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Blackwater Integrated College Open Night Is Great Success
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DR OLWEN Griffith, Principal of the Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick, was delighted with the turnout on the annual open night (Thursday 9 January 2014).

In addressing parents and future pupils, Dr Griffith said: “Blackwater is an integrated, all-ability and co-educational college.

There were a number of interesting experiments on-going in the Science Lab during Open Night.

There were a number of interesting experiments on-going in the Science Lab during Open Night.

“Integration means respecting yourself and others, even when they have different beliefs from yours.  We have high standards, asking that everyone works and learns to their full potential, helps those around them to do their best, and develops into a thoughtful, caring member of his or her community.

“By all-ability we mean accepting pupils of all academic abilities, irrespective of whether they sat the GL or AQE test, or what their result was, and educating them together to their full potential.

“Blackwater Integrated College l is a place of real learning, not just for passing examinations, but where staff and students work closely together.  Young people of all abilities, all nationalities and all religious traditions are welcome.

“The fact that Blackwater is a good school was confirmed in a recent inspection – we are awaiting publication of the report.  The inspectors noted that over 90% of the lessons observed were good or better and almost half were very good or outstanding.

“We recognise that making the transition from primary to post primary school can be an exciting, but daunting experience.  We aim to ensure that each student feels happy and secure in their move to Blackwater and provide a number of opportunities for students to get to know us before they officially join us in September.

In the English class were Callum McVeigh and Darius Kittle looking over an interesting novel.

In the English class were Callum McVeigh and Darius Kittle looking over an interesting novel.

“In June, we invite all incoming year 8 students to the College for an Induction Day.  Part of this process involves students getting to know their Form Tutor, Head of Junior School and meeting other students in their year group.

“In September, the first day is set aside for year 8 only, so they have space to get to know staff and the experience is not quite so daunting!  Form tutors and all staff make sure that all our students, and particularly our year 8 students, are well supported as they grow accustomed to college life.

Dr Grffith added that “Also, for the first term, students are given a number of concessions, including starting their lunch break earlier than other year groups and participation in an activity day to encourage team building with their peers.

“We value our links with our feeder primary schools and make a concerted effort to liaise with primary school staff to ensure that we have the most up-to-date information about our incoming year 8 students.

“Blackwater Integrated College is committed to providing an environment which encourages all students to maximise their potential.

“We recognise that some of our more academically able students have needs and opportunities of their own.  As a person-centred school we aim to provide these students with enrichment and extension in their learning.

Erin Belshaw, St Patrick's Primary School, Ballynahinch, in the Domestic Science room getting a pizza made up. Also pictured are Blackwater pupils Lucy Fitzpatick, Grace Stewart, Tara Armstrong with Teaching Assistant, Aisleain Reynolds.

Erin Belshaw, St Patrick’s Primary School, Ballynahinch, in the Domestic Science room getting a pizza made up. Also pictured are Blackwater pupils Lucy Fitzpatick, Grace Stewart, Tara Armstrong with Teaching Assistant, Aisleain Reynolds.

“We have a grouping system that brings more able students together for the majority of their classes, so they can be encouraged to progress with both stimulation and pace.  The intention is to make sure that they are happy, that they feel stretched and that they fulfil their potential.

“Our stimulating learning environment maximises individual potential of all students and ensures that students of all ability levels and learning styles are well equipped to meet the challenges of education, work and life.”

At Blackwater technology is introduced to the world of teaching and there will be a school wi-fi system operational by September.  The school is currently looking at the exciting opportunities this presents, and are actively investigating the possibility of students bringing their own devices to use as learning tools and also the use of Apple TV throughout the College to complement the excellent teaching and learning that already exists.

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 Year 8 student, Jordyn Wilson also explained what life was like in the school from a student perspective of a new pupil and Dr Griffith added: “During the first term, you will be invited to the College to meet with your child’s form tutor. This will be an opportunity for you to find out how well your child has settled into the College and to discuss with his or her form tutor any concerns you might have.

In the Art and Design Room were pupil Ellie Cockburn with Niall Cockfield from Downpatrick Primary School.

In the Art and Design Room were pupil Ellie Cockburn with Niall Cockfield from Downpatrick Primary School.

Dr Griffith added: “Small class sizes and the relationship with the form tutor allow each child to receive the care and attention they need to enable them to achieve their best throughout their time in the College.

“The curriculum is underpinned by our excellent pastoral care system which operates under the direction of the Pastoral Coordinator, working closely with the Form Tutors, Heads of Junior and Senior School and the Special Educational Needs Coordinators.  We want our students to be at ease right from the first day, free from worries and concerns, feeling safe and secure in their environment and growing in confidence.

We want to ensure that the excitement and thrill they feel on day one of their new life at second level school is never lost and that the happy child who arrives in year 8 leaves a happy, confident young adult with the appropriate qualifications to take them to further education or into working life.

“The students at the College, both in class and through the Student Council, are encouraged to confidently express their feelings and beliefs, without fear or prejudice.

“I am delighted to report that our GCSE results are now well above the Northern Ireland average for similar schools. In June 2013 72% of our students attained 5 or more GCSE passes at grades A* – C, a rise of 12% on the previous year’s already good results.  This is higher than all of the other local non-selective schools.

“I could stand here and happily tell you at length about the excellent caliber of teachers and wonderful students at Blackwater Integrated College, which we undoubtedly have, but I am confident as you tour the school you will see the excellence, commitment and dedication of both shining through.

“As you visit the classrooms, you will see activities which represent aspects of normal college life as experienced by the current students.  Talk with our students and the staff; you will very quickly see that we have excellent teachers with the professionalism and expertise you would expect.”

The broader partnership between Blackwater and Lagan College and with Shimna Integrated College was also explained.  These partnerships provide pathways to sixth form for Blackwater students who attain the necessary grades at GCSE; students will be able to continue to study within the integrated sector and will have access to A level and other post-16 courses.  The number of our students transferring to other schools for post-16 study increased significantly last year.

The College also has an active Parents’ Council which contributes to the strategic development of the College.

Following the principal’s address, the parents and children visiting Balckwater Integrated College enjoyed an evening visiting the various school departments and sampling what was on offer.