Prize day at Dalriada School - headmaster recalls memorable year

Dalriada School held its annual prizegiving ceremony recently with guest speaker Irish ladies hockey team captain Katie Mullan.

Guests and senior leaders at Dalriada prize day: (back) Mrs Heather Millar, Ms Louise Crawford, Mr John Devlin, Mrs Janice Emerson; (front) Mr Tom Skelton Headmaster, Miss Katie Mullan Chief Guest, Mr Brian Dillon Chairman, Cllr Sean Bateson, Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Headmaster Tom Skelton said: “2018-19 has been a memorable year of outstanding and varied successes for Dalriada where we have lived up to our strapline “Committed to Excellence” both inside and outside the classroom.”

“The fact that we have maintained the quality of provision in a time of financial decline and uncertainty make these achievements all the more impressive. Dalriada pupils, parents, staff and governors have combined to help produce a superb range of achievements in many areas of school life.

“I will begin with a brief analysis of our outstanding external examination results in 2019. At GCSE level 97% of our pupils gained 5 or more A*- C grades. Indeed 94% of our pupils gained at least 7 A* - C Grades including Mathematics and English. 71% achieved 7 or more A* – B grades enabling these pupils to access a broad choice of subjects for A Level Study. Of last year’s cohort of Year 12 students, 112 of them have progressed to Lower Sixth where they have been joined by 15 students from schools in Ballymoney, Ballycastle, Coleraine, Limavady, Portstewart and California. We wish the 13 students who left us every success as they pursue alternative courses elsewhere.

“Our Year 11 GCSE Maths results were again outstanding. 45 pupils sat their GCSE Maths in Year 11 and gained 100% A* – B grades. In fact 95% of this cohort gained 95% A* – A grades, a superb achievement. Last year’s Upper Sixth produced the best set of A Level Grades since we won School of the Year way back in 2007. An outstanding 86% of students gained at least 3 A* - C grades. 63% of students gained at least 3 A* - B. There were no U grades and only 3 E grades across the entire cohort of students. Special mention must be made of Catherine McKee who gained 2 A*s and 2 A Grades and Mark Crawford who achieved 4 A* Grades, a tremendous achievement.

”We are aware that many of our leavers have already started University so in June we had a excellent Celebration of Success Event where all the major Upper 6 th Prizes were distributed. Of our 120 leavers, 73% obtained their first choice of University course or apprenticeship, 14% obtained their insurance choice and 10% obtained a place through clearing. Just under 3% are resitting a couple of modules in order to reapply this year and they are getting support from school to assist them. In summary 97% of our students were offered a University course which is a measure of strong candidates equipped with appropriate qualifications who have received sound

advice and guidance from our Careers Department, ably lead by Mrs Claire Kelly.

“Regarding staff there has been a small number of changes in personnel - Mrs Dawne Barr taught in the Home Economics Department at Dalriada for six years and became an integral part of that team. Dawne had a great passion for her subject which rubbed off on the

Year 11 prizewinners

pupils she taught. We wish her well in the future. We also said goodbye to Miss Rachael McSparron who, in her two years at Dalriada made a significant contribution to the PE Department in the classroom and on the sportsfield. We wish her well in her new appointment at Foyle College.

“Mrs Ruth Sutherland and Mrs Naomi Farmer have been appointed to teach PE and Home Economics respectively and we look forward to their contributions to high quality teaching and learning at Dalriada. Assistant caretaker Mr Michael Reid left us to take up a more senior position at Coleraine Library. Michael was a great servant of Dalriada and, in addition to his caretaking role, he also delivered fire

safety training to pupils and staff. His replacement Mr Kieran O’Brien has settled quickly into the support staff and he brings an impressive skillset to the post. Assistant Groundsman, Mr John Murray retired on health grounds and we will miss his work ethic, common sense and outrageous moustache!

“Finally, Mrs Lorna Henderson, my secretary retired after an incredible 41 years’ service to Dalriada, a magnificent achievement. Lorna was the ‘face of Dalriada’ and leaves behind a great legacy of customer care. Her replacement, Mrs Lorna Montgomery has already made a positive start demonstrating a strong work ethic, tenacity and determination to succeed in this challenging position. To all our leaving staff, we wish them well.

