Dromore High held their Celebration of Achievement
Guest Speaker was Mr Andrew Sleator M Pharm, former pupil and Head boy on three occasions.
Chairperson Mr Poots welcomed all guests to the occasion and congratulated the pupils on their excellent success in examinations, thanking the staff of the school on behalf of the Governors for their hard work for the pupils of the school and for their critical part in the success of the school.
He said: ““Our guest speaker this afternoon Andrew, holds the unusual honour of being our Head Boy three years in a row as he moved through the school with the first sixth form cohort. Andrew now joins our growing band of alumni with a 1 st class Masters Degree in Pharmacy, from QUB. Andrew was the second placed pupil in his university year group. Andrew is an excellent ambassador for the school and it is a pleasure to welcome him back.”
Mr Poots invited the Headmaster Mr McConaghy to present his report.
Welcoming everyone to the event, Mr McConaghy had a special welcome for retired VP Mrs Winifred Herron, who retired in August after 38 years of dedicated service and loyalty to Dromore High. A committed Geographer Mr McConaghy commented that scores of young people had enjoyed the privilege of being taught by her and many more had benefitted from her compassionate pastoral care. Wishing her well for her retirement Mr McConaghy hoped for ‘a long, healthy and fulfilling retirement’. Mr McConaghy proceeded to welcome Mrs Herron’s replacement to the position of VP Mrs Ruth Ravey.
Mr McConaghy expressed his thanks to the Board of Governors for their untiring commitment in this onerous, voluntary role.
Reflecting on the past year Mr McConaghy commented that it had felt like a vintage year with numerous successes and achievements finished off fittingly with the school’s best ever set of A level results.
Mr McConaghy addressed the class of 2019: “To our leavers and year 14 pupils, today we congratulate you on your successes, which although
different for each of you is fully deserved in all cases and equally valued by all our staff.”
Reflecting on the examination results Mr McConaghy continued “The class of 2019 had 90 pupils completing A levels. A superb 80% of all pupils achieved 3A*-C grades. This betters our previous best of 72% in 2017 and is a credit to the school and all its stakeholders. 92% of all entries resulted in an
A*-C grade. This occurred in a year when budgetary pressures have been hitting schools hard and when more difficult new specification A levels have been taken for the first time; all of which makes this achievement even more commendable. Almost 80% of our pupils are moving to third level education with a small number progressing to employment and some to Higher level apprenticeships.
Christopher Murray, Senior Prefect was the school’s top boy and top pupil with 4 A* grades in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics, a tremendous achievement. Emma Harmon Deputy Head Girl was the top achieving girl with 3 A grades. Mr McConaghy complimented all the pupils “…as well Christopher and Emma there are so many outstanding performances in this cohort.”
Commenting on the success of the sixth form, Mr McConaghy indicated that the demand for places had driven the number of pupils in school overall to over 1000 for the first time.
Reviewing the leavers destinations Mr McConaghy indicated that amongst the pupils going to continue their studies via 3 rd level education, the majority had chosen to attend local or mainland universities. Degree courses being undertaken covered a diverse range of interests including: Accounting, Agriculture, Archaeology, Business, Biomedical Science, Communication, Economics, Education, Engineering, Geography, Human Nutrition, IT, International relations and politics, Law,
Mathematics, Nursing, Pharmacy, Psychology and Sports courses to name just some.
Mr McConaghy continued: “Some of our pupils have opted to pursue Higher Level Apprenticeships in Accountancy or in IT, one with local firm Kainos” and he wished these pupils well also.
Mr McConaghy paid tribute to all the staff for their commitment to their pupils, which alongside strong parental support and the pupils’ own hard work had yielded such pleasing results. “Going the extra mile for the pupils was the norm in Dromore High” he said.
Reflecting on the current uncertainty in society, politics etc. Mr McConaghy suggested that schools could provide some stability in the lives of young people which was lacking in other aspects of life.
The freedom that so many young people seek today could only be liberating if it is discovered and explored within a framework. Rules were needed in school and society and in Dromore they sought to provide an enriching experience for the pupils which required a disciplined environment.
