Rockport School was founded in 1906 and was run by Mr Jeffery Bing. His “reign” over Rockport was inspired and he steered the school through some difficult times during the First World War. He watched Rockport grow as a school and also part of the local community. Rockport was one of a few independent prep schools and is now proud to be the only surviving school which is fully independent in Northern Ireland. For a small school Rockport’s alumni or Old Rockportian board illustrates a strong pool of talents. From creative artists such as Flora Montgomery, Gary Lightbody and the up-and-coming Daniel James, to sports personalities like Paddy Wallace, academics and politicians, Rockport has always provided its pupils with the opportunity to uncover their true talents and passions.
So 109 years from its founding, Rockport is still growing and developing locally and internationally. In 1998, Rockport made its first educational leap , changing from a prep school where pupils moved on at age 13, to a school that enabled children to stay until they were 16, giving them the chance of doing GCSEs. Nowadays, Rockport’s present students couldn’t imagine leaving school at the age of just 13, but now they have to start “believing” that they can stay until they’re 18.
Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of talking to Mr Vance, Rockport’s Headmaster about the new Sixth Form provision that will be available from September 2015. Mr Vance and the school’s Deputy Head Teacher, Mrs Palmer, seem very excited by the whole idea and they hope it’ll bring new people to the school so that Rockport can grow stronger and so that Rockport’s tailor-made style of education becomes available to more pupils. When I was talking to them, they seemed to know exactly what their objective was and how they would go about doing it. Some of you are probably wondering why do A’levels at Rockport, well, Mr Vance mentioned that A’levels are part of a natural progression and that if we weren’t to do A levels, we would lose something very special. He also said that if we don’t do sixth form we might lose some of our best pupils, whereas if we do, they might stay on and that way we won’t lose any valuable members of our school community.
When the school extends to A’level, the population would most certainly increase, so therefore new teaching and social spaces will need to be created. Mr Vance is thinking about installing a new library and extending new areas such as the room above the ICT suite.
A key aspect of the school is the pupils and the responsibilities of the students; as a Round Square school, leadership, democracy and service are central themes to every student’s education. Now that sixth formers will be present on the campus, the head boy and girl role will evolve. But that doesn’t mean to say that year 12 won’t be given important duties to support and mentor younger pupils. Mr Vance has visited many schools and many of them have had similar approaches and ideas as Rockport.
Mrs Palmer has an extremely important role as deputy head of the school. As deputy head, she is the leader of child protection/pastoral care, which again is a vital role in any school. A couple of weeks ago, she went off to a boarding school to get as much detail as possible. The headmaster in the boarding school said that the pastoral demand for looking after children is not when they’re older, but in fact younger, about my age. He told Mrs Palmer that A’level students don’t cause a lot of bother, in terms of monitoring and behavioural status. What are the reasons for this? The main reason is that they are much more mature now that they’re older, and they realise that there’s a lot at stake in terms of work, because they know that if they don’t pull their weight with their exams, that could affect the rest of their lives.
Mrs Palmer was also able to give me a ‘sneak preview’ of the Sixth form uniform. Instead of a green blazer, it is likely that Sixth Formers will wear a different navy blazer to be distinctive. The tie will conform to school colours and will also have the school crest on it.
At Rockport, pupils are used to achieving good GCSE grades as a result of the dedicated teachers who take the time to get to know each student. Mrs Palmer sees this “bespoke approach” continuing with several staff keen to extend their subject or related area beyond GCSE. The final point that she mentioned was that she thinks Rockport will offer scholarships for some A’level students; this will ensure that a Rockport education is available to as many people as possible.
It is an exciting time at Rockport and it is clear that the staff is determined to ensure that the high standard of education provided by Rockport is set to continue, thus that Rockport pupils are on the front foot when they come to face the outside world of work and opportunities.
By William Linley
Year 11 Rockport School
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