Prize Night

By Ballyclare High School on 28 September, 2018

Head boy David McCleary, Mrs Sloan, Chariman of the Board of Governors Dr McMillen, Principal Dr Rainey, Guest of Honour Dr Joe Sloan with Head girl Laura Chestnutt


Prize night

Chairman, special guests, ladies and gentlemen, mums and dads, boys and girls of the school, welcome to our Annual Prize Distribution. I would like also to extend a warmest welcome this evening to our guest of honour, Dr Joe Sloan.

We have already conducted 3 Honours assemblies during the school year to celebrate the sporting and cultural achievements of our pupils. Any one of those could equal this evening in terms of ceremony and quality of accomplishment, such is the extent of their talent and abilities. Names and awards are recorded by our Sports, Games and Cultural Committee so I will not repeat those this evening, simply give you a brief synopsis of the array.

Our School magazine provides a comprehensive dossier of other accolades, events, and rewards for talent and hard work, too numerous to recount in any other way. If you don’t have your copy yet I urge you to get your hands on it. Pupils took time in Life Skills this week to reminisce over the stories and adventures they have enjoyed together with each other and their staff. As always, it’s an exceptional read.

This evening we concentrate on academic excellence. This celebration too can only but scratch the surface of the collection of accomplishments and successes of our pupils. For each individual, success is different. For each, reward and satisfaction and confidence, comes from being the best they can be. Many do great things in the face of adversity and difficulties so let’s remember as we sample some of those successes, that behind every photo, and story, and trophy, is a huge investment by pupils, and also by their teachers.

Beside me on this stage are the people who make it so, much of their effort unrecorded and unrecounted and sometimes taken for granted. I am privileged, and regularly humbled, to work alongside and have the example of, such a talented and dedicated staff who go far beyond their job description, every day, including evenings and weekends, to empower their charges to be the best they can be.

We have a support staff second to none. A community of governors, parents and friends, who are committed to similar ambitions for our young people, are priceless contributors too. All of us are “part of Ballyclare High School”, all integral links and cogs that drive success. We are about developing the whole child, we are about lifelong learning, we are about tolerance and we are about respect. My gratitude and respect extends to all as we unite in a common purpose – we are preparing our pupils for their examinations but just as importantly, we are developing them for the world of work, and life, as fine and upstanding members of our community and society.


A level examination results for the past year were very good indeed. The 3A*/C indicator is up more than 10% on last year and stands at 80%. This figure places us well above the NI grammar school average and in the top 30 schools in the province. The 99.9% pass rate is particularly pleasing.


The proportion of A* grades is over 10%, A*/A grades are well above the provincial figure at 36%. A*/B grades sit at 71% with A*/C at 90%. There is a positive value-added at whole school level.


14 subjects out of 24 recorded 100% A*/C grades. An additional 4, more than 90% A*/C, and overall two thirds have 85% or more of their pupils getting A*-C grades.


Imogen Forbes is our top academic performer with an A* and 4A grades. This is a remarkable achievement and even more remarkable when I tell you a little bit about the other talents she has. Imogen was principal clarinet in the school orchestra, the school band and in the Education Authority band. She is a grade 8 in voice and other music grades in piano and saxophone. As a member of the Senior Choir and Chamber Choir she performed solos. She was a Buddy, a member of the Bar Mock Trial team and perhaps her Exemplary Conduct and Unselfish Service award from the Newtownabbey Rotary Club just sums up the young lady she is. Imogen will be heading off to Durham in a couple of weeks to study Natural Sciences.

2 pupils secured 4A*/A grades. Andrew Currie with his 2A* and 2A grades has started at QUB to study Civil Engineering. Aaron Lowry with 1A* and 3As will read Physics at Queens.


24 pupils left school with 3 or more A*/A grades and represents just under 20% of the cohort.


These results have afforded the overwhelming majority entry into their chosen university course or place of employment. Our warmest congratulations and best wishes go to all our Yr14s from last year, many of whom are here tonight, as they set out on the next chapter in life.


At GCSE in a year when most courses and exams have been overhauled, the level of difficulty raised, and the coursework element removed, we have recorded another set of outstanding results throughout the cohort of 187 pupils. Typically, the proportion of top grades is high and this year they are up on last year’s already pleasing standards with 17% of all grades at A*, 53% A*/A, the highest ever, and 82% A*/B, again the highest ever. 98% of pupils have earned 5A*/C grades, 93% 7A*/C grades. Both indicators include a 100% pass rate for both English and Maths so we would expect the 7A*- C % used to compare grammar schools to sit well above NI average when figures are published.

We are delighted not only with the sustained levels of attainment at the top end but with the 100% pass rate in eight subjects.


Zoe Black, Erin McWilliam and Nicky Jordan were our top students at GCSE with 10A*s and an A apiece. Hot on their heels were Leah Wilson and Faith Thompson with 9A*s and A grades and it hardly seems fair to make a distinction. This is a talented year group both academically and in sporting and cultural pursuits, with a noticeably healthy and respectful support for each other. They are committed to the life of the school. They are enthusiastic, willing and proactively positive. All-in-all the picture so far overall augurs well for A level.


Irrespective of the level of academic attainment, we are very proud of all our pupils and their achievements. Some of them have faced great and varied challenges along the pathway of their study and yet they have worked diligently to overcome adversity to achieve their best, and indeed, the very best.


Ladies and gentlemen, it is very difficult to do justice to the huge amount of excellent work going on in school on a night like this. It’s also difficult to do justice to recognition for all associations and organisations that are part of Ballyclare High School. What is beyond doubt however, is the breadth and depth of the passion and investment by all to ensure the best for each other. Our mission is Lifelong Learning in a Caring Creative Community. That mission statement is the foundation of the values and behaviours we commit to and hold each other accountable for. The very moment a successful team thinks they’ve made it and no further effort is required to sustain what we all enjoy, marks the moment of its demise. As we start out at the beginning of another school year we are focussed again on enhancing the positive and diluting the negative, the adults doing their very best for the children and the children, as always, eager to do their best for us. It is a privilege to work in a place like this.


And my last words go to you boys and girls. Congratulations to you who are with us tonight. When we met together last week I told you how proud we all are of you. You are the champions of academic achievement and you deserve all the praise. May the trophies and awards you receive afford you a little “moment in the sunshine.”

Dr Rainey