Royal School Dungannon Senior Prize Day Headmaster’s Speech.
CHAIRMAN, Mr Ewing, parents and pupils of the School, Sixth Form Leavers, and Prize winners, welcome to our Senior Prize Day.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the School and, in particular, to welcome Mr Des Ewing as our Guest of Honour. Des is an old boy of the School who has become familiar to us all as the chief judge on the BBC’s ‘House of the Year’ programme. His reputation from the show might be summed up as ‘tough but fair’, auguring well for a switch of career to the classroom if so desired. However, that seems unlikely as Des’s architecture business continues to flourish, with a string of regional, Irish and UK awards behind him. Writing in ‘Living Design’ magazine last year, Des commented:
“…people recognise that it is not the fact that we buy the biggest or most expensive items for our homes, but that it is the attention to detail of how the pieces are put together. It is the design and the personal involvement that makes the difference.”
“The “attention to detail”; the focus upon the design and “personal involvement”; the bringing together of the different pieces; these are of course the characteristics of the skilled architect. But they are also the characteristics of the good school and they speak to us about what RSD has always been about and continues to represent.
“Indeed, according to Dave Brailsford, the mastermind behind Team GB’s Olympic Cycling success, they are also the ingredients for world class performance. Asked how the cycling team had done so well he replied that it was about a philosophy, an outlook. His aim was to get the best from every individual, so much so that they had set up a specialist team, the ‘Small Gains Team’, to look for that small improvement for each individual rider. That mindset of constantly seeking improvement for the individual and from the individual is the mindset Des has also brought to his profession and it is a mindset that at RSD we continue to cherish and promote. Des, we welcome you back to your old School as someone who personifies the best traditions of RSD and we look forward to your address.
“Our search for architectural improvements continued this summer as the Board of Governors completed the refitting of the Boarding Department with the refurbishment of the Junior Boys’ dorms. There was much whooping of delight when the boys entered their new accommodation. This now completes the transformation of Boarding and establishes RSD as a school committed to maintaining our successful boarding tradition. Alongside this, there was a great deal of essential work replacing and repairing the roof of the Old Grey Mother and adjacent buildings; and the school’s five water tanks were also replaced. Sometimes the improvements and the gains sought are not so small! Such an outlook is essential in securing the future of the school and I offer my thanks to the Governors for their vision and leadership and to the Bursar, Mr Wheeler, for his constant energy and vigilance in managing these large scale works so efficiently.
“The sense of common purpose, with teachers, parents and pupils working together in search of the “small gains”, is etched into our daily work. For example, we have re-ignited the School Council structure and from that process we have begun to see pupils’ views influence school life with the placement of lockers in new areas, the trialling of a breakfast club and the promotion of pupils’ work and achievements around the school. This is just one example from the broader pastoral work of the school which is so thoughtfully led by Miss Garvin and delivered by the pastoral team of Heads of Key Stage, Heads of Year and Form Tutors. Likewise, the RSD curriculum continues to evolve with new pathways for pupils at both GCSE and A Level becoming available for individual pupils under the considered guidance of Mr Clingan, ably assisted by RSD subject leaders and coordinators and in collaboration with other local schools.
The search for the “small gains” continues into other areas. For example, individual pupils in Years 8-12 benefited last year from working alongside teachers and pupils from our partner school St Patrick’s Academy on literacy and study skills, with pupils from both schools receiving one-to-one guidance and encouragement. The confidence boost for many was tangible, so much so that we are expanding the project for this year. Similarly, small adjustments in the support given to pupils for whom English is not their first language has helped many such pupils to develop their confidence and language skills and to succeed across the curriculum. It is a mindset which resonates with the teaching staff, as colleagues meet to share their classroom experiences and expertise with a view to finding one new, worthwhile element to bring to the next lesson. Such actions have been referred to in the educational jargon of today as “a culture of self evaluation” and “the school improvement agenda”. At RSD, the desire to seek improvements in our day-to-day school life and in the interests of each pupil’s personal development has been what this school has been about for 400 years.
“At A Level, 24 pupils out of a cohort of 92 secured at least three A Levels at A* or A grades. Anastasiya Kret, Benji Yuen, Martin Cheng and Jason McCammon each scored A* grades in all four of their subjects while Michael Dodds and Morgan Chan both returned three A* grades plus one A grade and Jayne Patterson secured 3 A* grades. Nine other pupils carried off at least three A*/A grades each. Not surprisingly, 15.8% of grades were at A* compared to the Northern Ireland average of around 7.7%. In total, 67.1% of all grades were awarded the top grades of A*, A or B; while 82.2% of grades were at A*-C.
