Year 8 Pupil A-Z Guide


Excellent attendance at school is very important. Being in class every day ensures you remain up to date with your work and stay in contact with your classmates and friends.


Most of you will travel to and from school by buses provided by Translink. To help you adjust, Year 8 pupils leave class 5 minutes before the 3.20pm bell for the first few weeks of school. Senior staff supervise buses at the end of school.


The school canteen offers a wide range of food which is available before school, at break, and during lunchtime. Our canteen is a cashless facility, and you will have an account which can be topped up by parents. When you join us, you will pay for food using your fingerprint or a passcode to access your account.


We encourage our young people to display grit, determination, and perseverance, rising to the different challenges throughout their school career. We live by our motto “Nothing Achieved Without Effort”. To succeed and fulfil your potential, you must try your best.


We encourage pupils to get involved in the many extra-curricular sports and activities on offer in school. There is something for everyone - from sporting clubs to chess, Scripture Union to Cookery Club!


This is a fantastic time to make new friends for life - and maintain old friendships too. Don’t worry if you are the only person coming to us from your primary school; there will be others in your class in the same situation.

Growth Mindset

We believe that intelligence is not fixed. By hard work and effort, you can improve and achieve more than you might have thought possible. See difficult work as a learning opportunity and don’t be afraid to get things wrong at the start. You learn from your mistakes.

House System

When you come to Down High, you are placed in a Form Class which also represents one of the 5 Houses in school: Down; Lecale; Mourne; Rathkeltair and Strangford. This is your House throughout your time in Down High and there will be opportunities to compete each year for the House Cup. Competitions are varied and include sports, projects, cooking and recycling.


You should always look to improve the quality of your work. Ask questions to establish what you can do differently. Take pride in your work, participate fully in class and set yourself high expectations. Before you hand in a piece of work ask yourself, ‘Is this the best I can do?’. Be prepared to act on feedback from your teachers to help you to improve.


When you join Year 8, it is the start of a very exciting journey. You will adapt to many other exciting new challenges as you progress through school. However, there is always lots of support available to you as you go. To make your journey smoother remember to always ask for help if you need it. Asking questions and asking for support is the sign of a successful learner.


“A simple act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees.” (Amelia Earhart). Down High pupils treat each other with kindness and the ripple effect creates a sense of belonging for everybody. When you join Year 8 the kindness you show others through your words and actions will be reflected back on you.


Down High School is a place of learning. You will be encouraged to think for yourself and discover the strategies that support you to learn most effectively. Your teachers are also life-long learners who will encourage you every step of the way.

Mobile phones

You are allowed to bring a mobile phone to school to promote your safety while travelling. However, it must be switched off while you are in school. You will learn more about staying safe online during assemblies and in your ICT lessons.

New Beginnings

This is a great time to try new things. You will have many new subjects, but also the opportunity to learn new skills, try new things, meet lots of new people and enjoy being part of the Down High community. There are many extra-curricular activities in which you can get involved.


You will need to be prepared and well organised for all classes and participate fully in lessons. There will be an increase in the number of things you have to remember to bring to school e.g. subject specific books, swimming kit, PE/Games kit, or a musical instrument. It is important to check your timetable and homework diary each evening to ensure you are prepared for the following day. Many pupils find that having a separate zipped folder for each subject helps with organisation.

Pastoral Care

At Down High we have an experienced pastoral team to support you in school. This team this includes, your Form Teacher, Year Head or Head of School. Our Pastoral Vice-Principal is Mr McKillen.


You may have lots of questions about starting a new school; if you are not sure about something you can ask your form teacher, class teacher or an older pupil. Hopefully, this A-Z will help to answer many of these questions.


We pride ourselves in the positive relationships that exist within our school community. Build life-long friendships and positive relationships through respect for diversity and sensitivity towards others.

School Council

The School Council represents the pupil voice in school. Pupils have the opportunity, through their class representatives, to discuss many aspects of school life. The School Council meets regularly, and is involved in fundraising, suggesting ways to improve school life, and working closely with the local community. You can pass your ideas for improvement to your class representative or may even become the class representative!


On your first day, you will be given a timetable which sets out the structure of each day. There are ten periods per day, a twenty-minute break in the morning, and a forty-minute lunch break. Your timetable will help with your organisation for each day.


Always wear your uniform with pride. You worked hard to achieve your place and your uniform identifies you as a member of our school community. When you wear your uniform, you are representing Down High School; it is important that you put our values into action by always setting a good example.


Our core value in Down High School is RESPECT. Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they are different from you or you don’t agree with them. Respect is the glue that holds our relationships in school together. You will find out more about our RESPECT values when you join us.


At Down High School we promote pupil well-being by providing a safe, caring, and supportive environment for every member of our school community. Mrs McGuire is our well-being coordinator and she teaches Year 8 about mindfulness. Assembly themes will also explain how you can promote your own well-being by providing support and advice for pupils.


Every pupil coming to Down High is unique and has something special to contribute to the life of the school. Develop and share your amazing talents and take the chance to shine!


Say yes to new experiences! You will reap rewards when you make the most of your time at Down High School. Your teachers will recognise and acknowledge your effort but more importantly, you will have a great sense of pride when you take risks and learn new things. By being brave and not feeling that you need to get things right first time you will accomplish more than you think possible!


Embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead with enthusiasm, energy and a positive attitude. Life at Down High School will be fun, and we are looking forward to getting to know you and your unique talents.

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