I am currently the Principal of St. Cecilia’s College – an all-girl Catholic, 11-19 non- selective school. In Northern Ireland we still have a selective education system. Children at the age of 11 can opt to do ‘transfer tests’ The results of these are used to qualify children for a place in grammar schools. Those that do not achieve the acquired grade and those who opt not to do the transfer tests go to a secondary school like ours.
We have a free school entitlement of approximately 60%, indicating high levels of unemployment and poverty in our community. Our community also bears the legacy of a very troubled past and this can still bubble to the surface from time to time. It is imperative that we ensure that our students, regardless of academic ability and background, are provided with opportunities to achieve qualifications, employability skills, cross community experiences and the mind-set that will ultimately make them more employable and able to make a positive contribution to our community and to Northern Ireland.
Of course we cannot do this alone and we have developed strong partnerships with our local youth groups, community groups, businesses, industries and other schools to help us achieve our goals. Students and teachers enjoy being part of a genuinely supportive community that encourages high aspirations and seeks to bring out the best in every individual.
The school has acquired a number of accolades recognising the significant achievements of the school in promoting students’ wellbeing and success. These include: Investors in Pupils Award, IIP Leadership and Management Award, IIP Leader Award, Schools of Sanctuary Award, the Diversity and Inclusion Standard and most recently we were a finalist in the TES ‘Secondary School of the Year’ and were the Gold Award winner of the Pearson UK Secondary School of the Year for Making a Difference.