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Bury Grammar School Boys Prizegiving 2010 Headmasters Address


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									                                  Bury Grammar School Boys

                           Prizegiving 2010 : Headmaster’s Address

                                    The Victoria Hall, Bolton

                                  Thursday 21st October 2010

Mr Chairman, Mr Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Brigadier Wilson, ladies and gentlemen, members of
the school: it is very good to see you at our 2010 Prizegiving – the fifth occasion we have
gathered here in The Victoria Hall for this annual celebration of the year’s work and

I’d like to begin by referring to some of my summer reading. This included a book, published in
1930 and written by the Headmaster of Stowe School, J F Roxburgh. The book’s title was
Eleutheros or the future of the public schools. In his book, Roxburgh wrote this: ‘The phrase ‘a
liberal education’ originally meant education for a free man – an ELEUTHEROS – as opposed to
a slave. The slave’s job in life was just to work; the free man’s job was to be the best possible
kind of man. Nowadays’, wrote Roxburgh, ‘everybody has got to work, but some people can
afford to have a shot at becoming the best possible kind of man before they start working.’

Boys: having a shot at becoming the best possible kind of man. I hope I’m not being wildly
idealistic when I say that I hope your school encourages and helps you to do just that. You may
ask what it might mean to be the best possible kind of man. Well, what about this.

Another book which was part of my summer reading was Giles Radice’s Friends and Rivals – a
study of the friendship and rivalry between three Labour politicians, Tony Crosland, Denis
Healey and Roy Jenkins. The book records an observation made about Roy Jenkins – an
observation which described him as ‘a tolerant liberal, believing that the best guarantee of good
government was that it should be entrusted to intelligent, wise and generous men and women
who by instinct would make the right decisions.’ Intelligent, wise and generous men and women
who by instinct would make the right decisions.

Part of my idea of what it might mean to be the best possible kind of man would include
intelligence, wisdom and generosity. And in presenting this report this evening, I trust, ladies and
gentlemen, that you will see something of intelligence, wisdom and generosity in what the boys
have achieved this year.

You will expect me to say something about examination results, not least because at the heart of
what we are about is helping the boys to achieve, in their public examinations, the best results of
which they are capable – not as an end in itself, but because such results reflect discipline and
effort in coming to terms with fields of knowledge and understanding which are goods in

At A Level, this year’s pass rate was 98%, with 38% of entries being awarded A* or A grades.
24% of the year group achieved at least 3 A grades and 22% of the year group achieved at least
one of the new A* grades. Nico Hobhouse achieved the A* grade in each of his four A2 subjects
and, after a gap year, much of it being spent teaching and travelling in China, he will be going up
to Trinity College, Oxford, next autumn to read Greats. Mitchell Cocker, Edward French and
Reuben Singer each achieved 4 A grades.

We were very pleased that so many of the boys were awarded the new A* grade. In a year when
cuts in higher education spending reduced the number of university places available and placed
students under even greater pressure, they are to be congratulated for their academic

At GCSE the overall percentage of entries graded A* to C was 96%. The A* to C pass rate for
Mathematics and English Language, taken by all boys, was 100%. The Mathematics results were
particularly pleasing, because 3 of the 5 sets sat the more demanding IGCSE. The percentage of
entries graded A* or A was 48%, with 17% of the boys achieving A* or A in all 10 of their
subjects. Stephen Hoyle and Joshua Patel achieved A* in all 10 subjects.

There should never be any complacency about academic results; but I do believe that this
summer’s results reflect very well on our students and on those who teach them.

Our academic work is supported and enriched by an extensive co-curricular programme: trips to
lectures and exhibitions organized by every department; Mathematics Challenges; French and
German exchanges; Geography and Geology field trips; the annual Battlefields trip; the L6th Art
week in Andalucia; and, this year, our participation in the 1st UK Linguistics Olympiad – with
Gold certificates being awarded to Matthew Bowen, Caspar Hobhouse and Jack McGowan.

Last autumn our co-curricular programme saw a new initiative – a Science Week for all five of
the BGS family of schools. The week consisted of talks, demonstrations and practical activities
for the youngest in the Kindergarten to the oldest in the Sixth Form – all aimed at enhancing
their experience of the fun of science. During the week Mr Davidson led a party of Sixth
Formers to CERN in Geneva to view the particle accelerator buried deep underground.

March this year was a particularly rich month for science. We enjoyed another Science Week,
this one under the auspices of the Ogden Bury Science Partnership. Second and Third Formers
benefited, and the programme included two sessions for Gifted and Talented boys.

