Principal's Report 2017-18

Presented at the Annual Prize Distribution in the Orangefield Presbyterian Church on Wednesday 10 October 2018

Mr McVeigh, Miss Rainey, Mr and Mrs Baker, Governors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen and our pupils, I am delighted to present my fourth 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 Derek Baker, Permanent Secretary, joined by his wife Barbara. 

Amongst our guests I would like to extend a warm welcome to Mr Lockett, Mr and Mrs Jack and to Mrs McVeigh.  I welcome also Miss McLaughlin, the newly appointed Principal of our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock and her Head Boy and Head Girl.  Likewise, I extend a warm welcome to Mrs McCullough, the new Principal of Orangefield Primary School.

Many of our former colleagues join us today and I welcome all of you on behalf of the Grosvenor family.  Last year, we said goodbye to Mrs Mulholland who resigned from her post as Teacher of Spanish and French to enable her to continue to spend time with her young family.  Mrs Lynda McIlvenny retired as Head of Girls PE in June 2018 after 29 years of service to Grosvenor Grammar School.  We would like to thank Mrs McIlvenny for her donation of the McIlvenny Cup for Netball which will be awarded later in today’s proceedings.  We also said a fond farewell to Miss Hyndman, Senior Leader, who gained a much-deserved promoted post as Vice Principal in Belfast High School.  Miss Hyndman, we know that you will be highly successful in your new role, but we hope that you will remain in touch with your many friends in Grosvenor Grammar School.

Although we are always sorry to say goodbye to colleagues, we welcome the new members of staff who have joined us this year.  Mr Winters joined us in a permanent capacity as Teacher of Travel & Tourism with English; Mrs Murdock was appointed as Head of Girls PE and Mrs McMillen was appointed as Head of Technology & Design.  Mrs McMillen will join our Grosvenor Team after the half-term break.  In a temporary capacity, Mr Thompson joined the school as teacher of Boys Physical Education, Mr Boyd as teacher of Technology and Design; Mrs Ewart as teacher of English and Mrs Huey as teacher of Mathematics.  We also welcome Mr Best as our new Science Technician, Mrs Brown as Assistant Librarian, Mrs Rozycka-Gabrys as Senior School Study Supervisor and our teachers of Mandarin who join us as part of our role as a Confucius Classroom Hub School.

A number of internal promotions were made during the last academic year.  Mr Young was appointed as Senior Leader and I would like to take this opportunity to welcome him officially onto our Senior Leadership Team.  Back in October 2017, Mrs Reid was appointed as Head of Science and then more recently, Mr McDowell became both Head of Boys PE and Head of Sports Studies in a temporary capacity.  Mrs McClements was appointed Head of Year on a permanent basis and Mr Smyth obtained the post of temporary Head of Year 12. 

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. 

At GCSE, we celebrated one of our best years of results.  An amazing 40 pupils achieved 9 or more A* to A grades, with 3 pupils attaining 10 A* to A grades or better.  Lily Rooney achieved 10 A*s and 1A, Joanna Hayward achieved 10 A*s and 2 As and Andrew Hagan attained 11 A*s and 1 A.  At AS Level, 26 pupils attained 3 A grades or better, with 11 pupils gaining an impressive 4 A grades.  At A Level, 20 pupils achieved 3 or more A grades or better.

Mark Woods attained 3 A* grades and 1 A grade at A level and Jake Kyle obtained 3 A* grades.  Many congratulations to Angus Harron who has secured his place at Jesus College Cambridge to study History.

Outside the classroom, the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer in Grosvenor Grammar School is astounding and I apologise that time precludes me from mentioning so many events and accomplishments. 

