Headmaster's Prizegiving Speech 2016

Governors, staff, ladies and gentlemen, students past and present, parents, guests, his worshipful the mayor of Harrogate Cllr Brown and Linda his wife , Mayorof Ripon, Cllr Morgan and his wife Robbie and Councillor Val Arnold, Chair of North Yorkshire County Council, welcome to Ripon Grammar School’s Speech Day 2016.
A particularly warm welcome to our special guest today, Bridget Kendall, MBE, who joined the BBC at 26 years old in 1983 as a radio production trainee for the World Service. She went on to become a foreign correspondent in Moscow at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union from the late 1980s to mid-1990s, and was later posted to Washington from 1994 to 1998. She was named BBC diplomatic correspondent in 1998.

“Working for the BBC has in many ways shaped my entire adult life,” said Bridget. “As a BBC correspondent I have had a ringside seat at some of the most extraordinary moments in modern history. I am sure that if I had chosen to remain a BBC correspondent, there would have been more highlights to come. Only the offer of a very special position could persuade me to want to give it up.”

Bridget, who took up her as the first female Master of Peterhouse College, Cambridge in July, said she hoped to continue to take part in BBC broadcasts as an outside contributor.

She was educated at the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge and went on to spend two years in Russia on British Council scholarships in 1977 and 1982. She went to LMH to read languages and then to Harvard via Saint Anthony’s College.

“I am also determined to keep up my long interest in Russia, a country for which I have always had a huge affection and fascination,” she said.

As for the Ripon connection, Bridget’s father, Professor Kendall came to RGS as a student. David George Kendall was born in 1918 in Ripon, attended Ripon Grammar School before attending Queen's College, Oxford, graduating in 1939.

He worked on rocketry during the war, before moving to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1946.

In 1962 he was appointed the first Professor of Mathematical Statistics in the Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge; in which post he remained until his retirement in 1985. His mathematical talents were recognised early and encouraged at school I am pleased to say – one teacher gave the young Kendall his Cambridge Part I lecture notes, and he was reading scholarship material in his early teens. He won a scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford in 1936. Such was his contribution he is known as the father of British probability. I am extremely grateful to Bridget for taking time to travel to Ripon in what I know must be a very busy time for her.

Recovering from the shock of the Prime minister, back in September, suggesting that an increase in selection and, dare I say it, more grammar schools being required to improve social mobility in this country, was not what I expected. We shall see where this policy goes over the coming years but it does highlight how our own educational experience has such a profound effect on our lives. Theresa May went to a grammar school. So did I. It provided me with the opportunity to be socially mobile and aspire to leave the confines of a council estate in North London and go to Oxford University. I was the first person in my family to go to university. My father did pass an entrance test to go to Grammar School but his parents could not afford the uniform so he could not go. Fortunately he did not bear grudges. He bought me the uniform. My parents were also ahead of their time. Let me explain. We were due to move out of London when I was 12 years old to Surrey. The move fell through at the last minute. By this point I had already left school and was living with my brother in North London because my parents had sold their property. It took a year to find another business and I moved to Bournemouth in 1972 a year after I had left school. I never thought of it as a GAP year and it certainly did not involve travel sadly. I never thanked my parents for my year out of school but I suppose it did not do me much harm. This will be my last Speech Day as, you are aware, I retire from teaching next year after 35 years. It has been a richly rewarding career and the motivation for doing the job comes from my own background; creating opportunity for young people to fulfil their potential as my own teachers did for me. We all remember teachers who had an influence on us and it is humbling to think how, as teachers, we have been able to shape the lives of others in our charge. What a privilege to be able to do this. I have enjoyed my career enormously and am so glad that I chose teaching, working with so many committed colleagues and inspiring students. I had the opportunity to work in the City of London as so many chemists from Oxford did back in the 80s and although not as rich, I certainly feel enriched in a way that money simply cannot buy.

