St Mary's High School Celebrates Its Successes At Prize Giving


SPEAKING at the prize giving at St Mary’s High School in Downpatick, Principal Mrs Sheila Darling welcomed the many distinguished guests to the platform and congratulated the pupils on another highly successful year at St Mary’s.

The guest speaker for the event was Sister Deirdre Mullan, Director of the Mercy Global Concern at the UN for the last ten years, and on the platform were guests Canon Conway, Canon Rogan, Sister Deirdre, Sister Vianney and members of the Board of Governors.

[caption id="attachment_43953" align="alignleft" width="390"]Recipients of the KS3 Subject Awards at St Mary's High School in Downpatrick. Recipients of the KS3 Subject Awards at St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick.[/caption]

Mrs Darling said St Mary’s High School is a very successful community school scoring well above the national average at all key stages– Key Stage 3, GCSE and at AS/A2. She said:  “This is a special day of celebration where we  recognise the many great achievements of our students, your children.

“A recent school inspection carried out in May 2013 recorded many very positive findings. The inspection report noted: ‘In each of the previous three  years, the proportion of pupils achieving five or more GCSE examinations at grades A*-C including English and Maths has been above the average and the high standards attained at GCSE have been sustained over the last five years. In the same period, the majority of the individual GCSE subjects at grades A*-C have been more that 10% points above the average’.

“We are immensely proud of all our young people. They have worked hard to reach this stage in their educational journey. The staff in St Mary’s have dedicated their time and significant talents to prepare your children for the challenges they faced at the various key stages in their educational journey.

“We have worked in close partnership with you (as parents) and your child to ensure the best results possible. We wanted what you wanted the best for your child and we have delivered.

[caption id="attachment_43954" align="alignright" width="320"]Recipients of the GCSE Subject Awards. Recipients of the GCSE Subject Awards.[/caption]

“Significant progress has been made along the way, not all-smooth sailing I know, but nothing worth having ever comes easy. Life presents many challenges, it’s how we use our intellect to find solutions that will determine how successful we are and in St Mary’s we work hard to turn every challenge into a learning opportunity.

“The journey from first year to fifth year and on to A-Level has been one of discovery, hard work, fun, and friendship. Ladies, the memories from St Mary’s will last a life time.

“St Mary’s have just concluded our fantastically, successful production of Oklahoma. We are indebted to you our students for bringing your many gifts and talents to make this such a successful and memorable event, to our staff who have worked tirelessly to support you in this venture, to your family for their patience and commitment and to the many businesses in our local community and indeed further a field for their sponsorship and in many cases for their expertise.

“During our Oklahoma production our foyer was festooned with a rich collection of photographs from shows long ago. If you didn’t believe that school days matter, then you should have been a fly on the wall watching the scores of people combing through the old photographs to find themselves, their wives, and their long lost friends.”

[caption id="attachment_43955" align="alignleft" width="270"]Celebrating the GCE Subject Awards were Rebecca Leung and Rebecca Fotzimomons, with, back row, Chantelle Grieve, Shaleen O'Neill, Alexandra Mooney and Deirdre Venney. Celebrating the GCE Subject Awards were Rebecca Leung and Rebecca Fitzsimons, with, back row, Chantelle Grieve, Shaleen O’Neill, Alexandra Mooney and Deirdre Venney.[/caption]

“Today we are recognising how successful our school has been scoring well above the NI average in the chosen subjects.”

Mrs Darling explained that many young people leave Primary School with a sense of failure but that in St Mary’s failure was not an option. She said: “Every young person experiences success:  the school mission statement says ‘the promotion of excellence through a caring supportive catholic environment”is something we take seriously and every effort is made to support our young people to be the best they can be’.

“The results our young people achieved at all Key stages are for another year well above the NI averages. We are a non selective school where every child matters and every child transferring from primary school is treated as an individual capable of working hard and experiencing success.

“At GCSE our students have a choice of 27 subjects with new subjects such as Additional Maths, and Travel and Tourism having recently been added to the list.

• 88% of our students achieved a minimum of 5 GCSEs at A*-C grades. The NI average for schools of a similar type has not yet been released but last year it was 57.8%

“At AS/A2 our students can choose from an extensive list of 32 subjects. They can choose to study some of their subjects in our partner schools (St Patrick’s Grammar, De la Salle, or the Down High). Indeed many students come from these other schools to study some of their A level courses here in St Mary’s and they too secure excellent results.

• AS/A2 results in St Mary’s continue to demonstrate that our pupils are high achievers, capable of achieving the very highest grades.

• A2 results in St Mary’s for the third year in a row continues to score well above the average with 100% of students gaining a minimum of 2 A levels.

[caption id="attachment_43957" align="alignright" width="380"]School Principal Mrs Sheila Darling and Sister Deirdre Mullan, Director of the UN's Mercy Global Concern,  with prize winners Chantelle Grieve with the Millenium Salver and Merin Antoney, Best Overall GSCE student with the McAuley Cup. School Principal Mrs Sheila Darling and Sister Deirdre Mullan, Director of the UN’s Mercy Global Concern, with prize winners Shaleen O’Neill with the Millenium Salver and Merin Antoney, Best Overall GSCE student with the McAuley Cup.[/caption]

“You may ask yourself, in a non-selective school when many young people in our society are often labelled as failures leaving Primary School? I suggest there is a range of factors that have contributed to this success e.g.

