Principal's Report 2015-16

Presented at the Annual Prize Distribution in the Orangefield Presbyterian Church on Wednesday 12 October 2016

Mr McVeigh, Mr Robinson, Governors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen and our pupils, I am delighted to present my second Annual Report. 

I thank Mr McVeigh for his kind introduction and welcome all of you today to this most important occasion for Grosvenor Grammar School.  A warm welcome in particular to our Guest Speaker and past pupil of Grosvenor Grammar, Mr Robinson and I know that the Chairman will outline Mr Robinson’s remarkable achievements to date. Mr Robinson, you are most welcome and thank you for agreeing to distribute our prizes.

As Mr McVeigh mentioned in his report, the venue of Orangefield Presbyterian Church is at the heart of our local community and I thank Mr Irvine and the Session of the church for kindly agreeing to host the event once again.  I also wish to thank Mrs McLaughlin and Mrs Fox for the huge effort that goes into arranging Prize Distribution. 

Amongst our guests I would also like to extend a warm welcome to former Principal Mr Lockett and likewise a very warm welcome to Mr and Mrs Jack.  Many of our former colleagues join us today to celebrate our annual Prize Distribution and I welcome all of you on behalf of the Grosvenor family.

 Last year we said goodbye to a number of our colleagues, some of whom have been teaching at Grosvenor for many years.  Mr Wilson, Vice Principal, Mrs Elliott, teacher of Home Economics, Mrs Auld, Head of Science, Mr Wardil, Head of Religious Studies, Mr McCallan, Head of Sports Science, Mr McDevitt, teacher of Mathematics and Mr Zhu, teacher of Mandarin.  I thank them on behalf of our school community for their many years of service and I am delighted that both Mrs Auld and Mrs Elliott are able to join us today.  We are also very sad to say goodbye to three of our longstanding members of the Board of Governors:  Mr Stephen Thomson, Mrs Cathy Matthews and Mr Reg Magowan, MBE.  On behalf of Grosvenor Grammar, I wish to thank all 3 Governors for their many years of loyal service to the school.  We also welcome Mr Colin Pidgeon as our new parent Governor.

Although it is always sad to say goodbye to colleagues, we welcome the new members of staff who have joined us this year.  Mrs Kirk has joined us in a permanent capacity as Teacher of Girls PE and Health and Social Care and Mrs Lander was appointed as a full-time teacher of Politics and English.  Dr Stevenson has taken on the permanent role of teacher of Mathematics, Further Mathematics and ICT.  Mrs McCabe has joined us as a teacher of Economics, Business Studies and Mathematics and Mr Smith will join us as our new Head of Religious Studies after half term.  In a temporary capacity Miss Irvine joined the school as Teacher of French and Spanish; Mr Greeves as teacher of Biology; Mrs Simpson as teacher of Technology and Design; Mr Newell as teacher of German and French; Mr McComiskey as teacher of Religious Studies; Ms McKeown as teacher of Home Economics, Miss Chen and Mr Sun as teachers of Mandarin and Mrs McLean as Senior School Study supervisor. 

I welcome them all to the Grosvenor team and I know already that each new member of staff is playing a very active and significant role in maintaining the high standards set by all colleagues.

 A number of internal promotions were made during the last academic year.  In a temporary capacity, Mrs Fox was appointed Vice Principal and Mr Gibson was appointed Teacher in charge of Boys Physical Education.  Mrs Reid was appointed Head of Biology and Mr Watts was appointed Head of Year.  Mrs Lander has been appointed Shared Education Coordinator to help run the programme with our partner schools Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock and Lagan College.  I would like to take this opportunity to add my own welcome to Mr Mullan, Principal of Our Lady and St Patrick’s College and his Head Boy and Head Girl attending today. 

Amongst the many achievements of our staff I congratulate Miss Foster, Mrs Watt and Mr Arnold on achieving the Postgraduate Certificate in Middle Leadership and Mrs Fox who has obtained the Professional Qualification of Headship.  Miss Henning has consolidated her considerable talent by achieving a BTEC Level 5 HND Diploma in Photography (with distinction) and congratulations to Mr Sweeney on achieving his Diploma in Computing. 