Too many highlights in a career to mention but a couple of unconnected memories. I met a student through the Chemistry Olympiad who had 7 A levels and got 7 A grades before A* existed, played 3 musical instruments to grade 8 and had already done the Physics Olympiad the year before. He represented the UK in Australia and finished third in the world. His solutions were more elegant than the chemists who wrote the mark scheme. But he was unfailingly modest. At Cambridge, he studied Natural Sciences and finished top in his year by 20%. I would love to know to what he is doing now. I also worked with a teacher in a science department (not RGS) who was a stickler for punctuality; not an uncommon trait in teachers it is fair to say. I walked into the lab when I was Head of Science trying to find this teacher having checked the timetable. Much to my surprise, the lesson was in full flow but the room was completely devoid of students.I enquired politely what was happening, not wishing to disrupt the lesson although I was in some doubt as to whether this, in fact, constituted a lesson. The lesson started at 9.15 and if students are late back from assembly then that is not my fault, I was informed. Unfortunately it wasn’t the students fault either, I responded. I have also been so fortunate to work with some wonderful professionals over the years, people who are truly inspirational in terms of commitment, selflessness and their ability to communicate not only with children but with adults. I will miss the unpredictability of the job. I regret not solving the mystery as to why nobody has raised student attainment on a windy day. I will miss the interaction with students and the feeling of being a part of this community. I will miss sharing in the joys of success that students experience after working in a sustained and committed manner to achieve something worthwhile. I now really know how last year’s Upper Sixth feels since the school has been such a big part of my life too.But the time is right. I do not want to outstay my welcome and the school is in excellent shape. The person who replaces me will be extremely fortunate and will have the opportunity to shape the future of RGS as I did 12 years ago. I hope he or she will enjoy it as much as I have.I have heard it said that being a headmaster is a bit like being pecked to death by chickens. I must have been lucky. It felt more like I was being brooded by them.

We shared in a wonderful results day in August where there were many joyous students who had realised their ambition.The results were some of the best at A level ever achieved and a tribute to the work ethic of both the students and the staff.

The Upper Sixth started as bright eyed and bushy tailed first formers in 2009; the year group ran from Bethany Abel to Kieran Woodcock . In 2009,weather dominated the headlines with snow at the beginning and end of the year. Floods in November. Swine flu arrived in Britain and indeed in Ripon Grammar School, causing the school to be closed following a confirmed case amongst the student body. The deaths of Michael Jackson and actor Patrick Swayze, he of Dirty Dancing fame, marked the year. On a lighter note, the prize for the best one liner at the Edinburgh fringe. ‘ Hedgehogs. Why can’t they just share the hedge?’ This beat the runner up: "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

But I want to reflect on the 2016 leavers and what memories they have left behind and how they have made Ripon Grammar School a better place.A wonderful year group without doubt lead by James and Donna. Donna kept telling me she didn’t want to leave. I told her she had to but the same conversation nearly didn’t work with Tom Stringer. I am delighted that Tom is now at UCL. I remember James and Donna giving their final assembly to the school saying that they had enjoyed their time enormously. But one thing they said stuck with me. They said that they were proud that their year group was known as being hard-working. To have 2 students leading the school and happy to declare in an assembly that it is fine to work hard definitely felt like progress. As a leavers’ present, I am sure Donna appreciated a parking permit for her car in Ash Grove. Donna is now at St John’s in Durham , ironically the same college as my son Joe. James and Donna were ably supported by their deputies Jack, Julia, Annabelle, Lucy and Matt who worked tirelessly behind the scenes showing commendable judgement when needed.

