team winning the Causeway Coast Cup. Our U18 Girls volleyball team reached the final of the All Ireland competition, losing to St. Mary’s, Naas in an excellent game played at Dalriada. In football, the U13 and U15 Boys teams won their respective leagues. Not to be outdone our U15 girls football team reached the final of the IFA Super Sevens Tournament. The Year 8 girls tennis team reached the final of their Plate competition.
“Dalriada pupils have also gained individual representative honours in Volleyball, Rugby, Hockey and Athletics. Former pupil Katie Mullan reached the pinnacle of her sporting career by captaining the Irish Ladies Hockey team to the final of the World Cup. She proved to be an excellent ambassador both on and off the field. In rugby former pupil Stewart Moore has gained two caps for the Senior Rugby team and we follow his progress with interest. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme continues to be extremely popular in Dalriada with a large number of pupils gaining their Silver Award and a few gaining the coveted Gold Award. My thanks go to Miss Coey and her loyal team of staff who give up their time freely to make this possible.
“In conclusion Dalriada makes a huge contribution to the holistic development of all the young people in our care. Young people leave Dalriada well qualified academically but also with the lifeskills required for today’s challenging society. In other words, we give them roots but we also give them wings!
“My sincere thanks to all staff who contribute to our wide range of clubs and societies on a purely voluntary basis and to the numerous parents and friends of the School who help out in the many different ways. We are also indebted to our numerous sponsors who provide vital financial assistance for various school activities.
“This year’s Dalriad, superbly produced by Mrs. Williamson and her editorial team provides a
detailed account of life at Dalriada. Unfortunately, this may be the last year we publish the Dalriad in the present format due to production costs. I would encourage you to purchase a copy, priced £5 as we seek to retain this wonderful record of school events.
“I thank our Governors and staff for their commitment to the work of the School. I commend our pupils for their hard work at school and at home to achieve great success and also for the huge contribution to extra-curricular activities. I congratulate all our prizewinners today on your superb achievements. Thank you, the parents for the many hours spent supporting your child. You have every right to be proud of your child’s achievements today.
“In conclusion, Dalriada School continues to enhance its reputation as a school at the heart of the community but with an increasing impact much further afield. However, we must all work together to ensure the values and ethos we hold dear are embedded for the future Dalriads.”