Turning now to academic results, I wish to pay tribute to the hard work of pupils, staff and parents, as our pupils continue to achieve highly in external examinations. 

GCSE results saw 97.5% of pupils achieving 7 A* - C grades, approximately 4% higher than last year’s NI Grammar School average, and 95.6% of pupils achieving 7 A* - C grades including English and Mathematics, more than 3% higher than the NI Grammar School average last year. A remarkable 42 pupils achieved 9 A*-A grades or better.  At AS Level, 25 pupils attained 3 A grades or better, and at A Level 24 pupils achieved 3 or more A grades or better.  With 71.1% of pupils obtaining 3 grades A*-C or better, the vast majority of pupils secured the university place of their choice.

Susannah Ashfield and Ryan Simpson each attained 4 A* grades at A level and congratulations to our 3 students who were successful at obtaining places in Oxford and Cambridge Universities: Susannah Ashfield, Ryan Simpson and Medani Elshibly. 

I am delighted to report that the following pupils were placed as top candidates in the CCEA GCSE and A Level examinations in the summer of 2016.  Abbey Walker finished third in Northern Ireland in GCE Sports Science with the help of her teacher Mr McCallan and Susannah Ashfield also finished third in GCE Biology with the help of Mrs Auld.  Eva Wardlow finished joint first in Northern Ireland in GCSE Music with the help of her teacher Mr Arnold;  Claire Sullivan finished first in GCSE English Literature with the help of Miss Knox, joint first in GCSE Biology with the help of Mrs Reid, second in GCSE Chemistry with the help of Dr Elliott and joint third in GCSE Physics with the help of Miss Harte.  Given that Claire also came first in the GCSE Learning for Life and Work examination last year, I think she more than deserves a special mention today.  This list of successes is a wonderful achievement for our pupils, but likewise testament to the professionalism and dedication of our teachers.  We are grateful also to the parents of our pupils who support the school and I know how proud you must be today.

Outside the classroom, pupils continued to participate with fantastic enthusiasm in the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer in Grosvenor Grammar. 

School trips are always a vital element in our extra-curricular provision and although I cannot list all of the trips and excursions from last year, I want to begin by saying a heartfelt thank you to the staff who give up so much of their own time to organise and take part in these trips.  I would also like to thank our pupils for their good behaviour in representing the School wherever they travel.  The Residential experience offered in Year 8 is mentioned frequently by our pupils as one of their lasting memories.  Miss McDowell, as Head of Year 8, works tirelessly to organise the 6 separate trips in September for around 160 pupils which is no easy undertaking.  In February pupils enjoyed the fantastic opportunity to travel to America for the ski trip and pupils in the History department enjoyed a trip to Washington in June.  The Rugby and Hockey Tour of South Africa in the summer of 2016 was without doubt one of our most ambitious and exciting undertakings to date.  I wish to thank Mr Gibson and Mr Hunter in particular for their superb commitment to making this tour so successful, not just on the rugby and hockey pitches, but in the life experience that this provided for all involved.

During the year the competitive spirit of our pupils shone through by their participation and success in a number of competitions.  Congratulations to Emily Gregg who attained first place in the Belfast East Rotary Club Young Writer Competition.  Emily submitted her entry whilst still a pupil at Braniel Primary School and we were delighted when she received her award in September.  In Technology and Design, congratulations to four of our pupils who received Creativity in Engineering, Science and Technology Awards:  David Dugan, Knox Wilson, Craig Ennis and Lewis Smyth.  Lewis Smyth was also presented with the Sentinus Engineering Futures Award; Craig Ennis received the FM Environment Award, Knox Wilson was runner-up in the Northern Ireland Young Engineers for Britain category and David Dugan  was named as winner of the Sentinus Young Innovator’s Award and will represent Northern Ireland at the 2017 National ‘Big Bang’ Competition in Birmingham.  Gareth Reid was the overall winner of the INTEL Award for Sentinus Young Innovators, alongside his teacher Mr Taggart who won the Teacher of Excellence Award in the same category.  Both Mr Taggart and Gareth will travel to Los Angeles in May 2017 to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  We wish Gareth and our younger pupils continued success and congratulations, and thank you to Mr Taggart who continues to build upon his pupils’ superb record of achievements in the Technology and Design Department.