As a year group our leavers achieved some outstanding results; I had the privilege of teaching an A level group and I use the word advisedly. It really was a privilege. They were great fun and incredibly dedicated. Even James Probert – in the end! I appreciated the thank you cards very much and the recurring theme was that they wanted to make me proud by achieving high grades. They certainly did that but I was proud of them anyway. Georgina (I am sorry I am late, I was with my form) Watkiss always cheerful. Emma Hope always positive and prepared to give of her best. Max Vesty who always seemed to be one lesson ahead of me! Ricky Langdale always one lesson behind but he caught up at the end when it mattered most! Well done on that B grade. Eliza Dwyer and Dave Bates always keen to know more than the syllabus expected of them. Will Knowles – yes he did. The set epitomised all that was good about the students at RGS; they were reliable, enthusiastic, cheerful, engaging, interested, modest but above all appreciative of what I did for them which wasn’t much because they did it for themselves for the most part. They were kind not only to me but to each other and that is the greatest legacy any of us can leave behind when we leave school. The year group’s favourite tune Mr Brightside by the Killers perhaps sums up their attitude to life as they tended to look on the bright side of life at all times. Perhaps the attitudes of Jenny Unwin and David Owens encapsulate that better than anything. I think that having two such inspirational students in the year group helped to shape the approach and demeanour of everyone. Alfie Ashton who worked at Booth’s; I lost count of how many times I was asked ‘who is that really pleasant boy from RGS who works at Booth’s?’ The pleasant boy is now at Cambridge studying law. But I wanted to highlight students who did not always find A-levels easy; students like Miles Butterell, Will Andrew, Lauren Bradwell, Katy Richardson, Jack Burton. Their attitudes were excellent and they achieved really well fulfilling their potential and sticking with it when it got difficult. This resilience is admirable; in many ways this is more of an achievement than a bright student who finds it easy getting straight A grades. Respect is due.

As a year group they certainly had the countryside covered; a pond, a brook, a wood, a ford so we can get cross the brook, a lamb, a hill, a chase, a dale, some oakes, a reed. If its winter, there is always frost. If you are really lucky there is treasure. We just needed a church because we have an abbott, a dean and a pope. Sounds more like a tour of the bucolic Yorkshire Dales than a year group at RGS.

I would also like to pay tribute to the students who joined us in the Sixth Form; almost 40 of you. You have made a superb contribution to RGS in such a short time in so many ways. As role models, contributions to the boarding community, to sport, music, drama, to the academic life of the school through your involvement in lessons, as prefects, school officers, sixth form council, Charity Week. I hope you have enjoyed being part of the school as much as we have enjoyed having you here. Thank you for the richness and energy you have brought to the sixth form.

The Old Rips Day on Saturday, December 17th will feature sports fixtures in hockey, netball and soccer with indoor competition in the sports hall and outdoor competition on the Astroturf. I hope many of you will be able to attend and join in with the fixtures or simply meet up for a chat before Christmas. The event is proving to be incredibly popular and I hope that many of you will be able to return and enjoy the occasion. It will be recorded in the Clocktower and I am incredibly grateful to Ruth for the outstanding work she does on producing this. The success of former students is incredibly humbling with Jack Laugher’s success in Rio capturing everyone’s imagination. I was reminded of Jack’s time at school and his ability to impress the prefects on the lunch queue by doing a standing back flip in the foyer, in order to get his lunch early. Former student Katharine Viner who is now the editor of the Guardian newspaper, the only female editor of the Guardian in its history.What an impressive woman. Katharine was the first speaker I persuaded to come back to RGS and she was inspirational.

The Johnson House extension is now being enjoyed and numbers of boarders has never been higher, but needs to be higher still. I am grateful to the PA for all their excellent work not only in fundraising but also in the social occasions organised over the year such as Burns’ Night, Christmas Fair, Carol Service refreshments, Parents’ Evening refreshments. Thank you to Julia and her team. Bathroom facilities need upgrading in Johnson House prior to a likely inspection later this year whilst the disabled access in the North Corridor has improved flow of students in this part of school – much needed now we are well over 900 on roll. The next development which is much needed is a dedicated dining facility and I think it will be very difficult to envisage how the school will function in the future without it. Plans have already been drawn up and potential funding sources considered. It has been on the LA list for some time but ever decreasing funding nationally brings huge pressure and it keeps getting delayed. Perhaps my successor will need to undertake a fundraising project!

