Principal's Report 2014-15

Presented at the Annual Prize Distribution in the Orangefield Presbyterian Church on Wednesday 14 October 2015

Mr McVeigh, Mr Nodder, Miss Rainey, Governors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen and our pupils, I am delighted to present my first Annual Report. 

I thank Mr McVeigh for his kind words and welcome all of you today to this most important occasion for Grosvenor Grammar School.  A warm welcome in particular to our Guest Speaker, Mr Nodder and I know that the Chairman will outline Mr Nodder’s many professional achievements and his inspirational leadership at the centre of the Northern Ireland and global business community. Mr Nodder, you are most welcome and thank you for agreeing to distribute our prizes.

As Mr McVeigh mentioned in his report, the change of venue to Orangefield Presbyterian Church enables us to celebrate success within 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 immense effort that goes into arranging Prize Distribution.

Amongst our guests we welcome back Mr McLoughlin who has taken time out from his busy schedule in his new role as Principal of Banbridge Academy to be with us.  Congratulations to Mr McLoughlin on his marriage to Jennifer and I wish Mr and Mrs McLoughlin success and happiness in their new life together.

Best wishes to Mr and Mrs Lockett and welcome also to Mr and Mrs Jack who never fail to support the school on occasions such as these.  Indeed, it is to my mind an indication of the strength of the Grosvenor ethos and community that so many of our former colleagues join us to celebrate the ongoing success of our wonderful school and it is a privilege for me as Principal to welcome you of behalf of the Grosvenor family.

Last year we said goodbye to Miss Pat McCormick who has been a teacher of Art and Design at Grosvenor Grammar School for 36 years.  When I announced in final assembly last year that Miss McCormick was retiring, the look of astonishment and dismay on the pupils’ faces was clearly evident.  Miss McCormick, we will miss your good humour, your kindness and your expertise at Grosvenor Grammar School.

We have also said goodbye very recently to Mrs Gillian Burns, teacher of French and Spanish. Although it was a difficult choice for Mrs Burns, I know that she will enjoy being able to spend more time with her young family and on behalf of the Modern Languages Department, I thank her for the invaluable contribution she has made.

We also said goodbye to our ICT Technician Mr James McCormick and our Home Economics Technician, Mrs Rosemary Tweedie.  Both colleagues played such a vital role in the day-to-day running of the school and did so with an ability to make nothing seem like too much trouble.

Mrs Waterworth has joined us in a permanent capacity as Teacher of Chemistry and in a temporary capacity Miss Jo-Anne Wilson joined the school as Teacher of PE; Miss McParland as teacher of Spanish; Mrs Rebecca Simpson as teacher of Technology and Design; Mrs McWilliams as Assistant Librarian; Mrs McLean as Home Economics Technician; Mr Sweeney as ICT Technician and Miss Davidson as Clerical Assistant.

I welcome them all to Grosvenor Grammar School and I know already that each individual has assumed their role with much enthusiasm and commitment.

A number of internal promotions were made during the last academic year.  In a permanent capacity, Mrs Fox was appointed Senior Teacher, Mrs Watt was appointed Head of Physics and Mrs McLelland was appointed Assistant Examinations Officer.  In a temporary capacity Miss Hyndman has been appointed as Vice Principal, Mr Young as Senior Teacher and Mr White as Head of Year.

Amongst the many individual achievements of our staff I congratulate Mrs Caulfield on achieving the Professional Qualification of Headship and Mrs Auld who has received a British Science Association CREST teacher recognition award. 

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 94.8% of pupils achieving 7 A* - C grades, approximately 2% higher than last year’s NI Grammar School average, and 94.2% 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 38 pupils achieved 8 A*-A grades or better.  At AS Level, 15 pupils attained 4 A grades or better, and at A Level 24 pupils achieved 3 or more A grades or better.  With 72.3% of pupils obtaining 3 grades A*-C or better, the vast majority of pupils secured the university place of their choice.

Chris Purdy, Paul Pruzina, Daniel Beattie and David Thompson each attained at least 4 A* grades and congratulations to our 4 students who were successful at obtaining places in Oxford and Cambridge Universities: Daniel Mayhew, Zoe Harrison, David Thompson and Paul Pruzina.  At AS level, Ryan Simpson achieved an impressive 5 A grades.

