Updated: Nov 16
Cookstown High School’s annual Prize Day was held on Friday 22nd September in the Millar Hall of Cookstown High School. It was a wonderful celebration of the success, achievement and hard work of the pupils and was magnificently supported by prize winners, staff, parents and friends of the school.
The guest of honour at the proceedings was Dr Stephen McAdoo, a former past pupil of the school. Stephen is Consultant Nephrologist at Hammersmith Hospital and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases Imperial College London.
The Rev M Currie opened Prize Day in prayer and the chair of governors, Mrs Dripps, addressed the audience, welcoming new members of staff who have joined the school and conveyed her thanks to those members of staff who have retired or gone on to new opportunities. Mrs Dripps stated her sincere thanks to all of the staff especially for the way in which they ‘work tirelessly to ensure that young people are taught well and also in supporting and encouraging them to build upon their gifts, reach their potential and grow in to being the confident young adults that our community needs. Pupils are given so many opportunities in sports, music, finding new interests to build on the knowledge and skills that they have’. Governors were thanked for their support and the many hours of work that go on behind the scenes. ‘It was with great sadness that for the first time in over 60 years – Mr Robert Stevenson MBE was not present having passed away last November. A former teacher and Vice Principal, Mr Stevenson loved being able to celebrate the life of Cookstown High School, long after he retired’. Mrs Dripps concluded her speech by stating the educational challenges in the current landscape, undermining of the Christian ethos and the potential impact upon the school and society and the need to protect the future of our children and their education.
Following Mrs Dripp’s address, the Principal expressed her thanks to governors, chair of governors, parents, staff, and community of Cookstown High School. She also acknowledged the work of the senior prefects and former Head Boy and Head Girl. Miss Evans outlined the importance of the Christian Ethos and school values being intrinsic in every aspect of school life and the ever-increasing importance of community. She emphasised the importance of a sense of connectedness: being part of something bigger than ourselves – working together to provide an outstanding preparation of students in readiness for adulthood, which is at the heart of Cookstown High School. Miss Evans reiterated the importance of the development of honourable character with grace, integrity, humility, and compassion underpinning every feature of their lives.
‘Academic outcomes at Cookstown High School continues to be very impressive with pupils achieving above national expectations and should inspire and motivate all pupils to achieve their personal best consistently throughout the year.’ The Principal also acknowledged the hard work of pupils, staff, and parents. ‘At A level 48% of all grades achieved by pupils were A* or A grade, surpassing the N Ireland average of 37.5%. 100% of Year 14 pupils have gone on to university, employment, apprenticeships or taken a gap year. The majority of pupils secured their first preference at university reading subjects such as Architecture, Law, History, Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics. At GCSE, success was equally impressive with the proportion of grades across all subjects at A* and A grades at 36% and 61% A* - B grades.’ Miss Evans congratulated everyone in their accomplishments.
During her speech, Miss Evans expressed concerns about the ‘under-investment in education over the last 10 years, as funding per pupil in N Ireland has reduced by over 10% in real terms. Such budget reductions have impacted all schools across N Ireland’. Nevertheless, the Principal stated ‘our children deserve nothing less than the best and necessity of providing a high-quality education in a dynamic, stimulating, and digital environment which meets the needs of the 21st century working world’. ‘Cookstown High School has been blessed and encouraged by the support of the community in providing practical skills, personal time, volunteering skills and resources as well as very generous financial support. Support for school refurbishment, a cross country trail and improved ICT facilities have taken place through the generosity of the community. The ‘Future Ready Programme’ has been established through the huge support of local businessman, Seamus McAleer. The prolific author, Helen Keller commented, “Alone, we do so little; together, we can do so much”.
‘School numbers are at the highest level for over 12 years and opportunities for pupils continue to expand and serve to broad our students’ interconnectedness of learning and our community.
One of the key challenges for society is trying to keep pace with the rapidly expanding digital world and with the additional considerations of Artificial Intelligence. This year pupils have had a wonderful opportunity to work with Queens University staff to develop IT coding, computer programming and have worked on a cyber security project with the RAF.’
‘A superb new integrated careers digital platform called PeopleHawk which enables pupils to plan and prepare for their careers having up to date access to employer information, developing personal skills as well as preparation for interviews has been an excellent addition to the Careers programme’.
