Harrogate district headteachers reflect on year of success

Students at work
Students at work
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As students prepare to discover their exam results, headteachers from across the district reflect on the achievements of the year.

Ashville College

Headteacher Mark Lauder: “A busy final few weeks of term at Ashville ended in trips week with all of Years 7, 8, 9, and 10 and L6th accompanied by all the staff out of the classroom and active on rivers, the countryside, up trees and camping with favourite activities including gorge scrambling, kayaking, camping, orienteering and raft building.

Trips week was preceded by the climax of the competition for the Rigg Cup - the trophy awarded to the house with the most points after a year of sporting events at junior, intermediate and senior levels - sports day saw the athletics competitions hotly contested, with new school records being set, including one which had lasted 30 years.

With over 95 per cent participation rates in the House competitions this year almost all pupils had their moment in the spotlight.

Speech day saw the annual prize-giving for outstanding academic achievement and the senior school hosted explorer and adventurer Jock Wishart who spoke about his row to the Pole and his upcoming challenge of hosting a Rugby sevens tournament at the North Pole.

Junior school and pre-prep held their very first Speech Day in the newly refurbished Soothill Hall, with prizes being awarded in all year groups for the first time.

Celebration weekend continued with over 80 former pupils returning for the annual Ashvillian society dinner in the college and the jazz band, soul band and jazz seven to nine performing before and after dinner to entertain the guests.

Musical productions of The Demon Headmaster in Junior School and speed (the Hare and the Tortoise story) in pre-prep rounded off the term in style.

Activities continued after term ended - the 55-strong concert band left to tour Germany, for eight days performing 14 concerts in that time, the senior boys’ rugby and cricket tour to Sri Lanka left from the college, as did the senior girls’ hockey and netball tour to South Africa.

All in all, a very busy but hugely enjoyable end to another record-beating year at Ashville.”

Harrogate Grammar School

Headteacher Richard Sheriff: “It has been a great year at Harrogate Grammar School with our students and staff working hard together to achieve the best outcomes possible from their learning.

As well as the day to day work in the classroom we have enjoyed a tremendous year in sport and the performing arts.

County cup winning footballers, Rugby finalists and a resurgence in participation and success for the girls in a variety of sports have given us lots to cheer about.

It is not only in our main sports that we have excelled, we are very proud of our County champions at beach volleyball, record breaking athletes and individual gymnasts and divers.

Stunning drama productions such as the sold out production of West Side Story have enthralled audiences and involved students from every year group.

Music has undergone a renaissance at the school over the past few years and we have been able to enjoy numerous performances from our talented instrumentalists, singers and rock stars.

Languages remain a very important part of the school’s curriculum and our partnership with Wenlan Middle School in Hangzhou whose students visited us for the first time in October, together with the introduction of Mandarin Chinese as part of our languages provision, delivered by our first ever Chinese Language assistant, Xiao Xiao, have been new developments for us this year.

We have also had really successful exchanges with our Dutch, French, German and Spanish, partner schools that have enriched our student’s language learning.

Our award winning chef took delivery of a brand new servery for the main school and our new Sixth Form café opened, quickly becoming hugely popular with our students.

The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School is continuing to be a very popular choice for post-16 study, both for our own students and an increasing number joining from other schools in the region.

Our new Head of Sixth Form, deputy head Neil Renton, also joined us this year to help deliver our world class aims for this fantastic facility.

We are not complacent however and are already planning for further improvements in the school and looking forward to an even more successful year to come.”

Harrogate High School

Principal Andrew Bayston: “This year, once again, the students and staff of Harrogate High School have experienced many exciting, energising (and in some cases unique) events.

We have especially enjoyed the occasions that involved our partner primary school pupils, particularly the school production in February of The Magic of the Musicals where children from five local primary schools performed with us.

Our super learning initiative has been extremely popular as we extended our creativity and enjoyment of learning to pupils in key stage two through a series of fun, subject-based special events.