Educational visits in the form of day trips and longer excursions are such an important part of school life in Grosvenor. Thank you to the staff members who give up so much of their time to organise and attend these trips.  In September, our Year 8 pupils once again had the chance to attend a Residential at Delamont Outdoor Education Centre.  This experience never fails to help the pupils make both lasting friendships and memories which I know they cherish.  Last year marked the twentieth anniversary of our School’s annual exchange with our German partner school, the Evangelisches Gymnasium in Lippstadt.  We are delighted that this longstanding exchange continues to flourish and I am confident that the new French exchange programme set up with our partner school in Mulhouse will be just as successful in the years ahead.  The Spanish Department enjoyed a wonderful visit to Barcelona in June 2017 and are about to head off once again.  As part of an Army Cadet venture, Robert Orr had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the World War One battlefields of Belgium and France.  It is impossible to list all of the excursions undertaken by our pupils, including the numerous day trips undertaken by so many departments, but suffice to say that the educational experience provided by Grosvenor extends far beyond the confines of our classrooms.

The Music Department provided such wonderful performances for the benefit of the whole school community throughout the year, with so many individual achievements adding to their success.  Our choirs and musicians, including our String Quintet, are held in such high esteem in the local community that they are much in demand, performing for example at Stormount, at the Waterfront Hall, at the Ulster Chartered Accountants’ Annual Charity Lunch and at the prestigious Eastside Awards event.  For so many of us, the Annual Carol Service at St Anne’s Cathedral heralds the beginning of the family festive period and last December’s performances were outstanding. In March, over one hundred of our pupils took part in our annual Spring Concert, with introductions being made throughout by Year 14 pupils Ruth Milligan, Sarah Myles and Eva Wardlow.  Miss Foster and Mr Arnold work tirelessly to maintain our exceptionally high standards.

In Drama, we enjoyed spectacular performances from our pupils who took part in the production of ‘Sister Act’.  Led by Director Mrs Young and Musical Director Mr Arnold, over 120 pupils in Year 8 to Year 14 took part.  There were superb individual performances from a long list of lead actors.  The highly talented orchestra and chorus added to the show’s overwhelming success and we look forward with much anticipation to this year’s production.

Sport has always been a lynchpin of our School’s extra-curricular activities and this year was no exception.  As well as celebrating all Grosvenor sport at our annual end-of-season Awards Dinner, Mr Gibson and his colleagues organised a superb Gala Ball evening in the Titanic building.  Not only did we raise over £6,000 for extra-curricular sport, this evening saw the beginning of a new era for us as a school and we have already undertaken new fundraising initiatives, with more in the pipeline.  I would like to thank Mr Gibson for the huge effort that brought us together and we wish him well on his career break in his current work with the Church.   

In rugby, our teams had a season of mixed results, although this does not detract from the dedication shown by our pupils and staff.  Although both our first and second 15s lost out in the third round of their respective Schools Cups, they can be proud of the way they conducted themselves and represented our school.  Our Medallion XV lost out in the fourth round of the Shield, but again this young side showed such determination.  We have high hopes for our younger teams coming through and we have already started to see some excellent results this season.   Our thanks go to all of our rugby coaches: Mr Gibson, Mr McDowell, Mr White, Mr Cowan and Mr Hunter.  The Rugby Teams are supported by a number of assistant coaches, referees and other members of staff, such as Mr Kernohan, Mr Smyth, Mr Watts and Mr Winters. 

Our Girls Tag Rugby Team reached the final of the one-day Ulster Schools Competition, only to lose out narrowly to Enniskillen Royal School.  On an individual level, our pupils have enjoyed considerable success, with Holly Brannigan, Anna Stanfield, Fern Wilson and Emma Kee being selected onto the Eastern Regional Development Under 18 squad.  Holly Brannigan also represented the Ulster Under 18 Team in the Interprovincial Competition and made her debut for Ulster Senior Rugby in August, whilst Anna Stanfield was a member of the elite Ulster Rugby 7s Under 18 squad.  Our thanks go to coach Mrs Kirk who encourages the girls every step of the way.  

