Junior Prize Giving 2017

The Right Worshipful Mayor of Ripon, Cllr McHardy and Mayoress Jo Bate, Councilor Ann Jones, Mayor of Harrogate, guests, staff, parents and members of the Lower School. Welcome to Ripon Grammar School’s Junior Prizegiving 2017 to celebrate another remarkable year of endeavor and achievement. The students of the Lower School have surpassed themselves with wonderful achievements in the arts, sport and the classroom and the foundations for future success in the upper school are well and truly in place. For the fourth year in succession, RGS finished as the top school in Yorkshire and the North East. Results are at an all-time high. Progress measures are exceptional. Boarding is virtually full and the school is over-subscribed in every year group with almost 940 students on roll next year. Ofsted graded boarding ‘outstanding’ in all three categories in June, the first time this had happened in the history of the school. And planning consent has just been given for the 3G pitch whilst school finances are sound which is no mean feat considering the current financial climate. So as I leave at the end of the year, I feel the school is in a very strong position to weather the political storms ahead. I think RGS is a unique school; it has always focused on what is important. You, the students. I know that the government agenda wants to improve outcomes for all but the initiatives of MATs, free schools and the ill-fated policy of an increase in selection invariably means that the focus is taken away from the students in school and surely that can only be a bad thing. The success of RGS is down to the relentless and detailed focus on all of you here, not just at a systemic level, but at a personal level. Knowing you well helps to support you the best we can in your personal and academic development at school. I have enjoyed seeing all of you develop and work as part of this community to make RGS such a special place. I will miss my chats with students next year at lunchtimes, hearing about what you have done over the holidays and where you have been and what you want to do. I will miss the unpredictable nature of the job and what daily surprises are in store. But it has been a privilege and an honour to work here. In what other job can you shape the lives of young people and have such a profound effect on another person’s development at such a crucial time in their lives? Everyone really does remember a good teacher. It is humbling to think that we, as teachers, will be remembered in perpetuity as having a profound and positive impact on the life of a young person. I would like to give you all a little useful advice after teaching for 35 years; over those years, I have seen many students leave school and go on to achieve incredible things. Footballers, rugby players, tennis players, actors, scientists, writers, journalists. Is it always the most talented who succeeds? No. So do you need talent, then? Yes you do, but not as much as you think. Provided you are prepared to work hard and make the most of what you have and, if you have an interest, pursue it relentlessly, then you may well be surprised at what you can achieve. I firmly believe that success is 95% sheer hard work and 5% talent. I remember Gary Player, an outstanding golfer of his day, being accused of being lucky. He said ‘ Funny that. Because the more I practice, the luckier I get’.

And some advice from Confucius: ‘find a job you love and you will not need to work a day in your life’

Which brings me to what is it we should teach you? You are taught subjects-chemistry, physics, Spanish, French, English, mathematics. You must be literate and numerate in order to cope with the world you will enter. But do we need know about the subtleties of coastal erosion, how atoms are held together, to be able to speak French. For some of you most definitely yes. For others, possibly the knowledge may not be specifically required but the processes of assimilating the concept or knowledge is inherently valuable. However more importantly, school develops your character through learning, school develops your ethos, if we listen to the well-known Greek philosopher, Socrates. The world for which we are preparing you will change in a way none of us can predict. You will have to be adaptable, resilient, robust, curious, and be willing to question. Socrates referred to the ‘unexamined life’ which refers to a life lived by rote under the rules of others without the person ever examining whether or not he truly wants to live with those routines or rules. According to Socrates, this type of life was not worth living and I am sure he is right. We live in a world increasingly where people do not think and simply borrow the views of others and pass them off as their own. Allegedly, 60% of Americans get their news from Facebook. As Thomas Edison said, ‘five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” I hope RGS teaches you to think above all else. Socrates also wanted you to live ‘considered lives’ where you thought about what you wanted from it and what you could give back to society. I hope all of you will want to live a ‘considered life’.

