MONDAY 18 DECEMBER 2017
You are very welcome to our celebration of our students’ achievements, and the presentation of their GCSE and A level certificates. Of course there are silver and crystal cups and awards behind me, but the real business of this evening is the presentation of the well-deserved and hard-won examination certificates to every single student.
This has been a year of outstanding achievement. Aidan Hawkins will receive the certificates for his A levels this evening at grade A* across the board. It is extremely gratifying that his outstanding achievement has been so widely recognised beyond as well as within the school. All in one week, Aidan achieved the following: he was in Limerick being presented with one of only two JP McManus Scholarship Awards in Co. Down; he returned to notification that he has also won the Dr James Martin Scholarship to Queen’s University, worth £40,000 over the four years of his degree in mechanical engineering; to top it all, just in case you imagine he is a one trick (albeit very academic) pony, he was awarded Shimna Wheelers Junior Cyclist of the Year for his prowess in Enduro mountain biking. We are immensely proud of him. One of the great pleasures of Presentation Evening is that we get to share the successes of our students who have moved on. Last year Shannon Connor headed off to CAFRE in Enniskillen, and ended the year top student in Equine Studies. Across the board, we have been delighted with our academic results, with students heading off to Queen’s University, to Ulster University, to universities in England, Scotland and Wales and in Dublin. We have also been delighted to see a growing number of students win places on higher apprenticeship courses, for example with Kainos and with Norbrook Laboratories, where they will study for their degree while gaining invaluable work experience at the same time.
Record numbers of our GCSE students are back with us studying for A level, achieving success as they go: Sé won himself a place at the prestigious University College London summer school in English literature, our moving image arts students won themselves places on the British Film Institute Academy programme, in sport our students brought back a haul of Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in track and field events at Down Schools, Ulster Schools and All Ireland level. Our netball team ended the year as Integrated Schools champions.
Day to day commitment is also a hallmark of our student body. Record numbers have qualified through the Listening Ear scheme, giving time after school to follow the programme, and giving their time in school to support each other and younger students. Our community partnerships continue to grow, and this year five of our students have given their time every week as volunteers with Shimna Stars Special Olympics Basketball Club, and five more volunteer with First Mourne Rainbows and Brownies. We have been delighted to welcome First Mourne Guides to join us, and Shimna Junior Shooters netball club, with increasing numbers of sixth form students playing with Shimna Shooters.
Drama and music have seen particular success this year, with our drama students winning the Carson Award. Our drama students were invited to perform in the Slieve Donard Hotel for the Association of Principals in Integrated Schools and subsequently to perform at the prestigious launch of Big Little Stories, the archive of the history of Integrated Education, which was held in the Ulster Museum. Just last week, over two evenings, our music and drama departments showcased the best of their work. We were delighted to hear from our choir and our chamber choir combined, our wind band, our rock group and our traditional group, interspersed with solo singers and actors and all introduced by our aspiring directors.
I am immensely proud of the academic, sporting, creative and personal achievements of every one of our students. However, what makes me most proud of all is that these achievements have been made together, in an Integrated, all-ability, co-educational, student centred and parent friendly school. We have a specific integrated achievement this year to boast about. Our students won themselves a grant from the Integrated Education Fund to make a film in which our students travelled the country interviewing representatives of many faiths, commitments and philosophies. That film will be premiered very soon. Not only does the film explore the experiences of those many faiths, commitments and philosophies, but it was made by students of many faiths, commitments and philosophies working together, and that’s Integration. I quote our Children’s Commissioner, Koualla Yiasouma, who said that academic selection in Primary 7 is “not in the best interests of all our children”. She went on to call for academic selection to be replaced with an all-ability integrated education system in Northern Ireland. If ever there was proof needed of the success of Integration and all-ability education, it is the group of students who will be presented with the results of their success this evening.
Students as good as ours deserve the very best. As well as looking back at the success of our current and past students, we can look forward with optimism to our future, a future which will see either a total new build school on this site or a total refurbishment and extension of our existing school. This project will be funded by the Department of Education through its Fresh Start scheme. Our feasibility study is currently being examined by the Department and we expect definitive news early in the new year.
We are very, very proud that our OldScholars always keep in touch, and are particularly delighted when OldScholars travel the world, achieve great things and then bring Integration back to Northern Ireland. This year we have had particular success on the medical front. Daisy graduated in veterinary medicine from Cambridge University, and is now back working away in her first post with Downe Veterinary Clinic; Stuart graduated top of his class in dentistry, and he is now in his first post as a dentist in Banbridge; Orla graduated in medicine, worked for several years in the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Gateshead, took six months out to travel the world and she has just returned to a post in the Royal Victory Hospital in Belfast. They bring back with them not only their hard earned skills and expertise but also their integrated high expectations.
I want to thank you all for attending this evening and joining us in congratulating all our past and present students here tonight on their wonderful achievements. I want to thank you also for trusting us with your wonderful children now grown into wonderful young adults. Thank you very much for being here. Enjoy your evening.