Slideshow: Tackling Bowe....and Mandarin

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Carrickfergus students have enjoyed “excellent results” in their first language test as part of the Confucius Classroom Project.

Downshire School principal Jacqueline Stewart highlighted the achievement in her annual open night address to prospective pupils and their parents.

Karl Nicholl and Reece Flanagan show off their aeroplanes in the Design and Technology department at Downshire School open night. INCT 06-107-GR

Karl Nicholl and Reece Flanagan show off their aeroplanes in the Design and Technology department at Downshire School open night. INCT 06-107-GR

“We actively promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects and Careers Education in all subject areas and are the lead school in the Carrickfergus hub for the Confucius Classroom Project where two Chinese teachers are based in our school working to develop language and cultural links.

“Recently our sixth form undertook the first language test with excellent results. This is a very exciting new project for our pupils and is fully supported by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Chinese Government. The intention is that it will lead to educational exchanges with China.”

Overall academic achievement was illustrated too by Mrs Stewart.

“Around one fifth of year 12 achieved 8 or more top GCSE grades in August 2014, with one pupil achieving 10 top grades. Fifty-six A* grades were awarded with many of these coming from the lower bands in school.

“Each year we have been progressing up the league tables with improving English and Maths grades. We offer extra English and Maths support where appropriate across the key stages including through the Signature Project at GCSE level. We are proud that this project had a very positive outcome from a recent survey inspection.

“It must be noted that 96% of year 12 achieved A* - G in 5 or more GCSE subjects including English and Maths, which is an impressive statistic and not one that can be claimed by all schools. In GCSE English 56% of Year 12 achieved A* - C which is a very creditable statistic from a full ability entry.

“At A-Level again 100% of our students achieved success and secured university or other further education places.”

In her address, the principal also described Downshire as one of the “best equipped” in Carrickfergus.

“We are immensely proud of everything our school stands for and have put significant investment into providing resources suitable to build a bright educational future for our young people in the best possible environment. Improvements include upgraded sports facilities, sixth form centre, laser printer for technology, interactive whiteboards in all teaching areas, upgraded computers and a recent investment of £20,000 on new equipment for Science, Home Economics, Art, English and Maths.

“We have also installed a disability lift and hygiene room to support those with physical needs. Other refurbishments are planned for this year with proposals being considered for a new roof and upgrading of PE and Technology suites.”

Mrs Stewart went on to emphasise the community element of life at Downshire.

“We see our school as a vital part of the community, and our young people are the community’s most valuable resource. Their educational development is therefore our top priority as they represent the future of our country and workforce.

“We challenge our pupils to be the best they can be in terms of school work, sporting prowess, musical talent, recreational interests and personal development and we are interested in them as people, not as statistics.

“We achieve great success in sporting activities and other competitions, with students winning numerous externally recognised awards and Ulster representation in a variety of sports. Examples include our year 12 hockey team who have won their league five years in a row, our U16 football team won the East Antrim Cup, our rugby teams have trained with international star Tommy Bowe and we also have champions in athletics, kick-boxing and free running. We also contribute thousands of pounds annually to a wide range of charities – this year we handed a cheque for over £11,500 to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice and this is just one of many.”

Downshire School, the audience heard, has received high praise from visitors such as the Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, MPs, MLAs and councillors.

Mrs Stewart said: “Mr Sammy Wilson MP chose our school to bring the Parliamentary Under Secretary for State to visit as a representation of quality education in the East Antrim constituency. They all commented on the warm and friendly atmosphere, the excellent work and creativity in classrooms and most of all were impressed by our bright and articulate pupils. High accolades indeed from people who recognise quality.”