Loading

Gryphon A/W 19

Prize Day

Principal's Report

The 18/19 academic year saw many twists and turns as we tried to navigate our way through supporting the Department of Education’s request to generate additional places in Year 8, coping with the loss of a vice principal to another school at the end of term one, and what felt like endless recruitment to put in place a more developmental staff structure for middle and senior leaders within the school - a process necessitating 12 different sets of interviews.

As ever, staff have come and gone.

Rosemary Shaw joined the modern languages department in Bangor Grammar School in September 2000, ending her time in the school as Head of the Careers Department. Rosemary was a very upbeat, gentle and caring member of staff to work alongside and who, without fail, did the very best for the pupils within her care. She reported that her involvement with the Uganda trip in July 2018 was one of the highlights of her career. Her talents came to the fore in relation to her work within Careers; becoming a popular and very well respected member of the CEIAG Team within NDALC (the North Down Area Learning Community). Her retirement brings an extended trip to Canada some additional work with an organisation focused on women within education and wider community related work. We wish her health and happiness to enjoy a long and well deserved retirement.

Gary Greer joined Bangor Grammar School as the Head of the English Department in October 2007, having joined the school from Friends’ School, Lisburn. Given the academic prowess of Friends’ at that time, he found his early days in the school challenging, given the slower pace, but over time settled into friendship groups within the department and enjoyed his involvement with rugby coaching and refereeing at BGS. During his time in the school he was seconded onto the Senior Leadership Team and became the Vice Principal in January 2014. He took up the post of Principal of Bloomfield Collegiate, Belfast in January of this year. Having spoken to him at the end of last term and six months into his new role as Principal, I think it is fair to say he is now understanding the reality of being a school principal and the many challenges that come with the role.

October half term sees the departure of Chris Turner, also to Bloomfield Collegiate, where he will take up the position of Head of Technology. Chris has added significant value as our Shared Education Coordinator and was instrumental in the three schools (St Columbanus’ College, Bangor Academy and Bangor Grammar) receiving the Rights Respecting School Silver Award) last term.

This academic year sees the arrival of a number of new faces. Miss Katie Morris has been successful in securing a full time permanent positon in the Geography Department, with Miss Tracey McKee joining the Modern Foreign Languages department. Miss Marina Harden joins the English department to cover Rachael’s Douglas and Amanda Crossthwaite’s respective career breaks. In terms of maternity leave, Stuart Roberts is standing in for Marie-Claire Allsopp in Art and Kirsty McLaughlin is standing in for Katie Bloomfield in Biology. Robert Donnelly is standing in for our ICT Manager Krystal Cunningham. Mark Ingram has joined the Technology Department to cover for John Titterington’s secondment to the SLT.

When I took over as Principal of this school in January 2014, in my first address to the staff, I outlined the vision for the school to become one of the leading all boys’ grammar schools in NI. This vision, through collective hard work, is being realised as we are now the leading boys school re performance when compared to our nearest single sex competitors. This kind of success does not just happen. There has been meticulous strategic planning, alongside the introduction and embedding of effective strategies by all teaching colleagues in the school. Each of them are to be applauded. There is nothing worse to a teacher than another 'new initiative' – when you already struggle to teach ever expanding specifications, whilst meeting internal and external deadlines, keeping on top of planning and marking, whilst trying to remember which pupils were flagged at the staff briefing to keep a close eye on. Interestingly, the real success has been achieved when our areas of focus were pared back - the primary focus being on pupil learning.

I say it every year and I will say it again – the quality of teaching that the boys in this school receive is outstanding and part credit must go to their teachers for the level of success that has brought them to the front of this assembly hall today – although all credit to the boys – their own hard work, coupled with the efforts of the teaching staff, has ensured success.

There is no such thing as a straightforward and relaxed academic year – never a truer phrase - given the Inspectorate's arrival into the building on Monday. New specifications, lack of adequate funding, communications at cross purposes between Department of Education and the Education Authority make for unnecessary complexities on top of trying to do the job of teaching or running a school.

However, if nothing else, we are very good in this school at rolling with the punches. The 18/19 year was a busy one. The Drama department, under the direction of Katrina Payne, produced an outstanding production of ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.’ Given the growing relationship between Lady Dufferin of Clandeboye Estate and this school, the opening night’s performance was held in her Banqueting Hall, adding to the atmosphere and effect.