Four Sixth Formers – Michael Gaunt, Marcus Lancashire, Aditya Pahade and Sam Wilcock –
attended a lecture at the Royal Society in London. The highlight was when Captain Neil
Armstrong recounted the details of his mission to the moon in July 1969. After the lecture Mr
Davidson and Michael Gaunt were able to share a few words with Capt Armstrong. It was a
memorable day for the BGSB students who were able to attend.

Also in March, all Third Form boys took part in the national Third Form Biology Challenge.
Subodh Kafle and George Morcos were awarded Gold Certificates.

Early in the Easter holiday, James Andrew, Matthew Bowen, Daniel Jackson and Matthew
Walker went to Loughborough University to take part in the Royal Society of Chemistry ‘Top of
the Bench’ Competition. They had secured their place in the national final by winning the
regional Chemquiz competition in April 2009. 24 schools took part in the final and the BGSB
team came 7th.

In the summer term, as part of our outreach to feeder schools, and, in this case, as part of our
community service, a group of staff and senior boys visited St Paul’s Primary School in Bury to
contribute to that school’s Science Week – a visit which was greatly enjoyed and appreciated by
the St Paul’s pupils.

Stephen Fielden, one of our Sixth Form students, was awarded one of 25 places on this summer’s
Space Camp, held in Norway and supported by the European Space Agency. The 25 successful
participants were selected from applicants from around the world. Stephen was one of two
chosen from the UK. The subjects dealt with varied from the Northern Lights to rockets, satellite
communication and astronaut training. The students worked alongside some of Europe’s best
scientists and got to use some advanced equipment.

You will know that we attach a great deal of importance to extra-curricular activities. Our
programme includes a rich diet of opportunities in sport, music, debating, the CCF, outdoor
pursuits, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, World Challenge expeditions, ski trips and
community service, and I’d like to mention some highlights from the past year. First, music. The
joining of forces by the Boys’ School and the Girls’ School for a performance of the Mozart
Requiem in the Parish Church in December was followed in March by the joint production of
Oliver! The production was a great success and earned much praise from the 1000+ people who
were in the audience over the four nights. It was a fine example of the Boys’ School and the
Girls’ School working together to achieve a standard which we could not achieve alone; and an
example, too, of what Mrs Georghiou and I believe is one of the great strengths of the BGS
family of schools – that we are able to offer the benefits of a single-sex education, as far as
academic study is concerned, with the enrichment which comes from shared extra-curricular
activities. We saw it again during the week of Founders’ Day – in the first of what we intend to
be an annual Founders’ Day Concert; and we have seen it again this evening in music played for
us by students from both schools.

Second, sport. Sport is a key part of our extra-curricular programme, and I thank those
colleagues who give of their time and expertise to enable the boys to develop and enjoy their
sporting talents. Last year, our 1st XI Football squad reached the semi-finals of the ISFA
Northern Eights. Jordan McBriar and Joshua Mason were selected for the England Independent
Schools’ U18 and U16 squads respectively – and went on tour to Poland at Easter.

Third, our success in this year’s Schools Challenge Quiz – the competition which is based on
TV’s ‘University Challenge’ and which involves hundreds of school from all over the country. In
the regional heat the BGSB team of Nico Hobhouse, Stephen Fielden, Luke Bridges and Caspar
Hobhouse beat Manchester Grammar School to win a place in the National Finals which were
held at Westminster School on 25th April. This was the first time we had won through to the
National Finals since 1999. We lost out to Nottingham High School – and then to Abingdon

School in the Plate Final. It was, nonetheless, a successful and hugely enjoyable season of
Schools Challenge.

In March, four members of our Young Enterprise team – Sixth Formers Niraj Pritmani, Aditya
Pahade, Ravi Sharma and Toby Williamson – entered a Dragons’ Den-type competition which
was held at Ernst & Young in Manchester. Over 20 teams entered this competition. The teams
faced some tough questioning from the business ‘Dragons’. The BGSB students were extremely
pleased to win first place. The judges described them as ‘engaging, professional, positive and
confident’ and said that they spoke with ‘clarity and confidence’. The students’ knowledge was
described as ‘first class’.

Four years ago we became associated with World Challenge. Our first expedition, to Mongolia,
took place in 2008, and our second, this summer, was to Peru. I am delighted that these
expeditions are now part of what we offer our students and I thank Mr Bishop and Mr Ferguson
for their leadership. I invite Joseph Schofield, who was a member of this summer’s expedition, to
address us now.

