Term has ended with the carol service in the Abbey attended by the whole school. It was the culmination of a busy and successful term for everyone here at Ampleforth and we wish all our students and their families a very happy and blessed Christmas.

The last week of the Michaelmas term is always packed. As well as all the usual work to be done, there was plenty of time last week for Secret Santa to visit the Houses and for the annual Christmas dinners which are a highlight of House life here. The exciting news of the week concerns our First XV, who were victorious in the quarter-finals of the Natwest National Schools’ Bowl Competition, playing away against Hitchin Boys’ School. Their semi-final will take place in the first week of March, at a Premier League stadium, against Kings’ Worcester. More details will follow in due course, to allow you to support the boys at this important match.

Many of our students sang in Sunday’s annual Messiah to a capacity audience in the Abbey. The 88 students of the Combined Scholae of Ampleforth (Years 6-13), gave a stunning performance accompanied by the Ampleforth Chamber Orchestra (visiting music staff and other professional musicians) and directed by the Director of Choral Music, William Dore.  The four brilliant soloists were our own Bethany Seymour (soprano), Jess Dandy (contralto), Josh Ellicott (tenor), and Frederick Long (bass). Their accounts of the arias and the narrative were delivered with real passion and drama, and yet, with beautiful lyricism.

Congratulations too to the cast and crew of ‘The Gut Girls’for three tremendous performances. Ms Naylor, in her first major production here as Theatre Director, says that as a group of talented actors and highly skilled technicians, the students set a truly professional standard in the theatre. They created a piece of Epic Theatre which was moving, funny and completely absorbing. The audience were transported effortlessly from the working class gutting sheds to the pristine world of Lady Helena, moving from deeply emotional monologues to farcical demonstrations of the girls’ attempts to become more ‘ladylike’. The production received warm applause from each audience, who enjoyed the students’ thought-provoking and gutsy performances.

Well done also to Clemens Lensing-Wolff, Hugh Irven, Daisy Heintz and James McPherson, who came third in the regional round of the Royal Society of Chemistry ‘Top of the Bench’ competition last week. This long-standing competition ‘fuels curiosity and excitement about chemistry’ and the RSC hopesto encourage children to consider further education and careers with chemistry.

On Wednesday, we welcomed back Old Amplefordian Tom Channer (Head Boy 2016-17), who gave a talk to the College's new Classical Society, Arcadia.  Tom gave a fascinating presentation on cuneiform script, the world's first writing system, and answered students' questions about his experience studying Ancient Oriental Languages with Classics, at St Benet's Hall, Oxford. 

Meanwhile, our artists in Year 11 completed their courseworkthis week, spending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon completing their ‘final outcomes’ with impressive concentration, producing fabulous work. They should be congratulated for their immense hard work and calmness under pressure. For the first time, Ampleforth is taking part in the prestigious national competition, ARTiculation. This is a public speaking/art competition in which students choose an artwork and deliver an 8 minute talk about it. Each competing school holds a school Heat and the winner from each school moves forward to the regional heats (in our case, held in the Baltic Art Centre in Gateshead). Thereafter, regional winners compete in the final at Cambridge University in March.  All the art students in Years 12 and 13 prepared presentations about a wide range of art works, from conceptual works by Barbara Kruger, to installations by Adrian Piper, to videos by Elizabeth Price, to buildings by Le Corbusier, paintings by Van Gogh, Magritte and Matisse and sculptures by Rodin. Last week they all competed for a place in the School Heat, to be held on January 8th at 6.30pm and which staff and parents are invited to attend. (Please contact the art department if you wish to do so.)

Many congratulations to Thea Opperman, Gabriela Meacham, Grace Hunt, Elly Perry, Thomas Wade, Georgia Gill, Marie-Sophie Matyk, Ruby Stuart, Daisy Stroyan, Raphael Langford and Ellie Vestey, who have been selected to compete for a place in the Regional Heat in Newcastle. 

The Ampleforth Highlanders, our pipe band, was honoured to be asked to play at the annual National CCFA dinner in London last week, to the great appreciation of all the guests. Among those present were numerous strategy makers and policy deciders within the senior CCF and MoD management,3* and 2* Generals, Admirals and RAF personnel. To his great surprise, our Pipe Band Major, Bryan Robinson, was called into the middle of the room by the Chief Executive and President of the CCFA to receive a framed CCFA President’s Certificate and a citation.  Well done and thank you to all the students who travelled to London to perform at this event.

Congratulations to St Dunstan’s, winners of this year’s PitelCup for the small bore shooters in school. Competition was very tight, with only a few millimetres between the first, second (St John’s) and third (St Thomas’) placed Houses. Best shot was Dunstan’s boy Ed Hookway, with a score of 27mm.

We were delighted to welcome Joe Black, the Education Officer for Mary’s Meals to speak to our Year 13 students in our last HML of the term. For many years through our own charity, FACE-FAW, Ampleforth has supported the work of Mary’s Meals and Joe came to remind us of the work that they do, giving one good meal every day in a place of education (costing just £13.90 per child, per year), and so helping to ensure that some of the world’s poorest children can go to school rather than look for ways of finding food. The Mary’s Meals movement is a growing global movement and it was a great reminder that Ampleforth is part of that family.

Last weekend 23 sixth form students took part in the Big Sleep Out in an act of solidarity with the homeless and to raise money for FACE-FAW. The students support various charities that work with, or provide support for, the homeless, including DePaul, The Passage and St George’s Crypt in Leeds. If you would like to support this very worthwhile cause, please visit here.

On Thursday, Year 9 listened to a talk on ‘Careers using languages’.  This came at a timely moment as they begin to think about which GCSEs they would like to take.  Dr Depnering and Major Blackford spoke about the many opportunities that are made available once you can speak one or two other languages and they shared the benefits it has given them in academia, the army and when travelling around the world.  Students were also told about the advantages of being able to speak foreign languages in the world of work,whether that be in STEM or any other sector, particularly now that  business across the continents  is possible round the clock