WATCHING PROUDLY as the first students ever from Ardgillan Community College to take a State exam collected their results, principal of the school, Michael O'Leary reflected on the three extraordinary years that led to this historic moment.
Sitting down with the Fingal Independent as Junior Certificate results were handed out for the very first time at the school, Mr O'Leary said: 'It's a very historic day. To be honest, we were very anxious and we were worried that the students wouldn't do as well as we thought they would so it's a huge relief that everyone has done so well. 'I'm delighted for the students - they did brilliantly today and I'm really grateful to the parents and the teachers who have worked so hard for this as well.' Explaining the schools approach to its first ever State exams, Mr O'Leary said: 'We made a decision that we would encourage most students to go higher level across the board and we had a worry that some people wouldn't come through but today's results really show the education system works and those who put in the effort do really really well out of it.' He added: ' When we started out here in 2009 there was no culture of achievement in the school, actually there was no culture or history at all and parents took a great risk sending their children here and it is really great for them today to see that the students done so well.' Praising the students, he said: 'Nearly every student has proved they can be excellent in some area of the course and the vast majority did really really well.' And he put that down to the school philosophy which says: 'Working together as a team and respecting each other we said we could achieve excellence and maybe today, I think, proves that.' Acknowledging the pressure that this first group of Junior Certificate students were under, Mr O'Leary said: ' This year's group were the first and they had to set the example and they have set a great example to follow here today. Those who will follow will learn from that example that if they do work hard and study hard they can achieve excellence. 'We were really lucky with this group - they are well behaved and motivated and they are committed to the school and they put great effort into their exams so it is great for them today.' Anxious to deflect credit away from himself for the school's achievements, Mr O'Leary said: 'It's not about me and never has been about me - we have great teachers in the school and great support from the parents and parents' council and all the students in the school and today is testament to them and their hard work, not me.' Looking ahead to when the Leaving Certificate will be taken at the school for the first time, the school principal said: ' The challenge now is to keep expectations high and to keep standards high.' There are now 420 students at the school and with a new extension due to open in 2014, making the school capacity 1,000, the future looks bright for Ardgillan Community College.