[Joseph Schofield]

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have heard about this evening would not be possible without the
commitment, energy and talent of our teaching staff – and I pay tribute to them for enabling the
school to offer the boys such an enriching experience. A word about a few members of the
Common Room. In December we said farewell to Mrs Julie Hone, our Head of Classics, who left
to take up a similar post in the Girls’ Division at Bolton School, and to Mr Lee Hilton, our
Director of Sport, who left to take up a similar position at the school where he had been a boy. At
the end of last term we said farewell to four colleagues who, between them, had given 125 years
of service to the school: Mr David Armsbey retired as Second Master, Mr David Wilson as
Senior Master and Mr Tim Burns as Head of Art. Mr Tony Phillips, one of our Chemists, left to
pursue a new career as a ski-instructor. I am delighted that all four of these former colleagues are
with us this evening.

As I have said before, it is good for a school, and good for a Common Room, when there is a
range of ages and experiences among the staff. It is particularly valuable when there are one or
two people who are willing to devote the whole of their careers to one school; they become the
bearers of the tradition; and a Head is fortunate indeed to have their wisdom and counsel to draw
upon. I pay particular tribute this evening to Mr Armsbey and Mr Wilson, and wish them the
very best of good fortune for the next chapter in their lives.

In January we welcomed Mr Lövgreen as Director of Sport. This term we have welcomed Miss
Solomon as Head of Chemistry, Mrs Peattie to teach Art and Mrs Forsyth to teach Classics. Mr
Marshall has become Second Master, and Mr Cassidy has taken up the new post of Deputy Head
(Administration and Pastoral).

In addition to the teaching staff, other groups of people make very important contributions to the
school. I thank our Parents’ Association for their fund-raising work, and particularly for their
Summer Fun Day which has become an integral part of our annual calendar. I thank those of you

who are supporting the Governors’ appeal – either for bursaries or for our building programme
(and particularly for our eagerly awaited Sixth Form Centre for the senior students of both
schools). I am delighted that so many of our donors are here tonight. It is only through the
generosity of donors that we are able to make it possible for those whose parents cannot afford
the fees to benefit from all that a BGS education has to offer, and to carry forward the enhancing
and enriching of our teaching and learning facilities. Our bursary holders benefit immeasurably
from the BGS experience and do much to enrich the life and work, curricular and extra-
curricular, of our community. As far as buildings are concerned, recent work has included the
first phase of our Science project – the complete refurbishment of our two Chemistry
laboratories, each of which has state of the art ICT facilities and gives us a first class teaching
and learning facility. We hope that Phase 2 will start next summer. This summer saw the
refurbishment of our Geography rooms and of the ground floor corridors. Staff and boys are very
appreciative of such refurbishment, which has greatly enhanced our teaching and learning

I thank, too, those who endow prizes. This evening we have four new prizes – The Tim Burns
GCSE Prize for Art (generously given by our recently retired Head of Art), The Kenneth Bayliss
Prize for Service to the Community, The Glebe House Trust Prize for Service to the School
Community and The Tony Booth Chess Prize. I am delighted that Mr Bayliss and Mrs Harrison,
from The Glebe House Trust, are with us this evening. My only regret is that the first deserving
recipients of three of these new prizes are not with us; all three were in last year’s U6th and have
this term begun either their university careers or their gap year.

To return to where I started – having a shot at becoming the best possible kind of man. J F
Roxburgh also wrote of social obligation, which he defined as the ‘obligation upon every man to
pay the rent for his room in the world – and the better the room the higher the rent.’ Here we
touch on the third of the three words used in that observation about Roy Jenkins – intelligence,
wisdom and generosity. I thank the boys for their generosity in recent months. Their fund-raising
for those less fortunate than themselves has included five non-uniform days – which have
supported, among others, the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, the flood victims in Pakistan,
and a former student, Sam Gore, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the British Heart
Foundation. Sponsored runs at the end of the Heartbeat Bury day, which launches the First
Formers’ PSHE programme, raised over a £1400 for Cancer Research last September and a
similar amount for Asthma UK this September. And last December, more than 30 boys bag-
packed for customers at the Tesco Superstores in Bury and Rochdale. They raised over £1350 for
the Christopher Clarke Cancer Research Fund, a charity set up to finance research into the type
of cancer from which Christopher, a former pupil, died in January 2006.

I cannot end without thanking our parents – those who entrust their sons’ education to us and
who work with us in encouraging and helping them to have a shot at being the best possible kind
of men. The task is a noble one. It is the task of a lifetime; but the seeds are planted in childhood
and adolescence. As the Chinese proverb has it: When planning for a year, plant corn; when
planning for a decade, plant trees; when planning for life, train and educate people. It is the
educated person – the intelligent, wise and generous person – who is best equipped to know life
in its fullness and to share that fullness with others. And it is to that noble task of education that
my colleagues and I seek to give ourselves each day.


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