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Belfast Royal Academy
5-17 Cliftonville Road, BT14 6JL, UK Belfast
+44 (0)2890 740423

School History

The Belfast Royal Academy was founded in 1785 and is the oldest school in the city. Originally situated near St. Anne’s Cathedral in what is now Academy Street, it was transferred to the Cliftonville Road in 1880, when the present building was erected. For more than a century the school was named Belfast Academy. In 1888 Queen Victoria granted permission for the school to style itself the Belfast Royal Academy.
The School Crest comprises the rose, the thistle and the shamrock, along with the Royal Arms, the Arms of the City of Belfast and those of the Province of Ulster. The three significant dates mark the foundation of the school in 1785, the transfer to the present site in 1880 and the approval by Queen Victoria of the designation Belfast Royal Academy in 1888.
Belfast Royal Academy is a voluntary grammar school and its management is vested in a Board of Governors on which parents and teachers are represented, along with Governors elected by Members of the Academy and nominees of the Minister of Education.
Former pupils include Lord Cairns (Lord Chancellor in the nineteenth century), and in the modern era, the diplomat Sir Francis Evans, the jurist Sir Donald Murray, the rugby footballer Jack Kyle, the journalist John Cole, and the former Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey M.P. Two former pupils, who are both distinguished scientists, were elected on the same day to Fellowships of the Royal Society: Professor Denis Weaire of Trinity College, Dublin and Professor James Stirling of the University of Durham.

Pupils are assigned to one of the four houses - Cairns, Currie, Pottinger and Shaw.

  • Cairns House (Blue) commemorates a most eminent old boy, Sir Hugh Cairns, who became Attorney General for England in 1866, and in 1874 was appointed Lord Chancellor.
  • Currie House (Green) is named after Sir Donald Currie, the shipping magnate who was involved in British expansion in South Africa.  He also founded the Sir Donald Currie Scholarship.  He died in 1909.
  • Pottinger House (Red) is named after Sir Henry Pottinger, who became the first Governor of Hong Kong in 1843.  He later became Governor of the Cape of Good Hope and the Governor of Madras.
  • Shaw House (Yellow) commemorates Mr James Shaw who was Head of the Classical School and Vice Principal of the Academy for many years.

Two books are available from the Online Shop, which trace and detail the history of this, the oldest school in the city. 

Belfast Royal Academy - The First Century
Belfast Royal Academy - The First Century
1785-1885 A.T.Q. Stewart
  Belfast Royal Academy - The Second Century
Belfast Royal Academy - The Second Century
1885-1985 Edward McCamley

Values & Aims

“self-discipline, self-confidence and a respect for knowledge”

Belfast Royal Academy exists to serve the interests of its pupils. It seeks to ensure that:
  • pupils are well taught and develop through their work self-discipline, self-confidence and a respect for knowledge: that they are well prepared for the requirements of tertiary education and employment.
  • pupils are afforded the opportunity, through participation in a wide range of extra curricular activities, to establish their individuality, develop skills and interests and enjoy working successfully with others.
  • pupils are taught (or confirmed in) decent standards of behaviour: that they should have respect for others and be willing to accept responsibility both in school and in the community.
  • whatever their faith or social background, pupils are happy, with a proper sense of personal worth and achievement.

Entry Prospectus & Admission Form

The Belfast Royal Academy draws more than half of its grammar school enrolment from the area of the North Eastern Education and Library Board.

The bus service from Antrim and Templepatrick passes within a few yards of the school; each morning our own ‘buses meet pupils coming off trains and ‘buses at Yorkgate Halt, and return there with them after school; also, special ‘buses take pupils directly to Glengormley, Ballyhenry, Carnmoney, Jordanstown and Greenisland after school.  The Vice Principals and other experienced members of staff closely supervise these arrangements.  Our playing fields are situated at Roughfort (just off the main Belfast/Antrim line) and at the Castle Grounds (beside Ben Madigan).
The Academy, which celebrated its Bicentenary in 1985, is now a non-denominational, co-educational day grammar school with over 1400 pupils, more than 380 of whom are in the Sixth Forms.  Specialist accommodation is comprised of fifteen science laboratories, an Art and Design block, a Sixth Form Centre and Careers Suite and a purpose-built four room Technology Suite.  Recent additions to our classroom provision include a nine-classroom block for English and Drama opened in September 1994, and another block of ten classrooms, for Mathematics, completed in 1998.  The Jackson Building classrooms were refurbished in 2000 and extensive refurbishment of the Bruce Building was completed in 2004.  Since October 2001, three new ICT suites have come into use, making nine computer rooms in total.
The courses of study available as pupils move up the school are all academic in content and bias, and pupils for whom such courses would not be suitable are discouraged from seeking admission.
The work of junior and middle Forms will be directed towards the G.C.S.E. examinations, with a minimum of specialisation, all the usual subjects being provided and close attention being given to the requirements of the universities and the professions.
In the Lower Sixth Form twenty six Advanced Subsidiary courses are available in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, ICT, Physics, Technology, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Modern History, English Literature, French, German, Spanish, Latin, Greek,  Classical Civilisation, Economics, Business Studies, Government and Politics, Sociology, Art and Design, Music, Home Economics, Religious Education, Physical Education and Theatre Studies.    Pupils are prepared for entry to Oxford and Cambridge in all the main subjects.  Approximately 95% of Sixth Formers go on each year to higher or further education in universities and colleges throughout the United Kingdom.
The day begins at 8.40 a.m. but late passes may be issued; there is an hour for lunch and school ends at 3.30 p.m.  Homework may take up to two hours for junior pupils and longer for those in senior Forms.
The principal games are, for boys, rugby, cricket, cross-country running, hockey, swimming and athletics; for girls, hockey, tennis, swimming and athletics.  Association football, rifle shooting, sailing and golf are available for a limited number of senior pupils.  There is a 25-metre indoor heated swimming pool; a large Sports Hall, opened in the Bicentenary Year, incorporates a fitness suite.
The School has a chamber orchestra and a full orchestra, a wind band, a brass band, a big band, junior strings, a traditional group and a number of choirs; individual tuition in orchestral instruments and singing is available.  School organisations include a Charities Committee, a Community Service Group, a Junior and Senior Scripture Union, an Air Training Corps, and societies for  computers, science, electronics, amateur radio, debating, current affairs, drama, photography, chess and bridge.  Approximately 350 boys and girls in the middle and senior school are involved in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.
100% of our pupils are granted non-fee paying places by the Education and Library Boards, and their parents pay (at present) a capital fee of £120 per year.

