Ballymena Academy Open Nights, (Wednesday, 15th and Thursday, 16th January) enabled prospective pupils and their parents to see a wide range of curricular and co-curricular activities and to talk with teachers and current pupils.
The Principal, Mr. Ronnie Hassard, welcomed the visitors and stressed that Ballymena Academy builds strong links among pupils, parents and teachers, who are the key partners in any successful school.
The Academy is a friendly and caring learning community in which young people fulfil their potential and benefit from high-quality education in a school which respects them as individuals. Every pupil has the opportunity to take the full range of subjects and to engage in a wide spectrum of co-curricular activities. The commitment of staff is second to none, providing, amongst other things, sporting, cultural, scientific and environmental activities and community links.
The School Prospectus and other materials, indicate the rich programme on offer, including:– Badminton, Charity work, Chess Club, Choir, Cricket, Cross-community projects, Cross-Country, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Golf, History Club, Hockey, Junior and Senior Drama, Netball, Orchestra, Public Speaking, Rugby, Scripture Union, Show Jumping, Soccer, Squash, Swimming, Table-Tennis, Tennis, Track and Field Athletics, Trips abroad, Wind Band.
Ballymena Academy takes great care to ensure that new pupils feel welcome, safe and secure. Members of staff visit feeder Primary Schools each June to talk to pupils who will be joining. Year 8 is a close-knit community within the larger whole school family - pupils are encouraged to build friendships, which, for many, last well beyond schooldays. Pupils have their own locker bays, separate assemblies and a lunch time shared only with Year 9 pupils.
New pupils visit school in June to meet staff and pupils and, as the only pupils in school on their first day of their first term, they have the freedom to explore the school. Prefects meet new pupils at the bus station and accompany them to school. There is a dedicated pastoral team of 14 teachers dedicated to their welfare.
Each pupil is placed in a class of approximately 30 with a balance between boys and girls, and pupil mentors from Sixth Form help the younger boys and girls to adjust to life in their new learning environment. The Form Tutors meet with the pupils each morning for registration and they provide support on a daily basis.
The Area Planning process has given rise to some uncertainty but the proposals now with the Minister for Education show that Ballymena Academy’s future is secured, as it should be. This is a successful school, making best use of public funds and delivering a high-quality educational service.
The most recent Inspection Report confirmed the very positive findings of earlier inspections and other assessments made by a variety of well-respected independent sources. That Report also emphasises “the quality of the pastoral care is very good. The pupils are very well cared for as a result of the holistic approach to their educational social and emotional development.”
One sign of the school’s high expectations and high standards of delivery are the results obtained in public examinations: 99% achieved 2 or more ‘A’ level passes; with 82% achieving 3 or more A*-C passes at ‘A’ Level. At GCSE the corresponding figures for 5 or more grades A*-C (including English and Mathematics) are 98% and 97% for 7 or more such passes. Thus, the report indicates that “the quality of the provision for learning is very good.”
Achievement at this level is the outcome of many factors: pupils’ commitment to their studies, teachers’ expertise and dedication, along with the support of parents/guardians. This latter strand is often overlooked but Ballymena Academy recognises the parental partnership as an essential dimension of any successful school.
Whilst it is very good to receive such a positive and affirmative report, the school is not at all complacent. In a rapidly changing world, with continuing economic pressures and altered employment prospects, we are constantly looking at ways to improve and to reflect the world in which our pupils will spend their adult lives. The Inspectors refer to the school’s “capacity for sustained self-improvement”. Careful planning and robust evaluation are at the heart of our ethos as we seek to provide a 21st Century education.
Details of all aspects of Ballymena Academy are available from the Principal’s Secretary, as are the arrangements for an Open Afternoon for prospective Sixth Form pupils during the summer term. The school’s website www.ballymenaacademy.org.uk is also a source of information.