At A level, there was a 100% pass rate with almost 77 % A*/B grades (exc. General Studies) which is much higher than last year. This placed RGS above other local grammar schools and resulted in being 66th in Telegraph league tables of all state schools. Ripon Grammar School was the top school in North Yorkshire and Yorkshire as well! When local independent school results were compared, Ripon Grammar School performed extremely well in comparison too.

There were many superb individual performances with 10 students getting three A* grades or better including James Donaldson, Head Boy, who secured 4 A* grades and went to Cambridge to read natural sciences. On results day, there were many happy students and it was great to see them so pleased. More importantly, I was also delighted with a large number of students who found A level challenging but performed very well and achieved grades which exceeded expectation; just as much of an achievement.

In this year's 138 UCAS application cohort as a whole, 118 students went to university this year or next year with a deferral, of which 74 are attending Russell Group universities (63 from the 2016 cohort,) and of that total, 1 student will attend university in America (Kieran) and 1 student will attend university in Madrid (Alannah). Our Oxbridge figures this year were 6 (2 for Oxford and 4 for Cambridge).

Of the remaining students, 2 individuals have taken up apprenticeship offers with the John Lewis partnership and 1 with Capgemini.

In terms of university choices, the majority of our students again selected northern universities with Newcastle, Northumbria, Sheffield and Durham as the favourites. Unusually, we have 14 students with places at Durham this year or next – more than any other single university. There is a sprinkling of applicants at universities across the rest of Britain, with Nottingham and Bristol taking four students each. The excellent support for students from the careers department is affirmed the award of the ‘Quality in Careers’ award where RGS is ‘ a good example of a school delivering excellent CEIAG with student need at the forefront of provision.’

At A2, Alfie Ashton, Jack Baker, James Donaldson, Vicky Frost, Matt Griffiths, Flo Hall, Elle Lamb, Ed Lyons, Max Vesty, Ryan Woodsecured at least 3 A* grades. If we include EPQ, Jess Ruther ford and Tom Beaumont are also included.

The following students achieved at least 3 A grades (and in many cases much better) as well; Ellie Abbott, Leanne Anderson, James Andrews, Alfie Ashton, Julia Atherley,Helen Bailey, Catherine Bailey, David Bates, Emma Beaumont, Annabelle Blyton, Donna Castle-Ward, Anna Durkin, Eliza Dwyer, Yaz Ebert-Moran, Christie Hall, Coulton Hill, Emma Hope, Will Knowles, Dan Lawson, Alannah Mansfield, Charlotte Miles, Emily Morrell, David Owens, Erin-Claire Pallott, Ben Pease, Emily Peirson, Ben Pilling, Matt Pimley, Tim Pope, Calum Richardson, Hannah Scholes, Isabelle Sykes and Kieran Woodcock.

There are 44 students with 3 grades A’s or better, many more than last year in fact (37). The change in the criteria for De Grey Major and Minor Awards means that the EPQ is now included. So 4 A*/A grades including EPQ will result in a major whilst 3 A*/A and a B grade, again including EPQ, will mean a minor award

At AS level, 62.3% of the grades were A/B grades which represent the best results in the last 4 years.

There were straight A grades in 4 (or more) subjects for 23 (21 last year) students: plus many with 3 A grades. Lorna Aspinall, Will Barker, Laura Bosomworth, Alec Cavell-Taylor, Tamsin Cutmore, Emily Evans, Andrew Garner, Fran Haldane, Tom Hooper, Antony Hunzinger, Charlotte Knowles, Tom Lewis, Elke Morgan, Mate Pocs, Lydia Poole, Lola Rhodes, Christina Scullion, Alice Shanahan, Will Stobbs, Ross Sullivan, Jonathan Tanner, Katie Veitch and Emma Wilkinson.

