Three Independent Yorkshire Schools Share their Student's Success
Three of the county's leading independent schools tell Living North how they encourage students to learn new skills and celebrate their individual talents
At Queen Ethelburga's Collegiate (QE) in York, students can choose from more than 100 enrichment activities, and take part in activities in music, drama, dance and sports clubs, as well as in national schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh. QE also has its own Combined Cadet Force (CCF) bringing together an Army section (Yorkshire Regiment) and an RAF section, and have The King’s Academy for Performing Arts as a Saturday drama school, and the Queen’s Academy for Creative Arts open to all students from Year 6 upwards.
‘At QE, we understand the importance of developing the whole student by presenting opportunities to learn beyond the classroom through extensive enrichment and super-curricular programmes, designed to recognise and celebrate the skills and aspirations of each individual,’ says principal Daniel Machin. ‘One of our core aims is to provide an enrichment programme that complements the academic curriculum, building resilience, responsibility, self-belief and skills, and promotes a sense of fulfilment and achievement in its widest sense. We provide a broad enrichment curriculum to ensure students become well-rounded individuals, developing self-confidence and self-awareness, respect for others, and their environment. Students discuss participation alongside their academic progress with their tutors, to ensure that they are individually tailored as they progress through each year at QE.’
The success of their students is something staff at QE are proud of. ‘In the QE Faculty Class of 2022, deputy head girl, Toni, won the ISA Lexden Prize for Most Outstanding Sixth Form Student for her community outreach work helping underprivileged females access STEM education,’ Daniel adds. Another student, Dara, says that Queen Ethelburga’s shaped his love for basketball and opened new opportunities for his future. ‘He is now signed with Taft School in Connecticut and has represented Great Britain in their Under-18 team at the European Championships.’
Queen Mary’s School in Topcliffe also offers exceptional extra-curricular opportunities in a nurturing environment. ‘Education is truly tailored to the individual at Queen Mary’s with over 50 different activities on offer each week,’ says head Carole Cameron. ‘Activities for this term include cricket, football, Photography Club, Bike Club and the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award including a canoeing expedition. These will take place alongside swimming, dance, debating and STEM as well as the outstanding music, choral, sport and equestrian provision.’
At Queen Mary's staff encourage resilience and independence in pupils of all ages for life after learning. ‘Pupils mature from the inside out and we make this possible in a variety of ways,’ explains Carole. ‘Queen Mary’s pupils are known for being adventurous! Outdoor education, including canoeing, climbing, river swimming, building dens, WOLF runs and overnight camps, allows our pupils to face and overcome physical challenges in a safe and supportive environment, learning skills that will serve them well throughout life, both personally and professionally. In addition to the many clubs and activities on offer, pupils regularly achieve local, regional and national accolades in riding, sport and music. The Year 11 post GCSE Leavers’ Programme aims to equip pupils with important life skills – including financial budgeting, car maintenance and self-defence.’
‘These opportunities allow pupils to gain confidence,
practise skills such as teamwork, presentation and negotiation,
enrich their school experience and spark interests to inspire career choices’
These opportunities allow pupils to gain confidence, practise skills such as teamwork, presentation and negotiation, enrich their school experience and spark interests to inspire career choices. Carole highlights Queen Mary’s Music Scholar, Ursula in Year 8, as a fantastic example of student success. She has been appointed Choir Captain at Ripon Cathedral and has been awarded her Red Chorister’s Medal. ‘With Queen Mary’s Chapel Choir, Ursula has just returned from a Music Tour to Vienna and will be one of two girls who will take on the title role in the upcoming production of Mary Poppins Jr.’ There’s also been great success for Queen Mary’s Dance. The teams won the Key Stage 2, 3 and 4 categories in the Northern Schools Dance Competition and finished Top 10 at the North of England Great Big Dance Off Competition.
Enrichment has been central to the curriculum at York’s Bootham School since it was founded 200 years ago. ‘Each week our students take part in over 120 different activities that span a vast spectrum including all the standard sports, music, drama and art you would expect but also activities such as cryptography, quilting, water polo, world cookery, calligraphy, the philosophy of the Good Place and so much more,’ says James Ratcliffe, deputy head (Enrichment and Technology for Learning). ‘Bootham had the first Natural History Society in the country and it is still going strong. Our students also take part in social action activities from volunteering in local primary schools, fundraising for local and international charities and organising peace vigils.’
Bootham’s enhanced curriculum offers students skills and ideas that you wouldn’t find on a standard exam syllabus. ‘Students can embrace their interests with others and discover new ideas that lead to lifelong friendships and hobbies,’ James continues. ‘We have a full programme for our Sixth Form students that includes assessed courses in topics such as cookery, first aid, history of art and palaeography but also allows the students to run enrichment for their year, in the form of societies, and for the younger years. This has included a very successful chess club, crafting, music appreciation and beginners languages. Delivering these sessions develops students’ own understanding and teaches communication skills and the need for patience!’
One of the school’s student-run activities involves building a green powered car and the first prototype will be ready to race in the summer. ‘The students have designed and built the car themselves using modelling software and then 3D printing,’ says James. ‘They also sought out sponsorship and have been experimenting with AI. Our students’ successes in enrichment are celebrated in our Bootham Challenge awards. Credits are earned for everything students do, in and out of school, in seven categories: Physical, Skills, Cultural, Creative, Global Citizenship, Volunteering, and Leadership. Each year over 100 of our students are awarded their Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Awards at a special ceremony.’