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Jonny Bell Guest of Honour at Friends’ GCSE Reception

Olympian Jonny Bell, who starred for the Ireland hockey team in Rio over the summer received a warm welcome back to Friends’ School when he was the Guest of Honour at the annual GCSE Reception. 

In a lively and entertaining address, he paid tribute to the pupils who were receiving their Progress Files and talked about his experiences at the Games.

Jonny Bell also talked about the need to be able to deal with setbacks and to learn from experience.  He cited the American basketballer Michael Jordan, who famously quoted his failures and said that they had been the basis of his success. 

After presenting GCSE certificates and Progress Files to all who had taken GCSE examinations last summer, Jonny Bell joined pupils, their families and members of staff for refreshments in the Dining Hall and reminisced about his time here.

At the Reception, Stephen Moore, Principal of Friends’, spoke about the Friends’ pupils who had taken GCSE exams last summer, noting that, in awarding Progress Files and GCSE certificates to each one, the School recognised and valued the achievements, talents and interests of each individual, both within the classroom and beyond.

Mr Moore said that all of the pupils present should be congratulated on their success. 59 out of a total of 140 pupils had gained 8 or more passes at A and A*, with 42 pupils achieving 10 GCSEs at A*/A. Of all the grades achieved in all subjects, 27% were at A*, 64% at A*/A and 89% at grades A*-B.  In nearly all areas, they scored more than five percentage points above the Northern Ireland Grammar School average, and in 13 of the 24 subjects offered, pupils achieved between 10 and 20% above the average for similar schools.

Special mention was made of Shannon Scott, Matthew Mackinnon, Rachael Morrison, Conal McKee, Lauren Irwin, Liz Gunning, David Cleland, Niamh Clarke, Rachel Barnes and Chloe Terris each achieved 8 A*s and 2 As, and of Emily Hassard, Charlotte Forbes, Amy Brown, Olivia Reid, Lydia Campbell, Nicole Rutherford and Nicole Bell who all achieved 9A*s and 1 A. Old Scholars’ Prizes were awarded to Jenny Fitzsimmons, Niamh Doyle, Maisy Sinclair and Peter Fox who each had a perfect record of ten A* grades.  Mr Moore said that that this showed remarkable consistency across a broad and challenging curriculum, as they had all sat Maths, English, English Literature, at least one Science subject and one Modern Language, as well as Religious Studies. 

Mr Moore said that there was yet more success in that two of these pupils were placed by CCEA in the top three in Northern Ireland in their subjects, with Liz Gunning 3rd in GCSE Music and Lydia Campbell 3rd in GCSE French. He added that all of the pupils who had received subject prizes for Art and Design had achieved full marks at GCSE, adding that Maisy Sinclair’s work would be on show at the True Colours Exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Following their submissions for GCSE Moving Image Arts, Rory McNeight and James Beckett were also due to have their short films screened as part of the showcase event for the Cinemagic Film Festival on 24 November.

Mr Moore spoke of the wide range of interests the pupils present enjoyed outside the classroom, including at events like the Spring Concert at the Ulster Hall, which had showcased the immense talent of pupils in various ensembles.  He added that a disproportionate number of pupils in the current Year 13 had begun contributing during Year 12 to the most senior sports teams in school, and said that their involvement in the Schools’ Cup run in rugby, in the boys’ 2nd XI victory in the Dowdall Cup, the girls’ 2B XI win in the Gibson Cup and victories in our Intermediate and Senior victories in netball’s Millen Shield would provide them with the experience to make a real impact on the senior teams this season. He said that as well as showing loyalty and commitment to school, this involvement would undoubtedly be of enormous benefit to these young people as they moved on from school, where their continued appreciation of the benefits of getting outside and enjoying physical activity and their ability to be part of a team would stand them in good stead.

He went on to speak of success in individual sports: ‘In rugby, four of our Year 13 pupils were involved with Ulster Rugby Development Squads over the summer: Ben McCaughey , Ross Stewart and Bradley Mulholland played for the U17 team against Munster, with George Pringle winning his first cap for the U18s against the same opposition.  In boys’ hockey, Matthew Milliken and Andrew Edgar have both excelled, representing Ulster U18s against Wales; Matthew also represented Friends’ at the UK School Games.  In hockey, Rachel Barnes had the honour of being selected as vice-captain of the Ulster U18 team last weekend, and this follows hot on the heels of a bronze medal she won as part of the Northern Ireland team at the UK School Games. Rachel has also been very successful in netball, where along with Shannon Scott, she has represented School in the South Eastern Area netball squad; Shannon is also currently training with the NI U21 squad.  Bradley Mulholland, Josh Armstrong and Sarah Ferris all won medals for Friends’ at the Ulster Schools’ Athletics Championships, and Josh and Sarah both went on to compete at what was our most successful Irish Schools’ Championships for many years, with Josh winning Silver in the Intermediate Triple Jump.’

Mr Moore said that the first term in Sixth Form had been a busy one with pupils involved in the School Council, the Charity Council, Young Enterprise and debating; they had also managed to take part in Silver Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions to the Mournes, a Senior Girls’ Hockey tour to Dublin, a French homestay visit to Nice and a Scripture Union weekend to Ballycastle.

Mr Moore concluded: ‘Moving into Sixth Form is an important transition; as well as fresh opportunities, it brings with it new responsibilities and a maturing relationship with school.  I know that our young people will not rest on their laurels, and they will realise that success at GCSE is no guarantee of success at A-level; that will only come with hard work and the curiosity and independence of mind that will allow them to deepen their knowledge of their subjects and explore them beyond the confines of what they cover in class. They should know that they have the ability to compete with the very best from across these islands, and should not hesitate to set ambitious targets for what they wish to achieve. And as they take a leading role in many of the enrichment activities we offer here, they will develop their interests and, increasingly, inspire and motivate younger pupils to follow in their footsteps.’

Pictured (introduction): Niamh Doyle, Peter Fox, Maisy Sinclair, Jenny Fitzsimmons were the winners of the Old Scholars' Association prize at Friends' School GCSE Reception

Pictured: Platform Party for the GCSE Reception 2016 held on Tuesday 25 October 2016 at Friends' School Lisburn