Cookstown High School

OUR conviction that, in Cookstown High School, we have a very good school was endorsed by the Department of Education Inspectorate in June. The Department places inspection outcomes in six categories – our ‘very good’ designation places us in the second best category. We now possess, committed to paper by the Inspectorate, the proof of what we have known for a long time, that in the province we can hold our heads high in the world of education.

It must be said that no establishment looks forward to an inspection but I cannot praise highly enough the effort and dedication demonstrated by my colleagues in preparation for that event. Thank you one and all.

The document ‘Every School a Good School’ is the yardstick by which quality education is measured in key areas. By entrusting the education of your children to us, you, as parents, clearly demonstrate a faith in our capacity to provide that best quality education.

Our approach is child-centred – our pupils are our ‘raison d’etre’ and, through a well-conceived pastoral system led by Heads of Year and Form Tutors, we ensure that their needs are paramount.

This afternoon’s celebration is proof positive that high quality teaching and learning occurs within our walls – the skills of our teachers are effective in guiding our pupils to impressive outcomes at all levels.

DENI commended our consultative procedures with all our stakeholders (pupils, parents, staff and governors). We are fortunate to have a dynamic and well-led School Council representing the views of our student-body and we intend to reach out more into our community and to our feeder schools and to encourage that community to become more involved with us.

Before I turn to our academic life and achievements, let me underline for you how fortunate we are, in Mid-Ulster, to enjoy post-primary provision where students enrol with no feeling of either success or failure at the age of 11. There is no transfer test. They simply progress to the next stage of the educational process. We do not recognise an artificial ‘glass ceiling’ – all can achieve with determination, self-belief, good teaching and guidance.

Young people – you are the most important ingredient of our school.

I am pleased to see many of our departing Year 14 with us this afternoon-

I now turn to their A Level examination outcomes:

99% of all grades were passes compared to the Northern Ireland average of 98%. In the second year of the elite A* grade, our pupils achieved 13.2% passes at A*, compared to a NI average of 9.7%. Combining the top 2 grades (A* and A) we again surpass the NI average for all schools with 38.2% here as opposed to 37.6%.

We are particularly pleased with this year’s success, given the imminent changes to university fees. It is surely unfair that students face different tuition fees depending on their choice of university or indeed where they were born within the U.K. Action has now been taken at local Assembly level to clarify fees for those students who have opted to study in Northern Ireland. This clarification will encourage greater numbers to study at home and thus reduce the ‘brain drain’ which has beset our community over the past three decades. However, local universities now face increased pressure on places, given the competition which is inevitable from the freeze in tuition fees.

I pay credit to our young people for failing to be deflected by such financial concerns and for choosing to invest in their future by fulfilling their academic potential and setting themselves exacting personal targets.

Past pupils have excelled at third level. Our congratulations go especially to those who have achieved 1st Class Honours. Apologies if I have omitted anyone.

They are:-

Thomas Carson in Applied Pharmacology;

Jan Crooks in Optometry;

Adele Ferguson in Geography (Adele was also named top student in Geography);

Steven Jeffers in Business Finance and Investment;

Hannah Mitchell in Mathematics and Statistics & Operational Research (Hannah was presented the Allstate Northern Ireland Award for the best MSc project);

Ashley Morgan in Chemistry;

Stacey Thom in Social Policy and Sociology;

Philip Wilkinson in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. (Philip also received the James Hollingworth Memorial Prize for the highest overall mark in Farm Animal Studies at Nottingham University.)

Well done to all our alumni who graduated this summer! We are confident that many of this year’s leavers will be inspired by their achievements.

2011 saw another very successful set of GCSE outcomes.

Once again the school surpassed Northern Ireland averages with 32.7% (a third!) of students achieving A* and A grades while 11% achieved the top A* grades compared to the N.I. average of 9.3%.

Top students are Hannah McCullough and Stephanie McIvor with 9A* and one A grade each.

With a combination of 10A* or A grades were Jordan Armstrong, Hannah Barnes, Daniel Crooks, Katie Dripps, Naomi Elliot, Leanne Ellison, Christie Irwin, Amy McClung and Jill Somerville

and gaining 9A* or As were Hannah Barnes, Ruth Donnelly, Rebecca Freeburn, Jack Gillis, Jake Greaves, Kendal Hunter, Ellen Jameson and Gavin Stewart.

40% of all students taking the following subjects achieved A* or A grades: Chemistry, English Literature, French, Geography, History, ICT, Additional Mathematics, Music and Spanish.

Some of our students study with pupils from other schools at South-West College and the College judged the following the best pupil in these subjects:

Chloe Gibson BTEC Level 3 Certificate in Travel & Tourism

Philip Blackstock Diet & Health

Jonathan McIlwaine Level 3 NVQ in Professional Cookery and Watterson Cup for Student of the Year

Heather Boden Level 3 NVQ in Hospitality Supervision & Leadership

Nathen Watterson Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hospitality Services

Hannah McPartland was also named top student in Hairdressing.

Last year I introduced a young man to you who, as a P6 pupil in Cookstown Primary, had already taken some GCSE Maths modules with us. In P7 Vincent continued to study with Mrs McCrea’s GCSE class and, I’m delighted to report, he has gained an A* grade in GCSE Maths and an A grade (just 5 marks short of an A*) in Additional Maths. This at the age of 11. Vincent has now joined us in Year 8 and will be studying ‘AS’ Maths modules with Lower Sixth this year.

I want to congratulate ALL our young people here today. I have no doubt that those younger pupils, rewarded for junior school achievement, will emulate the successes to which I have just alluded. Learning is a partnership, a joint effort from pupil and teacher, underpinned by parental support. I am proud to say that in CHS our staff go the extra mile, they step around the teacher’s desk and work side by side with our pupils.

We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and adaptable group of professionals.”

Mrs Stratton spoke of the extensive menu of extra-curricular activities offered by the school and highlighted the many successes achieved in areas such as the arts and sport. She recommended the school magazine as an excellent overview of the school’s evolution and encouraged parents and friends to obtain a copy of this publication.

She stated, “Involvement with our pupils beyond the school day is deeply appreciated by the Governors, Senior Leadership Team and parents. To those members of staff who dedicate their time to whatever activity outside the classroom a sincere ‘thank you’ – often those are the best memories young people retain of their schooldays.”

In conclusion Mrs Stratton said “We are a ‘very good’ school where all aspects of our pupils’ education are developed in a supportive environment. My dearest wish is that we all, whatever our role – pupil, parent, staff member, governor – continue to work sensitively, and in partnership, for the best outcomes for all in our community.