The autumn term really started back in August when we celebrated our pupils’ A level and GCSE results. This year we were delighted to see a rise in our pass rates at GCSE and happy that over 90% of our Sixth Form pupils gained a place at their first choice of University, with over 40% of our students having had unconditional offers made to them even before their results were known.
The Chapel Choir trip to Ely in the summer was hugely successful and enjoyed by all. Four choristers, Thomas Fesmer, Matthew Fesmer, Oliver Smith and Harry Tomlins went on to attend the Eton Choral Course where they took part in the BBC recording of Evensong which was broadcast on Radio 3 on 31 October.
It is always good news when I hear of the safe return of students and staff from trips abroad and this summer was no exception. 14 students and two members of staff arrived home safely from our partner schools in Swaziland. Having collectively raised a substantial amount of money to build a new kitchen at Mbita Primary School they proudly completed the task of building it whilst there for three weeks. Such was the significance to the area and school that we made the news in the Swaziland national newspapers. This is a very important link for the College and I hope it continues for years to come.
I thought that Speech Day set the tone beautifully for the term and David Walker-Smith was a really wonderful speaker. I do hope that I can entice as many ex-pupils as possible to be our guest speakers in the future as I feel that the connection they show to AGC is inspiring for our current pupils. It was also wonderful to be able to hand a cheque for £8,500 to AcetUk, our chosen charity for the year.
I never take the fact that I am lucky to work with wonderful staff across both sites for granted and when Mrs Sophia Storrar asked casually one lunchtime if she could have a little bit of time off to swim the Channel, I felt I could hardly say no! She did indeed manage to be part of a three-person team and completed the challenge in 11 hours and 58 minutes, raising in the process nearly £4000 for Cancer Research UK. This disease, over the past 12 months has taken a toll and has affected our own community, so it was a very brave and fitting act of pure madness on her behalf.
The summer refurbishment of our wonderful new building at the Infant and Junior School went exceptionally well and on Thursday 11 October, His Grace, the Duke of Westminster and the Trustees of the Grosvenor Estate officially opened it. His Grace unveiled a commemorative plaque and placed the first soil on top of a time capsule to be opened in 2118. This new build is already having a positive impact on our pupils’ learning and the extra space in the main building has allowed us to build a new kitchen and serve hot food to the children at lunchtimes for the first time. When I asked a few youngsters what they thought of the meals, their response was quite simply ‘yummy’ – I think that this says it all.
Nearly 75% of our staff have now completed some form of mental health first aid training through Mental Health First Aid England run by Mrs Julie Paterson and our continued aim to help our pupils become more resilient and know where and who to ask for help when needed is a priority for us. Our pupil and parent workshops went down well and I know all those who attended felt that it had a positive impact on their own understanding and well-being.
I am absolutely delighted that we are able to support Trauma Response Network (TRN) (set up by one of our own parents, Mr Sean Gardner, who was caught up in the terrible Manchester Arena bombing) as part of our annual charity fundraising initiatives this year. Not only will we be able to support the charity through fundraising efforts, we will be able to tap into some psycho-education training for our staff and our facilities will be used to help train TRN therapists. A terrible tragedy has been turned into an inspirational opportunity and we are delighted to be able to help in any way that we can.
Our pupils continue to challenge themselves to achieve highly and develop their personal competencies in lots of different ways. Many congratulations to all of our sports men and women who continue to excel in their chosen fields. Noticeably a fabulous victory for the U16 football team who stormed to glory in the ISA North Football competition. Well done to our U16 Netballers who came 4th overall in the U16 ISA Netball tournament and to our U13 Hockey players who finished 3rd in the ISA Hockey tournament.
Congratulations must go to Keira Meadows in Year 9 who has been selected for the English Schools' Ski Association (ESSKIA) squad and invited to join the squad at a training camp in Geilo, Norway in February 2019. Kristian Ellis who recently joined us in Lower Sixth is also celebrating his success at the Swim Wales Winter Championships. Kristian secured two Bronze medals and one Silver, ranking him 8th in Britain for the 100m Butterfly and 10th for the 800m Freestyle.
Iceland proved a soggy challenge this year to our Geographers, although the natural landscape of such a beautiful country was well worth the visit and wellies were definitely the order of the day for some of our A level students who embarked on a Biology field trip to Loggerheads Country Park.
Families were invited to sponsor a tree and participate in a tree planting afternoon in the grounds of the Infant and Junior School in Aldford. This initiative is part of our desire to create a new forest trail for outdoor learning. 70 new trees were planted in total with nine different native tree species having been chosen specifically for the occasion. The trees were tagged with a number and planted randomly so future generations can come and search for their family tree.
Our Senior School production this year was an amazing experience. As always the acting and set design was phenomenal. It was a truly challenging production to watch as Golding’s, ‘Lord of the Flies,’ doesn’t lend itself to a happy ending. Watching our youngsters behave, whilst stranded on a desert island in such a despicable way, was very unsettling, but I was grateful that their performance was down to excellent acting skills only.
Our own wonderful, Mrs Christine Faithfull was selected as the 2018 English Speaking Board (ESB) Burniston Bell Award Winner. ESB is a national awarding organisation offering qualifications in speech and language. Named in honour of the Founder, Christabel Burniston and the Honorary President, Jocelyn Bell, this prestigious award is presented to a teacher who has shown outstanding commitment to ESB in their school. Nominated by a team of assessors, Christine was praised for her supportive nature, excellent knowledge of the syllabus and dedication to ESB assessments. Simply outstanding, Mrs Faithfull and very well deserved!
Christmas activities officially started in November when once again we were invited to be the main Choir at The NeuroMuscular’s ‘Spirit of Christmas’ event at Chester Cathedral. This prestigious event raises huge amounts of money for the charity and we were proud to play a part in helping to raise £29,000. Another charitable evening was held at St John the Baptist’s Church in Aldford where our joint Choirs from both the Infant and Junior School and Senior School came together to put on a magical programme of readings and music in aid of the Church Tower Appeal. The previous day the Church bore witness to our youngest members of the school coming together and performing the Infant Nativity play. It was amazing, and our very talented and confident youngsters were heard and seen reading and singing beautifully.
The damp and dreary weather did not put off our dedicated PTFA team who alongside the Infant and Junior School staff organised a fantastic Christmas Fair. The Secret Stall for youngsters to buy gifts for their families was very popular as was Father Christmas who was extremely busy all day.
The final week before we close for the holidays, has seen the Santa Dash take place, the annual Christmas Carol Service at Chester Cathedral and of course Christmas lunch at both sites.
Just two reminders before I close; the pupils are due to return to school after Christmas on Tuesday 8 January, 2019, secondly, both sites will be closed to pupils on Friday 11 January, 2019 whilst we run our Entrance Examinations for all age groups.
All that is now left for me to do, is to wish you all a Merry Christmas and health and happiness for the New Year.
Mrs T Pollard
Published: Thursday, 13th December 2018