Two weeks into the Spring term, this latest blog shows the incredible range of activities and opportunities open to all our students.

Congratulations to all the students who have gained offers to Oxford and Cambridge this year, seven in total, for subjects including PPE, History and Chemistry.  Well done to Anna Bailey, Hugh Craston, Madeleine Hamilton, Georgia Ofiaeli, Isabella Fox, Eduardo Pérez de Castro and Christopher Too. As other offers begin to come in, we’re also delighted for Christian Lee who has been successful in his application to New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Mateo Brenninkmeijer has been successful in his applications to Boston College and Notre Dame University in the US, as well as to Erasmus University in Rotterdam and IE University in Segovia. He will have a difficult decision to make.

We were delighted to welcome our Year 10 parents to school for their Parents’ Day this weekend. Several had attended the Parents’ Retreat the day before. This year, the theme is ‘listening’, based on the first line of St Benedict’s Rule. Saturday began with a concert given by the GCSE music students in Year 10. The first lunchtime concert of the year featured Benoit Guillon and Gigliola Wong, both in Year 11, preparing for Grade 7/8 exams in March, and James Laczko-Schroeder in Year 13, preparing for his A-level performance. Chamber music also featured strongly in this concert,  with the Ampleforth Piano Trio performing two  of Frank Bridge's  'Miniatures for Piano Trio'.

The Research Project team (Miss Raine, Mrs Teclaw and Mr Anglim) are pleased to report that 80 students are currently working on projects under the guidance of their chosen mentors.  After a coaching session in December to set them off on their research journey, many stocked up with relevant articles and books to read over the Christmas holiday. 

The team is delighted by the wide variety of topics, and that some students have chosen to work collaboratively.  Project titles include:  Is marriage just another contract?  How has fashion in ski wear changed over time?  Is chocolate good for you?  Why are Uighur Muslims persecuted across China?  Was Shakespeare Catholic?  The majority of students will submit essays but others are exploring creative responses through the media of films, music, models, paintings and photographs, and everyone will write a short report to reflect on the research process and their progress with their chosen topic.  The second coaching session coming up soon should ensure that they are all on track for final submission on 1st February (Years 6, 7 and 8) and 1st March (Years 9, 10 and 12).

We were very pleased to welcome some of our students back to school following a very successful trip to Germany. Ten of our Year 9 students, accompanied by Dr Depnering, Miss Auersperg and two Year 12 students, took part in a culture and research trip to Bavaria as part of a major Erasmus+ project with the title ‘The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, Germany and Ireland’. The project is EU funded and run in co-operation with two other Benedictine schools, the Egbert-Gymnasium Münsterschwarzach (Germany) and Glenstal Abbey (Ireland). During this first week, the students were excited to visit ZF Sachs, a car parts maker; Kurtz Ersa, which was founded as iron hammer works in 1779 and today produces moulding machines; and Koenig & Bauer AG, a printing press manufacturer, where our students could get an insight into the whole production process, from melting the iron in the foundry to the final product. However, there were many more new experiences, from attending Mass at Münsterschwarzach Abbey and exploring the city of Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to socialising with the German and Irish students. The second project meeting will take place in Ampleforth at the end of March.

House swimming has taken place, the first House competition of the new term. St Hugh’s won the boys’ junior competition and St Cuthbert’s the senior, but St Thomas’ emerged as overall victors! St Margaret’s won both the junior and senior competition for the girls.

The Alcuin Room was full for the school heat of ARTiculation, a national competition for students which encourages them to express their opinions, thoughts and ideas about art with confidence. An audience of sixth form art students, parents and teachers heard our school finalists, selected following an initial round. They each spoke for five minutes on a painting of their choice, sharing their thoughts, some context and observations. It was a very enjoyable evening, and we all departed feeling we had learned something from our student speakers. Congratulations to Thea Opperman, who spoke about Christian Schad’s ‘Agosta the Pigeon-Breasted Man and Rasha the Black Dove'.  She was chosen to go through to the public round, in Newcastle. Her talk was excellent and the judge George Vasey was very complimentary, saying she had made him look at the painting in a new way and raised important questions about the value of understanding the context of a painting as well as how a viewer’s interpretation changes over time. The competition was stiff and she was not chosen for the final, but was a great credit to herself and the school. Congratulations also to Gabrielle Meacham, who was a very close runner-up in the internal round with her analysis of a painting by Jenny Sutcliffe.

