Principal Trevor Robinson gave his ninth headmaster’s report at Lurgan College’s speech day on Friday in front of an audience which included guest of honour Dame Mary Peters.
Addressing the school’s achievements he said: “For Lurgan College the academic year 2012/13 is quite simply one of the best, if not the very best, in its illustrious 140-year history, both in terms of outstanding academic achievement and remarkable success on the sports field.
“The Department of Education’s bible, Every School a Good School, highlights the quality of teaching and learning as a key ingredient in a successful school. When the ETI inspectors visited the school during the academic year they visited numerous classrooms, held discussions with many groups of pupils, interviewed staff at all levels and poured over our GCSE, AS and A Level results and three year trends for days; in short, they left no stone unturned, before they communicated their detailed findings to the governors and the Senior Leadership Team. We were thrilled when they concluded that overall the quality of educational provision in the school was ‘very good’ and that parents could have complete confidence that the school was well placed to deal with the educational challenges ahead.”
He continued: “The examination performances of the classes of 2013 at both GCSE and A Level were among the very best ever achieved by Lurgan College pupils. In the case of the Year 14 pupils, they were the very best Lurgan College results ever achieved at this level. With almost three quarters of the grades recorded as A* to B, our pupils surpassed the NI grammar school average by 11%; the most significant statistic of all in terms of benchmarking data employed by the Department of Education was the record-breaking 87% of pupils who secured three A Levels at A* to C which is over 10% above the NI Grammar School average and this will, once again, see the College listed in the top 10 performing grammar schools in the province at this level.
“The GCSE class of 2011, who achieved the honour of being placed as the very top performing school in the whole of Northern Ireland at this level, has set the standard for future years to aspire to and my, how the GCSE class of 2013 gave them ‘a run for their money’.
“No fewer than nine of our pupils were placed among the top performing pupils at GCSE and A Level in the whole of N Ireland with 1st places being awarded to Megan Collins in both GCSE Learning for Life and Work and Art & Design; Vania Thompson was placed first equal GCSE Art & Design and Hannah Clegg and Kerry McCormick shared 1st place in the whole of NI in A Level Art & Design. Gareth Hutchinson, Kathryn Corr, Ben Cairns and Sam Harrison all picked up second and third places in GCSE LLW and Religious Studies.
Mr Robinson went on to explain the academic success: “So how does a school which selects around 50% of the overall population fare so well in comparison to other grammar schools, some of whom select a mere 25%? While I run the risk of giving away trade secrets at this stage, you have probably already guessed the two biggest single contributors to our success. Firstly, the Dickson Plan with its system of delayed selection at age 14 undoubtedly plays a significant role in raising aspiration, motivation and achievement. The natural selection process at age 14 is the culmination of three years of outstanding work at the Junior High School. In fact the selection process matches generally in eight or nine out of 10 cases the pupils’ own self-election process. This is the beauty of our system, the pupil-centred heart of our system, a unique selling point of our system.
The second greatest contributor to our pupils’ success can be found in the hearts, minds and souls of your young people’s teachers. Pupils may not always remember exactly what their teachers tell them but they will always remember how their teachers made them feel.”
He continued by talking of the school’s achievements on the sports field.
Mr Robinson said: “Just as the pupils rose to their ambitious academic targets, that same determination, courage and perseverance was reflected in their accomplishments outside the classroom. 2013 saw no fewer than four College teams capture five Ulster and Irish titles across a range of sporting disciplines.
“Pride of place must go once again to our First XI girls who embarked upon the 2012/13 season with the weight of expectation weighing heavily on their young shoulders. They won the Schools’ Cup final against Victoria College and ‘steamrolled’ their way to a third All-Ireland Hockey Title, scoring an impressive 17 goals and winning all their games outright.
“How fitting it was that immediately after the girls had secured the Irish title, I announced to them that diggers had moved on to the school playing fields to begin work on a new astroturf pitch; an arena fit for champions.
“The Second XI were not to be outdone by their First XI counterparts and, at the end of a very successful season, they lifted the 2nd XI McDowell Cup after an entertaining final against Rainey Endowed.
“Our third Ulster success came from our Medallion Rugby Team who lifted the 2013 Ulster Schools’ Trophy after hard fought victories over Cambridge House, Ballyclare, the Royal School Dungannon and then Dalriada in the final.
“Our final piece of silverware was captured by our impressively consistent Boys’ Ski Team who saw off a spirited challenge by Friends’ School Lisburn and Banbridge Academy to retain the Ulster Schools’ Skiing Title.”
Mr Robison also mentioned a “ground-breaking trip” to Italy in March, involving around 35 pupils from Lurgan College and St Michael’s Grammar.
He said: “This trip had been preceded by a number of meetings and residentials between the two schools and was the culmination of many weeks of meticulous planning by the College and St Michael’s staff. Some barriers have been broken down, new friendships have been forged, old myths have been dispelled, hope has replaced despair, trust has triumphed over suspicion, and it is our ‘brave’ young people who are leading the way. I congratulate all involved in this initiative and trust that their new experiences will stand them all in good stead in later life.”