Keswick School's Annual Prize giving

 
Keswick School’s annual Prize giving was held in the Howard Allen Sports Hall on Friday evening. Over 600 guests and parents attended including local MP Trudy Harrision, recently appointed to the Education Select Committee. Over 175 students were awarded prizes, many of which date back over 100 years. These range from academic achievement and sporting success to music and volunteering. A number of bursaries also awarded including the Steven Luckman bursary and the Gilbert Smithson Adair bursary.
 
This year the school was delighted to welcome back James Sibbit, former student, to present the prizes. James was awarded the Lyndon-Woodward memorial prize for gaining the highest mark on the BSc Mathematics degree at Durham University in the summer. He is now planning to undertake further research in Japan. However, in his own words, 'maybe of more interest to you', is that James' band, 'Memento', have just recorded their first single at the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London.
 
James gave an inspiring address to our prize winners, encouraging them to have the confidence to take up opportunities. He spoke with enthusiasm about his experience at Keswick School and the support and encouragement he had received from teachers and friends. In particularly, he mentioned Mr Campion, Head of Maths, had been an inspiration. Following the address one of the highlights of the evening came when he joined the school Jazz band and performed a 'drum off' with current student Ross Singleton (who has recently played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra). A truly memorable occasion immensely enjoyed by everyone present.
 
Head teacher’s speech
 
The last year has seen education change at a faster pace than ever. Reformed A-levels and GCSEs, new grading systems, revised funding and all on top of the usual government guidance and exhortation. Education policy can appear to be in a constant state of flux. The new GCSE grading system is a good case in point. 
 
When is a 'good' pass not a 'good' pass?
Apparently, when it's a 'strong' pass!
 
It's led to speculation that the next change will be a 'Herculean' pass!
 
Confusion and the education system are not new, and we will tackle everything that comes at us head on. I’m delighted that our local MP, Trudy Harrison, is with us tonight. Trudy has just been appointed to the Education Select Committee so I am hopeful that we can get some common sense into future policy.
 
Keswick School is in vibrant health and this year's results are exceptional. Over a third of A-level grades were at A* and A, and 77% at A*-C. Virtually every student secured entry on their first choice university course. We are proud of our inclusive Sixth Form, with many students joining from other local schools.
 
At GCSE, with no grade boundaries in English or Maths, it felt like playing pin the tail on the donkey! Despite this, our students’ performance was impressive. 84% achieved 5 or more A* to C grades including 4+ in English and Maths. 89% achieved a 4+ in English and Maths. 80% achieved a 5+ in English Language and 30 grade 9s were awarded.
 
These are the best results the school has ever achieved and place us at the top of national performance tables for non-selective schools. Both Year 13 and Year 11 were notable, not just for their sparkle and drive, but also for the way they supported each other. They richly deserve their success.
 
We have also seen great progress in other year groups and use a range of interventions to personalise support. On weekday mornings the library buzzes with the voices of over 30 pairs of sixth formers and Year 7 pupils reading together. One parent said that her son now had to read at home because Georgia (his sixth form reading partner) told him to. She wondered if Georgia could also tell him to tidy his room!
 
It’s too easy for education to be seen simply as an endurance test over a succession of exam hurdles. It is, of course, a far greater enterprise than that, and success comes in many forms.
 
Sport is one of our major endeavours. It's good to see many past and present students achieve national success, including Abbie Scott, past student and last year’s guest speaker, in the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final. On the sports field our teams continue to enjoy great success.
Our reputation as a center of music continues to grow. Over 100 students performed at Keswick Music Society's Young Musician concert. Alex Chalker and Leah Montgomery were semi-finalists in the national Rotary Young Musician competition at Liverpool Cathedral.
 
Our extra-curricular programme caters for a vast diversity of interests. Rowing, sailing, canoeing, horse riding, running, orienteering, skiing and climbing all benefit from our unique location. Extended school courses in Latin, Astronomy and Dance flourish.
 
Creativity and innovation is cultivated through many varied events including: Shakespeare week, Universe week, Futures week, the Languages festival, UK Maths Challenge, the RSC’s ‘Top of the bench’, the British Biology Olympiad, Poetry and World Book Day, Red Nose Day and business and enterprise competitions to name just a few. Being national finalists in the Mock Trial and First Lego League were particularly notable.
 
It’s been the busiest year ever for trips and visits. Students have travelled to Austria and France to learn a language, to Paris to study art and the Alps to learn to ski. They've tramped around ancient monuments, been to the theatre and attended conferences. One trip was to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. The students worked in small rural communities. They also sampled the local delicacy, guinea pig. As one student put it; 'it was alright'! The hand sized tarantula that appear above their bunks, however, was not alright!
 
As a school we continue to look to the future. Funding has been a real concern. The position remains acute and increased costs continue to add pressure. Wherever we can we apply for grants but we could not offer the opportunities we do without the sponsorship, donations and support from parents and our wider community. Your generosity has meant that we have secured sponsorship for our Rugby coach, Cricket coaching, the Jazz band, wind, strings and guitar ensembles, a language lab and The Duke of Edinburgh awards. We are incredibly grateful.
 
The KSPTA need a special mention. They are an exceptional group of people who have been a pillar of support. Being part of the PTA is not just about fundraising. It's a genuine partnership. Together we have established Parent training events, Parent Voice meetings, the Year 7 welcome event and have a Community Choir event and a fabulous Christmas Fayre lined up.
 
People often ask how we achieve such success. The answer is twofold: a unique ethos and the energy and commitment of an excellent staff. They provide outstanding encouragement and support and I thank them for their dedication
 
I’d like to record my thanks to those staff who have retired or moved on; Miss O’Donnell, Mrs Thurrell, Mr Hadfield and Mr Jones. In particular, Mr Jones and Mr Hadfield have both had long careers at Keswick. They have undertaken an array of different roles and have both played a large part in creating the school we have today.
 

I’d like to recognise the work of our Directors and Governors led by Mr Throp and Mr Hammond. They give their time generously and I thank them for their commitment. We will greatly miss Jeff, he was a true friend of the school and an avid supporter of young people.

 
The prefects are one of the great institutions of our school. They are outstanding role models. I’d like to thank last year’s Head Boy, Jamie Suddaby, Head Girl, Bethan Savage, the senior prefect team and all the prefects for their excellent service.
 
I’d like to thank our many supporters but especially the Rotary Club of Keswick, Keswick Music Society, Keswick Rugby club, Keswick Cricket club, Lakeland Rowing club, Keswick Lions and Keswick Town Council. Your help is valued and appreciated. 
 
Finally, I’d like to thank our parents. You live and breathe the ups and downs but the support and encouragement you give to these amazing young people makes a tremendous difference.
 
Prize winners, inspiration comes from what someone says or does. Our guest speaker was sat where you are now only a few years ago. Have the courage to believe there are no limits to your ambition. But remember, the most important thing is to be happy, to be curious and to enjoy the opportunities that come your way.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen, I commend the school to you.