Two prize giving events took place just before the Christmas holidays, one for Year Thirteen in celebration of their GCSE achievements and the other for last year’s Year Fourteen, in celebration of their A’ Level achievements.

Mr Pat McNeil, retired Senior Teacher from the school, was the Guest of Honour for the Year Thirteen Celebration and he spoke of the impact of three great orators in history who inspired him: Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The students listened intently and clearly Mr McNeil was having a positive impression on them. He finished by saying that the biggest thing that helps anyone achieve in life is a positive attitude and he encouraged his young audience to take heed.

Principal, Mr Barry Kelly, then publicly congratulated the students’ achievements explaining how 21% of all grades achieved by these students were at A* and 56% either A* or A. In fact, 96% of the Year Thirteens achieved 7+ GCSE grades A* – C compared to the Northern Ireland average for Grammar Schools of 93.7%.

The photograph shows the 37 students from Year Thirteen who achieved at least 8 A*/A grades (17 gained 10 A*/A grades; 9 gained 9 A*/A grades and 12 gained 9 A*/A grades). This is indeed a fantastic achievement for these students and the entire Year Group. Their parents and teachers are understandably very proud of their success.

Finally, individual student success was reported to Aquinas from our main examining body CCEA when they informed us that Niamh Kelly was first in Northern Ireland in English Language and also second in Music. Niamh McCrossan was third in Northern Ireland in Physical Education. The girls were duly congratulated from the stage on their achievements. The landmark award of the day, the Monsignor Barley Award for academic achievement was won by Niamh Kelly.

Music for the event was beautifully performed by our own pupils.

The Leavers’ Prize Giving occurred on the evening of Thursday 19th December. Guest of Honour for the evening was Professor Peter Finn, Principal of St Mary’s University College and his wife Bronagh.

Professor Finn spoke eloquently about the importance of Catholic Education in society and the role teachers play in this. To underline the idea, he quoted Henry Adams stating, “A teacher affects eternityhe can never tell where his influence stops”. Professor Finn finished his Keynote Speech by giving advice to his audience of University Freshers and their parents, saying that studying abroad either in mainland Europe or the USA for at least part of a degree course is valuable experience and certainly enhances future employment prospects.

Mr Kelly congratulated the students on their A’ Level achievements noting that 94% of all grades were A* – C with 50% of those grades at A*or A. Twenty eight students earned a minimum of 3 grades at A* or A and these students were publically congratulated from the stage. 86.1% of this student body achieved 3 grades A* – C, compared to the Northern Ireland Grammar School average of 77%. Finally, our current Head Girl, Amaia Moore was congratulated from the stage on gaining the highest mark in Northern Ireland in A’ Level Spanish; something she managed to do in just one year.

Finally, three landmark awards were presented by Professor Finn. The first one, the Paula Grant Award for Endaevour was awarded to James MacSorley; the Monsignor Bartley Award for Academic achievement was won by Calum Ball and the Bishop Walsh, Spirit of Aquinas Award was won by Aideen Murphy and Aisling Kelly.

Again, the music for the evening was performed by the school’s Choral Octet, a violin solo by Sarah White and the school Jazz Quintet, The Five Fours.

The evening finished with past-pupils, parents, teachers and guests enjoying refreshments in the Mall in a true mood of celebration. Many congratulations to all.