Sporting success continues to dominate, with all main sports seeing pupils playing at Ulster or Irish level – Stephen Hamill for Hockey at U18 Ulster and Ireland; Aaron Sexton in Rugby at U19 and Irish 7’s squad; James Skelton is the number 1 player in Ireland in Table Tennis at U15 and 3rd at U18 level; Ben Dempster plays Badminton at U19 level for Ireland; Dan McGaughey at United Kingdom standard for Sailing; Ben Escott plays for Ulster in U15 water polo; Gareth Wells and Ben McCrossan were selected for the U19 Ireland training squad for rugby, with Riley Westwood on the Ireland U18 training squad and Rory Wood has been playing Rugby League for Ireland. And those are just the senior boys...

As is well documented and acknowledged in this school, pupils achieve at high levels across a number of disciplines. Tommy Bell took part in the Holywood Festival winning all five of his categories and securing the title of 'Overall Performer Award' within the drama/performing arts realm. He is taking a gap year ahead of Drama College next year – definitely a very talented young man to look out for in the future.

In terms of musical prowess, the Chamber Choir were hugely successful competitors in the Bangor International Choral Festival. Not only did the choir secure first place in the Grammar School Class category, they went on to win (again) the George Best Belfast City Airport Cup for Best Senior School Choir and were awarded the Marine Court Shield for Best single performance overall for their acapella rendition of 'Over the Rainbow'.

In the province-wide competitions, the 1XI Hockey Team beat Royal & Prior in the JMEA Burney Plate Final, and secured a win for the team 5-4 on run-ins. The run-ins ending made it one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking hockey matches I have watched in a long time.

Our 1XI Football team were finalists in the Grammar School League for the second consecutive year, just narrowly missing out on the win against RBAI, very ably led by their captain, Jack Tyrell.

The 1XV Rugby team were also finalists in the School’s Cup Subsidiary Shield losing to a very strong Sullivan Upper School.

Yet again, BGS has been part of making history in Bangor. The success of the Shared Education Partnership between ourselves, Bangor Academy and St Columbanus’ College has allowed for the three schools to achieve Rights Respecting Schools Silver status following a successful inspection on 29th May. What is significant though is that we are the first group of schools to receive this silver award in the UK.

The school continues to reach out to others by way of ensuring the pupils in this school get the very best education. Our Careers Fair is the largest in Northern Ireland with increasing numbers of employers engaging.

Strong partnerships have formed this year between the Queen’s University post graduate school and the strategic leadership of the school. We have worked in partnership to enhance our careers and mental health support provision throughout the school. The outworkings of these projects will take effect in the 19/20 academic year.

Keeping with the mental health theme, next week will see the launch across Bangor of ‘Bangor Cares’ – this concept has grown during the past six months following a small group of schools and organisations working together to better support and promote mental wellbeing. We have been part of the steering group behind this and is another very fitting example of doing the very best we can as an organisation for those who work/taught within it; but also by way of engaging and supporting the many parents and friends associated with the school.

We very much appreciate the support that we get from governors and from parents. The PTA body in particular have proven to be a very proactive group willing to raise funds to support the School. This is most welcomed given the current financial pressures on voluntary grammar schools in particular. A recent letter to parents has emphasised this strain with parents being asked to fund what we in the past would have paid for. As these stresses are only going to worsen, voluntary contributions are essential to avoid dilution of the quality of provision. The PTA’s fundraising allows the school to allocate the funds as and where they are needed. Last year this allowed for equipment to be bought in all three of the science departments and paid for the lease of the 9 seater vehicle which all departments have had access to.

In closing, my final words are for Joe Wilson. Joe has been a senior teacher in BGS for a considerable number of years. As he edges towards retirement (not that he looks old enough) he has stepped down from his senior leadership role. Having worked with him very closely over the past 11 years, I wish to acknowledge his contribution to the senior leadership team but in particular to his very fine work in relation to the pastoral care provision in this school. He has enriched this area in many ways which, in turn, have made this school a better place. Thank you Joe.

This concludes my Prize Day speech for the 18/19 academic year.

E Huddleson, Principal

Year 8 Ballykinler Trip

When I first heard about the Ballykinler trip, I was very excited about going on a residential at the start of a new school year, full of new people and new opportunities.

When we got to school on that Wednesday morning everyone was really excited and ready for the trip ahead. We all had suitcases, bags and rucksacks, and were waiting for the coaches with our designated groups and teachers. I had a few friends in my group, but most of my other friends and primary school friends were in different groups. As we awaited the coach arriving, we checked that we had all our essentials with us.

