MARKETHILL High School is to become the first school in Northern Ireland to join forces with the Teacher Development Trust - a UK-wide organisation which raises the awareness of effective professional development in schools and colleges across the UK.
Principal James Maxwell announced the partnership at this week's prize giving where he told a packed hall that the aim for Markethill High School is to become a regional hub of excellence for professional development and educational research.
The school, which has 521 pupils, and continues in its campaign for a new build school and Sixth Form, is one of Northern Ireland's top non-selective Controlled Schools which is leading the way in curriculum development.
Speaking to an audience of pupils, parents, teachers and special guest, Mr Wesley Aston, the CEO of the Ulster Farmers' Union, Mr Maxwell said: "Markethill High School will be showcasing best practice to schools, not just in Northern Ireland, but to schools in the North West of England and Scotland.
"The partnership will be solidified in the next few months when we undertake the teacher development network's professional development audit. This is exciting for us and we are ready to show the powers-that-be in this country how it could and should be done."
During his speech, Mr Maxwell said that in spite of political uncertainty and acute cuts in education, the school remains committed to its focus of high quality learning and teaching for the pupils at the school.
He said: "Our approach to teaching is built on the rock of robust, consistent evidence based research. It is what will serve our pupils best with teachers at the front of the room imparting their expertise in a direct and explicit manner. Every second in the classroom counts. Every moment of learning matters.
"We are exposing our staff to the absolute best of educational thinking and offering our pupils the mightiest of opportunities based on evidence-based research.
"This year we sent three teams of staff across to England to meet with leading thinkers in learning and teaching, including Daisy Christodolou– one of the UK’s leading guru on assessment and Katherine Birbalsingh, Principal of the Michaela Community School in Wembley – a school which is doing phenomenal things for inner-city, working class children – all based on strong approaches to aspiration and a focus on knowledge. In August we brought world-renowned educational writer Tom Sherrington – author of ‘The Learning Rainforest’ to Markethill for a day of staff training with our ourselves and our local primary schools.
"On the back of our research and our discussions with the biggest names in education, and as part of that new curriculum, Markethill High School has become the first school in Northern Ireland and one of only 59 schools across the United Kingdom to introduce English Mastery - a knowledge-rich English curriculum firmly rooted in the evidence base of cognitive science."
A further achievement of the school is bridging the gap in terms of academic achievement between boys and girls. Mr Maxwell said: "In the last three years alone, the performance of our boys has risen from 70 per cent getting five or more GCSEs at A*-C to a phenomenal 92 per cent. The gap between boys and girls in this regard has narrowed from 16 per cent four years ago to six per cent. Such is the interest the sharp rise in performance of our boys that the school will be working in partnership with researchers at the University of Ulster to endeavour to define further just exactly what is happening."
Mr Maxwell said the change has come about because the school has been working hard to develop a culture of high aspiration and expectation across the board, Key Stage 4 has been revamped to meet the needs and aspirations of pupils in terms of academic and vocational pathways. he said the school also has moved to a new curricular system at Key Stage 3 which ensures progress for all pupils. He added that the change has also come about due to the school's increased focus on the rapport between the teacher and the pupils which firmly places the teacher as the expert in the classroom.
Mr Maxwell told those attending prize night: "Last year at this event I conveyed my sense that this school was heading for a glass ceiling. This brand will break that ceiling and cement this school’s position as the leading secondary school in the province, of that I am convinced. "
NOTES TO EDITOR:
Markethill High School is the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages
In September 2013, The Minister for Education John O’Dowd congratulates Markethill High School for being one of 11 schools in Northern Ireland which successfully bridges the gap between social disadvantage and educational attainment
In October 2013 the ETI report that Markethill High School is a school of ‘very good practice’ and commends all aspects of school life
In November 2013 Harper Adams University in Ireland announces a collaboration with Markethill High School to lead the way in education in Northern Ireland by encouraging pupils to take up careers in agriculture
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