In girls hockey, our First X1 Team reached the semi-final of the Ulster Super League under the guidance of their coach Mrs Hunter.  The Second XI also reached the final of the McDowell Plate competition, but unfortunately lost out in the end to Larne Grammar School.  On an individual level, Maddie McKnight, Holly McDowell and Jenna Breen were selected for the Under 15 Belfast Area team.  Later in the year, our Firsts and Seconds performed impressively at the annual Antrim Sixes event, making Mrs McIlvenny very proud in her final year in charge.  Thank you to Mrs McIlvenny and all of the coaches involved, including Mrs Hunter, Mrs Kirk, Mrs McClements, Miss Knox and Miss Brown.  We look forward to continued success in girls hockey under the leadership of Mrs Murdock.

In boys hockey, both Andrew Hagen and Matthew Vincent were selected onto the Ulster Schools Under 17 Hockey squad, playing in a series against England.  Andrew Hagan also represented Ulster Under 18 hockey at the UK school games.  Our boys hockey continues to grow from strength to strength under the superb leadership of coaches Mr Young and Mr Brittain, not to mention their highly committed assistant coaches.

Cricket in Grosvenor continues to thrive, with the pupils bringing an infectious enthusiasm to the sport.  Over 40 fixtures were played during the course of the summer term, with each of the teams reaching the quarter finals of their respective cup competitions.  The First XI were narrowly beaten in the Schools Cup competition by the eventual winners, Methodist College.  A special mention is reserved for Mohamed Aahil in Year 9 who was selected to represent the Northern Cricket Union Under 13 team in the annual Interprovincial Series and was also named in the Cricket Ireland Under 13 summer training squad.  Our thanks go to Head coach Mr White and his fellow coaches Mr Young, Mr Lendrum and Mr Winters.  Likewise, the coaches express their thanks to their teams for their dedication and commitment, not least those pupils who have now left Grosvenor.

In Athletics, we had another amazing year of success and I congratulate our athletes on both a team and individual level for the wealth of achievements from last year.  Following the highly successful Track and Field County Down District Championships, our athletes enjoyed their most successful Ulster Schools Championships in recent memory.  Jenna Breen claimed gold in both the 100 metres and the 200 metres sprint and Dylan McBride claimed first place in the 1500 metres event.  Our Senior Girls 4 by 100 metres Team, consisting of Claire McKane, Holly Brannigan, Anna Stanfield and Sophie Larmour secured gold, matched by a wonderful victory for our Mini Girls Team of Eva Wainwright, Mia Ferguson, Ellie Burgess and Amelee McCullough.  Elsewhere, individual silver medals were attained by Andrew Hagan in the Inter Boys Steeplechase, Sophie Larmour in the Senior Girls 100 metres, Helena Rieske in the Junior Girls Discus, Nathan Chan in the Senior Boys Triple Jump and Jordan Brown in the Senior Boys High Jump.  Both the Junior Girls Relay Team and the Inter Boys Team secured silver medals, the girls in question being Neve Armstrong, Jenna Breen, Sarah McCreery and Erin Tumilson and the boys were Lewis Hamilton, Nathan Stewart, Joseph McNaughton and Adam Sykes.  Bronze medals were also awarded to Sarah McCreery in the Junior Girls Triple Jump, Adam Sykes in the Inter Boys 100 metres and Stephen Wright in the Inter Boys 800 metres.

Congratulations to those pupils who went on to represent our school with distinction at the All Ireland Schools Athletics Championships in June.  Particular congratulations to Dylan McBride who secured gold in the Junior Boys 1500 metres and Jenna Breen who secured two silver medals in the 100 and 200 metres.  Nathan Chan achieved a bronze medal in the Senior Boys Triple Jump. 

Congratulations to all of our athletes who represented the school so well in such highly competitive environments and a sincere thank you to their coaches Mr Gibson, Mrs Kirk, Mrs McIlvenny, Mr McDowell, Mrs Hunter and Mrs Radcliffe for what was a highly successful season.

