Tuesday last week was the first day back after Easter and in true BGS, some would say Hoc Age, fashion we were up and running, and almost immediately back to full speed, without much fuss. Staff briefing, registration, Year 12 mocks (and some ‘real’ exams in Art for example), lessons, clubs, practices, meetings, reminders to tuck shirts in, occasional wry smiles from students amused by the Headmaster’s pink tan, and a Governors’ Education Committee meeting to keep the senior team on their toes – busy, from the off.
Regarding the latter, and without going into depth, the Education Committee covered various matters of the curriculum (academic and the broader programme), staff deployment and future developments, including key themes from department action plans and a renewed focus on digital strategy. Governors received an annual summary of co-curricular life at BGS and herein rests the reason for this blog because all that was presented left me feeling very proud of students and colleagues at BGS.
Mrs Chapman, Assistant Head (Pastoral), provided the substance of that report and I thank her for the details below, which represent a flavour of the broader message.
We talk about co-curricular activities at BGS because wider opportunities for learning are designed to mirror and complement the academic life of the school, rather than stand alone as extra-curricular pursuits. Mrs Chapman pointed out in her report that: “our rich co-curricular programme continues to play an important part in SMSC [Spiritual Moral Social Cultural] provision, with daily activities at lunchtime (including two Debating Societies, Art Club, History Society, Classical Society, Philosophical Society, Interact Club, various computer and coding clubs, and a wide range of music, drama and sports groups)”.
Alongside the weekly carousel of activities, we supported, for example, the Young Minds national #HelloYellow initiative in October, National Mental Health Awareness Week in May, and looking ahead we will have a series of events to complement the visit of Natasha Devon, to talk with Year 10 about ‘Social Ideals, Identity and Mental Health’. Natasha will also be giving a lecture to parents entitled the ‘Three Key Skills for Promoting Good Mental Health and High Self-Esteem’.
Manningham Youth Talks and Linking Network activities, involving Sixth Formers and Year 8 students respectively, from both BGS and neighbours Oasis Academy have continued to foster shared understandings and friendship between our two schools. Year 7s visit Chellow Heights Special School every week to join the children there for lunchtime play. All of this is part of our growing partnership activity with other local schools that enriches many young lives and enables us all to do something worthwhile in our local community.
Opportunities for volunteering in the Sixth Form, through paired reading and Maths mentoring at Heaton Primary School, paired reading at Frizinghall Primary and Shipley C of E Primary, and sports coaching at St Philip’s Girlington, are growing in number. BGS volunteers also work with Age UK, mentor children from refugee families at Bevan House and support Barnardo’s Young Carers on Thursday nights. Our popular Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award programme in Years 9 and 10 also provides a framework for community service for younger age groups at school.
By way of a final illustration of the breadth of co-curricular life at BGS, Mrs Chapman reported: “Year 8 raised £202 for Lymphoma Action, Years 7 and 9 raised £390 for Bevan House, and the Sixth Form raised £317 for NEESIE [a platform for single mums and their children] and £275 for Presents for Syria. They also collected underwear to send to Africa, through Smalls for All. A senior school Christmas Jumper Day raised £755 for Save the Children. 10% of proceeds from the Christmas Fair and Fashion Show will be donated to their chosen charity Behind Closed Doors. During the Spring Term, a non-uniform day and blue mug collection for Mary’s Meals raised £1550 (doubled by the Department for International Development as part of their Double the Love initiative and therefore enough money to fund 223 children’s school dinners for a year) … [and] … the BGS [Rotary] Interact Club has continued to meet every fortnight, and this year has raised over £4000 for their three chosen charities: World Wildlife Foundation, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Bradford Nightstop (a local charity which helps Bradford’s young homeless people)”.
These examples are by no means exhaustive. The list goes on, reflective of whole school values of compassion and service, and a school strategic plan that states: “a BGS education kindles an intellectual and emotional response from students, encourages insight and curiosity, fosters physical and mental wellbeing, and provides the tools, moral code and good manners to make a valuable contribution to society. It enthuses and equips young people with aspiration, confidence and resilience, to make a difference at school and in later life”.
Bradford Grammar School is not alone in modelling a strong community orientation. The ISC (Independent Schools Council) most recent 2019 annual census, published last week, informed that, of the 1,364 member schools, 1,142 were involved in partnership work with state schools, most frequently involving sport, academic collaboration (often supporting ‘vulnerable’ subjects like physics, languages and music) or the performing arts. Additionally, the census reported that £15m was raised for charities and 901 schools organised opportunities for volunteering in the ISC family.
There was a time when private schools were characterised as ivory towers, inaccessible pinnacles isolated form their surroundings. Demonstrably, in 2019 this image is false. I am proud to lead a school that clearly has a brain; BGS has a good heart too.
“There was a time when private schools were characterised as ivory towers, inaccessible pinnacles isolated form their surroundings.
Demonstrably, in 2019 this image is false. I am proud to lead a school that clearly has a brain; BGS has a good heart too.”