After an hour's drive to Ballykinler, we arrived at the base and were told to go and unpack. I changed into warmer clothes because we were about to go out and play some games. When free time was over we took a walk down to the sports hall. When we got there, we went on the low-ropes and it was great fun, going over obstacles and trying to get to the end. There were lots of fun activities to do, including a bungee run. We were strapped onto a bungee rope on an inflatable double runway, and were given a velcro sticker to try and run as far as we could and stick it on the side and whoever won. There was also a life-sized 'football table' where we were strapped onto a pole just like the characters inside the game, which I found really enjoyable and had a great time.

Eventually it was time for dinner and everyone was hungry, so we all walked back to the dinner hall and had some food. To wind down for the evening went to a room with a projector screen so we went there and watched a movie for a bit, then came back and got hot chocolate and a muffin and went to bed. To be honest I didn’t get much rest or sleep because I constantly was uncomfortable and everyone was chatting and fidgeting, so I didn’t look or feel too well the next day. Well after I got the four hours of sleep we finally got up after the longest night of my life and got ready and then had breakfast. After breakfast we got straight into activities; we went and played more games that were set up. First we were at the target range where we used BB guns to shoot the targets. Then we did an inflatable assault course, where we raced an opponent to the end.

After another well-earned lunch, we started to pack up for Tullymore. We were going to stay overnight in tents, so when we got there we got into our tents and unpacked, and then went for a walk, along the rivers edge. It was a nice, peaceful walk and we got to walk over the stones on the water.

When we got back, we played different activities like Laser Tag, bushcraft, archery and cricket and then had dinner, which was great as I was starving after all the activities. After dinner we went on another walk so we could get our eyes adjusted for the darkness of the night. We then had hot chocolate and muffins, but I just went to bed as I was absolutely wrecked from the previous night - I fell asleep long before everyone started fidgeting and talking again.

The next day we had breakfast and took down our tents, and then got back to Ballykinler where we had free time to get ready to go home and to rest for a bit as we hadn’t stopped all trip. We had lunch, then went home on the coach, where I tried to sleep through all the singing and loud talking - but of course I couldn’t. When we got home I was very happy to get a good sleep - it made me appreciate that I had a proper bed to sleep on. I enjoyed the trip and definitely recommend it to all the Year 8s to come.

Corey McKibben, Year 8

Xiola Blue at Maida Vale

Maida Vale is renowned as one of the most famous recording studios for live music. Built in 1909, the studios were originally the home of Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club. In the 1930s however, the complex became home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was used as a temporary broadcasting centre for the BBC News Service during the second world war. Since then, the London studios have hosted some of music’s most famous icons from Led Zeppelin to Radiohead and Coldplay to Jay-Z , while artists including The Beatles and David Bowie have released retrospective albums of their BBC recordings. The studios are still regularly used and are the site of the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge where the likes of Sam Fender, Stormzy and even Bangor Grammar’s Two Door Cinema Club have all recorded live sessions. As one of the most iconic venues in music, it is the last place I would expect find myself recording at the age of 16. On the 19th of September, our very own band travelled to London in order to record 3 live tracks for the BBC at Maida Vale studios.

The news of the trip came as a shock to all of us. We had played our first original gig at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast back in June of the same year. We had no idea that within the first three months of gigging we would be presented with such an opportunity. It just so happened that we managed to get our timing perfect. At that same show, freelance broadcaster, photographer and graphic designer Betsy Bailie turned up to support the local music scene. After hearing our set she relayed us on to her dad, Stu Bailie, who has worked for NME, written scripts for BBC documentaries, and has hosted BBC Radio Ulster's 'Across The Line'. It was essentially thanks to her that we got our first Radio play after uploading our first tracks to BBC’s 'Introducing' uploader. As a result of this, certain producers within the 'Introducing' network in Northern Ireland got wind of us. BBC's 'Introducing' is a platform that gives young and upcoming artists from around the UK the chance to showcase their musical talents.

Each year, Introducing run a campaign called ‘Ones to Watch’. This is when each local station has the chance to select a band who they think might be successful in the coming year, to travel to Maida Vale studios. At the point of selection we had no idea that this process took place, and with the abundance of talented artists within Northern Ireland, our chances appeared slim anyway. However, following the BGS Academic Prize Ceremony we received an email from Radio Ulster producer, Rory McConnell. To our absolute amazement, the BBC team at 'Across The Line' had chosen us to travel to London to record these tracks as part of the campaign. It was extremely overwhelming to be given the opportunity to record in the same building as the musicians who we, ourselves, looked up to.

