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Markethill High School unveils ambitious vision for school development on the back of record results

An audience of pupils, past and present, teachers, governors, staff and parents gathered in Markethill High School for the annual Key Stage 4 PrizeGiving to celebrate the school’s record GCSE results which will place the school for the third year in a row as one of the top non selective Controlled schools in Northern Ireland. The school is currently the second top school in this category in the province. The Guest Speaker was past pupil and Board of Governor, Mr Roy Dougan, who gave an outstanding speech on the importance of education and having the stamina to succeed.

A record 95% of pupils left the school this year with 5 or more GCSEs or equivalent at A*-C, and for the first time ever in its history, over 70% of pupils attained 5 or more passes at A*-C including English and Maths.

James Maxwell, Principal of Markethill High School, said the increase in strength of performance is down to the diligence of pupils combined with a determined dedication from teaching and non-teaching staff.

In May 2017, during a formal Inspection, every single lesson observed was graded as ‘highly effective’ – the top grading the Inspectorate can award.

Mr Maxwell announced in his speech that it is now time for the school to raise the bar yet again, indicating that the school was preparing to compare itself against the very best selective grammar schools in the country. Mr Maxwell said: “This year, as our thoughts turn to the creation of a new 3-year school development plan which will outline the vision for the school up until 2021, our focus will turn to the proportion of pupils attaining 7 or more passes – not just 5; 7 passes being the benchmark for grammar schools in this country. And with that focus this school is making a clear and firm statement. Such is the confidence in our current approach to learning and teaching and our current standards and outcomes, that we are ready to benchmark and compare ourselves against the very best selective schools in this country. As I said to staff in August, the clear aspiration now embedding in this school is that we treat every single child who walks through our doors as potential future University graduates, no matter what their potential or ability. No labels, no limits, will be the mantra of this school”

Furthermore, Mr Maxwell outlined in detail the school’s next steps in learning and teaching, which he referred to as ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’ which will set Markethill High School apart from other schools. “Whilst other schools may focus on the explicit development of soft skills such as being creative, problem-solving, managing information and working with others, in September 2018 Markethill High School is moving to a traditional, solid, knowledge-based curriculum. In each year group – first, second and third year - we will be identifying a strong, robust and high-quality suite of knowledge which we will be endeavouring to transfer, through high-quality teaching, into children’s long-term memories. In Maths, strong mental maths and multiplication skills in Year 8, in English the learning of beautiful and meaningful poetry which will remain in memory for life – an art which has been lost in schools over the years, in Languages the embedding of high quality linguistic structure, in Science the gradual embedding of scientific concepts and knowledge which will allow children to move from novice to expert scientists, in History the embedding of important historical facts and source information at a very deep level. Why are we taking this decision? Firstly, due to the huge swing back to theory and knowledge in new GCSE examinations, and secondly because we firmly believe that the embedding of robust, high-quality knowledge in long-term memory is the best way to afford all our children opportunities of success in examinations, but ultimately in later life. At Markethill High School we do not believe in teachers as ‘guides on the side’, assisting your child in researching their own information and creating their own resources from that information. We believe in teachers at the front of the room, the ‘sage on the stage’, imparting their knowledge and expertise to your child in a well-disciplined and respectful classroom; knowledge which will be embedded in long-term memory through structured class and homework activities and ultimate thorough learning. We will be incorporating breadth and depth of learning into our new curriculum like never before in the history of this fine school”

In the recent formal Inspection, the school’s approach to learning and teaching was highly praised, making reference to the ‘implementation of a school-designed, research-informed approach’ which was having a significant impact on standards.

Alongside the school’s growing confidence in its campaign for a new-build and Sixth Form status, Mr Maxwell indicated that the school was on the cusp of a new golden era which will set the foundations for education in the Markethill locality for at least the next century.

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