Wednesday 18th September saw Larne Grammar School host its Annual Prize Night. Guests, governors, family, friends, staff and former staff joined to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our pupils in both curricular and extra-curricular pursuits from the 2018/2019 Academic Year. The Guest of Honour for the evening was Managing Director of Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd., and international rugby referee, Mr Simon McDowell.
In the absence of Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr Roy Logan, who was unable to attend this year’s awards ceremony, Rev Dr Colin McClure began proceedings by congratulating the pupils, staff and Governors on what has been yet another remarkably successful year for Larne Grammar School. He encouraged all members of the school community to pause and be thankful for all the opportunities available within the School and commended the individual achievement, corporate achievement, talent, hard work and devotion of all that are part of our school family. Rev Dr McClure paid particular tribute to our former VP, Miss Lynn Hunter, thanking her for everything she has done for the school, particularly for pastoral care, and wished her well in retirement.
Mr Wylie, delivering his eighth report as Principal of Larne Grammar School, stated that, ‘although Prize Night is about celebrating the achievement of our pupils, it is the staff of the school whose commitment, skill, dedication and enthusiasm facilitate those achievements and make them possible.’ He paid particular tribute to three retiring teachers, Mrs Headden, Mr Thomson and Miss Hunter who have an astonishing combined 86-years of service!
Mr Wylie was delighted to report that Larne Grammar School students had been some of the top performing candidates in Northern Ireland in the 2019 exam series. Our Year 14 pupils continued the trend of, ‘producing very strong ‘A’ Level outcomes.’ With 83.3% of pupils achieving 3 A*-C grades, LGS pupils will have achieved well above the NI Grammar School Average, for the fourth year in succession. The percentage of pupils achieving 3 A*-B grades (51.1%) was also the best ever achieved by the school. The AS results were very strong at every measure. Over half of the cohort achieved at least 3 A or B grades and which bodes well for another excellent set of ‘A’ Level results in 2020. At GCSE best ever outcomes were achieved in relation to the percentage of entries awarded A*-A (52.7%) and A*-C (96.4%).
While celebrating these outstanding results Mr Wylie acknowledged that academic success is only one aspect of our focus at Larne Grammar School. He noted the vital role that our extensive extra-curricular provision delivers in developing, ‘the social and emotional growth of our young people, the emergence of interpersonal and other skills and dispositions which are so important in preparing pupils for the world of work, as well as helping to encourage healthy lifestyles and the development of interests and knowledge beyond the narrow focus of the academic curriculum.’ He went on to review the wide-ranging list of achievements of our pupils in the extra-curricular fields of Sport, Music, Drama, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Literacy, Numeracy and Travel.
After the distribution of Junior and Senior Prizes, Rev Dr McClure introduced the Guest of Honour, Mr Simon McDowell. Mr McDowell, in his role as a Director of Kilwaughter Minerals, leads one of Northern Ireland’s most successful companies and one of the biggest employers in the Larne area. As a rugby referee, he has also officiated at the pinnacle of international sport.
Mr McDowell began by congratulating the pupils present on their success, stating that, ‘they can be very proud of their achievements.’ He spoke favourably about his involvement in professional rugby as an international referee declaring that it had provided him with amazing opportunities to travel and forge lasting friendships with people all over the world. He highlighted the pressures associated with professional sport and the expectation for players (and referees!) to reach their maximum potential at the required time. Professional rugby players have an enormous support team of coaches, physios, management and analysts to help them reach their potential. Mr McDowell encouraged our pupils to make use of their dedicated support team of teachers and parents to, ‘encourage, inspire and assist,’ when striving to reach theirs.
He highlighted the challenges he has faced in his role as Managing Director of Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd. Over the last 20 years he has seen the company grow from 30 people to 200 staff delivering 30 lorry loads a day throughout UK and Ireland. This has presented the constant challenge of managing change. Mr McDowell closed by encouraging the pupils to embrace the challenge of change in their own lives and provided them with advice picked up from his refereeing experience – to approach each challenge with three key skills, ‘communication, consistency and control.’
The final speech of the evening was delivered by Head Boy, Matthew Clenaghan, and Head Girl, Jenna McCarlie. In their speech they thanked their teachers and parents for supporting and encouraging them over the past six years. They advised their peers to make the most of the ample opportunities Larne Grammar School provides to learn, grow and succeed and reach your potential in and out of the classroom.