The school sporting calendar has provided a great opportunity of quality activities across a wide range of sports with cycling featuring for the first time.

Of course this development was planned to coincide with the event that will live in the memory for years to come and I’m pleased that our students embraced ‘Le Tour’ in a big way and that we contributed by providing the hub for the Tour makers.

We have achieved record sums fund raising for a whole range of deserving charities both local and national.

I’m very pleased to report our students and staff have raised well over £2,500 for the Childhood Cancer and Leukaemia Charity and this is just one of eight charities that we have donated to.

We have achieved good progress on the new school building and during the autumn term we will be working on the detailed design of the internal layout with the selected contractor.

I’m also looking forward to breaking ground on the tennis centre development in the late summer.

All this gives us much to celebrate with so many individual and group achievements that leave everyone at Harrogate High School looking forward to the year ahead with great enthusiasm.”

Harrogate Ladies’ College

Sylvia Brett: “This was my first year as principal of the Harrogate Ladies’ College family of schools – and what a memorable year of accomplishments.

Much of what we did challenged our pupils’ wider awareness of national issues.

As part of Le Tour, we were asked to host BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions with Jonathan Dimbleby.

It was a wonderful opportunity for our senior girls to meet national politicians shaping policy which will affect the world they will live in as they grow up.

But we also reminded our pupils of what, with enough determination, they can achieve.

Our Speech Day guest was Rebecca Stephens MBE, the first British woman to have climbed Everest and the first English-speaking woman in the world to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Rebecca told the pupils that everyone has ‘their Everest’, something they passionately want to do.

The secret is to have the self-awareness to listen to your inner voice and follow a path that is true for you.

Rebecca’s message resonated well with the audience, who this year had many achievements to share.

These included raising over £8,000 for local and national charities, winning ’Best Company’ at the LEAP (Leeds Enterprise Advisory Programme) Awards and becoming U12 North Schools Lacrosse champions, U12A North Yorkshire Netball Champions and U12B Harrogate District winners.

Finally, award-winning chef Craig won Catering Manager of the Year, and HLC picked up a Food for Life award in recognition of the organic, free-range and local ingredients used in the kitchen.

In addition to all that, you might have seen our pupil’s art exhibition at the International Centre or met some of them in the course of their work experience or voluntary service around town.

You might also have heard them talk about their studies. Did you know HLC’s value-added score is in the top 2 per cent of UK schools?

Or that four of our girls went to Oxbridge last year?

Or that we invited our neighbouring schools to join us at Harrogate’s first American universities event?

So – an exciting year, and so much to be proud of. But among it all we always found time to smile – as I did when I found a yellow bike parked on top of my office window for Le Tour.”

Nidderdale High School

Headteacher Ian Simpson: “This last academic year has seen a number of initiatives move forward and Nidderdale High School is particularly pleased with the new joint transport arrangements with Harrogate Grammar School and Nidderdale Plus partnership which are due to start in September.

This new transport scheme will be of great benefit to all our families who live out of catchment with mini bus services and bus routes from Ripon and Harrogate all being capped at £2.00 a day return and providing a quick, convenient and affordable service.

The year 6 transition days have been a great success and we will welcome all students back to school on September 2 in their new blazers.

All current students were fitted and presented with their blazers ready for September and the improvement in appearance was immediate and reflects our modern image more positively.

I am equally excited by the prospect of working together with the primary schools in the Dale Teaching Alliance on joint professional development and teaching and learning projects that will benefit the teaching staff and students in both primary and secondary phases as well as Nidderdale’s membership of the Red Kite Teaching Alliance which has already led to the development of inter-school teaching and learning communities.

These are proving beneficial in terms of sharing resources and professional development to ensure that as a small rural school we develop effective and lasting partnerships with Harrogate schools in Red Kite.”

St Aidan’s Church of England High School

Headteacher John Wood: “This academic year saw the associated sixth form of St Aidan’s and St John Fisher celebrate its 40th Anniversary and it was fitting that this was through a concert at the Royal Hall in October entitled Con Spirito.

