School History

The plan for St Mark’s started as early as October 1948. A scheme was submitted to the Ministry of Education by the Parochial House in Warrenpoint, for the building of a Voluntary Intermediate School to serve the town and surrounding areas. The Ministry however considered the catchment too small, so the plans were shelved.

The scheme re-emerged in the early sixties when the then Bishop of Dromore Eugene O’Doherty entrusted the planning and overseeing of the building of a new school to Canon Esler. Canon Esler was determined that plans were not going to be shelved this time and set about making St Mark’s a reality. And so the plans were drawn.

Although the initial plan was for the school to be built on the site of the old Alexian brothers on the front shore, the existing site of the Upper Dromore Road was later agreed due to concerns of access on the Rostrevor Road.

A sum of £272, 048 was agreed for the completed project.

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Despite the fact that the school was never given an official opening, open it did, on the 1st of September 1970, with 170 pupils from Warrenpoint, Burren, Mayobridge, Hilltown and Rostrevor. The onerous task of educating these boys and girls was charged to nine members of staff: Mr Hugh McNamara, the first Principal of St Mark’s – Mr Brian Carr, Vice Principal – Miss Mary O Hagan – Miss Dolly Flynn – Mr Maurice Connell – Mr Colm McAlarney – Mr Donnelly – Miss Mary Keane and Fr Reid.

These 170 children may not have felt important but in fact they were pioneers. They would forever be known as the first pupils of St Mark’s High School Warrenpoint.

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It is widely acknowledged that the man behind the development of St Mark’s was Canon Esler. Canon Esler had a dream. He wanted to establish a second level school in South Down which would serve all of the families and all of the 11 – 18 age group. The school would reflect the ethos, the ways of life of the communities between the Mournes and the sea. An ideal that is reflected in our school crest today.

His vision for education was to establish a school which was co-educational, non selective and rooted in the development of its community. He wanted a school in the town which “could deliver a variety of subjects leading to O Levels”. A simple task one would think but in an area which was a hotbed of grammar schools, where no mention was made of special needs or the disadvantaged, Canon Esler wanted a truly comprehensive school in a rural setting, but most importantly he wanted everyone in this community to want to be at St Mark’s.

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Now 45 years have passed, the school has had many facelifts, seven Principals later and Canon Esler’s dream is still becoming a reality. St Mark’s today has an enrolment figure just short of 900 pupils. There are almost 110 members of staff. An A-Level programme was established five years ago and our first A Level cohort have now graduated. Exam results at all levels continue to excel and last year saw St Mark’s oversubscribed in Year 8. Canon Esler, if you are listening, people of this community want to be in St Mark’s. Your vision is now a living reality.

St Mark’s, the centre of excellence it is today, has a determination to accept nothing less than the best for and from its teachers and pupils alike and this is the ethos that Mr McNamara and his staff nurtured and developed and is still being lived today.

So, we are now in 2015 and how are we living the dream of Canon Esler and the founders of our great school. By providing a high quality education regardless of ability, gender or social class.

St Mark’s will continue to offer a catholic education to pupils of all abilities. We remain committed to ensuring that all pupils are given the opportunity to make a difference in our world. We will continue to celebrate the difference we make as a school to the lives of our young people and the significant contribution we make to our community.

To honour the memory of the founders of our school, those of us still charged with the education of our young people today, will continue to live the dream.

We will continue to ensure that all children will be supported to reach their full potential in a system that is based on equality for all. Where every young person is valued for the contribution they can make, whatever that may be.

St Mark’s will remain a school where all children are educated together, where labels are removed and high academic standards are being achieved.

In this our 45th year, we, the community of St Mark’s will continue to hold dear the values created by the first educators in our school, values of justice, peace, reconciliation, truth, tolerance, respect and understanding and will continue to nurture them in the coming years.

We will continue to celebrate belonging to a school where all young people are welcomed, and encouraged to be the best that they can be.

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