St Aidan’s students prepare for exciting year

Big smiles from the girls at St Aidan's. (13010087AM3)

Big smiles from the girls at St Aidan's. (13010087AM3)

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St Aidan’s Church of England High School pupils are looking ahead to a busy year of performance, learning, and helping host a certain sporting event.

Visitors to Harrogate could have the opportunity to camp in the grounds and enjoy a festival of accents and languages staying close to the heart of the action on the Stray.

Headteacher John Wood with pupils (13010087AM9)

Headteacher John Wood with pupils (13010087AM9)

And students will cycle the route, speak in French and sing and play instruments as thousands pass.

It’s fair to say St Aidan’s Church of England High School will be a very different place when the first two stages of the Tour de France pass Harrogate in July.

As with organisations and other schools across the district, St Aidan’s has yet to confirm its concrete plans for celebrating Le Tour. However, the ambition is there to ensure the central school, with walls separating classrooms from the Stray, commands the prominence its location affords.

St Aidan’s operates a joint sixth form with nearby St John Fisher Catholic High School. It is believed such Tour de France events could be shared between the two schools.

Headteacher John Wood said: “Plans are in the early stages. We anticipate that every department will get involved in some way with the Tour. “Mathematics will focus the week before on what they can do, while the languages department will use it as an opportunity to boost learning French.

“Students will take up the opportunity to take up cycling, and in geography, students will examine the route.

“There are plans to take groups of students out to cycle parts of the route, too.

“We are trying to encourage that particular theme. It is the biggest event that has ever happened in Harrogate.

“We just cannot miss out on that opportunity.

“I hope the school becomes available for visitors to camp.”

For now, its 1,900 students are focusing on a year of performance and academic achievement, with the promise of the Tour party arriving on their doorstep in a few short months. It is difficult to ignore, however, certainly considering the school was recent awarded International School status.

Mr Wood said: “We have fulfilled the criteria to become an International School.

“We have links with France, Germany, Spain, Sri Lanka, Uganda, China and Australia.

“We are encouraging children to look outside of Harrogate and take the opportunities that are out there.

“With the status, they have the chance to learn about other countries and cultures. We have that status now.”

Trips abroad are planned for students to countries such as Italy and Sri Lanka.

The Harrogate Advertiser often features reports of St Aidan’s music students performing across the country. Recently, the school has played at venues such as the Birmingham Symphony Hall and Royal Albert Hall.

Mr Wood said: “Huge numbers of pupils do music. They perform locally, nationally and even abroad.

“Those students with music in their lives are encouraged to perform.”

Former students Tommy Buckle, Caroline Lambert and Kaitlin Chang have moved on to achieve on the international sporting stage.

The headteacher explained: “We do every conceivable sport, and have teams where those students who are vulnerable have the opportunity to play sport against other vulnerable students.

“We have an equestrian team, when we had the first meeting about it, crowds of parents and pupils turned up - I think they hoped we had horses at the school!”

The school’s dressage team is travelling to Northampton this year to compete in a national championships.

Formed in 1968 when St Peter’s Secondary School for Girls merged with Christ Church Secondary School for Boys, St Aidan’s has a close working relationship with primary schools across the town, including St Peter’s and Oatlands.

There is a focus on environmental credentials in primary schools, a theme which is carried into the secondary environment of St Aidan’s.

The school was recently awarded the Green Flag eco award for its efforts.

Mr Wood said: “We have a very active small group of students who are interested in environmental issues and looking at ways to make sure we as a school are environmentally friendly.”

Teachers have turned their attention to this year’s exams and modules, with the dust settling following a set of solid exam results for the Oatlands Drive school.

A total of 58.8 per cent of A level grades achieved by sixth formers at St Aidan’s in 2013 were A* - B grades.

Mr Wood said: “The most pleasing statistic is that 86 per cent of the year group got to their first choice university. Exam results enable them to get to the university that they want to, and 94 per cent got to their first or second choice university. The students worked hard, the careers advice service gave them the right advice and the teachers worked hard to help them achieve their results.”

The dedicated career service helps students throughout the school, starting as early as Year 9.

Careers administrator Mandie Lumley said: “We are unique in the area, having a dedicated careers department.

“It has been up and running for six years, we have three advisors and work with pupils from Year 9 upwards.”

As the Year 13 students prepare their UCAS university entry personal statements this month, one St Aidan’s student has already booked his place at Cambridge.

Jack Spencer has been awarded an Organ Scholarship at the university’s Queen’s College.

Currently the organ scholar at Leeds Minster, Jack will start at Cambridge in 2015, as he plans to take a gap year. A total of 68 per cent of St Aidan’s GCSE students in 2013 achieved the English baccalaureate, meaning they earned an A* - C grade in English, maths, science, a modern foreign language and either history or geography.