Our Journey

Slemish College, Mid Antrim’s first planned integrated post primary school lies at the heart of Ballymena.

The College opened in response to parental demand for an integrated college in the Ballymena area, at a time of significant sectarian tension in the Harryville area.

At the time of opening, community relations in the school’s immediate area were at an all time low, reflected by the Harryville Chapel dispute. In this context, and with significant local scepticism, Slemish College opened.

Parents from local integrated nursery and primary schools, wanted a secondary option to ensure integrated education across all phases of their children’s schooling. They formed a steering group in 1994, seeking advice and support from NICIE. The steering group surveyed all local post primary schools, encouraging them to transform to integrated status. No school accepted this challenge, leaving the steering group with one option – to establish a new integrated post primary school.

Approval was granted by the Department of Education in mid
June 1996.

With NICIE support, they approached the Department of Education to acquire funding for the new school. At that time, conditional approval was granted on the basis that 80+ students were recruited for the first intake. This meant that members of the steering group visited local primary schools, spoke with parents, pupils and teachers, arranged public meetings and produced a prospectus. The outcome was that 84 students opted to attend the new Slemish Integrated College. Approval was granted by the Department of Education in mid June 1996. The Principal was appointed in March 1996, and subsequently 7 assistant teachers were appointed in addition to a caretaker and a secretary. Staff meetings were held in teachers’ homes, and all furniture and equipment was requisitioned during these meetings. These meetings established an attitude of ‘above and beyond’ which characterises the workforce at Slemish to this day.

Governors and all new staff met for a teambuilding weekend in the Marine Hotel, Ballycastle in June 1996. Excellent working relationships were established. A significant outcome was the decision that Slemish College must be built on excellence and innovation in Learning and Teaching. 

From the outset, all stakeholders were aware of the need to establish an agreed vision for Slemish College. Staff and Governors were focussed on the fact that every child matters and all decisions were predicated on that principle. Staff, students, parents and governors were surveyed and a school mission statement written as an outcome of this. In any new organisation, strong visionary leadership is essential. Due to small numbers of staff, from the very outset the Principal recognised the need for distributed leadership.

This has been maintained through years of successive growth and expansion.

Slemish College Past Achievements

September 1996

  • Slemish College Opens

November  2000

  • The College gains Investors in People Recognition

June 2000

  • Miss H Main wins Northern Ireland Second Level Teacher of the Year

June 2001

  • Miss H Stewart wins Northern Ireland Beginning Teacher of the Year.

June 2001

  • Slemish students sit GCSE examinations for the first time.

June 2002

  • Miss C Quail wins Northern Ireland Beginning Teacher of the Year.
  • Slemish students sit Advanced Subsidiary examinations for the first time.

Dec ember 2002

  • Investors in People re designation

October 2002

  • Dr Jennings wins United Kingdom Principal of the Year award.

December 2002

  • Dr Jennings awarded MBE for services to Education

September 2002

  • Slemish College becomes a bilateral school

July 2004

  • First Slemish College expedition to Zambia, with Habitat for Humanity.

September 2004

  • Slemish College receives International School Award from the British Council.

June 2005

  • Mr M Bennett wins Northern Ireland Second Level Teacher of the Year.

October 2005

  • First Slemish College student admitted to Cambridge, having left Slemish College with 7 A Levels at grade A.

November 2006

  • Annual Student Leadership lunch is established.

June 2008

  • Slemish College named ‘Best Kept School.’

June 2008

  • College Awarded Specialist School Status in Humanities.

April 2009

  • Slemish College becomes the second post primary school to be designated ‘Outstanding’ by ETI.

June 2010

  • Slemish College awarded £32000 by the Wolfson Foundation for Technology & Design.
  • Slemish College becomes the first school in Northern Ireland to achieve the Go4IT award at gold standard.

September 2010

  • Appointment of Dr Paul McHugh as the second Principal of Slemish College

June 2013

  • Dr McHugh wins NI Head Teacher of the Year award.