In the Media Studies Department, our pupils enjoyed some spectacular events with the help of their teacher Miss Knox.  Two of our pupils were selected to appear on the red carpet at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, held in Belfast.  The pupils were mentored by BBC News presenter Mark Simpson and they had the opportunity to photograph and interview a number of athletes and TV personalities, including Eamon Holmes, Paula Radcliffe, Colin Murray, Graham McDowell, Denise Lewis and Greg Rutherford, to name but a few.  Pupils in Junior School also took part in a workshop hosted in Grosvenor by the BBC.  A number of pupils also took part in the BBC School News Report Day in March where they wrote articles on a range of issues, from Brexit to the use of technology in school.  Our pupils received excellent feedback for their imagination and determination to tackle some very difficult issues.

Congratulations to Grosvenor’s Senior Mathematics team which for a second year running achieved first place in the highly prestigious Queen’s University Mathematics Challenge Competition, held in December.  The team, comprising of Susannah Ashfield, Hannah Simpson, Ryan Simpson and Lewis Francey, defeated around twenty opposing teams from competing Grammar Schools with the assistance of their teacher Dr Stevenson. 

Individual success within the Music Department saw so many of our pupils achieve the highest levels of recognition.  Thomas Parke was selected for the Ulster Youth Choir and James Morrison, Chloe Hunter-Rea, Ashlyn Spence and Amy McMillan were selected for the Ulster Youth Training Choir.  There were many other individual, noteworthy achievements from pupils who performed at such venues as the Opera House, the SSE Arena and Waterfront Hall.

The Music Department provided a superb range of events for the benefit of the whole school community throughout the year. Pupils participated in Junior, Senior and Chamber Choirs, Orchestra, Jazz Band, Brass Group, String Group, Flute Group, Guitar Club and the String Quartet. The Annual Carol Service at St Anne’s Cathedral was a wonderful family event and was the highlight of a busy festive period for our Music Department.  In March our Spring Concert was compered by Year 14 pupils Ryan Simpson and Chris Allen.  The musical evening serves as a perfect showcase for the considerable array of musical talent present within the School and over one hundred pupils from some thirteen acts performed.  Special thanks again should be given to Miss Foster and Mr Arnold, without whom such vibrant and entertaining performances would not be possible.

In Drama we enjoyed a spectacular year of performances which included the wonderful production of Bugsy Malone in March under the superb leadership of Director Mrs Young and Musical Director Mr Arnold.  This year’s cast and crew were comprised of over one hundred and twenty pupils in Year 8 to Year 14.  The production saw a number of acclaimed performances by lead actors Jonathan Brown, Georgia Galway, Reuben Browne, Courteney White, Anna Smith and Thomas Parke.  In addition, the audience was dazzled by the fantastic chorus and collection of dancers, as well as an extremely talented band of musicians.  Congratulations to everybody involved in Grosvenor’s production of ‘Bugsy Malone’ who helped to make the show such an overwhelming success, as it truly was a team effort involving the whole school.

Last year we celebrated a number of sporting successes and all pupils involved deserve credit for their hard work and commitment.  Grosvenor’s rugby teams continue to make significant progress and this was celebrated in March when over one hundred pupils from Year 9 to Year 14 attended their annual Rugby Awards Dinner.  The Awards Dinner came at the end of a season in which the School’s First XV performed superbly to reach the final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools Bowl competition, unfortunately losing out to Portora Royal.  Our thanks go to all of our coaches who worked tirelessly all season to support our teams: Mr Gibson, Mr Hunter, Mr McCallan, Mr White, Mr Lendrum and Mr Maclaine, along with our many assistant coaches without whom we could not continue to operate.  Already this year we owe a great debt of gratitude to those members of staff who have offered to give up their own time to help our extra-curricular programme to continue.

Both the girls and boys hockey teams continue to develop and congratulations to Grosvenor’s female hockey players Lily McCullough and Claire McKane who were selected for the Under 17 and Under 15 Belfast School squads respectively, competing in the Northern Ireland Schools Tournament in April.  Thank you to the coaches involved in girls hockey last year: Mrs McIlvenny, Mrs Hunter, Mrs Kirk, Miss Knox and Mrs Rankin.  In boys hockey, Andrew Hagen, Matthew Vincent and Conor Harrison were selected onto the Ulster Under 15 Talent Development Programme.  Well done to the boys and also to Grosvenor coaches Mr Young and Mr Brittain, without whose own dedication and commitment the boys would not have progressed so far already during their time at school.