‘As a school founded upon Christian principles, we believe that we must show compassion for those in need, and charity work in support of local, national, and international community has increased this year.’ The Principal thanked staff, pupils and parents for their support and generosity. This year a total £12,163 was raised for the following organisations: Ewastini Choir, Marie Curie, British Heart Foundation, Air Ambulance, Turkey-Syrian Earthquake appeal, Women’s Aid as well as practical donations for the Shoebox appeal.
‘One of the key highlights of the year was the opening of the school’s new 1-kilometre cross-country trail called the ‘King Charles Trail’ in honour of the coronation of King Charles III. Hamilton Contracts and Stanley Bell and Sons quarries were thanked for their generosity and support in constructing the trail. Lady Mary Peters, the first NI Olympic gold medallist opened the new track which was then followed by a meet and greet event with the school community. The event culminated with Mrs Allen interviewing Lady Mary about her reflections of her own life, career and sharing experience and wisdom to the audience as well as to Nick Griggs and Grace Carson – now past pupils, who have an incredible running career ahead of them.
‘Last term, also saw the school hold an excellent day with a garden fete to commemorate the King’s coronation. The community were able to enjoy a variety of sporting activities and events as well as competitions, stalls, and local musicians. It was a great day with the community spending time together, connecting and building those all-important friendships.’
‘Broadening student horizons and community even further, as well as enriched experiential learning and creating lifelong memories, many pupils have had the opportunity to benefit from international cultural and sporting visits to London, the Somme, and San Valentino as well as exchange visits from schools in Finland and the Netherlands and more visits are taking place this year again.’
‘The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award continues with students commencing their summer holidays by embarking on their final expedition ‘climbing every mountain and fording every stream in Donegal’ – a nod to our forthcoming musical taking place on 17, 18 and 19 October. We are delighted that our Gold Award students are now in the process of finishing it off and look forward to them receiving their presentations next year.’
‘Hockey, a key feature of school life, saw a remarkable year across the school with excellent success at every level for boys’ hockey. Strong performances across all teams led to the U13 pupils winning the Bannister Bowl against Banbridge Academy, and the U14 pupils winning the Ferris Cup against Royal Belfast Academical Institute. Cookstown High School took on Sullivan Upper First XI in the Burney Cup plate final and whilst we didn’t win, it was a great match. This year saw the boys make the long journey to Cork to play in the prestigious All Ireland tournament. The All Ireland’s is a four-group tournament with the top 16 1st X1 teams in Ireland, the boys’ performance was excellent and valuable experiences were gained.’
The Year 8 Girls’ Hockey Team were congratulated in winning the west of Ulster League and the Henderson Trophy, and the Intermediate Netballers won silver medals at the NI Bowl finals.
‘There are a plethora of other sports such as golf, badminton, table tennis, horse show jumping and rugby, all of which have seen good success throughout the year. We look forward to our sportsmen and women going from strength to strength this academic year.
‘During the summer term a staff v sixth form football charity match took place with the entire school watching on. Staff hopes were dashed when the anticipated victory did not happen; nevertheless, it was a fantastic day.’
The Principal encouraged the audience to read the annual online school magazine which provides a more detailed account of the last year’s events.
After the singing of ‘In Christ Alone’, prize winners were acknowledged for their success and achievement in the previous academic year and their accomplishments were recognised with individual awards. The audience then sang, ‘Crown Him with many Crowns’ after the distribution of awards. The Senior Girls’ Choir sang ‘Mr Blue Sky’ followed by a rendition of ‘All of your tomorrows’ by Casey Burns and Pippa Coulter.
Dr McAdoo’s address reflected on his career journey in medicine, and the importance of people who supported and encouraged him through it. He highlighted his experiences and the impact that using skills and talents can have on a diverse range of lives. Dr McAdoo encouraged pupils to take all opportunities, to explore their learning wider and he supported this with examples from his prolific career.
Luke Haycock, Head Boy, thanked Dr McAdoo for his reflections and encouragement of students during his insightful speech and Leandra Frank, Head Girl then made a presentation to Dr McAdoo. The Rev M Currie closed the afternoon in prayer and the ceremony concluded with the singing of the school anthem.
The afternoon was a lovely occasion to celebrate with the entire school community all of the achievements across a range of subjects and activities, as well as an opportunity to appreciate the input of staff, parents and the wider community.