BY Ryan McDougall | November 22 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Catholic pupil crowned Candidate of the Year, cites support of his school

Three pupils form catholic schools made up the entire nominations for prize

A Catholic school graduate won a prestigious national award after attaining multiple Advanced Highers at the best grade possible.
Declan Shafi, 18, who graduated from St Paul’s RC Academy, Dundee, after finishing his exams this summer, was named School Candidate of the Year at the annual Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) awards.

He was one of three candidates nominated for the award, all of whom were of Scottish Catholic schools. The award was one of 13 honours at the ceremony, held at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow’s West End on Friday November 15.


Declan is now studying Computing at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, after attaining six Advanced Highers and six Highers in school – all of which were A or A band one passes. He attained a Higher in Computing in S1 – an achievement virtually unheard of so early on in secondary school. He then gained an Advanced Higher in the subject the following year.

After receiving his award, Declan said: “I’m delighted, it was quite a surprise actually. The other two people nominated for this seemed so deserving in different ways to myself. Of course, it is nice to get recognition for my own achievements.”

Declan added that he ‘very much’ enjoyed studying at St Paul’s, stating, ‘everyone was always really supportive of me, and they always tried their absolute best to make sure I could fit everything in, not just in terms of my subjects etcetera, which was a nightmare every year I was there, but also in terms of letting me grow as a person which I think particularly happened in S6.’


Headteacher Teresa Little commented: “Declan is a lovely boy and we were absolutely delighted that he was nominated for the award. It’s amazing to hear he won. He’s such an unassuming guy as well, and would never boast about anything. Although he’s really clever, he still worked hard for it.”

Declan is well thought of by staff and pupils throughout the school, having helped the younger pupils out with their studies in class.

He was nominated by his guidance teacher, Finbarr McCarthy, who told the SQA Declan is ‘unquestionably the most academically gifted pupil I have ever worked with.’

He added: “He has attained more qualifications at a higher level in school than any pupil that I, or any of my colleagues have ever had the pleasure to teach. That is a pretty strong statement!”

Runners up were Cal Traquiar of St Ambrose High School, Coatbridge, and Ciaran Shearer of St Modan’s High School, Stirling, who were both highly commended for their grades.

Cal, who achieved five As in his National 5 exams and a B in Art and Design, is now in 5th year and is studying Highers in Maths, English, Spanish, Art and Geography.

Julie MacDonald, head of the school’s Learning Support department, said: “We’re absolutely delighted because he’s such an outstanding pupil and has worked so hard.”

Ellen Douglas, headteacher of St Ambrose’s, added: “Cal is an outstanding pupil who has worked very hard to gain the qualifications he has achieved. It’s been a pleasure to work with Cal and his family to ensure he reaches his potential – we wish him every success as he continues his journey and St Ambrose High is delighted to be a part of it.”


St Modan’s High School was also thrilled that their pupil, Ciaran Shearer, was highly commended for the School Candidate of the Year award.

Headteacher Mr Ray O’Neill said: “We’re delighted for Ciaran. He’s a tremendous boy, a great worker and has done particularly well. I think Catholic education is really all about recognising the strengths in young people because we’re all so focussed on them as individuals. With Ciaran, and I’m sure it’s the case elsewhere, we see the real value in young people and see there’s something very special about them.”

‘Outstanding drive and devotion’

Deputy first minister John Swinney congratulated the youngsters on their achievements.

He said: “All those receiving awards and commendation have shown an outstanding drive and devotion to learning in their chosen field. My congratulations to the winners and finalists for their achievements.”

Barbara Coupar, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said: “Catholic education helps pupils to identify and nurture their skills and abilities, and the SQA awards demonstrate how well this is being done across Catholic schools.

“The success of our schools is linked to the fact that academic endeavour is not seen in isolation, and is not the only marker of success.

“Instead, our schools encourage our young people to grow in all aspects of their life, developing their gifts and talents and building positive relationships with God and others, so as to become the person God created them to be.”

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