• The quality of teaching in St Mary’s is outstanding and it has made a real difference to the outcomes for these girls.

• The successful home school partnership where we have worked with you towards a common goal has impacted positively on pupil outcomes.

• In St Mary’s your child is treated as an individual and supported according to her needs.

• The students have worked hard to gain good results.

• Local business have supported us to provide opportunities for students to experience the world of work

“We worked with every student and with you as their families to bring about this success story. In St Mary’s we live our motto Your Child Matters. The young people here today are the future of this country and looking at them now I have confidence that they will make this small country of ours a much better place.

[caption id="attachment_43956" align="alignleft" width="390"]Deputy Head Girld Jenna Corin, Year heads Mrs M Arkins, Ms R McKee, Ms J Beedim, and Head Girl Amy Smyth, with front row, School Principal Mrs S Darling, Guest Speaker Sr D Mullan, Executive Director of Partnership for Global Justice at the UN, and Mrs R Mclaughlin, Vice Principal. Deputy Head Girld Jenna Corin, Year heads Mrs M Arkins, Ms R McKee, Ms J Beedim, and Head Girl Amy Smyth, with front row, School Principal Mrs S Darling, Guest Speaker Sr D Mullan, Executive Director of Partnership for Global Justice at the UN, and Mrs R McLaughlin, Vice Principal.[/caption]

“In St Mary’s we dare to allow our young people to dream because we help them to realise their dreams, as we strive to develop a sound work ethic, and a ‘Can do Attitude’ amongst our students.”

Mrs Darling added that the staff believes in their students, and they help them to believe in themselves.

She said: “Our staff has the skill and the passion to make a real difference, you our parents, grandparents and guardians work with us and together we can and do make a difference.

“We give our young people hope, we help them prepare for their futures and we help them experience success.

“We want our students to walk tall, to be proud of themselves and of their successful association with St Mary’s.

“We want them to demonstrate how capable they are by continuing to take their education seriously, by working hard to reach their targets. St Mary’s students are high achievers, they are the envy of many.

[caption id="attachment_43958" align="alignright" width="380"]Special Awards Recipients at the St Mary's High School prize day. Special Awards Recipients at the St Mary’s High School prize day.[/caption]

“Year 14 students have moved on to the next phase of their education, we wish them well and we encourage them to keep us updated on their progress.

“Year 11/13 are also starting out on a new journey they will have to focus and apply themselves to each and every challenge in a can do way, to secure their success at GCSE, at AS and at A Level.

“These young people are part of our legacy, yours and St Mary’s. We will be watching their progress in life with great interest.

“St Mary’s will continue to support every student and their families well into the future.”


Sr Deirdre Addesses St Mary’s High School

Guest speaker Executive Director of the UN’s Mercy Global Concern Sister Deirdre Mullan said: “What you experience here in this very school is NOT the norm around the world. Cherish well your schooling experience.

“A prize giving event is about celebrating YOU – the  young people gathered here in this auditorium and I appeal to you with your youth, vision, abilities, energy and with your inherent goodness.

* Nurture loving relationships. Be grateful. Become a global citizen. Live with joy. Manifest courage, and intergrity. Be merciful.

*  “Be grateful. Friendship matters. Pay attention to the people to whom you commit and call friends. Never take these relationships for granted. Our friends are important and we need each other. Connect by talking to each other instead of twittering, emails or facebooking. Take time every day to be kind.

“Life does not have to be perfect for us to find reasons to be grateful. In the midst of tremendous human suffering there can be found compassion, mercy, altruism and love.

* “Become a global citizen. Take advantage of the influence of the Christian formation you have experienced here. Give more than you receive. Remember that “getting what you want is not nearly as important as giving what you have”.

“Everything is connected and a consequence of technology and globalization is the inescapable consciousness that we do even at the tiniest local level affects the whole.

* “Live With Joy. Cultivate the genuine delight in the good fortunes of others, your fellow classmates, your best friends, your neighbours. If you take delight in the good fortunes of others, you will never be without an occasion for joy.

* “Value the virtues of courage and integrity. “As you discern and discover your life’s own purpose- what you were born to do- bring the attributes of courage and integrity to bear on your work. Be brave. Character is who you are, even when no one is looking.

* “Be merciful. This school was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and whatever you do in life – be merciful- be kind. Whatever you create, contribute, advance or become, remember to leave the world better for you being in it.

“Emulate these six virtues, cultivate these six habits- and you and the world will be well served. In a world grown coarse and cruel, take time to be kind because in the end that is what St. Mary’s has always been about- a school providing an outstanding education, ear- marking the young women who attend here to be citizens not only of Downpatrick, the North of Ireland but Global Citizens embedded in the gospel, serving the community and our world and doing their part to make or world a place that respects, welcomes and cherishes all,” said Sr Deirdre.