“At Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level RSD pupils established a very strong foundation for A2 study in many subjects, with 23 pupils from a cohort of 87 returning at least three A grades in their chosen subjects, including Thomas Liu, Jason Pang and Jeffrey Wong who each achieved 5 A grades. A further 6 pupils secured 4 A grades. In total, 59.3% grades were at A or B grade and 73.2% were at A-C grades.
“27/95 pupils who sat GCSE examinations returned at least 7 A*/A grades. Adam Willis secured a clean sweep of 10 A* grades and Kaitlyn Tate and Megan Stewart each returned 9 A* grades plus 1 A grade. Georgina Mulligan, Stuart Moore, Cherith Bartley, Jill Burton, Lauren Stewart and Rebecca McAdam carried off 10 A*/A grades while Cindy Kwok, Patrick Swaile, Bethany Wilson and Alexander McMaster returned A*/A grades in 9 subjects. The overall results showed that 41.5% of all grades were at A* or A grades and 74% of all grades were at A*-B with 85% of pupils meeting government benchmarks of returning at least seven A*-C grades.
“We knew how hard so many of the pupils had been working and we had high hopes for their success. It is wonderful to see so many of you realise your ambitions. You deserve huge congratulations for all your efforts and dedication. Every pupil who has enjoyed success will know also that the support of parents and teachers has been a very important factor and it is that combination of support alongside the ability and effort of the pupils that has helped produce such excellent results. My thanks and congratulations to you all. The desire from so many to make the “small gains” is at the heart of that success: to invest in the person as an individual and to work on the little details which bring about improvement.
“Away from the classroom RSD pupils continued to enjoy a rich and varied extra curricular programme. In rugby the 1st XV had a very good season with some fine displays and excellent play which brought a run of 9/15 victories in the autumn term. The RSD pack competed against every team, often dominating, and this was the basis for success. After a short but useful tour to Limerick the team was buoyed for the Schools Cup game at Portadown where a last gasp try from captain Andrew Clingan proved decisive. After a subdued performance and defeat in the next round away to Inst, the team then played their best rugby at Rainey in the quarter final of the Shield before succumbing in the semi final to eventual winners Armagh. This renewed competitiveness meant that the 1st XV were awarded the Headmaster’s trophy for the team of the year. Moreover, with a large group of talented, younger players coming through the future looks bright. It was no surprise, for example, to see Jack Milligan progressing to the Ulster Schools squad. There has been no great change in RSD rugby to bring about this new level of competitiveness. Rather, it is the result of many adjustments - the “small gains” - made by the coaching staff and players over a long period of time.
“Rugby remains a great favourite with the boys at younger age groups and there is a real sense of togetherness in the various squads. Attendance at practice is consistently good and progress in individual skills and team play obvious as the weeks go on. Results do not always follow and RSD sides last season found themselves frequently on the wrong side of close final scores. The cruelest example was the Medallion Shield loss to Dalriada by one point having dominated the game. But sometimes it all goes according to plan and the 17-15 victory of the U12 XV against Rainey in the Arnold Shield produced the biggest smiles of the year. Let us hope that it is a first taste of victory with many more to come.
In hockey, the 1st XI squad started the year slowly but once a few goals went in there was a clear lift in confidence resulting in a run of more positive results. The Schools Cup match against BRA was a tight game. RSD conceded early but inspired by captain Kerry Jones they fought back and bossed the game for long periods, eventually equalising and forcing the match to extra time and then penalty flicks. BRA won the shoot-out 5-4 and it was an agonising way to go out after such a great display. Boosted by the tour to Limerick the squad rallied and took their good form into the Plate competition, reaching the semi finals, and also the Mid Ulster Cup where they were runners up. Not surprisingly, a number of players were nominated for Area Board hockey trials with Georgina Mulligan and Dana Bettany selected for the U17 squad.
As with rugby our younger teams were also bursting with enthusiasm and talent. The U14 squad built on their great success from the previous year and produced a series of excellent results based around a tight defence which conceded only 6 goals in 18 games. The girls reached the semi finals of the U14 Plate and such was the quality of play that several U14 players quickly progressed to the 1st XI squad and were selected for the U15 Area Board trials. The persistent efforts of the players and coaches, week in and week out, continue to bring improvement. The attention to detail and the sense of personal involvement are bringing about a grander design and auguring well for the future.
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Weather for Dungannon
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North