In tennis, congratulations to our Intermediate Girls Tennis Team comprising of Olivia Lockhart, Jessica Sayer, Rachel Gallagher, Hannah Murphy and Kirsten McBride who won the Ulster Schools Intermediate Plate held in June, with a convincing win over Down High in the final.  Our thanks go to their coach Mrs McIlvenny whose coaching and expertise ensured that the team remained focused throughout the tournament.  

In girls rugby Bethany McDowell was selected for the Ulster Under 18 Squad and we wish her continued success this year.

Last year saw unprecedented success in football at both a team level and on an individual level for Grosvenor pupils.  Our Under 18 Football Team won the Northern Ireland Schools Cup, defeating Ballyclare High School in a tense and closely fought final.  Congratulations to the whole team who earned the respect of the entire school.  Sincere thanks and congratulations go to their coaches Mr Tomkins, Mr Kernohan and Mr Winters.  Individual congratulations go to Megan Bell and Scott Pengelly who have been selected to represent Northern Ireland at Under 17 and Under 16 level respectively.  Callum Byers is now playing for Ards Football Club and we wish Callum all the very best for the future. 

Turning to Cricket, congratulations to elite Grosvenor cricketers Stuart Nelson and Jos McConkey, each of whom were selected to represent the Northern Cricket Union’s Under 17 XI in the team’s victorious interprovincial series, held in the greater Dublin Area during July.  I would also like to give special mention to the First XI Team who reached the semi-final of the Schools Cup, losing out to Inst.  Our thanks go to Mr McCallan, Mr White, Mr Lendrum and Mr Young for their leadership last year in coaching the boys.

In Athletics we also enjoyed a huge amount of success once again.  Dylan McBride was placed first in the Mini Boys category at the Ulster Schools Cross Country Championships in February, finishing six seconds ahead of his nearest rival. 

Following the highly successful Track and Field County Down District Championships, our pupils went on to perform superbly at the Ulster Schools Athletics Championships in May.  Sarah McCreery attained victory in the Mini Girls High Jump, winning the event with an impressive margin of 8 centimetres over her nearest rival.  Robbie Dugan and Dylan McBride secured silver medals in the Mini Boys Long Jump and 800 metres respectively.  Nathan Chan came second in the Inter Boys Triple High Jump and Lois Hagen was placed second in the Senior Girls 400 metres.  Bronze medals were achieved by Joshua Patterson in the Minor Boys Shot and by Andrew Hagen in the Junior Boys 1500 metres.  The Senior Boys 4 by 100 metres relay team, comprising Ben Stevenson, Andrew Proctor, Chris Allen and Adam Wilson ran impressively to secure bronze, a feat matched by the Junior Girls Team of Abigail Magill, Victoria Lloyd, Anabelle Fallows and Caylan Blake. 

Congratulations to our 4 pupils who represented our school with distinction at the All Ireland Schools Athletics Championships in June:  Nathan Chan, Lois Hagen, Andrew Hagen and Joshua Patterson. 

Our young Athletics hopefuls came to the fore in the Year 8 Ulster Team Track and Field Championships held at the Antrim Forum in June.  The Girls Team achieved third place overall, thanks to impressive performances from Sarah McCreery, Jenna Breen, Leah Scates, Grace Harrison, Dara McCracken, Neve Armstrong and Grace McKimm.  The boys also performed extremely well to claim second place overall, with Dylan McBride once again securing gold in the 800 metres.  Other excellent performances came from Robbie Dugan, Matthew Lusty, Adam Davidson, Shane Laverty, Robbie Lemon and Ben Johnston.  Congratulations to all of our athletes who represented the school so well in such highly competitive environments and a sincere thank you to their coaches Mr Gibson, Mrs Kirk and Mrs McIlvenny for what was a highly successful season.