“I wish to thank our long serving Chair of Governors, Mr Brian Dillon for his outstanding resilience and commitment to the needs of Dalriada School. This was a difficult year and Brian was always readily available to provide genuine leadership and guidance to help overcome these difficulties. He also heads up a Board of Governors with a wide range of expertise who combine to form a formidable team.

“This has been an extremely challenging year for Dalriada as we sought to maintain the quality and quantity of our provision in the face of reduced funding, new legislative requirements and the impact of teacher’s industrial action. However, in true Dalriada spirit we have risen to these challenges and navigated a way forward for the school. I must pay tribute to my Senior Leadership Team of Ms Louise Crawford, Dr Ian Walker, Mrs Janice Emerson, Mrs Heather Millar and Mr John Devlin who have had to absorb additional roles and workload to ensure the smooth running of the school. I could not have a better team of professional colleagues who I have relied on heavily

this year.

“Such is the quality of my Deputy Heads Louise Crawford and Ian Walker I can now take Fridays off knowing the School will be well led in my absence. However, I have no intention of “hanging up the boots” for a while yet! Our Pastoral Heads Mr Richard Mills, Mr Steven Glenn, Mr John Devlin and Mrs Nicola Johnston have had a challenging year attempting to meet the varied needs of our pupils allowing them to

Year 12 Special Merit prizewinners

develop and flourish in a safe, secure environment. Our forms teachers continue to build positive relationships with pupils and provide strong links with parents. Our Department Heads have risen to the challenge of delivering changing courses to large classes in limited time. The impressive examination results are a fitting tribute to the work of heads of Department and their colleagues.

“To all our staff, both teaching and support, thank you for your hard work and commitment to life at Dalriada. Our staff attendance record of 97% speaks volumes for the work ethic of those employed at Dalriada. Thanks to Mr David Bradley and his staff committee who ensured that staff were able to enjoy a number of enjoyable social events during the year.

“Our Shared Education Programme combines to meet the needs of the three post-primary schools in the area, Ballymoney High School, Our Lady of Lourdes and Dalriada. One of the highlights of the school year was the Shared Education Collaboration Event held in Ballymoney Town Hall last November where parents were treated to music, drama and presentations on the superb work being carried on between the three schools. The joint pupil activities and collaborative classes at GCSE are now embedded within the life of all three schools. This year our girls Ballymoney Cuchulianns GAA team, comprising players from our Lady of Lourdes and Dalriada won the Ulster tournament and went on to reach the semi-finals of the UK tournament in London in July.

“Last Saturday a combined team from Ballymoney High School and Dalriada participated in the Rotary Club Dragon Boat Race helping raise money for charity. Our partnership with Ballymoney Kidz Club is now well established and this group deserve great credit for refurbishing a second mobile classroom and extending the toilet block to meet the growing demand for places in this well managed community organisation.

“Our partnership with Route to Fitness has also gone from strength to strength with a growing membership making good use of our outstanding facilities. With an increasing emphasis on Health & Fitness, our staff also making good use of the facilities. We have also developed a formal partnership with Ballymoney Showgrounds Committee allowing the sharing of facilities on a reciprocal basis. The Friends of Dalriada is now firmly established as a vital part of our School community and this group continues to make an outstanding financial contribution to our refurbishment programme including a complete makeover of the English Department toilets, re-painting of the Mathematics Department and the installation of water points around the school where pupils can refill their reusable water bottles, kindly supplied by Northern Ireland Water.

“This year’s School Production, Fiddler on the Roof, proved to be a fantastic success with all the onstage and offstage teams combing to produce four memorable shows enjoyed by appreciative audiences. Well done to producer Miss Cheryl Brown and her team. The Christmas Concert and Evening of Music again provided 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.

“All at Dalriada were delighted to hear that from Head of Music Mr Bobby McQuillan received a British Empire Medal for Services to Music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2019. No better man!

“A big part of school life is the trips with groups this year visiting London, Sierra Nevada, California, Rome, Normandy and Israel. These trips give pupils a wonderful opportunity to experience the cultures of other countries gaining memories that will last a lifetime. Outstanding individual and team successes this year included Daniel Price and Noah Patterson winning the Digital DNA Mobile App Competition, run by Sentinus. Their reward is a dream trip to San Francisco & Silicon Valley next week to meet market leaders in the Digital Technology Industry. Our Top of the Bench Chemistry team won the Northern Ireland competition and went on to represent Northern Ireland in the National Finals in Birmingham, gaining a credible Ninth Place.

