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Sullivan Upper School
Belfast Road, BT18 9EP, UK Holywood
Tel. 02890 428780

Sullivan Upper School is named after Robert Sullivan, a remarkable man who was born in Holywood in 1800 and devoted most of his life to the development of education in Ireland.

He provided the money for the Sullivan Lower School which opened in 1862. Robert Sullivan died in 1868. His estate provided the money for the establishment of Sullivan Upper in 1877 and his will greatly influenced the character and aims of the school, and continues to influence Sullivan Upper School today.

For a considerable period the Lower and Upper Schools shared the original building in High Street, and between them the two schools provided for most of the children in the Holywood area. The building still exists and now houses Holywood's library.

In time the Lower School developed into a primary school but now no longer exists. The Upper School, which was designed to provide for the older pupils, is still flourishing. In 1939 the original building in High Street was abandoned and the school moved to its present site on the edge of town. In the post war years the school grew steadily, new buildings being added in 1951 and 1959, the Preparatory Department having opened in 1953.

The great changes came in the 1960's and 1970's when the number of pupils increased dramatically. Major extensions were completed in 1965 and 1976 and further important additions, including a Sixth Form Centre in 1981, a Music Suite and Sports Centre in 1988 and a Technology Centre in 1995, were made.

Sullivan is now a large and thriving co-educational grammar school of more than 1,300 pupils who come from a much wider area than they did even twenty years ago. In many ways it is much changed from the school founded in 1877 and its founders would not recognise it now.

However, in fundamentals it remains the same. It is still co-educational. It still treasures its inter-denominational character. It still values a liberal education provided within the framework of the Christian ethos. It still seeks to honour Robert Sullivan's own desire 'to bestow the blessings of education on all succeeding generations in his native place'.


1. Mission Statement

The school’s fundamental aim is to provide for all its pupils the opportunities to acquire and develop to the greatest extent possible the knowledge, understanding, skills and abilities that will enable them to realise their full potential, do justice to their diverse talents and prepare them to lead rewarding and productive adult lives.

Implicit in this fundamental aim is a commitment to help pupils to develop the attitudes and values that will enable them to be confident, effective and valuable citizens, with a positive attitude towards change.

2. Implications

If this fundamental aim is to be achieved, it will be necessary for the school to provide:

  • a broad, balanced and coherent common curriculum for all pupils up to the age of 16, ensuring that the requirements of the 1989 Reform Order are met in full
  • a curriculum for those aged 16 to 19 that is as broad and balanced as is possible within existing constraints
  • a programme of games, clubs, societies and other activities which is as wide as possible and which will extend and enrich the more formal curriculum of the school
  • a progressive and coherent programme of personal and social education for all pupils in the school
  • appropriate frameworks for the promotion of those liberal, non-denominational but essentially Christian values which the school’s founder, Robert Sullivan, regarded as so important and which will continue to shape and inform the school’s efforts to encourage its pupils to develop positive and healthy attitudes towards themselves and others
  • arrangements to help ensure that the school remains an orderly and disciplined community in which consideration for others, courtesy and good manners are encouraged and a positive attitude towards discipline, conduct and authority is sustained
  • systems for recording and reporting pupils’ progress and achievements which not only meet the school’s obligations under the 1989 Education Reform Order but also, more importantly, contribute directly to the achievement of its fundamental aim
  • a planned programme of staff development to help teachers to develop the methods, strategies and approaches to their work which will enable them to contribute most effectively to the achievement of the school’s fundamental aim.
  • procedures to ensure that the relationships between the school and its various partners, and especially parents, employers and the principal institutions of further and higher education, remain close and harmonious.

The Music Department

The Music Department is constantly busy preparing for a number of annual events which are interwoven throughout the school year.  These concert and recitals feature most of our musicians in the Concert Bands, Orchestras, Choirs, Traditional Music Group, Big Band, other smaller ensembles and soloists.

The department also try to arrange visits by different music ensembles and musicians.  For example in the last year or two the school has been visited by an RAF Band, the Band of The Royal Irish Regiment and in November 2004 were fortunate enough to be able to stage a percussion workshop by Jeff Rich former drummer with rock bands Def Leppard and Status Quo.

Perhaps the visit that has generate the most excitement was by Jamie Cullum on 8th November 2005 prior to his sellout concert in the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. The singer and pianist who performs jazz music and popular music in a jazz style was accompanied by his arranger and bass player, Geoff Gascoyne, as well as a BBC camera crew, RTE camera crew and press photographers. Jamie and Geoff talked to about 40 GCSE and A- level students during their visit to the school, playing some music, and hosting a question and answer session that covered a wide range of topics including Jamie's musical influences, the music he listens to and life as a musician. The one thing that came across from the visit was his energy, enthusiasm and love of music. Jamie revealed his lack of a formal music training and the dedicated hours of practice and listening which had led to his own unique individual style.


The visit was organised with music software company SIBELIUS and local music teacher and SEELB advisor Gary Myles, and comes after a chance conversation with SIBELIUS when Gary was talking to a staff member and heard the, as then un- released Catching Tales record playing in the background. Jamie and Geoff also use SIBELIUS to compose and arrange their songs and it is also used by GCSE and A-Level music pupils as a compositional tool.

The following quote by Mrs Linda Montgomery, the Head of Music and Musical Director at Sullivan, was taken from Jamie Cullum's website - "Jamie's visit to Sullivan Upper School was a unique opportunity for both pupils and staff to experience and appreciate, in an informal setting, the live performance of such a young talented musician. Jamie's energy, enthusiasm and love of music was obvious. In the question and answer session he revealed his lack of a formal musical training and the dedicated hours of practice and listening which had led to his own unique individual style. In school we have been developing the use of ICT to assist teaching and learning of music and in particular the use of Sibelius with the GCSE and A Level classes. The pupils were eager to hear how Jamie and his bass player, Geoff, used this software to assist them in their composing and arranging of new songs. A highlight for four of the pupils was the chance to sing with Jamie, providing vocal harmonies in the chorus of one of his songs. This highly exciting and inspirational workshop has left the Music Department on a high all week and even the piano has recovered from being disassembled and stamped on !

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