Proud day for Ballymena Academy 'community'

THE considerable success of Ballymena Academy 'A' and 'AS' pupils has made the entire school community proud, principal JR Hassard has said.

“This year, for the first time, all ‘A’ level candidates have been able to receive their results on-line. Many took advantage of this facility, but that did not detract away from the scenes of enjoyment and delight as our final year students received written confirmation of the outcomes of their studies,” he said.

“It is not just the young people who are delighted, however.The entire community of this school is very proud of their achievements and we convey our heartiest congratulations to them and to the homes in which they have been supported so well,” said Mr Hassard.

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Particular mention was made of Claire Hayes and David Nesbitt who each obtained four A* grades. Rachael McKillen and Andrew Swann secured three A* grades along with one A grade.

A further 41 pupils obtained a minimum of three A grades – Lauren Agnew, Lynsey Agnew, Dayna Alexander, Grace Alexander, Matthew Blair, Sara Crockett, Charles Deane, Andrew Deaney, David Evans, Amy Finlay, Martin Galbraith, Bronagh Gallagher, Michaela Gallagher, Fiona Gibson, Scott Goodrich, Elizabeth Graham, Matthew Houston, Rebecca Huston, Adam Jackson, Mark Johnston, Matthew Kelso, Jenalee Kennedy, Kerry Kirk, Alan Macpherson, Matthew J. McBride, Matthew T. McBride, Matthew McCall, Sarah McDowell, Victoria McDowell, Steven McIlroy, Emma McKay, Sara McMullan, Peter McNeill, Zoe McQueen, Brian Moorhead, Jack Neeson, Jason P

Paul, Lydia Richards, Emma Small, Amy Stewart, Fergus Taylor.

A change introduced this year was the addition of the A* grade.

Mr Hassard said: “This followed strong pressure on the government from influential universities, as a way of helping them to select students for oversubscribed courses. In this introductory year very few universities are actually using A* grades but we can expect them to come more into play next year. About one in five of the ‘A’ level grades awarded to Ballymena Academy students were A* - well ahead of the national average”.

He continued: “There have been some rather misleading reports on a shortage of university places, giving rise to concern amongst those waiting for ‘A’ level results. The competition for places has certainly become more intense but the UCAS system, which co-ordinates university admissions, is well capable of handling all applications, now and in the future.

“Applicants know the grades which are required and, if they have followed the UCAS process and get the necessary grades, their places are guaranteed. Happily the vast majority of our young people have already received confirmation that they have been accepted on to their chosen courses. Our careers staff are on hand to advise the small number who may require further assistance.

“There has also been much speculation about the ‘value’ of a university degree and this is perfectly understandable given the growth of graduate unemployment in a difficult financial environment. It is a fact, however, that a good degree continues to be a standard entry requirement for many career pathways. Higher Education remains a sound investment in young people’s futures, particularly in the competitive and globalised employment environment in which they will spend their working lives”.

Mr Hassard pointed out: “We cannot highlight everyone’s achievements here; it is only fair, however, to acknowledge that there are many others who also deserve great praise, and it is in that spirit that we congratulate all our young people on their results. Their sense of achievement should not be diminished by ill-informed critics’ references to ‘falling standards’.

“Before any such conclusions can be reached a great deal of careful research is needed and this would have to take account of factors such as changed styles of examinations, the introduction of ‘re-sits’ and precise assessment techniques, the use of focused approaches to teaching and learning, the impact of increasingly sophisticated technology or young people’s growing awareness of the need for strong qualifications in an increasingly competitive world.”