“Mark Crawford and Catherine McKee represented Dalriada at the Irish Chemistry Olympiad information in Dublin. Mark went on to represent Ireland at the Olympiad Finals held in Paris in July. Our Chamber Choir had a memorable year reaching the Final of the Choir of the Year Competition. At the final, held in the Ulster Hall in April, they sang superbly but narrowly lost out to winners Thornhill College.

“Just last week we were informed that 19 of our Year 10 pupils had won prizes in the U14 Schools’ Bible Project Competition. Pride of place goes to Matthew Dunbar who was placed first overall and has won a trip to London for himself and his parents in December, as well as £500 for the school.

“Sporting achievements included our 1st XV Rugby team beating local rival Coleraine Grammar School in the Third Round of the Schools Cup before losing to eventual cup winners Methodist College in the next round. The 1st XI hockey team had a good cup run reaching the Quarter Finals of the Competition before losing to a strong Rainey team. In athletics the Senior Girls were runners up in the NEBSSA Finals. Discus thrower Ellen Madden went on to represent Ulster in the Irish Athletics Competition at Tullamore. Sporting pride of place this year goes to our Girls U18 Volleyball team who were crowned All Ireland winners for the first time since 2009, a remarkable achievement for Dr Walker and his team. Volleyball broke new ground in Dalriada this summer when the Year 11 Squad travelled to Portugal for an International Tournament and gave a good account of themselves.

“Sporting representative honours were gained by a number of pupils this year. In rugby Luke Pollock has represented Ulster at U19 level and James McCormick has the honour of captaining Ulster Schools this season. In hockey Holly Barr, Lucy McCartney and Elle Kirgan have

represented Ulster at different levels while Olivia Mullan has played for the Irish Under 18 Hockey team. Miss Leigh Snoddy has also represented Ulster in hockey last season. Dalriada were well represented at Irish level volleyball with caps awarded to Lucy Reilly, Zoe Hennessey, Lauren Forgrave, Milenka Rygielska, Holly Barr, Éirinn Jones, Grace Allen and Miss Rachel Montgomery.

“The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme remains strong in Dalriada at both Silver and Gold Level. My thanks go to Miss Coey and her loyal team of staff who give up their time freely to make this possible. Unfortunately, the worsening financial situation continues to hamper our ability to maintain our curricular and extra-curricular provision. A number of Minor Works applications have been put on hold by the Education Authority and our maintenance and refurbishment programmes have had to be cut to an absolute minimum. However, we somehow managed to maintain our curricular offer and range of out-of-class activities and I am indebted to staff, governors and parents for making this possible through sound management, efficient use of resources and the payment of school fees.

“In his highly acclaimed book, ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari” author Robin Sharma highlights the qualities successful people share:-

(i) They are ambitious, (ii) They have a strong self belief, (iii) They work really hard, (iv) They are good with people, (v) They don’t let failure slow them down, (vi) They never stop getting better.

“In addition to Academic qualifications I believe Dalriada helps develop these qualities in our pupils, preparing them for the challenges which lie ahead in tertiary education and into adult life. Indeed these six qualities could also be applied to Dalriada. We believe in what we do, we work hard to meet the needs of our pupils, our Pastoral Care is outstanding and we refuse to let setbacks slow us down and we strive to keep on improving.

“This morning I have only highlighted the major achievements of our pupils during the School year. My sincere thanks to all staff who contribute to our wide range of clubs and societies on a voluntary basis and to the numerous parents and friend of the School who help out in many different ways. We are also indebted to our sponsors who provide vital financial assistance for various school activities. This year’s Dalriad provides a wonderful account of all the activities which go on in this unique school. Thanks to Mrs Anne Williamson and her editorial team on making this magazine possible.

“I thank our Governors and staff for their commitment to the work of the School. I commend our prize winners for their hard work at school and at home to achieve success and also for their contribution to the life of Dalriada School. Thank you, the parents for the many hours spent supporting your child. You have every right to be proud of your child’s achievement today. My sincere thanks to Mrs Heather Millar for her meticulous organisation of Prize Day, supported by her staff.

“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, remain for future Dalriads.”

Year 9 prizewinners
Year 13 pupils who achieved four As in their AS exams