At GCSE, 61% of the grades were A*/A with 97.5% of the students getting 5 A*-C grades including mathematics and English. Over 97% of the grades were C or better.

32 out of 119 students (almost a third) achieved 10 A*/A grades (or better) with 9 students securing 10 A* (or better) in their GCSEs: Maddie Charvill, Louisa Chatterton, Ella Durkin, Lorcan Gallagher, Molly Morrell, Rebecca Payling, Ben Pimley, Georgie Taylor and Freya Whiteside. Maddie and Ben got straight A* grades in all of their GCSE subjects.

32 students achieved 10 A*/A or better: Lucie Algret, Alys Arnold, Maddie Charvill, Kate Charlton, Louisa Chatterton, Annissa Cook, Tim Coppack, Cobey Cutmore, Katherine Dale, Ella Durkin, Mhairi Ellis, Helen Elsworth, Dan Evans, Lorcan Gallagher, Poppie Hercock-Walker, Ella Jones, Isobel Lawson, Alicia McCormick Roddis, Lily Millington, Molly Morrell, Rebecca Payling, Will Penny, Ben Pimley, Alice Robinson, Jake Robinson, Phoebe Senior, Jacob Sharp, Ellie Simmerson, Rebecca Smith, Georgie Taylor, Freya Whiteside, James Willis.

There was some excellent national publicity in the Times, Guardian and Yorkshire Post focusing on three sets of twins with 58 top grades (A*/A) between them. The photos featured Louisa and Katharine Chatterton and Harry and George Stratford.

I am indebted to so many staff for providing such a wide range of opportunities outside the classroom, whether it be sport, music, drama, field trips, theatre visits or trips abroad. The trips are not only about success but enriching the education of the students to make them rounded people. I know the parents thoroughly appreciate the incredible richness of the education on offer beyond the classroom and I would like you to thank the staff for all that they do to enhance the experience and therefore the education of the students.

The Young Enterprise team have enjoyed a very successful year andthey have won the North Yorkshire round in York and against a number of independent schools; they were also recognised for the Best Presentation, the Best Environmental Product and the Best Financial Management at the county final, held at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, in York. This was the second year in succession that an RGS team won the North Yorkshire round, the first school to do so.

Alec Cavell-Taylor, Patrick Moon, Jonathan Tanner and John Ashton had to complete around 70 hours of project work to achieve the highest accolade in CREST a gold award, a UK-wide award scheme to support students' interest in science, technology, engineering and maths from their EES project. The challenge began for the Ripon Grammar School boys early last year when they were set their task by international engineering company Siemens to design and prototype a train detection system. ‘You should be very proud of your efforts and the way you conducted yourselves. To be honest, the prospect of presenting a project to a panel of four industry hardened engineers and managers is something that terrifies me even now at the tender age of 45, but you chaps confidently and clearly summarised your project aims and how you went about solving the issues with understanding of the engineering involved, calmness and not a hint of nerves. You each played your part and more than any other team I observed that day, you all appeared to take responsibility for your individual role and deliver to the best of your ability. I thought that grit and determination were commodities that were in decline with younger engineers, thank you for correcting my misplaced perceptions’. This follows on from Elle Lamb, David Owens, Ben Pease and Ben Maddison last year and their national rail electrification of the Selby Swing Bridge.

Emma Beaumont’s artwork, ‘Gare Du Nord’, has been selected for exhibition at the Royal Society of British Artists’/NADFAS exhibition in London; a very prestigious award and well-deserved. My thanks to our local NADFAS for submitting the work for consideration.

In music, Katherine Chatterton and Jessica Earl won the R and B factor music competition in their respective age groups.

