Calum Ball and Aideen Murphy recipients of the Monsignor Bartley Award for overall academic excellence in GCSE.

Aquinas celebrated two Prize Giving events just before Christmas.  The first afternoon marked GCSE achievement and the second evening, for past pupils, celebrated A Level achievement.

The GCSE Prize Day had keynote speeches made by the school’s new Principal Mr Barry Kelly and the guest of honour, St. Bernard’s Primary School Principal, Mr Kieran McTaggart.

In his speech Mr Kelly stated, “I have been privileged to witness the academic reputation of excellence and the outstanding pastoral care that Aquinas is renowned for. However, what I have been impressed by most of all has been you, the students I have met. The courtesy and respect you have shown to me and everyone who comes into Aquinas, really highlights the welcoming ethos and atmosphere that is so clearly evident from the moment you enter this building.”  Mr Kelly went on to congratulate the students on their GCSE success highlighting that 21.5 % of all GCSE grades were at A* and that 59% of all GCSE grades were either A* or A grades.

In total, the number of Aquinas students who achieved 7+ GCSE’s A*-C was 99.1% against the N.I. Grammar average of 92%.  Mr Kelly finished by saying, “Be ambitious – aim for what you really want. Do not let anyone tell you, you can’t. Know that you can reach your goals – it only takes effort.”

Mr McTaggart also applauded the students’ achievements and was particularly gratified to see many of his own past pupils in the audience.  He also urged the students to be ambitious and in particular to develop their creativeness, in all aspects of academic life from the Arts to the Sciences.


The second evening saw a large audience of invited parents and past students from 2010-2011.  There was a wonderful Christmas theme to the evening and Christmas Carols mixed with Irish Traditional music added to the atmosphere.  The evening opened with past pupil and baritone, Brian McAlea singing the Gregorian Chant, Hodie Christus natus est.

The main guests of honour were the UUJ Director of Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials Research Institute, Professor Jim McLaughlin (recently awarded the MBE), Bishop Donal Mc

Keown (Chair of Governors) and Bishop Patrick Walsh.  Bishop McKeown and Bishop Walsh presented the Monsignor Bartley Award for academic excellence and the inaugural Bishop Walsh Spirit of Aquinas Award respectively.

Again, Mr Kelly congratulated the students on their fantastic achievements, highlighting that at A2 level 2010-11, 92% of all grades were at A* – C, with 48% of all grades being either Grades A or A*.

Professor McLaughlin spoke of the great potential and talents of our young people and reminded the audience that important worldwide inventions such as the heart resuscitator, the portable defibrillator, was aNorthern Irelandinvention of Professor Frank Pantridge in the 1960s.  Many other advances in nano-technology have come from research work carried out in our home universities so the future is bright as long as students are ambitious and hardworking enough to bring their dreams to fruition.

Aquinas’s strong links with industry were underlined when Dr Clare Gilligan, parent and local Vice President of the pharmaceutical company, Warner Chilcott UK Limited, presented an Award for achievement in A Level Chemistry.  The cup this year was presented to Elizabeth Murphy.

Bishop McKeown presented the perpetual Monsignor Thomas Bartley Award to the students who achieved four A*s or better in their A2 results and the recipients this year were: Peter Norris, Coirla Magee, Ciara Power and Aoife Rose O’Reilly.  Bishop McKeown also gave a stirring speech about the value of Catholic Education.  He said, “Catholic education does not just offer a segregated education for ethnic Catholics, with merely a divisive emphasis on nationalist culture and language. Catholic education is a valid and valued contribution to supporting all families and all of society so that young people can develop an understanding of human dignity.”

Finally Bishop Walsh presented the Spirit of Aquinas Award, a prize given to the student or students who contributed much to the life of the school, above and beyond the duties of the classroom.  In its inaugural year the prize went to John Doherty, Julie Glenholmes and Eoin McCrossan.  In his speech, Bishop Walsh recalled the early days of Aquinas and explained how the school has always been close to his heart.  He stated that the school motto, Veritas Liberabit, The Truth Will Set You Free, comes St John’s Gospel but students should endeavour to seek the truth in two ways: in one’s mind and in one’s actions.

The evening closed with two beautiful carols sung a cappella by past student Ciara Power and her mother.