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 2015.  Claire Sullivan finished first in Northern Ireland in GCSE Learning for Life and Work with the help of her teacher Mr White;  Ethan Kee finished second in GCSE Physics with the help of Mrs Watt; Michael Culbert finished second in GCSE Biology with the help of Mrs Auld.  At A level Matthew Carson finished third in Spanish with the help of Mrs Salt and David Thompson finished first in Mathematics and joint third in Further Mathematics with the help of his teachers Mrs Erwin, Miss Lavery, Dr Stevenson and Ms Seaton.  This is an incredible achievement for our pupils, but likewise the dedication of all teachers is second to none and we very much value and appreciate the support of parents.

Evie Cullen has been awarded a Merit Scholarship from the University of Stirling in recognition of her exceptional success at A Level.  This is a highly prestigious award and one that is very much deserved.  We wish Evie every success in her future studies and I am sure that Evie will continue to represent her family with distinction.

Outside the classroom, pupils continued to participate with wonderful enthusiasm and success in the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer.  Following a full consultation process with pupils, parents, staff and Governors, this year heralded a major review of our Honours system and we are proud of the superb addition of the Honours Blazer, awarded to those pupils who have reached the pinnacle of success in their chosen activity.  To date we have had 16 recipients of Blazers in the fields of swimming, athletics, cricket, table tennis, football, girls rugby and gymnastics.  Well done to all of our Grosvenor pupils who represent our School with such pride.

In September 2014 the School retained its International School Award and I wish to thank Mrs McLaughlin for the role that she played in securing that award for the School.  Part of that award is attributed to the number and variety of school trips on offer to our pupils.  Our successful German exchange continued with some 20 pupils involved last year with our partner school in Lippstadt.  Pupils participated in two separate educational trips to Krakow in Poland and in February a highly successful ski trip took place in Pinzolo in Italy.  In October the School’s Senior Rugby and Girls Hockey squads embarked on a four-day tour of Scotland, during which they contested fixtures against the Glasgow Academy and Lomond School.  Also in October Grosvenor’s Senior and Junior Girls Hockey and netball players set off for the sunnier climes of Marbella in Spain.  We look forward with immense enthusiasm to the upcoming Rugby and Hockey Tour of South Africa in the summer of 2016 and the fundraising attempts of Mr Gibson and his team have been exceptional to date and will no doubt continue. Without such dedicated staff who are willing to organise and attend trips, our school would be a much poorer educational establishment and I thank our staff for everything that they do in this regard.

During the year the competitive spirit of our pupils shone through by their participation and success in a number of competitions.  In the field of public speaking, congratulations to those pupils who represented Grosvenor with distinction at numerous events.  Special mention should go to Hannah Martin who attained victory in the Northern Ireland final of the 2015 ‘Soroptimist International Public Speaking Competition’ in February.

Well done to Grosvenor’s Senior Mathematics team which achieved first place in the strongly contested Queen’s University Mathematics Challenge Competition held in December.  The team comprising of Christopher Purdy, Paul Pruzina, Ryan Simpson and David Thompson, defeated around thirty opposing teams with the assistance of their teacher Dr Sam Stevenson.  The British Biology Olympiad saw Paul Pruzina become the first pupil in the School’s history to attain a Gold Award, while Daniel Beattie and Emma Wright were both highly commended and Sara Adams, Zara Holmes, Keren Matthews and Courteney Wallace each received commendations.  A number of pupils took part in the Biology Challenge 2015 and amongst the top performers was Sara Myles who was the only pupil within Grosvenor to attain a Gold Award.

In March 2015 Grosvenor became the first post-primary school in Northern Ireland to receive Microsoft ‘Outstanding Centre of Excellence’ status.  We were delighted to receive this national award, which recognises the hard work and commitment of the teaching staff led by Mr Gartland and Miss Henning. 

The success of our Music Department reached new heights this year when our Chamber Choir secured victory in the final of the BBC Radio Ulster School Choir of the Year Competition, held in the Ulster Hall at the end of April.  Grosvenor’s talented choristers, conducted by our Head of Music Miss Foster and accompanied by her colleague Mr Arnold, performed ‘I Can Tell the World’ and ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ before achieving overall victory in the final head-to-head set of performances.

Individual success within the Music Department saw so many of our pupils achieve the highest levels of recognition.  Ryan Simpson was placed runner-up in the prestigious piano competition held as part of the Lagan Festival of Speech, Drama, Music and Art.  This followed Ryan’s previous successes in the European Piano Teachers’ Association competition and confirmed his status as a musician of the highest standard.  Fellow pupil Zoe Harrison was selected as a member of the Ulster Youth Choir and Matthew Hedley, Georgia Galway, Emily Campbell, Jenna McCreedy, Katelin Fiddis, Jonathan Brown, Kendal Patterson and Alex Rees were also selected for the Ulster Youth Training Choir.