L-R: Jacob Kane, Patrick Boyd, Jakob Swann, Luke Swann

The day of the load-in to the studio was all very surreal. Myself, Jakob and Luke had decided to leave our gear off first thing in the morning so as we had somewhere safe to leave it. Jacob would be meeting us all there later. In our previous trip to the city half of our equipment got stolen and we didn’t exactly want a repeat. It was at this point in the morning where we grabbed our passes and caught our first glimpse of the studio in which the session would be taking place. We were warmly welcomed and guided by the staff and Radio 1 senior producer, Andy Rogers. The complex at Maida Vale consists of several separate studios, some grander than others. We understood that, as a young band, we may be in one of the smaller rooms. After being led through a maze of corridors, we eventually approached our set studio. As Andy opened the door, it suddenly dawned on me that we weren’t in any old recording room. Within the space of a few hours, we were about to record in one of the two most iconic studios within the complex, MV4. This particular studio contained a vocal booth, large SSL Analog mixing desk and the iconic balcony where viewers could overlook the musicians. It had also previously been home to the Peel Sessions and is still used for Radio 1 events and shows that have since replaced Peel’s. Only four days before, Iggy Pop had recorded there, and now we were about to follow in his steps.

After a few hours spent in London, we headed back to the studio in time for our session. We met with Jacob, waited for the previous band to unload, and we got stuck right in. We were first introduced to Guy and Ross; producers for the BBC who would be in charge of the session and therefore had the responsibility to check our sound, position the gear correctly, mic and wire everything up - not to mention mix and master the final live takes of the tracks. When the session finally began, the abnormality of the situation disappeared and it felt as if we were setting up for just another gig or rehearsal.

Throughout the duration of the day, we managed to succeed in recording three full live tracks. It felt incredible to be able to finish all three in the four hour slot that we had. At the end of each take, we would all congregate around the mixing desk to listen to, and fine tune, the songs. It was magical to be able to hear the tracks you had recorded played back to you with such clear sound. It was fair to say that we all felt we had just made our biggest achievement.

Alas, our day had to come to an end. We gathered our kit, exchanged farewells with the producers and left the premises with a newfound sense of pride. So what was next for us and where would these tracks be going to? All the bands from across the UK who recorded for the campaign, including ourselves, will have their tracks played on their local Introducing station as well as BBC Radio 1 on the 9th of December. From this list of artists, producers within the BBC local teams will have the chance to vote for their favourite acts and following that, a long-list will be named consisting of eighteen artists and then a shortlist of only five will further be announced. These longlist competitors may then be presented with opportunities to play at certain BBC Introducing festival stages at venues such as Reading + Leeds, Glastonbury and maybe even as far as Texas for SXSW. As far as we are concerned, getting the opportunity to record the tracks in the first place was a real honour and hopefully, in the new year, we will be seeing our name on the ‘Ones To Watch’ longlist for 2020.

Patrick Boyd, Y13

Senior Dramatic Society

After several years of staging productions at the Space Theatre, the Senior Dramatic Society returned to BGS for their daring production of Bertolt Brecht's 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui'. With a massive ensemble cast drawn from Years 10-14, the assembly hall was transformed through skilful use of lighting and projections into Prohibition-era Chicago. Gangsters, molls, crooked politicians all rubbed shoulders in a breathless production that charted the rise of the petty gangster Artuto Ui, played by Cain Henderson, as he rises to the top of the Chicago Underworld.

Children in Need

Children in Need is an event that brings nationwide attention to the actions of those who seek to benefit the lives of young people less fortunate than ourselves. It is an homage to the dedication of the many, many people who want to make a difference to somebody's life, and an opportunity to partake in absurd activities to raise funds with every single penny going to a variety of fantastic causes. And in Bangor Grammar School, this year's Children in Need was more spectacular than ever before.

Thursday 14th November kicked off with the annual Year 14 Costume Competition - a true creative spectacle that really brings out the best in people. This year featured some simply unbelievable outfits on display, including but not limited to: Pikachu, a dinosaur, Bruce Lee, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the Sultan of Brunei, Boris Johnson, not one but two unusual inflatable creatures, three McDonald's workers, Thomas Shelby and Waluigi. This is something that will certainly live long in the memory with all of this being for the benefit of charity and amusement alike!

