How has business been in 2016?
It has been a great year for RGS. We have been making full use of our fantastic new sports facilities: a swimming pool with a second sports hall above it, plus top-class fitness and aerobic suites and even underfloor-heated changing rooms – we now can’t imagine how we ever survived without it! And we started the new school year in September with 1320 boys and girls on roll, which is the biggest RGS has been in its history. We are full, but not uncomfortably so, and the place is buzzing with excitement, the joy of learning and a sheer sense of fun.
What has been the school’s highlights this year?
The year started well for RGS with, in January, a quite remarkable Inspection Report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (the equal in the private sector of OFSTED’s outstanding in state schools). It found the school excellent in every respect but added the exceedingly rare “exceptional” grade for pupils’ achievement. In the fine detail, the report is a warm endorsement of everything that we believe in at RGS: creating a happy school where children feel confident and safe so that they thrive and learn. Happiness is at the heart of the school’s purpose, and all that high achievement flows from it.
It was also pleasing to see, in the recent Sunday Times Parent Power table, our Junior School once again placed 11th in the country.
And we were pleased to be shortlisted at the TES Independent School Awards in recognition of our tireless work on mental health and wellbeing.
What has been the biggest challenge this year?
Apart from that constant drive for self-improvement, the major challenge of the year was, I guess, helping our A Level candidates to cope with an examination system that is in flux. In 2016 we were in the middle of two entirely different patterns of A Levels. Government dithering means that the change to linear exams (no halfway point modules, with all the exams taken at the end) from the old modular system, has been phased over three or four years. So in around half of their A Levels, candidates in the Lower Sixth (Year 12) were sitting modules at the halfway point of the course, while in others that schedule of module exams interrupted what should have been an on-going progress towards a terminal exam next year. I feel it is an unpardonable mess caused by Government’s lack of decisiveness and an insistence on change without the will to see it through properly. We made the best of it for our students, and they did very well, but they have a big challenge facing them when they get to the final exams next year.
What are the school’s plans for 2017?
The major challenge for the school in the summer of 2017 will be to induct a new head. That appointment should be made before Christmas. I have no doubt that an excellent appointment will be made and that the transition will be smooth without interruption to the school’s onward and inexorable progress.
2017 will also be a year of planning and preparation for the next big construction build, which is scheduled to start within the next couple of years. We never stand still and are working on the continuing enhancement of our facilities. Always ambitious, RGS does all it can to ensure that it is a leader in the region.
Newcastle Royal Grammar School