Happy Easter! The summer term is now underway, a busy term for many of our students who will have public exams to sit in forthcoming weeks.

As well as revising hard, many of them were able to participate in a variety of trips organised over the past three weeks. Mr Hudson reports that the 21 students who were on the Holy Land trip returned to school with strong memories of their six days in Israel and Palestine, guided by Fr Henry who has taken tours around Israel every year since 1973. It was a busy trip including two nights staying in Nazareth and visiting Galilee and northern Israel, followed by four nights in Jerusalem visiting sites in the city and in the Jordan valley.  Highlights of Jerusalem included a night-time visit to the Western Wall and dawn Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Palm Sunday Mass in the church of St Anne’s right by the Lion Gate through which Jesus entered Jerusalem; an impromptu football match with Palestinian children (9-2 to the home team); haggling in the markets of the Old City; and clambering through the 800 metre tunnel of Hezekiah, at times four foot high and with two feet of water – with no lighting.  The biggest adventure outside of Jerusalem was probably the four hour hike down a rocky wadi to Jericho in 35 degrees, via the isolated Orthodox monastery of St George. The students were fascinated also by the extraordinary Jewish mountain fortress of Masada and the story of its two-year siege by the Romans; and by the medieval castle of Nimrod, where they were thrilled by the sinister sight of two Israeli Apache helicopters hugging the valley up to the nearby border with Syria.  They were moved by the opportunity to celebrate Mass on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and by the mosaics of the nations at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  Altogether the trip was part pilgrimage, part historical tour, part adventure boot camp, and part immersion in the culture and politics of the Middle East.  The students were brilliant, maintaining humour and good will throughout, impressing all with the warmth of their relationships with each other and with the school staff.

Miss Foster, Mr Curran and Mr Reid took a group of students to Zambia. Miss Foster has been involved with the Sport in Action charity for several years, first visiting as a Durham University undergraduate, and this was an opportunity for our students to have an enriching experience on placement in local schools, working with orphans and street children and learning much from the children too.  As well as lots of football and netball coaching, the students were also able to visit Victoria Falls and enjoy a safari, but it’s clear from the blog and the wonderful pictures that the best part of the experience was working so closely with a local community and being of service.

Over Easter, Year 11 students Ben Edwards and Theo Smerdon were part of a 420 strong contingent of U16s Academy players who attended the week-long Wellington College festival organised by England Rugby, and met England coach Eddie Jones. As well as training sessions and games between the fourteen Academies including Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Wasps, there were talks by professional England players and academics about many aspects of the modern game including nutrition, training/recovery and sports psychology.  There was also a focus on instilling the CARDS qualities (Creativity, Awareness, Resilience, Decision- making and Self Organisation) which feature throughout the England rugby system, beneficial life skills for on and off the rugby pitch. In addition to this the boys also had revision sessions for their looming GCSEs. Both came back full of praise for such an insightful and inspirational week.

Some students enjoyed adventure training in the Lake District with the CCF, and at the end of the holidays 51 of our Year 12 students came back early to participate in the Probationary Monitors Course. This will lead to some of them becoming monitors in Year 13, and we hope they all enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about leadership and prove their worth. Finally, Physics teacher Dr Kessell was also busy over the Easter holidays, joining a team of medics to do some work in a rural Rwandan hospital on the Burundi and Congo borders.

Last term’s Spring Concert had to be postponed because of snow. We are reasonably confident that more temperate weather will prevail for the rearranged date, Sunday 6th May. Booking will open next week, accessible from the Events page on the website.

We were delighted with the response to our first Junior History competition run for prep schools. As you may know, Ampleforth has one of the top-performing history departments in the country and this new competition, organised by Mr Connor, Head of History, was an ideal opportunity to encourage younger pupils to develop their own interests, research skills and ability to think independently. The topics were varied, exploring suffragettes, desert war and, indeed, whether war is ever justified, pupils being given free rein in choosing their subject matter. Mr Connor said, ‘We had a fantastic response of over thirty essays, from twelve prep schools throughout England. The strong response and high standard was acknowledged by the external judges, Professor Richard Rex from Cambridge and Dr Yvonne Cornish from Oxford. It is very much hoped that the pupils all enjoyed the challenge and experience and will go on to have long, rich and successful careers in the study of history.’ Congratulations to the winners, Henry from Aysgarth and Heloise from Thomas’ Clapham, and to the runners- up, Dominic (joining Ampleforth in September) and Lucy, both from St Faith’s.

Junior tennis coaching at Ampleforth Tennis Club has started again, at 9am (4-7year olds) and 10am (8-11 year olds). Places are available and can be booked here. ‘Tennis For Kids’, the excellent starter scheme from the Lawn Tennis Association aimed at children new to the sport, is returning to Ampleforth this summer. In 2017, 20,000 children in Great Britain took part and this year children between the ages of 4 and 11 are eligible for the 6 week course. Each child will receive 6 high quality lessons, developed by experts at the LTA, as well as a special Tennis for Kids Babolat racket, ball set, and personalised T-shirt. Book your place here. 

On Saturday 21st April the college will be hosting the boys’ U18 and U16 North of England Tennis Championships. Four Ampleforth students, from each age group, will compete with the best teams in the North of England in this all day competition. The standard of tennis is always extremely high and it is fantastic that we have the opportunity to host such a competition. Play will start from 9.30am at the Brickfield tennis courts, if you wish to spectate.

Our equestrians have been busy in recent weeks. Ellie Evans and Georgina Prest took part in their first Masterclass with Christopher Bartle, Managing Director of the Yorkshire Riding Centre, an Old Amplefordian and British Eventing’s High Performance Coach.  Prior to taking up this British Eventing role, he coached the German Olympic Three Day Event team for 16 years.  The masterclass opportunity is open to all members of the College’s Equestrian Team, and Georgina and Ellie were the successful applicants for the lessons this academic year. Georgina and Ellie, together with Alex Verth, were also involved in the NSEA (National Schools Association) Eventers Challenge competition at Northallerton Equestrian Centre at the weekend, their team finishing 3rd in the 90cm Class, and Alex then going on to finish 3rd individually in the 1m class.  Over 100 competitors from all over the North of England were involved, so congratulations to our team on their success.

Eliz Cook, Ampleforth College’s Equestrian Coordinator, was recently invited to run a show jumping competition involving the member schools of the York Boarding Schools Group. There were successes for all the schools who attended the event, held at the Northallerton Equestrian Centre.  The Ampleforth College team of Niamh Fahey, Georgina Prest, Eleanor Evans and Alex Verth put up  strong competition in the classes they entered, with Georgina, Eleanor and Alex winning the 90cm Team class, and Alex then going on to win the 1m class with Georgina finishing 3rd in the same class.

Finally, some members of our community have been involved in marathon training and running in recent weeks. Congratulations to James Grimshaw, in Year 13, who ran the Greater Manchester Marathon in 4:09:23, raising almost £5000 to rebuild earthquake-damaged Gilung School in Nepal. James experienced the aftermath of the devastation caused while on the Nepal expedition earlier this year and is to be commended on his effort. Mr Mutton was also on long distance duty, running the Paris marathon in aid of Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity. Mr Mutton, our mental health lead here at Ampleforth, will also be running the London marathon next weekend, when he will have another housemaster for company – Mr Pennington is running in aid of Tusk, an African charity which works to protect wildlife and alleviate poverty through sustainable development and education. We wish them well with their final preparations.