The Music Department provided an outstanding 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, String Group, Guitar Club and the String Quartet. The Carol Service was a wonderful family event and the performances were outstanding. In March our annual Musical Evening saw over one hundred pupils from some thirteen acts perform.  Grosvenor’s numerous musical groups are in constant demand throughout the year and the Spring Concert provides a unique opportunity to enjoy all of our talented musicians and choristers performing under one roof.  Special thanks again should be given to Miss Foster and Mr Arnold, without whom such dazzling performances would not be possible.

Drama remains such a vital part of our extra-curricular activities and in March we enjoyed a spectacular performance of Aida under the superb leadership of Director Mrs Young and Musical Director Mr Arnold.  This year’s cast and crew were comprised of over sixty pupils in Forms One to Upper Sixth.  The production saw a number of acclaimed performances by lead actors Matthew Hedley, Jenna McCready, Zara Holmes, Simon Gibson, Jonathan Brown, Stephen Hedley, Courteney White and Ryan Weir.  In addition, the show was brought to life by its fantastic chorus and collection of dancers, as well as an extremely talented band of musicians.

This year we celebrated a number of sporting successes and the range of activities continues to extend, under the exceptional leadership of Mr McCallan.  Sport instils values such as teamwork, commitment, hard work and dedication.  Congratulations and commiserations to the Medallion Rugby squad who narrowly lost out in the final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools Medallion Plate in February.  Despite defeat on the day, the Team deserves much credit for reaching the final of the competition, having defeated what were considered stronger teams along their way.  Our thanks go their senior coach Mr White for his tireless commitment throughout the season.  We congratulate also Ben Davison who has been selected for the Ulster Schools Under 18 Training Squad.

Both the girls and boys hockey  teams continue to develop and congratulations to Grosvenor’s female hockey players Hannah Murphy, Emma McDowell, Lois Hagen and Hannah Blair, each of whom achieved selection to represent the Belfast Regional Team.  In boys hockey, Jed McLelland was selected as a member of Ulster Hockey’s Goalkeeper Talent Development Programme. 

In girls rugby Erin Caughey continued to achieve outstanding success in her field.  Erin was selected to represent Ireland at the European Under 18 Sevens Tournament in September and she captained the Ulster Under 18 Womens Team at the 2014 Interprovincial Championships.  She was also joined in the side by fellow Grosvenor player Bethany McDowell.  Erin received her first Irish cap later in the season and we wish her continued success in her endeavours.

This year saw fantastic success in football at both a team level and on an individual level for Grosvenor pupils.  Our Under 16 Football Team secured their place in the final of the Belfast and District Schools Cup, only to lose narrowly to their opponents.  Sincere thanks go to their coaches Mr Tomkins, Mr Kernohan, Mr Winters and our former colleague Mr Moore.  Individual congratulations go to Grosvenor pupils Callum Byers and Megan Bell.  Callum has been selected to represent Northern Ireland Under 18 schoolboys and Megan’s achievements include her being selected as a member of the IFA’s elite Girls Football Regional Excellence Squad.

Turning to Cricket, Stuart Nelson was selected for the Ulster Schools Under 18 Tour of Scotland and North- East England and he was also selected alongside Craig Irvine and Peter McCreery to participate in the NCU Emerging Players Tour to South Africa.  Grosvenor’s connection to the NCU is increased by the involvement of former pupil Scott Irvine who now has a major role in coaching the squad.  Our thanks go to Mr McCallan, Mr White, Mr Lendrum and Mr Young for their leadership in coaching the boys.

In Athletics we also saw unprecedented success.  Lois Hagen was placed first in the County Down District Cross Country Championships in February.  Andrew Proctor and Nathan Chan have both been selected for the Ulster Schools Team, Andrew in the 400 metres event and Nathan in triple jump.  The Junior Boys 4 by 100 metres relay team comprising of Fynn Bailie, Charlie McMullan, Ryan Downes and Ben Gilmore are the current Ulster Champions and Irish Silver Medallists.  The Intermediate Boys Team of Nathan Chan, Ben Stevenson, Andrew Proctor and Johnny Little are also Ulster Champions and again became Irish Silver Medallists.  In the Ulster Schools 4 by 100 metres event, the team of Gareth Thompson, Adam Wilson, Zac McNab and Gareth Lammey were silver medal winners.  The Senior Girls Team of Nicole Muirhead, Lucy Armstrong, Lois Hagen and Sophia Campbell were silver medallists in the Ulster Championships and narrowly missed out on a medal in the All Ireland Championships by one hundredth of a second.  James McMaster was awarded a silver medal in the Ulster Schools Junior Boys hammer, Joshua Patterson a silver medal in the Minor Boys Shot Putt event, Ben Gilmore won silver in the junior boys 100 metres and bronze medals were awarded for individual events to Fynn Bailie, Nicole Muirhead, Gareth Thompson, and to the Minor Girls Relay Team of Abigail Magill, Tia Cashman-Hooke, Anabelle Fallows and Caylan Blake.  Congratulations to all of our athletes and coaches Mr Gibson, Mrs Kirk and Mrs McIlvenny for what was a truly spectacular season.

