May 10 In the Press

UFU praise for Markethill High School’s drive to connect pupils with the land

By Eleanor McGillie

MARKETHILL High School is introducing a new GCSE this year which will connect pupils with the land and encourage them to learn about the agriculture sector in Northern Ireland.

The introduction of the GCSE in Agriculture and Land Use, an initiative which is being backed by the Ulster farmer’s Union, will begin in September. Pupils studying the subject will have their first assessment in the summer of 2014 with the first award taking place in the summer of 2015.

The school, which has 492 students, mostly from the surrounding rural community, is continuing in its campaign to secure a sixth form provision and new build school following last year’s consultation process into the area based proposals.

The campaign highlights the vital role which the school plays in the community and the introduction of this GCSE serves to strengthen its position for future years to come.

Principal James Maxwell, who has made the announcement ahead of this year’s Balmoral Show,  said the GCSE demonstrates the school’s commitment, not only to its pupils, but to the wider community.

He said: “Markethill High School continues to thrive. To introduce Agriculture and Land Use, as a GCSE, is a very important step in helping our pupils achieve their dreams of working in the sector. Not only that but it highlights the strength of our intent to build on the school’s success –  on the Mowhan Road site.

“This subject is open to everyone and not just pupils from farming families. Agriculture is the core business of the world’s survival. It’s about food security, climate change and energy security and everything which comes with these key factors.”

The GCSE will cover a wide range of subjects including soils, crops and habitats as well as the study of animals on the land. Assessment questions test knowledge on suitable habitats for different land types, soil drainage, energy sources, organic farming, eco-systems, biodiversity, animal types and the key role they play, harvesting and cultivation and much more.

Willlie Johnston, Chairman of the Board of Governors, said this is a landmark project and another first for the school.

He said: “The district is rich in areas of agricultural production, food processing, agricultural engineering and related services in wholesale and retail distribution.

“Farming has moved into the modern world of mechanisation and IT. Coupled with good practice and husbandry, farmers also realise the importance of marketing and political decisions – hence the strong UFU membership -intelligently led.

“The area has the most modern livestock mart facilities, the largest agri co-op in the province, some of the best known agri machinery manufacturers in the UK and Ireland.

“The school has a proud history of achievement for over 50 years and I am confident, that as one of the best rural post primary schools in the province, it will continue in the future to be innovative in providing a wide and comprehensive curriculum with top results.”

Supporting the school is Ian Marshall, Deputy President of the UFU, who said this is a very exciting development.

“Education is key and Markethill High School is perfectly positioned to provide leadership in Northern Ireland for the promotion and development of agriculture in education.

“Agriculture has a story to tell. It’s about our region, it’s about our land, it’s about our future. It’s also about local provenance, it’s about the sector currently employing 23 per cent of the Northern Irish workforce and it’s about our young people learning how to take the industry forward.

“The GCSE will help bridge the growing disconnection between consumers and produce and it will encourage younger people towards environmental sustainability and food security.

“This is a very encouraging move by Markethill High School and we look forward to working and encouraging students through their studies for years to come.”



For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of McGillie MGMPR Ltd on 028 3756 9569 | 07709805379 Agriculture PR | Education PR Public Relations Northern Ireland | Public Relations UK | Brand Journalism Experts | Brand Journalism Northern Ireland | Brand Journalism UK |


Markethill High School is a co-educational 11-16 Comprehensive School situated on a spacious site adjacent to the town. Since 1959 the school has been educating pupils of all abilities drawn from a wide geographical area. The school’s ethos is ‘Believe To Achieve’.

  • January 2012 – Markethill High School – winners of a £4,000 prize fund for the best Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics project application to develop those subjects with Year 9 pupils.
  • In May 2012 Markethill High School was announced the British Academy Award Winner for the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages, with an award of £4,000. The school is shortlisted to the final three schools for the title of Best School in the United Kingdom for the delivery of Modern Language education.
  • In May 2012 – Laura Marshall in Year 11 was awarded the outstanding title of Northern Ireland’s Young Entrepreneur of the Future
  • For the second year running, in June 2012, Jonathan Armstrong in Year 12 was named the Southern Regional College student of the Year as a result of his work on the Schools’ Partnership Programme studying Occupational Studies
  • In November 2012, Markethill High School win Euroscola Programme

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