Adlai Stevenson is a well-known politician in America but not perhaps as well-known to us. He opposed Eisenhower in a US presidential election. One of Stevenson’s aides reported back. ‘You don’t need to worry. Every thinking person in the USA will vote for you and not Eisenhower’. Stevenson responded ‘That’s OK, but I need a majority’. How that comment resonates with modern day America following the election of Donald Trump.

So Socrates gave you three options; a hedonistic life where you pursued self-gratification, just enjoy yourself. With my impending retirement I am looking into that option a little more seriously now. A pious life of self-denial and prayer. Or a life which impacts on others and supports and helps them. I chose the last one and became a teacher. I have enjoyed my career enormously and will miss many aspects of the job and the one I will miss the most is the opportunity to see students who join the school at 11 develop into young adults by the time they leave. To have the opportunity to shape the lives of people is a privilege and an incredible responsibility, one I have never taken lightly. I hope that all of the students in the Hall today will live considered lives and will develop their ability to think about what they want to do with their lives.

The news of 2 former students has emerged this year, 2 very different former students; the incredible news regarding Jack Laugher, a former student of RGS, winning a gold medal at the Rio Olympics with Chris Mears in the 3 metre springboard synchronised diving was very exciting. Jack also went onto win silver in the individual 3m springboard after only just qualifying bringing him 2 Olympic medals. Jack joined RGS in 2006 and was in form 1B. Jack is also a double Commonwealth champion and a gold medal World Series winner in International diving. This was the first ever diving gold medal won by Team GB and the first time the Chinese have ever been beaten in this sport at the Olympics. A wonderful achievement and one of which we can all feel proud. Katherine Viner was appointed the editor of the Guardian, the first ever female editor of a national paper. Katherine was Head Girl at RGS in 1988 and was my first Lower School Prizegiving speaker. She is key to the decision to have no ‘pay-wall’ on the on line version of the Guardian, a brave decision. Outside journalism Viner is known for My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a play she co-edited with actor Alan Rickman from the writings and emails of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was killed by a bulldozer operated by the Israeli Army in Gaza.

A particularly warm welcome to Nick Chester today, our guest speaker and Old Riponian. Nick was a student at RGS from 1980 to 1987 prior to studying Engineering at Emmanuel College Cambridge 1988 to 1991. He started his motorsport career at Simtek in 1991 getting a grounding in many aspects of car design. He then joined Arrows Grand Prix team in 1995 and then moved to Benetton in 2000 starting a long career at the same Enstone site (the team has evolved from Benetton to Renault F1 to Lotus and back to Renault Sport F1 over the last 16 years). He has worked in many different departments at Enstone, starting as a race engineer working with the drivers engineering their car at the track. Latterly Nick has moved to design and development of the cars as Head of Vehicle Performance, Engineering Director and then Technical Director now at Renault F1. His career has been exceptional and I am delighted that he has found time to join us today. The school has engineering status and Nick’s career could not be a better match. Nick worked in the holidays at Tracerco (Tray-sse-ko), a company based in Teesside owned by Mike Deeming, former governor where he learnt auto cad.I am looking forward to what Nick has to say about one of the most high profile sports in the world and I am glad that Silverstone do not require his services today. I am delighted he has been able to bring a car along although it is thankfully without an engine although I am sure he would not be short of volunteers to go for a spin if it did!

There are a number of staffing changes: both Mrs Mars and Mrs Seymour will be going part time which has allowed the appointment of Mrs Levahn who returns to RGS after time at Ampleforth as Head of Drama. Miss Jackson has been appointed to teach RE following Mr McMillan’s success being appointed Head of RE at Thirsk. Mr Porteus will cover for Mrs Garmory whilst she is on maternity leave next year and we obviously wish her well. Mr Duckworth will finally be retiring and he has made a tremendous impact on the art department in his time at RGS, achieving incredible results in his time at both GCSE and A level. The department has gone from strength to strength since Mr Duckworth’s arrival in 2006. Mrs Whitham will be retiring after 20 years of service from her position as physics technician, a vital behind the scenes role. Mrs Wilson will also be resigning her post in the careers department but will come back to provide guidance to the Lower Sixth next year.

