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Proud principals say success is because teachers, pupils and parents are united

Paul McClean, head of Cross and Passion College
Paul McClean, head of Cross and Passion College
Jonny Brady, principal of St Killian’s College, Ballymena
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

Principals of three schools whose rankings have soared in this year's A-level league table have expressed their pride.

St Killian's College in Ballymena went from 76th place last year to fourth this year, with 92% of A-level pupils there receiving three or more A*-C grades.

A-level school league tables - check out the full list here

St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel moved from 68th to sixth, with 91.2% of pupils achieving top grades.

Ballycastle's Cross and Passion College, a Catholic co-educational maintained secondary school, rose from joint 43rd place last year to ninth, with 89.1% of pupils celebrating A-Level results.

Paul McClean, head of Cross and Passion College, paid tribute to the "team effort" which had secured outstanding results.

"There has been great development in the last few years, it's great to see the fruits of the labour paying off," he said.

"In the last number of years we've put a real focus on every child reaching their potential.

"We've paid a great deal of attention to every young person choosing a set of subjects which allow them to fulfil their potential. We are an all-ability school in the true sense of the word.

"This year we have a pupil going to Oxford to study law, and we have a few pupils going to study medicine, but we also have a number of pupils heading off to do technical degrees and high-level apprenticeships to cater for everybody's needs.

"We've put a real focus onto expectations. We strive for excellence in every area of life, we certainly expect the pupils to work hard, and pastoral care is very strong."

Mr McClean added that the school tries to "nurture" its pupils' abilities.

"We expect every child to reach their potential, both in how they contribute to the life of the school and how they contribute to the community as well," he added. "One thing I will say about this school is we try to nurture every aspect of the pupils' abilities. I think a faith school puts a lot of store in making sure every child reaches their potential, not just on paper but in life, and that ultimately translates to academic success.

"When you really focus on nurturing a child, and letting them buy into an ethos and letting them grow and develop in confidence and maturity in your school, I think the pay-off is fairly obvious."

Jonny Brady, principal of St Killian's College Ballymena, said he was "hugely proud" of the co-educational Catholic maintained secondary school's rise of 72 places.

"They were an exceptional group of youngsters, and the staff worked extremely hard and the parents were hugely supportive of us all," he said.

"It's a real indicator of non-selective education working. We are an all-ability, bilateral school.

"It's down to that wonderful formula of hard-working students, hard-working staff and support from parents - that triangle of support for the youngster ensures that they will get the best. We spend a lot of time interviewing students before they come back in Year 13 to make sure they have the appropriate subjects for the appropriate careers they are looking to follow."

When asked about the importance of faith-based schools, Mr Brady said that they provide children with "a bedrock which they can grow from".

"It is about ensuring that children are happy, and in order to be happy they are given the support and pastoral care needed to facilitate the nurturing and nourishment of their whole life, their spirituality, sociability, academic success and resilience," he continued.

"So I think that a faith school will give children a bedrock which they can grow from. We have children here of all faiths and none, but it's the ethos where we care for our youngsters, respect them and encourage them to do their very best."

Kevin Martin, the principal of St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel, said his school's success was down to the dedication of pupils, teachers and parents.

"Part of the reason the students do so well is the passion and enthusiasm that teachers and pupils share for the subjects," he said. "But also parents deserve praise and recognition for the support they give the school and young people. It's that partnership between the home and the school that ensures that everybody really succeeds."

Reflecting on the success of faith-based schools, he said: "Every school has their ethos and values, and that's important.

"My experience is that all schools provide excellent pastoral care and support, and that works in harmony with the academic curriculum, and students feel supported and nurtured.

"A school's culture and ethos certainly contributes to the performance of students in their examinations. We are delighted with these results."

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