Belfast Royal Academy-a new chapter?

Belfast Royal Academy , the oldest school in the city, has a new Principal.

The school has about 1,400 pupils in the grammar school, about 196 of whom are entitled to free school meals.

Its A level performance has been deteriorating over the last four years. Department statistics show that the percentage of pupils achieving three or more A levels at grades A* -C fell from 78% in 2012/13 through 70%-73%-71% in subsequent years.

This compares [although those who know more about these things, say ‘not really’] with the top performing secondary schools in Northern Ireland which achieve in the upper 80% or in some cases over 90%.

In its  2012 Annual Report, mention is made of sending three pupils to the ancient universities. Thereafter , there is sparse mention of more than one such achievement, annually. The Methodist College sent 8 pupils to OxBridge in 2013/14.

Standards have clearly fallen within the school. This is always, ultimately , the responsibility of the Board of Governors.

The Board has appointed Mrs Hilary Woods as Principal. She was , for three years, Principal of Antrim Grammar School. During that relatively short tenure , for a Head, she was also  [for some period] Assistant Principal of Craigavon Senior High School.

 

Antrim Grammar’s performance in the comparative A level statistics is 77%-76%-77%-76%. It is not 80% as claimed by the school’s website. [Read the very small print]

Mrs Woods was Head of a school half the size of BRA, with about 52 pupils on free school meals and a budget of £3 million, largely controlled by the Education Authority. She had about 46 teachers.

She now takes command of a budget of over £6 million and 80 staff.

She is the first external appointment to the position of Principal since 1943. She faces a daunting task, to restore and indeed to improve academic standards.

As the Warden said to me “a new chapter”.

Let’s hope so.

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