Our best wishes go to them. Applause.

The U14, U16 and U18 girls' hockey teams all qualified for the County round of the National Schools competition. The U14 and U16 teams qualified as winners and the U16 and U14 teams both qualified for the North East finals. The U16s are county champions having beaten St Peter’s in the final while the U14s qualified as beaten finalists. The U16 girls’ indoor hockey team also competed in the national finals against an array of independent schools and, although they did not win, they acquitted themselves remarkably well at a much higher level. Given that this is their first year of playing indoor hockey at school, this is an outstanding achievement. Unfortunately the team lost the play-off in the outdoor hockey to qualify for the national finals, losing a very closely contended match against Trent College. Moreover, the U14 hockey team are area and county champions. Hetty Simenacz, Penny Baker, Helena da Costa, Molly Disbury, Sophie Pointon, Georgie Borchard and Marnie Scatchrd represented North Yorkshire in hockey whilst Olivia Borchard is in the Durham Performance Centre for hockey. Poppy Lawson has represented Yorkshire at hockey in the year above. Angus Ison and Jacob Stamp play hockey for Durham.

The Yorkshire Cup rugby finals took place in Wakefield and featured three teams, the U14s, U16s and 1st XV.It is a significant achievement to get three teams through to the Yorkshire Cup finals. There was more good news also on the rugby front, with the U14, U15, U16 and 1st XV all qualifying for the White Rose finals, with the U12s qualifying for the ‘waterfall’ tournament, where they were undefeated. The U14s finished runners-up in the White Rose, whilst both the U15 and 1st XV were crowned champions. Will Barrett, Oscar Lees, Harry Williams, Toby Boyce have all played rugby for North Yorkshire. The U18 girls’ rugby team, not to be outdone, were also crowned North Yorkshire champions and they then competed in the Yorkshire round where they finished runners-up.

The U13 girls’ indoor cricket team finished second in the regional round of the Lady Taverners’ competition, well done to the team of Polly Mallon, Isabella Royston, Bella Weston, Georgi Houseman, Agatha Scott, Poppy Lawson, Molly Crowther, Millie Lock and Abi Knowles.

Congratulations also go to Harry Cosham who competed in the English Alpine Ski Championships in Italy in March. He also took part in the British Alpine Skiing competition in Holland where Harry came first overall of all male competitors. Harry will also compete against 5 other European countries in September representing England.

Ben Statham recently competed in Sheffield for the Yorkshire U13 badminton squad against all the northern counties in the ‘north midway badminton league’. Only 10 boys are selected from the whole of Yorkshire so he has done extremely well. Bertie Wood also plays badminton for Yorkshire as does Simeon Mitchell. Marijke Booth represented GB in climbing after finishing third in the nationals whilst Imogen Vollans does trampolining for Yorkshire. Ella Suleman plays for the Teesside and Leeds United football centre of excellence

The U14 girls’ gymnastics team took part in the Yorkshire Floor and Vault championships in Hull and the team won overall Bronze, while Isabella Weston won individual Gold in the vault.

Ella Foster has qualified for the indoor athletics UK finals and Joe Westgarth has been selected to represent North Yorkshire at cricket. Nick Cunningham, Luke Dobson and Oscar Lees played Taverners’ cricket.

The U12 netball team entered the National Cup, getting to the third round losing to the eventual winners of the competition. They look smart thanks to sponsorship from Mrs Hartas, a parent who runs the Ripon Uniform Shop. Isabella Binks has played county netball whilst Amelia Reed has played netball for North Yorkshire. We wait to hear the outcome of County Trials for Isabella Binks for Yorkshire and Amelia Reed, Libby Wilson, Annabel Sharp, Hetty Simenacz, Felicity Strachan, Connie Burkham and Marnie Scatchrd for North Yorkshire. The U12s have a challenge matching the standard of the Under 16s who are the current county champions.

