Snow transformed the landscape and the working week here at Ampleforth.

Top marks to the students, who were of course all here anyway, and to the teachers and support staff who battled their way here to ensure that life continued as normal. The boarders undoubtedly enjoyed the bonus of a slightly later start to the morning. If you look at the House Facebook pages, you will be able to see some of the ways in which they managed to occupy themselves in free time.

This week heralded, supposedly, the start of meteorological Spring, but the focus was on New Year last Sunday evening, when our Chinese students, together with a good number of our other students, went to York restaurant Red Chilli, well known for its authentic Sichuan and Beijing cuisine, to enjoy some ‘proper’ Chinese food and to learn something about the cultural traditions associated with the Chinese New Year celebrations. The trip was organised by the EAL department, which reports that everyone had a wonderful evening.

Year 11 should have been on retreat to Whitby on Wednesday, but instead they stayed here on site to enjoy a retreat with a focus on friendship. They had a talk about spiritual friendship as described by St Aelred, the Abbot of nearby Rievaulx in the 12th Century and participated in workshops exploring Building Community and The Presence of Christ in Friendship. They also were encouraged by two of our Year 13 students, Tatiana and Orlando, who spoke candidly about their experience of friendship in the context of five years living as part of a boarding community. The morning finished with Mass.

Sixteen of our students in Year 9 and 10 participated for the first time in the Rotary Technology Tournament, held earlier this week. They tackled a very difficult challenge with ingenuity and good humour, and we now know much more about what to expect from this competition! It fits very well with the new GCSE in Design and Technology, which has an emphasis on real world problems solved through model making. Well done to everyone who took part. More can be read here.

Congratulations too to Sarah Warren and Jack McKenna, who discovered this week that they have passed the first round of the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship application process and will now be interviewed over the Easter holidays for the next stage at Cambridge and Northumbria Universities.  They deserve congratulations on being shortlisted from over 1300 other applicants and for clearly doing so well in the aptitude tests; we wish them the best of luck as they progress to the next stage.

Early in the week, some of our Year 12 biologists attended Professor Robert Aitken’s inaugural lecture at York St John University, which was entitled ‘Antibodies: Guardians of Health and Tools for Research’.  Professor Aitken, an internally renowned researcher in this field, spoke about his varied career which has taken him from biochemistry, to immunology, molecular biology and lastly to microbiology.  This included an overview of his postdoctoral work on Clostridium difficile and E.coli, his most highly-cited work on the immunology of cattle, and his current in silico research and role as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research & International at York St John University.

At the end of his talk, Professor Aitken invited questions from the audience, including enquiries from St John’s students Tom Ely-Corbett (on how many antibodies are able to work together to neutralise foreign objects) and Ben McDonnell (on how the challenge of antibiotic resistance may be overcome).  At the end of the lecture, the students had a chance to speak individually to Professor Aitken who said how impressed both by their attendance and their questions.

Congratulations to our equestrian team ( Issy Saxby, Charlotte Armitage, Eleanor Evans and Alex Verth) who were successful last weekend at the NSEA Show Jumping National Qualifier at Northallerton Equestrian Centre.  They won the team event in the 90cm class, qualifying for the National Championships in April. Issy then went on to win the 1.10m class to qualify again as an individual rider. While these riders were braving the cold at Northallerton, five riders took part in a Polo lesson at Ledston Hall, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Hookway, enjoying tuition followed by chocolate cake to ensure a perfect afternoon.

Next Sunday, 11th March, the Scholae Puellarum will be performing Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and works by Stanford, Ireland, Boulanger and Hadley. The concert begins at 5pm in the Abbey Church, with free admission.

If you are looking forward to next weekend’s Six Nations, do pay attention to the Ireland – Scotland game. The two forward coaches are both Old Amplefordians, Simon Easterby and Dan McFarland. One to watch!