HOLY Trinity Church on the Lurgan Road was the venue for Banbridge Academy’s 2012 prize day.
David Simpson MP was in attendance along with Jo-Anne Dobson, local MLA, and Council Chairman, Junior McCrum, while Guest of Honour was Mr Gavin Boyd, who has been appointed Chief Executive (Designate) of the Education and Skills Authority to lead the reform of Education Administration.
Mr Pollock opened by remembering those connected to the school who had passed away in the past year, namely former vice-principal James McConkey and Eileen Bambrick.
He said that the school had undergone an inspection earlier in the year, adding, “Nine inspectors and 110 lessons later we emerged, affirmed in our practice and with the areas we had our selves identified for improvement and with a positive commendation. More importantly no follow up visit.
“In the areas inspected, the report concluded, the quality of education provided by Banbridge Academy is very good. The school is meeting very effectively the educational and pastoral needs of the pupils and has demonstrated its capacity for sustained self improvement.” For History and Modern Languages the ratings were Good and very Good respectively and for English there was the coveted commendation of outstanding.
“Let me pay tribute to all my colleagues but especially in those three departments for an inspection is draining and demanding process.”
The school had once again impressive results at GCSE and A level. Of the 182 pupils who sat GCSEs almost 60% resulted in top grades A* or A.
“Over 96% secured seven GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths and hidden in those statistics are some truly impressive performances like Laura Cowan, Becky Maxwell, Callum Sloan and Anna Sturgeon who each got 10 A*s and a further 14 pupils got a mixture of A* or A grades in all 10 subjects they sat,” he added.
“Lauren Forsythe was placed third in CCEA English Language, Victoria Cockcroft was joint third in French, Sarah Troughton was joint third in Additonal Maths and Hannah Ruddock was first in CCEA Home Economics, securing for her and her teacher, Mrs Francey an invitation to the Royal College of Physicians London in November to receive the British Nutritional Foundation GCSE Prize for students this region.
“Our pupils sit short course in GCSE RE and ICT exams at the end of year 11, and Sarah Graham, Radhika Gupta, Zoe Harvey and Jonathan Warnock shared joint third in CCEA Short Course RE while in Short Course ICT Glenn Weir and Helen McCready were placed joint third, Jenna McDowell was second and Emma Martin came out on top in first place.
“One impressive result worthy of special mention must be that of Michael Young who obtained an A* in Maths while still only in Year 10 - watch this space next year!”
Moving on to the school’s Sixth Years he said, “183 pupils took A-level examinations and 48 students, that’s over a quarter, obtained A* or As in each examination they sat and for Benjamin McElderry there were four A*s.
“Forty-five percent of all entries secured an A* or A and if you broaden that to include Grade Bs the figure getting either A*. A or B sits at 75%. Three quarters of all grades scored at A-level.
“And Grades like these once again ensured that our young people confidently took that next step into Higher Education at home across the water, down South and for last years’s Head Girl, Kerri McDonald, to the USA. Kane Hunter secured a place in Girton College Cambridge Deferred for one year while he works for the Ministry of Defence….but I can’t tell you where! After a rigorous selection process Paula Murnin and Andrew Daly secured coveted places on the PWC School Leavers programme for Tax Technicians.
“At A-Level in Art and Design Shelley Cochrane, Simon McCracken, Philip Spratt and Owen Magee shared joint first in Art and Design in NI and continuing the creative theme last year’s Head Boy Michael Duggan was placed third in Technology and Design. Ensuring that Gavin and I will once again meet up for a photo shoot with CCEA’s top placed candidates.”
Mr Pollock spoke frankly of the cost cutting at the school which saw four teachers and three members of support staff take voluntary redundancy. “To have to make such savings in our budget inevitably means that the burden must be shouldered by the remaining staff as we strive to maintain high standards,” he said.
“That inevitably will take its toll and at a time when so many gifted and talented young people are leaving our HEI without prospect of employment as teachers, isn’t it time to consider introducing an enlightened programme of restructuring to enable those who have provided committed service for years to leave with suitable enhancement thereby facilitating the employment of new and enthusiastic young staff.”
Moving on Mr Pollock praised Alison Herron turn she also has achieved seven years unbroken attendance at the Abercorn and a further seven years in the Academy.
He spoke of the many extracurricular activites at the school, ranging from origami and crochet to their Young Scientists group.
On the sporting stage the school enjoyed plenty of success. Their young swimmers competed in the Ulster Championships. Att 800m, Patrick McNiff became Ulster Schools’ mini champion, that’s no reflection on Patrick just the name of that class of competition, Jemma Jackson became the Javelin senior champion. Rebekah Nixon was Junior Champion at 800m and Susannah Martin became the Ulster Schools’ Junior Shot Putt Champion. Patrick and Rebekah won Ulster Schools’ mini and minor cross country titles respectively and our Athletics teams won the interschools’ team trophy.
In the arena success was enjoyed by the Equestrian Club with teams being well placed in the Ulster Schools League at Mossvale and the National Schools Championships in Balmoral.
The boys hockey team All Ireland title for the second year in succession, one of the few teams ever to have done so and they crowned a magnificent season by winning the Ulster Schools’ Burney Cup for the third year in a row. The Richardson cup was retained so too was the Ferris Cup. Performances like these, saw the Boys Hockey team being voted Youth Team of the Year in the Banbridge and District Junior Sports Awards. For Owen Magee, Matthew Bell, Ben Cosgrove and Jonny McKee there were representative honours for Ireland with Michael Anderson, Owen Magee and Joshua Mofffett being chosen to play for the Ulster U21s.
Mr Pollock continued, “After a very promising start to their season in which they became the top flight Three Nations Champions, the Girls Hockey team were unfortunate in the schools cup tho’ they did go on to win the Senior Schools Plate.
“Last year’s Head Girl, Kerri McDonald gained honours at both Ulster and Irish Level and was captain of the Ulster Squad. Lucy McKee received the OCS Young Sports Person award of £1500, at a reception in London hosted by Claire Balding.
“The U14 junior team lost only one match throughout the year and won the Junior Schools plate in tense final against FSL
“For the first time in 28 years First XV Rugby boys reached the quarter-final of the Schools Cup, seeing off the challenge of Omagh Academy, Foyle College and Cambridge House along the way and the record books will show that only the might of the eventual winners Methody could halt our winning momentum! Aaron Kennedy and Alexander Thompson each earned Ulster Schools representative honours.
“Mr Cordner successfully led a total of 90 pupils ranging from Year 10–14 to graduate with levels one and two in the ‘Sports Leaders UK’ Awards enabling our young people to identify and develop their coaching talents.”
He continued, “Three companies took part in the Young Enterprise Company Programme - AppDynamix, CashWise and $aveOn. Winning the Southern Region Finals $aveon went on to claim runners up spot for Best Company in the NI Finals held in the Titanic Building in Belfast where Neil Cunningham made it to the finals of the Young Entrpreneur of the Future. “$aveOn presented a cheque of £500 to the Donard Special School in Banbridge helping to fund their trip to Disneyland. It surely won’t come as a surprise to learn that Neil has been co-opted to the finance committee of the Board of Governors.”