Record number destined for top universities

Bright future ahead: some of the sixth form students heading for prestigious universities 

A RECORD number of students at the North’s top-performing state school are celebrating offers of places on highly-competitive courses at the most prestigious universities in the country.

Twelve Ripon Grammar School students are heading for Oxbridge and 19 are set to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine, with more than 67 per cent of the school’s sixth form receiving offers from the elite Russell Group of universities.

High-flying students throughout the 137-strong sixth form have secured places on a wide range of courses, from airline pilot studies, astronomy & physics to ecology & conservation, fashion, history, law, nuclear engineering, nursing and psychology & criminology.

One student’s desire to study medicine was reinforced after her father, Chris, died of cancer nearly two years ago.

Louise Taylor from Grewelthorpe, who will be the first in her family to go to university, said: “It gave me that personal connection. When my dad was ill, I was really impressed by how he was cared for. I really want to help people now if I can.”

The 18-year-old now needs to achieve three A grades in chemistry, biology and Spanish to take up her place studying medicine and surgery at Newcastle University in September.

Another student who is aiming high is Ralph Lockey, 18, from Kirkby Malzeard, who is embarking on a pilot training course at a renowned aviation academy in Spain. He had to undergo six hours of rigorous assessments, including written exams and aptitude tests, to win his place on the Flight Training Europe course

Taking A-levels in maths, chemistry and geography, Ralph has dreamt of being a pilot since he was ten, when he went on his first transatlantic flight: “I can’t think of anything else I would rather do,” he says.

Kathryn Barrett, of Summerbridge, will also be reaching for the skies. She has been offered a place to study physics and astronomy at Durham University.

The 18-year-old, who needs to achieve two A*s and an A in physics, chemistry and maths, explained how she was inspired by the dark skies around her home: “I have always enjoyed star gazing and I’m now looking forward to studying the subject in more depth.”

Two girls were not put off by a traditional lack of females in their chosen field when they applied to study chemical engineering. Boarding student Felicia Amao, from London, and Grace Cahill, from Huby, agreed it made them even more determined to rise to the challenge.

Felicia, 18, researched the applications of chemical engineering for an academic project and now needs three As in maths, chemistry and biology to study the subject at the University of Nottingham.

“I want to help create things and to make processes more efficient in order to improve people’s lives. That is what appeals to me about it,” she said.

Grace, 17, needs an A* and two As in maths, chemistry and psychology to get on her course, which includes industrial experience, at the University of Manchester: “I like the fact you can do so many things with a degree in chemical engineering,” she explained.

Talented Callum Davies, 18, of Baldersby, who plays the clarinet, saxophone and piano and is taking his Grade 7 singing exam, is combining his love of music with maths at the University of Birmingham.

Studying maths, further maths, physics and music, Callum, who also composes music, needs to achieve two As and a B at A-level to take up his place on the combined course: “It’s an interesting mix of logic and creativity, the subjects do help each other,” he explained.

Among six students heading to Cambridge University is Joe Horner, who chose to study veterinary medicine because of his interest in science and animals. The 17-year-old, who lives in Ripon, explained: “When you’re from Yorkshire, you can’t go far without seeing a farm.”

He now needs to achieve an A* and two As in chemistry, biology and maths to secure his place.

Joining Joe at Cambridge is Poppy Robinson, 18, of Marton-cum-Grafton. Inspired by viewing renaissance art during family holidays in Italy, she wants to work in art curating, with a special interest in political activism.

Studying English, history and art, she needs to achieve an A* and two As to take up her place studying history of art: “I chose Cambridge because it is the best place for my course, but I love the town as well.”

Head boy Thomas Mewes, 18, from Ripon, is one of six RGS students heading for the University of Oxford.

Volunteering with elderly patients at Ripon Hospital for two hours a week over a year inspired him to apply to study medicine. “I learnt a lot from the patients and soon started looking forward to going. Although I have always been quite academic, I realised that I am very much a people person,” he said.

Going on a residential weekend to Oxford encouraged him to apply: “I never thought I would be able to do it. But that was the turning point. It really opened my eyes.” He now needs to achieve an A* and two As in maths, chemistry and biology to confirm his place.

Charlotte Haslam from Kirkby Malzeard is one of a number of students who have deferred offers of university places to enjoy action-packed gap years.

The 18-year-old plans to work with owls at a bird of prey centre, take a position as a chalet girl for a ski-season and complete a 1,000-mile solo sponsored walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of good causes, including children’s cancer charity Candlelighters.

Charlotte, who hopes to qualify as an animal chiropractor following a degree in animal biology at the University of Stirling, said: “I want a break from study and am really looking forward to enjoying a sense of freedom before starting again.”

Head of sixth form Terry Fell said: “It is one of the great privileges of my job that I see at close hand the amazing variety of plans and routes that our students choose to take beyond school.

“Whether they decide to begin their careers in employment now, to set out on gap year adventures, or opt for further study at the highest level in universities across the country, these fantastic young men and women show an aspiration, a sense of independence and a willingness to take control of their own lives and destinies that is deeply impressive.

“We wish them all the very best of happiness and success in their bright futures.”

*One of only five grammar schools in the country to offer boarding places, RGS has consistently topped the northern league tables for A-level results, with 79.5 per cent of students achieving grades A*-B last year.