Quoting previous principal Mr John Wilkinson from 2013, the year guest speaker Andrew Sleator had finished his education in Dromore, there had been a plea for progress on a new build for the school.
That plea was reissued by Mr McConaghy who indicated there had been extensive meetings over recent months with a variety of officials to move the project forward and requesting the support of the local community and politicians in the coming months as the case would continue to be made.
Mr McConaghy offered closing comments to the leavers of 2019: “I hope you will always remember that we encouraged you to believe that success did not lie in an inherited trait or a gene but in hard work and unyielding commitment; always getting up and having another go when you fail or fall.”
Mr McConaghy concluded with some words from a sermon of Saint Augustine, an early Christian, as an encouragement to remember that “what brought you this far can take you on to even greater success”.
Two musical items provided entertainment for the audience; A vocal solo by Deputy Head Boy Peter Copes entitled ‘Proud of your boy’ by Alan Menkan, another vocal solo by Deputy Head Girl Sian McCullough, ‘A million dreams’ from the Greatest Showman.
Mrs Hilary Mitchell, Director of Sixth Form introduced the Guest Speaker Mr Andrew Sleator.
Andrew had always been extremely hard working but more than that had been persistent in his efforts to understand his subjects, often questioning the staff in the mornings before school to get help with topics he did not understand. This persistence had paid off and his recent graduation was ‘proof of this exceptional young man’s qualities’. Mrs Mitchell concluded that Andrew ‘was a fine ambassador for the school’.
Guest speaker Mr Andrew Sleator reflected on his happy time in school at Dromore Central Primary School, achieving an A grade in the transfer test but having no desire to attend a grammar school, knowing from the experience of his brothers that he could achieve as well or better in the environment of Dromore High.
Andrew enjoyed his time at Dromore High immensely playing rugby, participating in the school orchestra and flourishing in his studies. He had always given his best to his work and encouraged the class of 2019 to have persistence in their studies, going back to their teachers or lecturers if they need to, until they have progressed.
Commenting on other aspects of school life, Andrew had met his fiancé in sixth form so that whatever else one achieves “it might be possible to get a husband or wife in Dromore High!”.
Reflecting on one difficult period of his university experience when he withdrew from a course in the first year, Andrew encouraged the pupils to embrace their setbacks, developing resilience and the ability to bounce back from disappointment, however difficult it is at the time. The important thing was “to get back up again after failure and that is true learning.”
Andrew also encouraged the pupils to be honest about how they are feeling and seek advice from trusted friends or mentors but most importantly to “take some time, step back and look at the situation, listen to others… think what can
I do to resolve it, consider what are the best steps forward, and work at it”. For Andrew, worries about disappointing others or what people might say about him had been an unnecessary distraction and in the end unfounded as those close to him genuinely wanted the best for him. Now with the benefit of hindsight and his university success secure, Andrew was facing the future with options, presently choosing to spend time in the family business alongside working as a locum pharmacist.
Andrew advised the pupils that gaining experience as they progressed through their education was of critical importance whether that be work experience or part time jobs. The skills acquired during such spells will always be beneficial even if at the time it didn’t feel quite that way. “Importantly pursue careers that make you happy thereby making work a delight. Doing something your love means it doesn’t feel like work”.
Andrew continued “Without commitment you will never start and without consistency and hard work, you will never finish. So keep chipping away, keep learning, keep going forward. Fall down 7 times, get up 8. Be proud of your achievements and hard work, while remaining humble, and remember where you came from, and never forget your school days here at Dromore High”.
Andrew concluded by thanking the staff of Dromore High for all their help over his years there which he deeply appreciated and wished the class of 2019 “every success in their future endeavours”.
Chairman Mr Poots thanked Andrew for his honest and inspiring speech and for presenting the certificates, prizes and cups to the recipients.
Mr Poots brought proceedings to a close by thanking everyone for an enjoyable afternoon and encouraging pupils and alumni to join the schools soon to be set up Past Pupils Association for their own and the school’s benefit commenting that “Giving something back can be as fulfilling as receiving.”