But that wasn't all. Bangor Grammar were exceptionally proud to welcome none other than Stephen Clements himself as he presented his show on BBC Ulster from the school. This gave pupils and members of staff the opportunity to promote the brilliant causes that the school has supported, as well as demonstrating some of the amazing fundraising actions that have been so successful in raising such vast amounts of money for said causes. Most notably, the Head Boy Aqeel Mohamed and Deputy Head Boy Josh Hardy were questioned on the measures the school has taken to bring awareness to mental health, and Niall Warden was interviewed regarding a special new song release which he himself inspired.

Furthermore, a very special guest was also in attendance! Junior pupils could not contain their excitement as Pudsey Bear strolled around the school, meeting and greeting as well as entering classrooms to give some of these students a stunning surprise. The atmosphere was simply electrifying as Pudsey was welcomed with open arms, a real reflection of the community ethos of the school, and a brilliant demonstration of just how willing the school is to support such fantastic causes as these.

Additionally, pupils were delighted when they heard that they would be able to hurl sponges at their own principal. Sponge-throwing has now been firmly embedded in the tradition of Children in Need here at Bangor Grammar, but nevertheless the opportunity to drench Mrs Huddleson requires no invitation. As she reluctantly placed her head inside that feared circle, with Clements following her with a look of fear on his face, both were left helpless as pupils from all year groups joined in the fun as their heads were used as target practice for the expectant pupils. There was a distinct sense of schadenfreude that followed; a sense that in the end proved to be beneficial as copious amounts of cash were raised in support of the improvement of the life of someone who needs it most - and at the end of the day that is the most important thing.

To return to the song release, this had been a project that was long on the cards, and last week it came to fruition with outstanding effect. The song is a cover of 'When You Wish Upon A Star' specifically released with the purpose of obtaining as much money as possible to donate to Children in Need. Furthermore, the song received its first airplay on Clements' show with Niall Warden responding confidently as he was questioned as to how this all came about. The amount of money donated already stands at over £1,200 – a phenomenal tally raised especially with the hard work put in and the brilliant causes that this song will help support.

And the fun wasn't only restricted to Thursday either. Friday lunchtime saw the annual leg-waxing event, another staple of Children in Need in Bangor Grammar, where a group of around ten brave Year 14 volunteers prepared themselves to overcome the pain (literally) of losing their leg hair for charity. As many looked in mostly feigned shock and horror as the volunteers swiftly became the victims when the barrenness of their legs became clear, the money kept rolling on in and the good causes kept on benefitting. Even though these boys will have likely woken up on Saturday morning with a distinct sharpness in their lower tibia, they can hold their heads up high knowing that all of this came good in the end.

That evening, another opportunity was afforded to Bangor Grammar as a select group of boys went up by train to witness firsthand the broadcasting of the Northern Ireland section of the annual BBC Children in Need programme, presented from W5 in the SSE Arena by Clements and Holly Hamilton. It really was a sensational event as the achievements of the school were recognised by the national media and indeed broadcast on live television. It also demonstrates the 'Community, Excellence, Opportunity' of the school with all three of these in abundance across both days.

This year saw arguably Bangor Grammar's biggest-ever contribution to this amazing cause, and the total amount raised from these events currently stands at north of the £3,400 mark. It is often said that it is better to give than to receive, and it can be said without doubt that Children in Need is the most effective way of teaching us this message. It teaches us to be grateful for what we have while giving to those less fortunate in society, and with the fantastic work that the pupils and staff of Bangor Grammar School have done to reinforce this I am certain that this message has been conveyed in the best possible manner.

I leave you then with one message - keep up this tremendous work and keep on giving to those who need it most.

Clifton Christmas Party

50th Anniversary Christmas Carol Service

Ski Trip

Business Studies

Bangor Grammar was the winner of Northern Ireland’s first Business Simulator Challenge aimed at testing workplace competencies. The challenge placed students in the position of CEOs, presented with a range of complex problems and tasking them to solve them, demonstrating a range of skills including commercial awareness, team work, financial management and leadership.

L-R: Professor Ciaran Connolly of Queen's University Management School, Glen Young, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Henderson Group, Bangor Grammar's winning team 'Just Running Quarters' and Head of Business Studies at BGS, Mr Sinclair, BDO Northern Ireland Partner, Laura Jackson and SimVenture Ireland Partner, Will Hogan.

Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said: “This challenge is an opportunity for young people to get a practical sense of what challenges businesses are facing today and how they use their theoretical knowledge to better inform and solve problems. It is vital that schools are providing students with the opportunity to gain practical experience through their learning. Hosting this initiative alongside the wider curriculum will allow this approach to become standard across schools”.

The final, which took place at Riddel Hall recently was judged by a panel of business experts from BDO Northern Ireland, Henderson Group, Queen’s Management School and SimVenture, the business simulator software provider.

Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s University Management School added: “The challenge provides an opportunity for students to get as close to a real life business scenario as possible, allowing them to apply real world experiences to their studies. Having an expert panel to provide advice and guidance throughout the contest allowed pupils to gain an understanding of how their decisions can have a real impact.”

Ron Whitten, chief financial officer at Henderson added: “It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm of the young people taking part, demonstrating real team work and leadership at a young age which are important attributes for future success.”

Well done to all of the BGS Teams at the Business Simulator Challenge! It was a really impressive display of teamwork and information management on the day and a great reflection on Bangor Grammar.

Many thanks to Queens Management School for hosting the event, SIMVenture for providing the software, and especially to BDO and Henderson Group who have awarded the BGS Team a trophy and £1,000 cash prize! The boys plan to use the money to organise a business-themed educational visit to several firms in NI...after their mock exams are completed!

Louis Wilson (far right) of Year 12, pictured at the event alongside Business Studies pupils from other local schools. Also pictured are (L-R) Alderman Bill Keery, Mayor of Ards and North Down; Ruth Davidson of Young Enterprise NI; Susie McCullough, Director of Regeneration, Development and Planning for Ards and North Down Council.

In November 2019 over 100 Year 13 BGS students took part in a Digital Masterclass organised by Young Enterprise. Over 100 pupils organised into teams, took part in the event which showcases the multitude of career options in the digital technology sector.

Pupils were introduced to the new technologies of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence before being set a group challenge. The pupils were asked to design and develop an app for a niche market, harnessing the new technologies. Firstly, pupils had to agree on a product, develop and defend a business model and then deliver a presentation of their idea to fellow pupils and Ruth as a judge. This work brought together a wide range of skills including teamwork, communication and an impressive amount of creativity.

Ruth Young, who delivered the seminar, is herself a digital entrepreneur. Her company, Ruthless Media Services Ltd, aims to help small businesses to better harness social media marketing to grow their business. “What I really like about the Digital Masterclass is that many pupils arrive thinking that if they don’t have a flair for computing that there is no opportunity for them in the digital sector. But as they were able to see today there is a wide range of opportunities whatever your talent: writers can become bloggers or create content for other companies, artists can become graphic designers, mathematicians can get involved in web analytics and PE students can specialise in analysing performance statistics of athletes and teams. It is not limited to writing code.”

Ruth was struck by the positivity and the teamwork she saw. “I have done a lot of these events, and often I am seeing ideas that have been done so many times before. Here at Bangor Grammar I was genuinely impressed with the creativity on display. The guys really thought about the challenge in a novel way and several of the business ideas were absolutely original”.

S Sinclair, Head of Business Studies

Peacing It Together

I had the opportunity to travel to Leipzig over the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall for a peace seminar supported by the UK-German Connection. Heading in to the trip I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; I had thought that it might be some sort of get-out-of-school-free card and an opportunity to practice my German for a weekend. However, I realised on the first night that it would be so much more. First of all, the conversations I experienced were fantastic and like none I had experienced before. Growing up in a mostly Unionist community, I had not previously heard such a wide spectrum of opinions, however on the seminar there were young people from every community and every part of Northern Ireland, as well as Germans from a range of German states. On the first evening when our dorm came together we had really engaging conversations on topics such as Brexit and the state of the European Union. When it came to the workshops and activities, they were also very engaging; promoting much discussion between young people on division within communities and groups of people, and more importantly, encouraging us to consider solutions to fix said problems.

