“Prize night is a chance to reflect on a year of terrific endeavour, wonderful aspiration and impressive achievement,” remarked Principal Janice Allen in her opening speech at Fivemiletown College’s annual prize night on Friday October 19.

Mrs. Allen began by warmly welcoming all those who came along to celebrate in the successes and achievements of Fivemiletown College pupils during the last academic year. Guest Speaker on the night was former pupil Dr. Ruth Hogg who is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, Belfast. Paying tribute to well-respected teacher Miss Emma Patterson, who passed away in August this year, Mrs. Allen said: “We miss her dearly but she will be forever remembered in all our hearts.”

In her speech Mrs. Allen referred to Generation Z, those born between the late 1990’s and mid 2000’s. She said: “My forty or so years on this planet have seen a remarkable change, but that pales into insignificance when considering what the world may look like in the 2050s and 60s to the pupils who are sitting here this evening. The technological advances and rampant pace of change which continues to take place is something which we must prepare our young people for and to a certain degree protect against.”

She continued: “It is our job as educators to open up a new world to children, whether it is discovering the joy of a good book, the wonder of science, the thrill of competition or the pride in a challenge overcome, there is no task greater than preparing our children for a world yet to become a reality.”

In preparing children for this shifting reality, Mrs. Allen believes that a certain mindset needs to be created, a “Growth Mindset” as she calls it. She explains: “A growth mindset is one always open to new ideas, to change and the understanding that learning is a lifelong and continuous journey. Children today, more than ever, need to be able to adapt to a fast-paced and ever-changing world. Staying in the past simply isn’t an option.”

“Of course, we can facilitate this as teachers and as parents, but it is the children themselves who will be taken on this journey. We therefore need to equip our young people with the skills to unravel their own destiny, whatever that may be,” she added.

During her speech, Mrs. Allen highlighted that Fivemiletown College is an “all ability school” which she believes should be celebrated.

“It is my vision that Fivemiletown College will be a leading example of how all ability education is the best environment to foster the skills, qualities and talents of our young people. We have students at this school from all walks of life and with the full range of abilities, skills, talents and experiences. We are in essence a microcosm of society, within this very school,” she said.

Noting the importance of the “other skills and experiences” that the school nourishes alongside qualifications, Mrs. Allen commented: “I am of the firm belief that time spent at Fivemiletown College equips our students better than they realise giving them a head start in life compared to many of your peers.”

Talking of the success and achievements of her students in many different areas, Mrs. Allen said: “You will see awards being presented tonight for academic achievement, for excellence in sport, in music, and in drama.”

She added: “We also recognise those pupils who make a positive contribution to school life, who give up their free time to help others, who stay after school, who come in early, who give up their evenings and weekends to support and enrich school life.”

Commenting on the success of the school as a community, Mrs. Allen said: “We have had a fantastic year of success in school and that is thanks to everyone within our school community. I acknowledge all the staff here this evening, both past and present, to the contribution which you have made to our school. There is a wonderful richness to the history of our school and all of you here tonight have played your part in contributing to making this history and in continuing to shape our future.”

Mrs. Allen continued her speech by highlighting the specific details of the areas where her students have excelled. She finished by thanking those present for their contribution to another year of continued success.