Saint Catherine’s College in Armagh has again been named the top non-selective school in Northern Ireland.
The school’s top position was based on 2013 GCSE examinations results, with 71.7 per cent of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at A*-C including English and maths. The school is also top of the list for seven or more GCSEs A*-C including English and maths (again 71.7 per cent).
The lists of the top grammar and non-grammar schools was compiled by The Detail investigative online newspaper using figures supplied by the Department of Education. The Saint Catherine’s achievement comes just weeks after a recent ETI inspection, where the school achieved the highest grading of outstanding in all six categories inspected.
Principal Deirdre McDonald expressed her delight. She said, “Our students achieve outstanding grades, both at GCSE and A level, year on year and I am extremely proud of the superb record of academic success here in our all-ability school.
“The brilliant grades are the result of great teamwork – our students work hard, supported by the expertise and dedication of our staff and by the commitment of the parents.
“Furthermore, the ethos of Sacred Heart Education, which permeates everything we do, is definitely a factor of their success.”
In the inspection, which was carried out in November, the school was deemed outstanding in pupil achievement; teaching learning and assessment; care, guidance and support; curriculum; leadership and management; and pastoral care.
A team of inspectors spent a week in the school monitoring lessons and examining procedures. They also carried out extensive interviews with staff, pupils, governors and parents.
According to the inspectors, “by the end of KS3, KS4 and post-16, the pupils obtain excellent standards”, with all of the GCSE subjects more than 10 percentage points above the NI average.
They found that “the school fosters an atmosphere of openness, enquiry and intellectual challenge to support pupils’ development as knowledgeable and reflective individuals”.
Teaching was described as “vibrant and inspirational” leading to “engaged and sustained learning”.
Curricular provision for the pupils at KS3, KS4 and post-16 was described as “outstanding”, there is “visionary, collegial leadership” and “pupils benefit from the tightly fused integration of pastoral care and academic aspiration”.
The achievements come just ahead of Catholic Schools’ Week, which begins this Sunday. Said Mrs McDonald, “It is to their credit that, in 1973, the congregation of the Sacred Heart here in Armagh took the daring decision to merge their grammar and intermediate schools to create one non-selective secondary school - Saint Catherine’s College.
“Today, we applaud the foresight of these courageous ladies who created a school which has long been promoted as a model for secondary education in the north.
“We are a proud Sacred Heart school where the entire staff - Team St Catherine’s- work hard to enable every pupil to achieve her/his potential and to become a responsible member of society.”
In October there was an exhibition to celebrate 40 years of the school. Further celebrations have been planned for mid-June.