In Girls netball, our teams enjoyed a successful season and levels of participation in netball remained high, with thanks going to the coaches Mrs McIlvenny, Mrs Kirk, Mrs Prior and Mrs Waterworth.  Congratulations to Katie Russell and Emma Kee who were selected onto the Northern Ireland Under 17 Netball Development Squad.

Fencing continues to enjoy considerable success at Grosvenor and congratulations to all of the pupils involved who took part in a number of competitions throughout the year.  Particular mention must be given to Luke Wallace who secured a bronze medal at the 2018 Irish National Fencing Competition in April.  Luke was also awarded the title of ‘Best Junior Fencer’ and lost out in the semi-final to the overall winner, former pupil Stephen Brown.

In swimming, Victoria Catterson enjoyed spectacular success last year and amongst her many accolades she became Irish Champion in the 200 metre freestyle event in the Irish National Swimming Championships in April.  In July, Victoria put in a superb performance in the European Junior Championships in Helsinki.   

In table tennis, congratulations to James Magrath, Lucy Craig, Lucy Johnston and Emma Kee who participated with such success in the Junior British League over two separate weekends last year.  James Magrath and Lucy Craig also represented Northern Ireland at the UK School Games last September.  The popularity of table tennis in school is fantastic and credit must go to Mrs Peel for her wonderful encouragement of our young people.

Last year we had unprecedented success in our fundraising efforts for charity, raising almost £28,000 which was more than double the previous year’s total.  I would like to pay a particular tribute to our own Year 14 pupils who raised a significant amount for the two charities Brainwaves NI and Brain Injuries Matters in honour of two friends in their Year Group. This is only one example of the kindness and strength of Grosvenor community spirit which came to the fore through difficult times for so many amongst our Grosvenor family last year.  The School’s Charity Committee, under Mrs McClelland worked tirelessly to coordinate the whole-school efforts.  Our annual Friends of Grosvenor Sponsored Walk raised almost £5,000 and the various activities organised by the Year 14 Sports Science pupils produced such enjoyable events for our primary school partners, all year groups and our staff.  Thank you for the generosity of everyone involved and although the charity money raised is vitally important, the sense of togetherness created is equally as valuable.

Our pupils deserve much praise for all of their achievements, both academic and extra-curricular.  However, these achievements are only made possible with the help and commitment of our staff and I echo Mr McVeigh’s appreciation of my colleagues.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the members of my Senior Leadership Team for their integrity and hard work.  Thank you to Mrs McLaughlin and Mr Young for the enormous effort that goes into organising today’s Prize Distribution.

I also thank you as parents for your wonderful support, with a particular thank you to our Parents Association, Friends of Grosvenor, for their fundraising efforts which have yielded such impressive results in recent years.

As Mr McVeigh has already mentioned, our Board of Governors was reconstituted in September and I would also like to pay tribute to our governors, past and present, for their invaluable help and unstinted commitment to the Grosvenor Grammar School community.  I welcome Miss Rainey OBE as our new Chair and it is my privilege to work alongside a lady of such stature in the world of education.  To Mr McVeigh, Chairman of Grosvenor Grammar School 2013 to 2018, I wish to put on record my sincere, heartfelt thanks for his support, guidance and kindness over the past 5 years.  Mr McVeigh has been kept exceptionally busy and has never failed to give of his time to the community which is Grosvenor Grammar School. Not only has he been chair, he has been a member of the Finance Sub-committee, Salary Committee, Transfer Sub-committee, Facilities Management Sub-committee and has sat on numerous appointment panels.  Mr McVeigh remains on our Board and on a number of those same committees, and we are extremely grateful that he has chosen to do so.  Mr McVeigh, in the midst of all of the trophies on display, we do have one especially reserved for you.  As I conclude my fourth Principal’s Report, I would ask all of you to join me in expressing our sincere appreciation to Mr McVeigh on behalf of the Grosvenor Grammar School community.

Thank you.

Dr F Vasey – Principal                         October 2018