Former RGS student , Jack Laugher’s achievements in Rio must be the highlight ; winning a gold and a silver and being cast as Britain’s greatest ever diver. And in true RGS style, a more modest and unassuming individual you could not wish to meet. Last year’s First XV (2015-16) were White Rose Cup winners and were runners up in the Yorkshire Cup. Joe Brown was most improved player and Josh Finkill was player of the year. This year’s First XV have reached the quarter final of the Yorkshire Cup. In 2015-16, the U16s were Yorkshire Cup runners up and U15 were White Rose & Yorkshire champions. Whilst at school, Tom Newby played for Yorkshire U17s as did Harry Cleary. Tom Stringer played for Yorkshire Under 18s. Tom Beaumont, Jack Baker and Jack Burton played for North Yorkshire U17s. Ted Wainwright captain of the U14s has played for Yorkshire U16s and now has a professional academy contract with Yorkshire Carnegie. James Willis, Ben Borchard, Jake Robinson and Rick Castle Ward have all been selected for the Yorkshire Development Squads in their respective year groups.

The U18 hockey team acquitted themselves extremely well, beating several independent schools in the County finals after being runners up in the area tournament. All the matches were very close but unfortunately they did not progress to the next round. The U16 and U14 teams have both qualified for the North East semi-finals with the Under 16s triumphing as North East champions. The U16s are also county champions having beaten St Peter’s in the final while the U14s lost out on penalty flicks to St Peter’s in the final and thus qualify as beaten finalists. They then went on to win the North East round and are one of the top 8 schools in the North. Lucy Williams and Ben Pimley have been selected for the U17 North of England squad, girls' and boys' teams respectively, so will be attending the England Hockey High Performance Assessment Camp over half term. In netball, the Under 16s are also County Champions beating all other schools in North Yorkshire. Amy Mackenzie is selected for the U19 National Performance squad in netball.

The U16 boys’ tennis team were runners up in the Aegon National Tennis Regional championships Division 2. The county and regional rounds were played in October after the boys qualified through the league which was played over the summer. Last year’s U16 football team reached the County Cup semifinals. Sophie Richardson has taken more wickets for Yorkshire U15 cricket than any other cricketer (new record holder).Georgi Walker and Lucy Kettlewell are members of the Yorkshire National champions U17 cricket team. Cameron O’Donnell is a member of the Harrogate Men’s cricket squad that won the Yorkshire league.

Anna Marley competed at the English National swimming championships; she is backstroke champion and Laura Bosomworth competed at the England Schools cross country championships. Toby Osman was selected for the England Development squad in Triathlon and the Junior and Inter girls’ teams both qualified for the National Cross Country finals. Tara Schwarze Chintapatla is the British Schools Orienteering girls’ champion in her age group. She has now been selected to represent England at the World Championships in Italy.

Congratulations to Lucinda Sanderson who is the U17 UK dressage champion, Harry Fearn who is Yorkshire KATA champion and Niamh Frost who has been selected for the Yorkshire U18 squad in rugby.

The most recent Kirkland Rowell survey gave an overall performance score of 89.3% which was ‘excellent’ and is one of the highest since these surveys were undertaken.

The school is extremely fortunate in having a very talented teaching staff; their commitment and dedication to their role is outstanding. The students, as ever, are a credit to the school and help to make it such a vibrant community. The reputation of the school is tremendously high both regionally and nationally and there is no doubt my successor is a very fortunate person.

I would also like to thank Fiona, my wife, without whose support I could not have undertaken the very demanding job of headmaster in the leading state schools in the North of England. She picked up Bridget from the station today. She has been my rock, my unwavering support, always encouraging me to be positive. She always reminded me leadership is about being optimistic even when optimism isn’t justified; it’s a good mantra for anyone thinking about leadership.

I would now like to welcome our guest for today, Bridget Kendall.; thank you for coming today to celebrate another outstanding year of achievement at Ripon Grammar School; we look forward to what you have to say to us, after a musical interlude from Oliver Bowett and the distribution of prizes.