There were many other highlights during the year where students showcased their talents: through Dance and the performing arts in Harrogate Theatre, in sport through local and national successes in football, basketball, athletics/cross country, cricket, netball and hockey; and in music at numerous concerts culminating in special awards for the symphonic band and symphony orchestra at the National Festival of Music for Youth in Birmingham.

The Art Department displayed their ability in an exhibition in the Victoria Centre whilst over 150 students undertook the Duke of Edinburgh bronze award and over 60 the Gold Award.

Students visited Northumbria, Ullswater, Holland, Rhineland, Flanders, Tuscany, Iceland, Sorrento, Australia and The Ardeche as part of the extra-curricular and enrichment programme.

The school is also very mindful of its responsibility to the needs of others – and through many fun activities (including a Tour De Bounce) significant amounts of money have been raised for charity.

However, above all these opportunities, students prepared exceptionally well for their GCSE and A-level subjects and now we await those important days in August hoping for results that match the endeavours of students and staff alike.

As for next year, we again must focus on the new and many challenges facing education both at Key Stage 4 and 5 hoping perhaps that politicians will allow teachers to do what they do best – namely to promote, in each child, a love of learning for its own sake in an environment that provides for the education of the whole child in preparation for higher education, employment and life.

That might be asking too much but nevertheless we will continue to provide a high quality education for each child, regardless of ability, to ensure that they achieve equal to their potential.”

St John Fisher Catholic High School

Headteacher Paul Jackson: “St John Fisher School can look back on a year of continuing achievement.

The school is riding high in both regional and national league tables and continues to be heavily oversubscribed.

Its rich extra-curricular life was given a major boost when Britain’s leading Sports magazine’s first ever survey of sport in schools named St John Fisher in its top 30.

It has been a year of unprecedented success based on the exploits of talented duo Jacob Fincham Dukes and Nick Petrou.

Both are highly ranked in Great Britain and both will form part of the GB squad in the World Youth games in Oregon USA later this month.

It is truly remarkable to have students from one Yorkshire school performing at this elite level.

Music and musical theatre maintained its high profile throughout the year. Sell-out performances of the Sound of Music and Joseph included students from all year groups and this impacted on the whole school.

Head of Music Craig Ratcliffe is taking an increasing lead in the local Harrogate musical scene. St John Fisher is therefore at the forefront of Harrogate community events and music in general goes from strength to strength.

All that and a brilliant first ever performance in the Bed Race!

The school says farewell to Paul Jackson, Headteacher for 13 years, in the summer.

Chair of Governors Peter Davies paid tribute.

He said: “Paul Jackson has been a notable, caring and compassionate leader.

“He leaves the school in a great position and in good heart. His legacy is secure.”

Rossett School

Headteacher Pat Hunter: “It has been yet another busy and successful year at Rossett School, and the last few weeks have been no exception.

From inviting next year’s Year 7 and sixth form students to Rossett for a taste of school life, to hosting an employability conference with dozens of businesses and further and higher education establishments visiting us, there has been plenty going on in July.

Looking back over the last school year, there have been numerous achievements to celebrate.

Our sports teams have performed well, and our young first aiders have just been placed fourth in a national competition.

Rossett students have had their creative work exhibited in many prestigious places including Harewood House and our musicians have performed in some beautiful venues in Italy.

Our older students have worked extremely hard to prepare for their exams and I look forward to seeing them as they collect their exam results in August.

What I will also remember about the last year is the things we have achieved outside normal lessons.

Whether they are helping primary school pupils to get to grips with new technology, or staying up all night to show solidarity with people affected by the war in Syria, Rossett students have demonstrated that they play a valuable role in society, from our local community to the wider world.

I am exceptionally proud of all of our students, and of the fantastic team of staff, governors and parents who support them here at Rossett. I have no doubt they can look forward to even more success in the future.”