Letter to Parents - Autumn 2019

Dear Parents

It has been a long and very busy term, starting back in August with a celebration of excellent examination results by our Sixth Form and Year 11 students.  A 100% pass rate was achieved by all at A Level, with 83% obtaining grades A*- C.  Our students regularly gain admission into top universities in the UK, and this year was no exception.  89% of our students successfully gained places at their first choice university, with 38% progressing onto highly competitive courses at Russell Group Universities. The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which provide world-class research and education.  At GCSE level, 93% of results were Grades 9-4, with over half of our pupils gaining grade 9 or 8 in one or more subjects.  Over a third of results were given a top grade (9-7), well above the national average of 20.8%.

I am incredibly proud to be working within an organisation which places so much emphasis on pupil and staff wellbeing.  Statistics show that nationally the picture around recruitment and retention of teachers is poor, with one in five teachers (18%) expected to leave the profession in less than two years of starting and that more than a quarter (26%) of those with less than five years’ experience will leave by 2024 (Guardian, 16 April, 2019).  We know that wellbeing is increasingly important to aid staff retention and support a high performing culture at College.  Our Mental Health First Aid Training for staff continues and I am happy to report that 86% of all College teachers are now Mental Health trained.  This training has had a hugely positive effect and has enabled more of us to really help the youngsters in our care.  Our Year 11 pupils have attended an accredited Mental Health Awareness course, providing them the opportunity to develop life skills to help with the pressures that they face now and maybe in the future.  We are also accessing the support of external Wellbeing Coaches, through CAMHS and this is proving to be a very valuable facility.  The coaches have been involved in some group work at the Infant and Junior School and in providing 1:1 support for some pupils at the Senior School.

The charity that we are supporting this year is Carers Trust 4 All, a charity which helps young people classed as ‘carers.’  This can mean that they may have some responsibility for the care of a member of the family because of illness, disability, mental health issues, alcohol or drugs related problems.  We are delighted that the partnership is working well and we hope to raise a significant amount of money throughout the year to support this charity to help young people, some of whom are our own pupils, and in turn the charity is offering group or 1:1 support for some of our pupils who need it.

Sport has played a very important role for lots of pupils across both sites this term. At the Infant and Junior School there has been much success.  The boys were the winners of the U11 6-a-side tournament at Ellesmere College and winners of the 5-a-side tournament at The Firs.  They have also reached the quarter finals of the AJIS Cup Plate competition which continues in the New Year. The girls are hot on their heels, having remained unbeaten this term, winning all four of their netball games.  At the ISA North Regional Junior Swimming Gala much success was had, congratulations must go to Charlotte and Jack Leatherbarrow who qualified from there to swim at the Nationals representing the North of England.  Charlotte went on to win Silver in the 50m Butterfly and Gold in the 200m Freestyle Relay.  A really fantastic achievement!

At the Senior School boys and girls have been involved in and contributed to playing in a colossal 106 fixtures with 223 pupils attending at least one extra-curricular club since September.  Our Year 7 Netball team are certainly a team to watch and have had some very conclusive victories over many local schools.  Our Year 9 girls are fairly new to basketball but competed competitively in the Chester and District Tournament and came a very respectable third.  Our Hockey teams are definitely benefitting by being able to train on the All Weather Pitch and this is transferring to some high scoring victories over other local schools.  The Year 9 Rugby squad have made a positive start to the season, training hard and making good progress on the pitch; congratulations must go to Ben Nicholas, Thomas Kinsey, Oscar Ghattas and Alex Cross who have been selected for the Sale Sharks Developing Player Programme.  Out of school pupils prosper playing football. Zak Packer plays regularly for Chester FC, and goalkeeper Christian Lewin in Year 10 and Zac Younis in Year 9 play in the U14 and U15 Chester Schoolboys football teams.  Our Year 8 footballers have been unbeaten this season – a tremendous achievement!  In the Chester and District Cross Country, double success saw Year 8, Reece Munro win the Y9/8 race and William Ashfield win the Senior Year 11 race.  Red Morgan competed in the Equestrian Nations Cup final in Belgium, winning a team Gold medal for Britain. He was also placed 6th in the World Cup last week in Germany, whilst representing Britain.  This young man is certainly one to watch!

This term we have looked at how we engage our pupils in decision making processes to manage school improvement.  As a result of this two Sixth Formers, Annabel Smith and Charlie Bromley-Davenport have revamped our ‘pupil voice’ committee, called College Forum. Through a shared understanding of all things Abbey Gate, they want to look particularly at the opportunities afforded to the pupils in five different areas: physical, emotional, environmental, personal and learning.  At the Infant and Junior School following similar discussions with the pupils, the idea of Pupil Parliament was born.  The children have been discussing the environment and following consultation with all classes the children are encouraging one another to bring in fruit or snacks for break.  They are also introducing food waste bins on the playground to use to develop a compost heap and are also looking to cut down the use of single use plastic containers.  To be an evolving and improving school we need to listen to the view of our pupils and to assure them that they are being listened to and their views, ideas and efforts are valued and that as many practical and cost efficient ideas can be implemented for their benefit.  I look forward to sharing the fruits of their efforts with you in the near future.

At the end of November, 30 pupils across the Senior School performed, played or undertook technical roles in an incredible production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. This special production saw Year 12 Drama pupil, Caitlin McNamee take on the leading role of Joseph. The musical featured pupils from every year group across the College playing the brothers, Jacob’s wives and many more fun roles. The band, led by Head of Music, Mr Andrews was made up of both pupils and staff and was the perfect accompaniment for the feel-good musical.  The new computerised lighting system worked a real treat and definitely added to the drama of the production.

The festive season is engaging us in a glorious way.  Our Christmas tree entry from the Infant and Junior School is standing proudly at Chester Cathedral.  All of the decorations this year have been made from recycled materials, including old Christmas Cards and copies of past Broadsheets. The College Chapel Choir have performed at several high profile events, including singing with Emily Burnett and her singing partner, Sophie Rowland, also known as Belle Voci at Chester Town Hall.  They also performed to an audience of over 1000 at The NeuroMuscular Centre's Spirit of Christmas Concert at Chester Cathedral. Returning for its 24th year, the evening of festive readings and music saw host Matthew Kelly joined by an array of stars of stage, television and film.  The Choir sang the beautiful 'Quanta Qualia' by Patrick Hawes, which featured an incredibly high treble solo, masterfully sung by Rhys Duffty, Year 9.  We are thrilled that Henry Kitchen in Year 7 has been chosen to sing the much-loved classic ‘Walking in the Air’ from The Snowman at the Cathedral this December.  He will perform the iconic solo at the screening of the animated tale, accompanied by a live orchestra.

Waitrose shoppers in Chester were treated to a host of Christmas tunes sung by both our Senior and Junior Choirs in our bid to give back to our local community and the congregation at St Werburgh’s Church in Chester were joyfully entertained with a variety of musical ensembles.

A huge thanks has to go to the PTFA and staff at the Infant and Junior School who put on a magnificent Christmas Fair.  The stalls looked wonderful and Father Christmas was very busy.   The Infant children performed another fabulous Nativity Play.

With a couple of days to go before we close for the holidays, I am busy practicing my reading for the Christmas Carol Service at Chester Cathedral.

Just two reminders before I close; the pupils are due to return to school after Christmas on Monday 6 January 2020 and secondly both sites will be closed to pupils on Friday 10 January 2020 whilst we run our Entrance Examinations for all age groups.

Thank you to you all for your continued support of everything that we do at AGC.  All that is left for me to do, is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and health and happiness for the New Year.


Mrs T Pollard


Published: Tuesday, 17th December 2019