The Aquinas Prize Evening for the academic year, 2016-17 took place this year on Monday 18 December 2017. The event combined the Celebration of GCSE achievement, for the current Year Thirteens, and the Celebration of A’ Level achievement for last year’s Year Fourteen.

Given that Aquinas has reached its Silver Jubilee anniversary, it was with some pride that we welcomed our founding Principal, Mr Finbarr McCallion as guest of honour for the evening. Mr McCallion’s keynote speech gave the Sixth Form and young leavers an insight into the challenges he faced when opening the school back in 1992. He also amused his audience when he explained how university life at Queen’s in the 1960s differs so much from the scene today.

Principal, Mr Barry Kelly, publicly congratulated the GCSE and A’ Level students’ achievements giving details of their impressive grade statistics. Their families and teachers are understandably very proud of their success.

Heads of Departments were on stage and presented pupils who scored the highest in the year group with specific subject trophies.

The pupils were duly congratulated from the stage on their achievements with the landmark award for GCSE, the Monsignor Bartley Award for academic achievement, won by JP O’Brien who achieved twelve A/A* grades.

Three of our Year thirteen students were publicly applauded for gaining top marks in Northern Ireland in their GCSEs. They were: Mary O’Brien who was joint first in Further Mathematics; Jan Turkiewicz who was second in Moving Image Arts, and Rachel Girvan who was joint second in Spanish, third in Further Mathematics and joint third in Physics.

Finally, the three milestone awards for the evening were presented by our guest of honour, MrMcCallion. The first one, the Paula Grant Award for Endeavour, was awarded to Ellen O’Neill; the Monsignor Bartley Award for Academic Achievement was won by Eve Maguire and the Bishop Walsh, Spirit of Aquinas Award was won by Rory Cormican. These prizes are highly valued, hard earned and the three pupils fully deserved them for all their efforts.

Music for the event was beautifully performed by our own pupils, with the opening piece performed by the school’s vocal octet, the intermission piece played on flute by Philip Stewart and the final piece of Christmas music was again performed by the school’s vocal octet.

The current Head Boy, Tom McAlinden and Head Girl, Mary O’Brien presented Mr McCallion with a gift and vote of thanks for his valuable contribution to proceedings and Father Grant brought the event to a close with a prayer and reflection.

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