In Netball, Erin Dench was selected to represent Northern Ireland in the Under 17 squad and both Hannah James and Lauren Irvine secured selection to the Under 15 Belfast Area Netball Team and Emma Kee, Emily Young, Ruth Sellar and Katie Russell secured selection to the Under 13 squad.  The teams had an excellent season last year and thanks go to their coaches 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 obtained a silver medal in the Mens Foil Team Category and Samuel Gourley obtained bronze in the Mens Epee Team competition.  Many other individual successes in fencing are to be commended. 

Grosvenor golf pupils also had an excellent season, with the team of Nathan Kirk, Ross Nelson, Glenn McCreery and Matthew Tumilson gaining notable success.  Particular congratulations to Ross Nelson who was the winner of the Boyd Cup.

Other individual achievements include Alistair McCreery and Tom Purdon who have enjoyed fantastic success in canoeing and yachting respectively.  Paul Pruzina was selected to represent both Ireland and Northern Ireland in various Orienteering Championships across the United Kingdom and Europe and Melissa McDevitt has become outstanding in the field of shooting, as one of the few Grosvenor pupils to participate in such a challenging sport.  Likewise, Aaron Christie excels in the field of ice skating. In swimming Hannah James has been crowned the Ulster Schools Butterfly Champion.  In gymnastics, Sarah Beck represented Ireland at the World Gymnastics Championships in China last October, during which competition she became the first Irish competitor to have a gymnastics move named and approved after them.

In table tennis congratulations also to 3 of Grosvenor’s elite junior school table tennis players who are currently ranked number one in Ulster in their respective age categories.  James Magrath, Emma Kee and Lucy Craig had a number of notable wins in competitions such as the Connaught and the Fermanagh Junior Opens.  Lucy Johnston is a name to look out for in the future, as she now lies third on the Ulster Under 13 rankings list.  Not to be forgotten is Irish National Senior Table Tennis champion Emma Ludlow who was chosen to represent Northern Ireland at last year’s Commonwealth Games and has clearly inspired her younger Grosvenor colleagues through her many achievements over recent years.  Thank you to Mrs Peel for all of her hard work and encouragement of the pupils.

As a final and very important note regarding the extra-curricular activities of our pupils, I wish to pay tribute to the generosity of spirit which saw Grosvenor Grammar raise an incredible £11,796.26 for charity throughout the academic year.  Driven by the endeavours of the School’s Charity Committee and directed by our dynamic Charity Coordinator Ms Gray, the pupils raised this incredible total following a number of initiatives.  Well done to all of the pupils who have donated so generously throughout the year and especially last year’s Form Four who contributed £1272 alone, led by 4E which, motivated by Mrs Kirk, raised the highest amount of any class in the school, narrowly defeating Ms Gray’s own 3G.  This year the challenge continues and our target is to raise £12,000.

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 this week, for further details of pupils’ successes.

The dedication and commitment of the Grosvenor Grammar School staff are at the centre of our pupils’ participation and success in all of our academic and extra-curricular endeavours.  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 achieve their best.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their kindness and their hard work in my first year as their new Principal.  Deserving of special mention is my Senior Leadership Team:  Dr Rolleston, Mr Wilson, Miss Hyndman, Mrs McLaughlin, Mrs Fox, Mr Taggart and Mr Young.  I thank them for their support, their expertise and their friendship as we take Grosvenor into a new chapter in its proud history.

I also thank you as parents for your invaluable help and for the welcome you have offered me and your continued support of Grosvenor.  The increased numbers of parents now attending our Saturday morning sports fixtures is a testament to your commitment to work with us to ensure that our young people feel supported by the entire Grosvenor community and family.

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

To conclude, the 3 values of Relationships, Respect and Responsibility underpin all that we do in Grosvenor and I have every confidence that our pupils have the skills, the character and the attitude to achieve their ambitions in life.  It is my privilege to stand before our pupils today and say congratulations to all as I conclude my first Principal’s report.

Thank you

Dr F Vasey – Principal                           October 2015