Well done too to Hugh Myers, Tom Whittaker and Philipp Frank, for success in the second round of the Independent Schools National Golf Tournament.  They now play in the final of the North East Regional Tournament.

The BTEC Countryside Management students had a very interesting morning at the North York Moors National Park in Helmsley. Chris France, who is head of planning, very kindly gave up his time to talk to the boys about national and regional planning policy and its effect on land use. They have also enjoyed a talk from local land agent, Giles Bilton, about Changes in Agriculture since 1945.

Our equestrian team took part in the NSEA Dressage Championship Qualifier at Northallerton against schools from the North of England and Humberside. Charlotte Armitage, Niamh Fahey and Madison Chapman finished 3rd in the North Yorkshire section of the Prelim 14 class, and Peter Pilling, Ellie Evans and Louis Pern finished 5th. Congratulations also to Louis who finished 2nd overall individually, Charlotte 4th and Peter 5th. As neither Peter nor Louis had ridden a dressage test in competition before, this was a wonderful result!

Charlotte also competed in the Novice 27 class and was in the lead for five hours before being pipped by a couple of marks by the last rider of the day. Charlotte therefore narrowly missed out on going through to the Championships but did very well. Louis meanwhile finished 9th, an excellent first attempt against 28 seasoned dressage riders.

On Monday evening, a group of Year 12 students enjoyed an interactive lecture given by Professor Emily Cross, professor of Social Robotics at University of Glasgow’s institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, which explored what the latest neuroscience research reveals about happens in our brains when we watch dance or other art forms. After the lecture, Professor Cross chatted to the students, answering their questions and explaining her career path. 

Dr Guy Sutton of the University of Nottingham Medical School gave his annual day of Neuroscience seminars to the Upper Sixth Form Biologists. Dr Sutton's incredible passion for his subject, together with his vast knowledge, made for a stimulating, exciting and, at times, challenging day of lectures. Students gained a real insight into Neuroscience at an undergraduate level and sometimes beyond! A highlight was the brain dissection in which Dr Sutton showed the students the key areas of the brain, which they have already studied in A level Biology.  The variety of topics discussed was mind boggling and, on many occasions, our students were taken out of their comfort zones and well beyond the A level specification.

The Astronomy Society took advantage of the clear skies last week to hold an observation in the school grounds which was open to all students. They were able to view the Pleiades Open Star Cluster, the Orion Nebula and Mars, as well as luna maria, craters and mountainous regions on the Moon.  This activity is run by one of our students, Will Hunt in Year 12, who is sharing his expertise with other students.

Thursday evening saw much excitement in our Geography Department as world renowned social geographer, Danny Dorling, Oxford University's Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, visited York University to give a lecture entitled 'Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire'.They argue that the EU referendum was part of a last gasp of empire working its way out of the British psyche.  Mrs Dent took a minibus full of students to hear Professor Dorling both argue that the EU referendum was part of a last gasp of empire working its way out of the British psyche, and to discuss what a post-Brexit Britain might look like.  This was a fascinating talk which prompted much discussion among our students.  Well done particularly to Year 12's Onyi Anajuba and Liam Kane who posed two excellent questions to Professor Dorling during the Q&A section of the event. 

The boys’ hockey season is underway with matches against Barnard Castle at senior level and Sedbergh Prep school for our SMA boys.  Against Barnard Castle the 1st XI played well and ran out convincing 6-0 winners with Moritz Klemme scoring four times on his debut. The 2nd XI followed the 1st XI with a controlled 3-0 victory. Away at Barnard Castle the U15A team had an end to end 2-2 draw, whilst our 14A were in emphatic form and eased to a 13-0 victory, with Louis Pern scoring six goals on his Ampleforth debut. The U13A team battled hard and showed real progress in the second half against Sedbergh Prep School, whilst the U12 A lost a thrilling game 4-3.

Finally, good luck to our 1st XV, who will play the semi-final of the Natwest Schools Bowl U18 National Rugby competition this coming Saturday against The King’s School Worcester, in Worcester.  Theo Smerdon in Year 12 has played in all of the U18 Academy Leagues so far this season.  These have included a win against Worcester, a drawn match against Sale Sharks and defeats against Newcastle Falcons and Wasps.  There are two matches remaining and these are against a powerful Leicester Tigers team, at Welford Road, and then finally Northampton Saints at Franklins Gardens.  Theo remains part of the England Academy Player process but has also progressed to U16 Irish IQ (Irish Qualified) National Development Day during the Easter holidays.