Headteachers of Yorkshire's Leading Schools Share Their Plans for the Academic Year
Living North speaks to the heads of some of Yorkshire’s leading schools as they reflect on 2022’s successes, and highlight plans for the new academic year
Giggleswick School’s headmaster Sam Hart recognises the myriad of challenges his pupils have had to overcome over the last two years, not least entering the exam room for their first public examination experience since Covid in June. ‘It was a big ask, but they rose to the challenge and showed a great deal of resilience after the disruption of Covid,’ he says. ‘As they arrived at school to collect their results this summer, it was wonderful to see so many happy faces; it has been a challenging journey and there was a palpable sense of relief – but also a real gratitude towards all the staff who have supported them throughout.’
Sam is now pleased to see his students heading to a range of courses and locations following their studies at Giggleswick. ‘The sixth form team have continued to find the right place for each pupil, with most heading off to university while others start apprenticeships and some take GAP years,’ he says. ‘Across the rest of the school we are delighted to be implementing a new curriculum in our Junior School, which sees our fees include wrap-around care, as well as offering a robust programme of co-curricular subjects alongside academic teaching within small class sizes and our stunning setting.’
As students start their first few weeks of school, Sam highlights the importance of extra-curricular activities. ‘Pupils who take part in a wide variety of activities grow in confidence and develop vital skills such as teamwork, responsibility and problem solving,’ he says. ‘It can be daunting to try something new so we encourage pupils to take advantage of the new school year by chatting to their teachers and house staff about the opportunities around them.’
At Queen Mary’s School, a day and boarding school for girls aged four to 16 and boys aged four to seven, head Carole Cameron is proud of her students, who she says have thrived both inside and outside the classroom (displaying sporting, musical and artistic excellence as well as outstanding academic results). ‘Matilda The Musical Jr, national and international trips and the Futures Forum were particular highlights,’ she says. ‘Two girls received Distinction in ABRSM Diplomas (Flute and Voice), a degree level qualification post Grade 8. Another pupil was placed third at Olympia London International Horse Show 2021 in the 128cm Championships and one of our Old Maryans received a Choral Scholarship for The Queen’s College, University of Oxford.’
Queen Mary’s School have welcomed a large number of new pupils into the school community, and Carole looks forward to supporting their learning. ‘With a busy term ahead there are events, trips, fixtures, boarding activities and over 50 extra-curricular clubs per week, culminating with the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Ripon Cathedral,’ she adds. ‘Our renowned pastoral care ensures that every pupil is supported individually to navigate each term and become an independent, resilient learner.’
Independent high school Wakefield Girls’ head Heidi-Jayne Boyes is proud of her students for what they have achieved over the past year, whether they have sat public exams or have been assessed in school. ‘The performance of our pupils in public exams has been excellent and I am delighted with the outcomes for them,’ she says. ‘We celebrated super results with very happy students and parents over the summer, with everyone having plans in place for the year ahead. I also look forward to celebrating GCSE results with our students when they return to the Sixth Form in September. These young people are incredibly capable and are multi-talented, with more than academic results to celebrate and set them on their path to success.’
For the start of the new school year, Heidi-Jayne’s advice for your children is to relax and take some time to reframe and consider what you they want to achieve in the year ahead. ‘Consider how they will manage their time,’ she continues. ‘They are all busy and will need to balance/juggle outside interests with school life and work. They should also ask questions and keep the dialogue open and ongoing.’
There’s plenty to look forward to at Wakefield Girls. ‘We have cross-section House events planned alongside lots of clubs and extra-curricular activities to try out,’ says Heidi-Jayne. ‘In addition to this, the Junior Section will continue with Forest School and they have a new and exciting curriculum to experience. We never stand still and our students are brilliant at suggesting wonderful activities and initiatives for us to try; they are always a success and as we always support a charitable cause, the whole school community embraces such ideas. They do also face some hard work. We celebrate working hard and we like to learn and know things. Therefore striking a balance is key.’
The school pride themselves on their pastoral team. ‘But it doesn’t stop there,’ says Heidi-Jayne. ‘Every member of our school community looks out for each other. One of our key values celebrates this care and the nurturing community we find ourselves in. There is, of course, also academic support and our teaching staff are always ready to offer a helping hand, and if they are not available our Sixth Form subject leaders will step in and step up. They love offering support and we really value their contributions.’
David Griffiths started his role as principal of The Mount School in York, an independent day and boarding school for girls aged three to 18, in January 2022, and he has thoroughly enjoyed his first two terms. Along with Nigel Bidgood FRGS, The Mount’s Head of the Borealis Society, he led the society’s first expedition to Iceland in July and he’s also leading a new Super-Curricular programme.
Reflecting on his school’s achievements, David emphasises the importance of recognising all achievements. ‘A big achievement for the whole school community was our Eco Festival held at the end of the school year,’ he says. ‘Girls from across the whole school were tasked to pitch creative ideas aimed at redesigning areas around school which would encourage positive mental health and wellbeing. Pupils also enjoyed various activities to promote mindfulness, sustainability and change.’ Now, David is looking to launch the second Borealis Expedition to East Greenland for 2024 this September.
‘We are also in the process of setting up a new Foundation Office to help both extend and reinforce the pastoral support and care that is so strong a feature of life within the school,’ David adds. ‘In the coming months we will be investing to create a Fitness and Conditioning Centre within our Sports Hall. This will provide girls with a first-rate facility for their own exercise and training needs. York City Football Foundation will be operating from The Mount School facilities in opening a brand-new FA Emerging Talent Centre, as well as continuing its Girls-only Development Centres and FA Regional Talent Club, thus providing a base for eight–16 year olds to develop their footballing skills at every level, creating the Lionesses of the future.’