The headmaster of Coleraine Grammar School, Dr Carruthers, welcomed guests to the school’s annual prize day.
Dr Carruthers said: “President, Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen, Prize-winners, it is a pleasure to welcome you all this afternoon and to present my report addressing many aspects of our school’s life during the 2018/19 year. Broadly speaking I will cover staffing, examination results, a little on finances and, with the help of some pupils, extra-curricular activities.
“Miss Jewel Carson joined the teaching staff of Coleraine High School in 1986 and 33 years later she has decided to draw this chapter of her life to a close. During her career she made a huge contribution to both the curricular and extra -curricular life of CHS and latterly CGS. She was appointed Head of Religious Studies in 1990 in CHS and in 2015 in CGS. Miss Carson introduced A Level RE to CHS, and the department flourished under her leadership with large numbers of girls choosing to study the subject at A Level.
“Miss Carson was an inspiring classroom practioner, creating engaging lessons for her pupils long before the term ‘active teaching strategies’ became common currency. Mrs Anne Currie-Macartney joined the staff of Coleraine High School in September 2005 as the new Head of English. From the outset it was evident that she was a devoted and passionate teacher who led by example in her department. She was a pioneer of many modern initiatives now ubiquitous in the profession, and worked tirelessly to ensure standards were maintained in this core subject. For ten years she oversaw tremendous success for pupils in GCSE English Language, Literature and in A-Level Literature. Following the amalgamation Mrs Currie-Macartney decided to take a step back from being Head of Department and focused, in her final years in the profession, on what she loved most about the job – teaching the pupils. Without doubt, her lasting legacy in Coleraine Grammar will be the tremendous example she set not only for the pupils but also the staff, and she continued to provide debating opportunities for pupils to develop important skills in the last few years.
“In November 1989 Miss West-Hurst arrived in Coleraine High School to teach Chemistry as well as Physics, Biology and RE. As the years passed she began to
take a greater leadership role in the school becoming Head of CEIAG in 2002. In her role as Senior Teacher for Learning & Teaching in the High School she led
assessment for learning as well as the introduction of baseline testing. In 2009 she introduced and led the concept of Performance Data Analysis to inform
learning and school improvement, and also took up the role of Post Primary Associate Assessor with the Inspectorate. As an Executive Member of the Schools
and Colleges Careers Association for 12 years she led the organisation of many conferences which facilitated the professional development of careers teachers. After the amalgamation of the High School and Inst. in 2015, Miss West-Hurst became an Associate Senior Teacher and maintained her commitment to CEIAG in the school.
“Miss West-Hurst now leaves CGS to take on her new role with the Education Authority School Development Team as a School Improvement Professional for Post
Primary Schools and Special Schools in Belfast and County Down. Mrs Caoimhe Downey joined Coleraine Academical Institution in September 2009 in her first teaching job. She was a first-class teacher and her students appreciated her active teaching strategies, and her obvious passion for the subject, which inspired many of her Key Stage 3 pupils to study Geography to GCSE and A-Level. Mrs Downey cared about the well-being of all the pupils and she became an Assistant Pastoral Leader, where she carried out her duties with care and diligence. We wish Mrs Downey continued success for the future in her new position at Thornhill College.
“Mr Quigg joined the Coleraine Inst. Maths Department in January 2013. He has been a very valuable member of the department since then and throughout his time in Coleraine Grammar, assisting many pupils to pass their GCSE Maths and bringing his unique personality to the classroom. Mr Quigg was ever willing to contribute in any number of ways to the wider school community. As a valued teacher and colleague, we wish Mr Quigg all the best in his next post at St Joseph’s, Derry.
“We have welcomed new colleagues to school this year in temporary positions: Miss Thompson and Miss Webb in mathematics, Mrs Donnelly in Home Economics, Mr
Elliot in Chemistry, and Miss Nicholl in Art, and Mrs Murdock left her temporary position in HE for a permanent post.”
A-Level and AS Results
“Many pupils celebrated excellent A-Level results in the summer, and no fewer than seventeen pupils achieved three A grades or above at A-Level. Five of these pupils achieved at least 2A*s; Ruth Carson is reading Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, Andrew Irwin is attending Durham to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Sarah Kirkpatrick is studying Common and Civil Law with Hispanic Studies at Queen’s and David Sherrard is studying Computer Science at Queen’s.
“One of our pupils, Anna Jinks, achieved an A* in each of her 3 A-Levels (Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics), and is studying Pharmacy at Queen’s University. Our Year 14 pupils have again been highly successful in securing places in their first choice institutions, which include a range of Russell Group universities such as Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool Newcastle and Queen’s. Course choices vary across all disciplines and include accountancy and business, sciences and computing, medicine, dentistry and nursing, law, engineering and teaching.
“Year 14 pupils also chose alternative progression pathways and have secured very competitive Higher Level Apprenticeships with leading NI businesses in IT and Civil Engineering. Jasmine Morris, our highly talented violinist, will develop her talent further studying music at The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester – one of the leading conservatoires in the world.
