PARENTS and guardians and prospective students to St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick were cordially welcomed to the school’s open day last Saturday.
Principal Mrs Sheila Darling welcomed everyone and during her address said: “This is a school where every child will receive an exceptional educational experience. Over these last three years it has been a real privilege for me to be the Principal of this great school and to work with such dedicated staff who go the extra mile on a daily basis to support the needs of all our young people.[caption id="attachment_45363" align="alignleft" width="390"] Pupils in the Domestic Science class show off their delicious gingerbread.[/caption]
“I am proud to be here associated with this great school where every child matters, where every child is valued, where every child is supported to reach their potential and where every child is helped to succeed.
“We want every child to feel safe, to feel happy and to know that they matter; whatever difficulties we encounter we will work with you to find a solution, but we will expect everyone to work hard and to engage positively in the work and the life of the school.
“We are a Catholic school, we welcome all faiths, currently we have students on our register from the Protestant faith, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic faith and indeed no faith. All are welcomed and respected.
“I have high expectations for every child.
“Failure is not an option, I expect every student to work hard, to co-operate with staff and to do their best at all times. I expect staff to be professional and to provide the highest quality education possible for every child.
“And I expect you the parents and guardians to work in close partnership with us to ensure all our efforts are successful and that we improve the outcomes for your child.”
Mrs Darling cited Education Minister John O’Dowd who said: ‘Education must not act as a barrier to social mobility, every child must be supported to learn and encouraged to want to learn.’
“We in St Mary’s are making a difference, we are helping every child to learn and our parents are actively supporting our work and helping our students to value learning. You will see examples of some recent graduates from St Mary’s named in your documentation, we have former pupils enriching society in every walk of life, all are building on the high quality education they received in St Mary’s.[caption id="attachment_45364" align="alignright" width="390"] Portaferry Integrated PS pupil Erin Simms with St Mary’s High School pupil Caoimhe Connor look over the technology in the Moving Image art room.[/caption]
“Minister John O’ Dowd recently spoke of, “International evidence that suggests mixed ability schools can and do deliver high outcomes for all children.” Well, that is evidenced here in our school. St Mary’s is a non selective mixed ability school, delivering high outcomes for its pupils. Our students continue to out perform students from other schools.
“Our GCSE results confirm we have scored significantly higher than the majority of other similar schools.
* “The N0rthern Ireland average for 5+ GCSEs is in the region of 58% St Mary’s achieved 88%, beating the trend by 30% points.
* “The NI average for 5+ GCSEs including English and Maths is in the region of 35%. St Mary’s scored 58%, beating the trend by 23% points.
Mrs Darling explained that at post-16, the school worked in partnership with St Patrick’s Grammar, De La Salle High School and the Down High School offering a combined range of 32 A-level subjects to choose from. Sixth Form students travel between the schools with all schools in the partnership delivering A levels, and she added that in St Mary’s, 100% of the students achieved an A-level qualification.
High quality education opens doors…every child has a legal right to access a range of both academic and vocational courses to meet their needs and aspirations.
She explained: “Every school, whether it is designated as grammar, integrated or non-selective, must meet the entitlement framework. In St Mary’s we not only meet these requirements but we exceed them at all key stages.[caption id="attachment_45365" align="alignleft" width="390"] On the French language class were Alisha and Louise Lundy with St Mary’s students Anna Connolly, Giselle Mahon and Sarah Vize.[/caption]
“Education prepares young people to take their place in society; it develops their knowledge and skills so that they may live rewarding lives. All our classroom staff recently spent a day in industry to see first hand the challenges facing young people when they apply for jobs.
“The staff will use this experience to build bridges with industry to support our young people and to better link the classroom teaching to the employability skills needed for the future.
“Employment in the future will look very different to what we see as the norm today, for many of these students about to embark on post primary education, the jobs they will do have not yet been invented.
“These young people will need more than good GCSE and A-level grades… they will also need to have a range of key skills. They will need to know how to think creatively, how to solve problems, how to communicate with clarity, both through the spoken word and through digital literacy. They will need to be able how to work as part of a team and know how to lead a team. A Director of the Chartered Management Institute recently said: “Skills will be the global currency of the 21st Century.” In St Mary’s we work hard to secure the holistic development of every child, to secure a high quality education for every child and to develop the sort of skills that are now proving so important in the world of work for the 21st Century.”
Year 8 pupils in St Mary’s are currently using iPads both in class and at home and this helps improve their digital literacy along with the rest of their families. St Mary’s High School has delivered skills workshops to students and extended family members and hopes to continue this next year.
“Many other opportunities exist in St Mary’s for students to enjoy extra curricular activities – several of which you will have noticed on the display at the beginning of the evening,” added Mrs Darling. “The choice is endless from a range of sporting activities, to horse riding, to drama, to art, to local historical visits, to international travel, to music clubs where tuition is available for a wide range of instruments, the list is endless. If we don’t have it and you want it tell us and we will see what we can do.
“From September 2014, all our students will be able to achieve the millennium volunteer award. When they reach 200 hours of volunteer service, this will result in a presentation award hosted by the Minister for Education.
“If your child comes to St Mary’s you can be assured of a high quality education, where your child will be treated as an individual who really does matter, where every effort will be made to prepare your child for success in their examinations, where she will get guidance and help in being prepared for her future career and where she will be supported in her holistic development so that she can contribute positively to her local community and to the global economy.”
Mrs Darling concluded her address in saying: “I believe every child learns better when they feel happy, when they are safe and when they feel valued. In St Mary’s that is our core philosophy.
“It’s your child that matters, and we are here to make a difference, to open doors for your child in their future lives, to increase their future choices so that they have a better chance of leading happy, productive lives.”