FEATURE: King James’s School in Knaresborough

As the only secondary in the town, King James’s School enjoys strong ties with the community.

The school reasonably believes it is linked to most people in the town, whether as pupils past or present, or through family and friends.

NAKP 1401201AM1. Carl Sugden. Headteacher of King James School Carl  Sugden in conversation with students. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1401201AM1)

NAKP 1401201AM1. Carl Sugden. Headteacher of King James School Carl Sugden in conversation with students. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1401201AM1)

Such links can be formed through direct pupil involvement in the community.

Headteacher Carl Sugden said: “Our overarching aim is to help all our students leave school as confident, sensitive and responsible adults who are highly employable and ready to play an active part in the wider community.

“To achieve this, alongside excellence in teaching and learning, we offer a rich and varied programme of extra-curricular activities and events, many of which involve the local community.

“This helps to generate a real buzz about the school – it’s a vibrant, happy place to be.”

Many students volunteer in charity shops, work with the elderly or carers’ groups and head to primary schools to lead sports activities or assist with reading projects.

Knaresborough’s pensioners look forward to the annual Senior Citizens’ Party in July when afternoon tea and entertainment is presented by sixth formers.

Students are also encouraged to participate in work with primary schools.

Such involvement can benefit both the youngsters and King James’s’ students, according to Mr Sugden.

He explained: “This school has a very defined catchment area. Just about everybody who lives there sends their children here and I think that makes it a lot easier as a school to know what is happening in the community.

“It also makes it easier for the younger pupils to settle in when they come here.

“We work with a large set of primary schools. If they have 60 students and 58 are coming to us it makes the transition a little easier. There is a very good working relationship in Knaresborough between the primary schools and us.”

Younger children enjoy visits to King James’s for sporting events, drama productions and a variety of other learning opportunities.

The world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France, passes through Knaresborough on July 6, and the school has been involved with the town’s Le Tour Knaresborough committee since its first meeting last summer.

And, while the school is planning its involvement, expansion plans are also active. These include plans to install floodlights on the all-weather pitch later this year will open up new opportunities for both school and community sport.

Sporting facilities are shared with the wider community.

A spokesperson said: “Knaresborough King James’s Tennis Club is based at the school and enjoys the use of nine recently refurbished courts equipped with floodlighting to enable play all year round.

“Other facilities, including the sports halls and pitches, are available for hire and are used regularly by players of all ages.

“The annual Knaresborough Fun Run and Gala is a highlight for both the town and school, with around 3,000 local people gathering to enjoy both the exercise and entertainment!”

Those outside of the school may be able to enjoy the facilities, but it is the students who make the most of them.

Last year students had the opportunity to take part in an average of 40 sports practices a week, over 330 fixtures were played against other schools and house competitions were fiercely contested in 10 different sports.

And, in 2013, five individuals went on to compete at a national level in hockey, cricket, swimming, karate and sailing.

Other students have the opportunity to travel outside the district.

Geography students explore the country on field trips, history and politics groups go to London to visit the Houses of Parliament and Imperial War Museum, while biologists and applied science students join workshops at Chester Zoo.

The spokesperson said: “Thanks to dedicated staff keen to pass on their love of travel, students are also offered opportunities to venture further afield – in this academic year alone, King James’s students will be travelling to France, Sri Lanka, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy and Iceland.

“Linguists will benefit from student exchanges, geographers from exploring the spectacular Icelandic landscape, and footballers from encountering the skills of their peers in Barcelona.”

In 2013, King James’s achieved record-breaking exam results.

At GCSE level, 90 per cent of students achieved five GCSEs at grades A* to C (76 per cent including English and maths).

At A level, the school achieved a new record A* to B rate of 57 per cent.

Mr Sugden commented: “Maintaining the high academic standards that Knaresborough parents have come to expect from the school is just part of what we do.”

In its latest Ofsted inspection, the school was judged to be outstanding.

As with many schools across the district, King James’s prides itself on a strong focus on the performing arts.

Last year, the school performed Les Misérables, while this year’s show, West Side Story, runs from February 5-8 inclusive.

A spokesperson for the school said: “A variety of top-class concerts, studio productions, the annual house drama competition and acclaimed art and design and technology exhibitions all showcase the work of the many talented students at King James’s. The Riverside Jazz ensemble is renowned throughout the area and is frequently invited to perform at cultural events beyond school.”

Although it is two years away, the school is already preparing to celebrate its 400th year in 2016.

Events will be held to commemorate the school’s history and there are plans to strengthen ties and share memories with ex-pupils and staff.

However, while enjoying this opportunity to celebrate its past, the school’s focus will remain firmly fixed on the future.

Mr Sugden said: “We are starting to plan events, it would be nice if we could get a very high-profile visitor that year. We want to make as much contact as we can with former staff and students.

“Our challenge is to continue building on King James’s tradition of high academic standards and its unique place at the heart of the community.

“Our unofficial motto – Traditional Foundations, 21st Century Education – sums up our ethos. As a school, we are determined to bring together the very best of past and present to equip our students for the future.”

l Former pupils or staff of King James’s wishing to get involved in the 400th anniversary celebrations or to join the school’s alumni association can visit the school’s website

See www.king-james.co.uk or email alumni@king-james.n-yorks.sch.uk to contact the school.