“In the A-Level examinations over 20 subjects achieved all or almost all pupils’ grades at A*-C meaning that almost 70% of pupils had all their grades at A*-C, leading to the above choices being available to pupils. Following in the A-Level pupils’ footsteps, nineteen of our Year 13 students achieved three or more A grades in their AS Levels. Nine of these pupils achieved 4 A grades with two of them, Ben Gault and Auriel Guarino opting to sit A-Level Mathematics in one year and both of them achieving an A*. Ben Gault actually studied 4 AS Levels and 1 full A-Level and managed the highest possible grade in each!
“We are proud of all that our pupils achieve, and these excellent results are evidence of the talent and dedication of both pupils and staff in school. We achieved top places in 2 A-Level subjects and 1 GCSE subject this year; Auriel Guarino was placed first in A-Level mathematics, Matthew Murchison was placed 3rd in A-Level Technology and Hannah Farlow was placed 3rd in GCSE Religious Studies, Short Course.
“In the GCSE examinations, fifty-one pupils were awarded at least 5A or A* grades, with thirty-four of these pupils achieving at least 7A or A* grades. Nine pupils achieved 10A or A* grades. These were: Sara Cunning, Kirsty Dalzell, Amala Khan, Ciaran Long, Diana Mathewson, Molly McCaw, Megan McMullan, Ellen Wallace and Sian Wallace. This outstanding collection of grades is a testament to the pupils’ hard work and dedication across the two years of their GCSE studies, and they should be commended for their excellent marks. The names mentioned are only a small sample of the students who performed so well in their exams.
“The 2019 GCSE cohort of pupils were the last groups to enter CAI and CHS separately, and hence they were the last group of 240 pupils, with a very broad
range of academic ability. We were able to offer 30 subjects to the pupils so that each pupil could study subjects to suit his or her ability. As well as the success of the pupils with many high grades, we are also able to demonstrate the value which the school adds to the vast majority of the pupils’ results. For example, the English and maths A*-C pass rates were both 94%. A 94% pass rate is 8% higher than expected in English and 17% higher than expected in maths for this group of pupils – so we can see added value in the two core subjects and the same kind of pattern is repeated elsewhere.
“Extra-curricular activities develop resilience, a knowledge of the value and importance of practice and rehearsal, the ability to work as a team, and the ability to become a leader of a team, and all of these attributes are essential to be successful contributors to our society in the years to come.
“Among the clubs and societies, you will see that the Christian Union and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award are flourishing, and on the sporting side we have Ulster or Irish representatives in rowing, hockey, rugby, football, netball, cricket and swimming and have achieved success at many of these sports at representative level.
“The parental contribution is vitally important for our school, especially with respect to extra-curricular activities, and the Board and I would like to thank you for your financial and wider support.”
Dr Carruthers then handed over to Harry Hughes, Auriel Guarino, Grace Wilson and Molly Curry who spoke about U14 rugby, academic extra-curricular, the school and Ulster Youth Choirs and school and international rowing.
Dr Carruthers continued: “This teamwork and common purpose is reflected across the school in the academic successes and extra-curricular activities I have described. I observe effective teamwork on a regular basis in the leadership of subjects and of pastoral support in school. When the common purpose is best understood and when the commitment to that purpose is clearest, we are seeing the greatest impact and improvement. This impact is coming from a clear analysis of the baseline position, sharp action planning to make progress, and always with an effective evaluation of the impact of our actions.
“This effectiveness is achieved on a day-by-day, week-by-week, term-by-term basis by pastoral and subject leaders and classroom teachers, and all concerned deserve our gratitude and thanks. Like all schools our successes are achieved against a financial background which is beyond difficult. Last year, I quoted a recently published NI Audit Office report which stated that school budgets had been reduced by 10% in real terms in the preceding five years. Since then the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster has undertaken an inquiry into education funding and found that the subsequent two years also saw real terms reductions in the resource budget.
“Schools are expected to continue to make improvements, which we are doing, in this financial context and with the on-going industrial action. Discussions around teachers’ pay, workload and inspection are on-going and by January 2020, the industrial action will have been in place for three years. The NI Affairs Committee inquiry also stated that the stagnation in teachers’ pay here compared to the rest of the UK is deeply unfair.
“It is imperative that the connected issues of funding for schools and the industrial action are resolved as soon as possible, and not with a short-term fix. Schools and teachers need financial stability to be sure we can plan effectively for pupils’ education.
“Ladies and gentleman, pupils and friends of the school, I hope you can all see the progress we are making in the classroom, the progress in terms of results, the opportunities pupils have and what wonderful young women and men we have as pupils in our school and the successes they are achieving.
I would like to congratulate the prize-winners on their achievements and equally the many, many pupils who work very hard, make good progress and contribute to school life in a wide variety of activities, and who are not necessarily here today.
“In conclusion I would like to thank the Coleraine High School Old Girls’ Association, Coleraine Inst. Old Boys’ Association, the former pupils’ rowing association and the Friends’ Association who all actively support our school in very practical and meaningful ways, and we are very grateful for their support.
“I would also like to thank parents for your support in helping secure this success, and on behalf of the parents, governors, and myself, I would like whole-heartedly to thank the teaching staff and nonteaching staff for the immense hard work required to make the school successful and enable celebrations such as today.”