The School Day

The normal school day is from 8.45am to 3.30pm. There is no Saturday school, but matches are played in the major sports on Saturdays. The school year runs from the end of August to the end of June, with holidays of about a fortnight at Christmas and Easter.
On a daily basis, pupils should:
  • bring the correct books and materials to class
  • keep their homework diaries tidy and up-to-date
  • complete homework and coursework on time
  • observe regulations about uniform and presentation
  • extend at all times the appropriate courtesies to members of staff and visitors
  • respect one another and avoid physical hurt or offence to another pupil
  • respect their own and other people’s property
  • have the self-discipline appropriate for a variety of formal learning environments, (classroom, workshop, lecture theatre, laboratory, sports hall, swimming pool or playing fields)


Every pupil at Belfast Royal Academy must wear the official school uniform.Official School Uniform (here including Honours Blazers)
Forms I – III
  • navy-blue regulation skirt (mid-calf length)
  • navy-blue regulation v-necked pullover
  • In winter, plain black heavy-weight tights
  • In milder weather, white ankle socks
Forms IV – MVI
  • grey regulation skirt (mid-calf length)
  • grey regulation cardigan or mid-grey regulation V-neck pullover
  • plain black tights
  • white blouse
  • tie
  • school blazer
  • black shoes, preferably laced, flat or with heels no higher than 6cm (measured at the back)
  • school blazer
  • light grey regulation pullover
  • plain socks, subdued in colour brown or black shoes (Boots should not be worn)
  • white shirt (boys in Forms I - III may wear a grey shirt)
You should not wear clothes which are not approved. Where there is uncertainty the Form Teacher should be consulted before new items of clothing are purchased.
All clothing should be clearly marked with your name: this is especially important with training shoes or other items of P.E. equipment.
No jewellery should be worn.
If you damage clothing and have to wear non-regulation uniform for a short period, you should report the fact to your Form Teacher and get a covering note.
There are no prescribed uniform top-coats, but they should be plain and navy-blue in colour.
It is expected that pupils will wear shirts tucked in, top button in and ties up at all times.


A large proportion of our pupils travel distances which are in excess of three miles to school each day, and for these pupils the local Education and Library Board provides free transport in the form of either a bus pass or a train pass.School Transport
In addition, to ensure the convenience and safety of our pupils, the following services operate:

Our school buses meet pupils at Yorkgate Halt; collections begin at 8.10 am and continue until 8.30 am, so that pupils are delivered to school in time for morning assembly.
A school bus runs from North/West Belfast. It leaves the junction of the Upper Crumlin Road and Bilston Road at 7.50am.

  • the school bus delivers pupils to Yorkgate Halt
  • an Ulsterbus is available at school for pupils going to Jordanstown and to Greenisland. The route is Shore Road, Merville Garden Village, Doagh Road to Cloughfern Corner, Monkstown, Jordanstown Road, Shore Road to Greenisland, Greenisland Road, passing the Brambles
  • a Citybus serving North West Belfast collects pupils on the Cliftonville Road. The route of this bus is – Antrim Road, Carlisle Circus, Crumlin Road, Cambrai Street, Enfield Street, Ballygomartin Road, Crumlin Road Bilston Road, Tennent Street, Woodvale and Twaddle Avenue
  • four Citybus services take pupils to the Glengormley Area. These are as follows:
    • Ballyhenry (via the Antrim Line) Route - Cliftonville Road, Oldpark Road, Ballysillan Road, North Circular Road, Antrim Road to Glengormley, Antrim Line to Ballyhenry
    • Carnmoney Route - Cliftonville Road, Oldpark Road, Ballysillan Road, North Circular Road, Antrim Road to Glengormley, and then to Carnmoney
    • Glengormley Route - as above to Glengormley
    • Ballyhenry and Carnmoney Route - as above to Glengormley, then Ballyclare Road, Manse Road and Carnmoney
Pupils wait in school for these buses which leave from the school gate in Brookhill Avenue, and Members of Staff are assigned to supervise the arrangements.

A late pass may be issued on request if a pupil who uses public transport needs to leave home before 7.50 am in order to arrive in school in time for Assembly.




School provides also:

  • clubs and societies
  • extra-curricular activities
  • sports

primary schools in Belfast, secondary schools in Belfast, schools in Belfast

Editorial office:
tel. + 48 (094)