Well done to the junior and inter-girls’ cross country teams who gained success when they finished second in the North of England Championships in Manchester. Alex Glegg and Marnie Scatchard represented North Yorkshire in the English Schools’ cross country championships. The junior girls, inter girls and inter boys qualified for the regional finals. There were some excellent individual runs, the highlights of which were Mena Scatchard, 2nd and Ella Foster, 4th. Mena Scatchard and Marnie Scatchard have both reached the National finals. Further congratulations go to Mena Scatchard who became Yorkshire Champion in the 3000m, a fantastic achievement as well as to Helena da Costa who won the Junior Girls’ 800 metres at the North Yorkshire Athletics champioships. Mena, Helena and Isabella Binks have competed in the inter girls’ national cross country finals.

Particular congratulations go to Isabella Royston who won the 90cm One Day Event at Northallerton Equestrian Centre and to Eddie Henson and Isabella Royston who came second and third respectively in the regional Area Eventing at 95cm and 105cm. Isabella and Eddie both qualified for the national finals at Hickstead. Congratulations to Mia Barnett, George White and Charlie Warne who came second in the regional equestrian show jumping competition, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the nationals.

Well done to David Blyton who represented England in petanque and to Ella Jamieson who won the North Yorkshire schools’ cyclocross championships. Jhapin Shahi has been selected for the England VX squad and Christa Wilson has qualified for the European Youth Olympic trials in swimming. Christa has also qualified for British swimming championships in the 200fly, 200IM, 100fly. She has also qualified in the 400IM for English Nationals. Ben Dearden competed in the national finals in sailing whilst Catherine Garnett did the same in diving.

I am delighted that the following students received Gold certificates in the UK intermediate mathematics challenge: in the third form it was Simeon Mitchell (also best in year), Oliver Dimbleby and Megan Bannister. Well done also to the Junior team from the second and third year, who came second in the regional final of the Team Maths challenge. The team members were Shen Jie Yaw, Simeon Mitchell, Amy Burgess and James Arcidiacono. In the UK Junior Mathematical Challenge, Shen Jie Yaw received the certificate for the best in school and best in year whilst Kate Rushworth was best in year too. There were gold certificates for Shen Jie Yaw, Ellie Brown, Archie Heap, Grace Marczak, Nicholas Hart, Oliver Binks, Sophie Pointon, Chloe Stringwell, Anna Millions, Isabel Kelly, Zoe Williams, Maddie Penny, Edwin Dant, Lucy Cox, Mia Smallman, Brooke Kendall and Kate Rushworth

Well done to the U13 boys’ tennis team who are area champions; they now represent Harrogate and Craven in the next round. Joe Scarratt plays tennis for North Yorkshire.

Students have competed at the English School track and field cup competition and there were some outstanding performances including Helena Da Costa. Both the junior girls and inter-girls finished second and qualified for the regional finals in Middlesbrough, where the Junior Girls finished first in the Regional B track and field national finals and the Inter Girls second, a tremendous achievement.

During a superb Jazz Concert this term, one of the best in my time here and thereby finishing on a proverbial high note, the following students were awarded half colours for their musical contributions: Barnaby Sladden, Ben Dearden, Jonathan Bennington, Alec Peach, Katy Statham, Samyuktha Dasarathi and Mena Scatchard.

At the end of the academic year I would like you to thank the staff once again for their unstinting commitment and dedication to the students’ welfare and academic progress. The strength of the relationships between staff and students is excellent and is one of the enduring and most recognizable strengths of the school based on mutual respect. The recent sixth from leavers recognized that teachers go the extra mile. The sixth from leavers also commented that staff are ‘passionate and knowledgeable about their subject’. The sixth form students say that they are treated with respect and that all staff want every student to do their best. One student who has just left said that they like RGS because ‘wanting to work in your free periods is not seen as weird’. One student who experienced significant challenge during their school career following a life changing injury said ’my time has been truly happy. The support and dedication of the staff is something that I will always remember, and they are qualities I hope to emulate in whatever career I choose’. I particularly liked the use of the word emulate in this student’s response demonstrating great literacy! Well done the English department.

