The Principal of St Joseph’s College, Mrs Mary Millar began her Prize Night address to pupils, parents and
assembled guests by congratulating the students on their academic achievements.
At GCSE level 95% of students achieved A* - C grades or better. Jamie Galway was congratulated, on her achievement of 7 A grades two B’s and a C.
At A Level a staggering 95% of students achieved 3 A levels or more, with 75% achieving 3 A* -C grades. Tammie Miller, Reuben Brown, Devlin Donnelly, Rebecca Moffatt, Nicole Quigley, Courtney Madden and Maciej Rozmiarek were congratulated on achieving grade B and above.
Mrs. Millar commented it is not surprising that all our A Level students gained places in their preferred universities or colleges. She wished the students well as they move on to the next phase of their lives.
Reference was made to past pupils who graduated in June, 25% of whom obtained first class honours degrees, many others left with 2.1 degree classifications.
Mrs Millar stated that education is about much more than academic success, it is also about developing character, talents and skills. In St Joseph’s, participation in extracurricular activities is encouraged, she said these are all life enhancing experiences which develop self-esteem and sow the seeds for purposeful activities in
“The sporting life of the school continues to flourish. The achievement of the Under 16 soccer team is particularly noteworthy. They reached the final in their ‘B’ competition but were beaten 5- 4 in extra time by Dalriada School. The Under 14 soccer team enjoyed a very good year as well, they were beaten in the semi-finals by Ballymoney High School who went on to win the ‘A’ competition. The girls also enjoyed successes in the Junior and Senior Netball leagues and the Year 8 girls won the NEEBSA Blitz for the first time against considerable competition.
“Another important initiative was the school’s participation in the Shared Education Signature Project with Loreto College and Coleraine Grammar School. In this project students from the three schools met and shared lessons in a number of subject areas. The project gave the opportunity to tap into community expertise to develop and enhance the skills base of students across the key stages.”
The School community
Mrs Millar described St Joseph’s as a community made up of many members all of whom contribute to the success of the school. She compared it to a family.
“The Catholic Ethos which permeates the school creates an atmosphere where the Christian values of love of God and neighbour are practised and the promotion of justice for all is lived out.
“An essential element of the community is the strong and effective partnership which exists between home and school and which is necessary for the success of the students.”
She praised the hard work, dedication and professionalism of the teaching staff.
“They are ably supported by classroom assistants and clerical and auxiliary staff. An exceptional Board of Governors give up much of their own time to oversee and support all school operations.
“The student body is the life blood of any school and we are very fortunate to have so many fine young people placed in our care. She added that there is nothing more rewarding than seeing children grow into young adults who make a worthwhile contribution to the local and global society.”
High quality of teaching and learning
Mrs Millar went on to say that with such a successful school, it is difficult to comprehend that we have entered
the transitional phase towards closure in June 2019.
“The Board of Governors and staff are aware that this is a worrying time for the parents of current students.”
She took the opportunity to reassure the parents that the educational needs of the pupils will continue to be the priority for her, as Principal, the staff and the Board of Governors.
“The high quality of teaching and learning that exists within St Joseph’s will be sustained and built upon until the doors are closed,” Mrs Millar stressed.
She assured parents the Principal, the staff and the Board of Governors will not shy away from any challenges that may arise over the next two years and will always seek to find creative solutions. It is her intention and that of the governors, to keep parents informed of developments as they occur.
Looking to the future, she said, the hope is that the two remaining Catholic Schools in the Triangle area promote the principles of equality and justice for all young people and offer a range of academic, vocational and
occupational subjects. Hence, every student will continue to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
She referred to the changes that have already taken place in the school. Four valuable members of staff, Mrs Ita
Cunning, Mrs Aisling Gormley, Mrs Louise Mc Bride and Mrs Fiona McCloskey have left to take up new
appointments in Loreto College. Mrs Catherine McCann has also taken up a teaching position in Edmund Rice
“The school has lost good teachers, colleagues and friends,” she said. She thanked them for all their hard work and wished them every success in their new positions.
She said the school had also seen the departure of three dedicated classroom assistants who retired in June, Mrs
Liz Doherty, Mrs Susanne Maher and Mrs Rosaleen McGuinness. Again, she thanked them for all their hard
work and wished them long and happy retirements.
She also took the opportunity to recognise the long service of the school secretary Mrs Vivienne Millar. Viv
joined the school in 1990 and grew to be knowledgeable about every aspect of life in St Joseph’s. She always
carried out her duties competently and with discretion. Mrs Millar wished her a very well deserved and happy
Tribute to Mr Kelly
Finally, she paid tribute to Mr Ronnie Kelly.
“Mr Kelly first walked through the doors of St Joseph’s in 1979, 38 years ago, as a Geography teacher. He was appointed to the role of Principal of the school in 2002.
“Mr Kelly was passionate in his love for St Joseph’s College. He had a vision for the school which he summed up when he created the school motto ‘Believe, Achieve, Succeed.’ He, himself, believed St Joseph’s could be the best
performing secondary school in Northern Ireland, and under his leadership, this prestigious position was
achieved in 2012 when the school was ranked as the No 1 non grammar school.
“This success inspired staff and pupils alike to continue to work together to build on this foundation and maintain their reputation as a centre of excellence. During his time as Principal Mr Kelly was an innovator, he expanded the vocational subjects on offer in the school and introduced occupational subjects to offer alternative pathways - thus promoting pupil achievement at GCSE level.
“He ensured the children had access to the very best facilities and technologies. As principal he oversaw the building of a new reception area, a new music block and the complete renovation of the art department. He also opened new computer suites and purchased iPads for all year 8 and 9 students in order to enhance their learning experience.”
She went on to say she believed his greatest strength was that he never gave up on a child, even when they had given up on themselves. His mantra to everyone when making decisions was ‘put the child at the centre and then you can’t go wrong.’
“When the closure of St Joseph’s was announced Mr Kelly turned his attention to the well-being of his students and staff. He negotiated tirelessly on behalf of the pupils to ensure they would not be disadvantaged in the future. He also worked equally hard to open up opportunities for staff within the new system.”
She concluded her speech with some of Mr Kelly’s own words.
“To parents and teachers, “we as parents and educators have a responsibility to ensure that the hopes and dreams
of young people become a reality.” To students, “be assured your success lies within you and the actions you
take to achieve it.” To the sixth form, “to create more positive results in your life replace the phrase ‘if only’
with ‘next time’.”
She addressed Mr. Kelly saying: “Ronnie, you never wasted time on ‘if only’ it was always ‘upwards and
onwards’ striving to attain the best for all the members of the St Joseph’s community. You also said ‘enjoy
every moment’ and this is our hope for you, that you will enjoy every moment as you enter a new phase of your
life with Anna and your family.
“We will really miss your friendship and guidance; St Joseph’s won’t be the
same without you.”