In Netball, congratulations to Amy Grant and Anna Ferris who were selected as members of the Under 13 Belfast Regional Development Team and well done to Lisa Purdy and Hannah James who were selected for the Under 15 Regional Development Team.  Our Junior A netball team had notable success, reaching the final of the Belfast League for the second year running, only to lose out against Rathmore Grammar.  The teams had an excellent season last year and thanks go to their coaches Mrs McIlvenny, Mrs Kirk and Miss Lavery.

Fencing continues to enjoy success at Grosvenor and our pupils excelled in a number of competitions throughout the year.  In the Sainsbury’s School Games Gareth Reid and Luke Wallace were selected to participate in the Mens Foil Category, performing superbly to help Northern Ireland to a bronze medal in the team event.  Samuel Gourley, who was in Year 14 at the time of his selection, was a member of the mens Epee Team which also won a bronze medal in the School Games.  Many other individual successes in fencing are to be commended. 

Other individual achievements include Aaron Christie whose ice-skating successes to date continue to show such promise.  To give only one example, Aaron travelled to the Deeside IGS Open Competition in June and finished in second place, narrowly missing first place and was the highest placed skater from Northern Ireland.  Anna Shaw is a highly talented horse-rider and travelled oversees last year on numerous occasions to represent Northern Ireland.  Amongst many other competition wins, Anna was placed 4th overall in the individual category in the European and World Championships.  In swimming, Victoria Catterson and Aston Edmond competed in the winning Ulster Schools Squad at the Irish Schools Interprovincial Gala in May, winning a total of six medals between them.

In table tennis congratulations also to our elite junior school players who continue at the top of their field at both provincial and national level.  Of the fifteen pupils entered into the Ulster Schools Individual Championships, Lucy Johnston won the Under 12 Girls Competition, Lucy Craig won at Under 14 level, Emma Kee won the Under 16 category and James Magrath came third in the boys Under 16 competition.  Our junior pupils have enjoyed a number of notable wins in competitions and they continue to rise up the ranks.  Thank you to Mrs Peel for all of her hard work and encouragement of the pupils.

In my report last year I paid tribute to the generosity of spirit which saw Grosvenor Grammar raise almost twelve thousand pounds for charity.  However, in the 2015-2016 academic year we surpassed all expectations by raising an incredible £16,351.  The School’s Charity Committee worked extremely hard, directed by our superb Charity Coordinator Ms Gray.  Special mention should perhaps go to events such as the Colour Dash and the Cycle to South Africa, organised by Year 14 pupils as part of their Sports Science A level coursework.  Mrs Browne also ran the annual Habitat for Humanity programme, raising almost £1500 via this initiative alone.  The coffee morning and other associated events organised and run by our hockey girls with the help of Mrs McIlvenny also raised an amazing total of £1020.  Well done to all of the pupils, staff and parents who have donated so generously throughout the year and especially Mr Smyth’s Form Class in Year 9 who raised the highest amount of any Form Class in the school.

Time precludes me from mentioning any more of the many activities and events that took place during the year, and I would encourage you to visit the school website and read the school magazine, due to be published next week, for further details of pupils’ successes.

Our pupils’ participation and success in all of our academic and extra-curricular endeavours are only possible because of the commitment of my colleagues.  I would like to thank each and every staff member in Grosvenor for the help and support that they provide to enable the pupils to succeed in life.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for the support that they provide to me as their Principal.  Deserving of special mention is my Senior Leadership Team:  Dr Rolleston, Mrs Fox, Miss Hyndman and Mrs McLaughlin.  I thank them for their help, their expertise and their enthusiasm as we embark on this new academic year.

I also thank you as parents for your invaluable help and for your continued support of Grosvenor.  I thank our Parents Association, Friends of Grosvenor, for their wonderful fundraising efforts and for their commitment to the Grosvenor community.  I would encourage other parents to join Friends of Grosvenor and help us to secure a strong bond in support of our pupils.  The attendance of parents at all school events, including Saturday morning sports fixtures, is invaluable and I know that our pupils, staff and Governors appreciate your support.

I thank Mr McVeigh, our Chairman for his patience, his time commitment and unstinting support and I thank our Board of Governors whose expertise provides such guidance in challenging times in education.

It is my privilege to conclude my second Principal’s Report and to say congratulations to our pupils and staff today, as we celebrate all that is wonderful in the Grosvenor community.

Thank you.

Dr F Vasey – Principal                           October 2016