Staff really do go the extra mile. Trips such as the French Trip for the Second Form to Normandy, Mr. Margerison’s junior ski trip, the First form trip to the Deep, Bewerley Park for the third form, the Berlin trip, trips to the Holderness Coast, art trips, a trip to Beningborough Hall for first year prizewinners to name only but a handful. The World Challenge trip to Ecuador with Miss Green and other staff.

  • Well done to 1A, 2C and 3E who all won their form competitions and enjoyed a day at Lightwater Valley on Saturday.

This is just a tiny snapshot of all the activities which go on and I am grateful to all the staff for providing students with such a wide range of opportunity to learn and develop skills outside the classroom. Please put your hands together to thank the staff for their work this year both in and out of the classroom. Applause.

  • The PA have continued their excellent work this year and I am very grateful to them for their continued support; with the raffle and the excellent summer ball, very significant sums are raised which can make a real difference to the facilities and opportunities for the students. The Summer Ball was a great success raising almost £10,000 and I would like to thank the PA personally for marking my retirement in such an enjoyable and memorable way.

Mr Walker oversees work experience at both fourth form and lower sixth, a significant undertaking. The self-confidence and experience gained by the student is immense through this opportunity and I am grateful to him for the tenacity he demonstrates in ensuring that every student is placed. I would like to share with you some feedback from employers about our fourth form; ‘Hannah spent Monday with the Chief Executive's personal assistant seeing the workings from a governance point of view of a district General Hospital. She spent Tuesday morning with a consultant paediatrician and visited the special care baby unit and the paediatric wards. She then sat in on the clinic for children with diabetes and in the afternoon visited The Whitworth Hospital which is a community facility for the elderly. Today she will attend a board meeting in public and this afternoon will visit one of the surgical wards and sit in on a clinical governance committee. At all times she's been absolutely charming; she's obviously interested in the proceedings and meets people in a forthright and open manner, shaking hands and making good eye contact. She is universally adored by all who meet her, and I have to say, makes me very proud.

Another student is passionate about becoming the captain of a container ship or ocean liner; he described what he did; ‘Today, the person who is looking after me was away in London so I went to Harwich on the pilot boat. I had a tour of the Harwich Haven Authority and saw the ship equivalent of air traffic control. Next, I set sail on the pilot boat to collect a pilot from a ship which had left Felixstowe. On the way we passed what is technically the smallest country in the world, Sealand and I got some good photos of that, we passed some wrecks and picked up the pilot which was a terrifying experience! I was stood on the tiny deck of the boat as we pulled alongside, and I got a sense of the sheer scale of the ship. Once we picked up the pilot, we were so far out we were in international waters, and amazingly I was allowed to drive the boat all the way back to Harwich, some 15km away, and the boat was under my control for around 45 minutes, and I had to navigate past lots of yachts as well as a container ship entering Felixstowe.’

‘Jasper (who worked at Aston Martin in Oxfordshire) showed a lot of interest in the various areas of Door Trim design and development that he saw yesterday, and demonstrated ability in CAD modelling. He was one of the most enthusiastic work experience students that we’ve entertained, and is very keen to pursue a career in engineering. I showed Jasper one of the more complex issues that we currently have on DB11 convertible, and he seemed to be able to understand why the tolerances did not add up when particular parts are in a certain position. He is very eager to learn about more disciplines and showed a clear aptitude as well as a confidence that I don’t often see when I am with work experience students.’

  • The students have been eager to learn and seek after righteousness being true to the founding fathers of the school over 1000 years ago. I believe that the future of the school has never been brighter and it with great pride that I complete my final year and pass on to the new Head a fantastic school with a wonderful set of staff. I could not have wished for a better career as Head and I hope that Mr Webb will enjoy the job as much as I have done. I would also like to thank Fiona, my wife, for all her support over the last 13 years without whom I could not have done the job; my thanks to Mrs Hargraves, my secretary, whose efficiency and, more importantly good humour, has made my job immeasurably more enjoyable.

It is with great pleasure, and for the last time, that I will pass back to Dr. Mason who will then ask Mr. Chester to present the prizes after a musical interlude from Jess Parnell.