Some of the workshops also involved a street tour of Leipzig and a visit to the Zeitgeschichtliches (contemporary history) Museum. I chose to complete the former in German to try and better my German listening ability. Unfortunately, I was only able to understand around 60% of what was said and so I switched to English for the museum tour. On the final full day of the seminar it was time to finish up with our work and give our group presentations, which went very well. On this day we continued to have many enriching discussions about divided nations and peoples, our discussions even going as far as North and South Korea. As the end of the trip grew nearer, I couldn’t help but think that it was one of the most enjoyable learning experiences of my life and that I am now entirely hooked on the idea of taking part in more seminars.

Overall, I returned much enlightened on the situation of young people across all denominations of Germany and Northern Ireland, and with a new desire to engage in more cross-community, national and international events of this nature as I believe it is very important for young people from all around the world.

Calum Spence, Y13

Swimming

Jack Angus of Year 14 represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Festival of Lifesaving in Leeds on 21st November 2019. Teams from throughout the Commonwealth took part including Canada, Australia, South Africa and The Seychelles. Jack came in 5th overall in the rescue, completing the 100 metre Manikin Carry in a time of 1.00.60

On Saturday 11th January 2020 BGS Swimmers competed in Larne at the Ulster Junior and Intermediate Cup.

The Junior Swimmers comprising of Frank Allen, Austin Williams, Callum Slagter and Andrew Molyneaux all won Gold in both 200 free and 200 IM Relays. Frank and Austin also won individual medals Frank Bronze in 100m Back and Austin Bronze in 100m Fly and Silver in 100m Breast.

A mention has to go to Alex Newman and Jake Lynas for superb swims in this their first competition.

Ben Riddell of Year 10 competed in the Intermediate Group and lifted Silver medals in both 100m IM and 100m Free.

Rugby

Stuart McCloskey 2009 vs 2019

Junior Rugby – The start of the season saw fixtures starting with a tournament involving BGS, Friends School Lisburn, Regent House and Down High School. All teams acquitted themselves well with the first matches of the season. There have been fixtures against RS Armagh, Clounagh Junior High School and Ballymena Academy. Opponents in these fixtures have been of a very high standard and there have been a mixed bag of results for junior rugby this far. In our annual fixture, we played against Belfast High School and all our teams won - an excellent result.

Senior Rugby – The start of the season saw fixtures starting with a tournament involving BGS, Friends School Lisburn, Regent House and Down High School. The senior boys put in some sterling performances and beat Friends and Regent and narrowly lost to Down High School. The first 3 fixtures saw a strong Armagh side put BGS 1st, 2nd and 3rd XV to the test and although we lost, there were many positives to be taken from the first match of the season. This showed in our next fixture against Portadown College where everything seemed to click and the final score of 67-7 (1st XV) and 60-0 (2nd XV) shows the talent that the senior rugby squads possess this year. The loss of 6 of the first team due to injury and the gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition saw a very young team being put to the sword by a very strong Ballymena Academy team. The next fixture saw BGS playing Belfast High School with a comfortable win against the Belfast side.

The new Schools’ Cup system kicked off on Saturday 19th October with our first match against local rivals Regent House. Again, our team was successful.

Under 14 XV after defeating Regent House

On the whole, rugby in school has started on a positive note.

HOCKEY

With 10 of last year’s starting squad leaving for pastures new we have begun a rebuilding year at the Senior end of the school.

The 1st XI have had a slow start to the season. We have not made it through to the Irish Schools Tournament, beating Raphoe, but losing to Regent and Cookstown in the qualifying matches. We have quite a number of year 11s and year 12s in the squad and a big part of our work will be basics and conditioning to ensure we can push on further next year.

Junior Hockey Tour to Sutton Park and King’s Hospital, Dublin

In Junior school, Year 8 have excellent numbers and are very keen. We are trying to develop the Y11 and Y10 teams. They train together and we have even mixed the squads up some Saturdays creating a 15s A team and 15s B teams instead of 15s and 14s. The focus is training and playing at a higher intensity each week with real competition for starting places. They continue to progress well.

FOOTBALL

The first term of a new academic year is always challenging for the football team as we effectively have to start from scratch, building a new team as a new crop of players come into Football for the first time. We said goodbye to the players from the previous season’s Y14, the last group of players from the very successful team of 2 seasons ago.

The team is still in the process of being finalised and, due to the match draws we have had in the two major competitions, we have had very little opportunity to play matches so far this season.

The BDSSFA U18 Cup has been re-formatted this year to resemble a Champion’s League style where teams have a group phase of the competition before progressing onto the finals stage of the cup. In theory this should mean that teams play more matches in a group stage before being eliminated from the competition as many teams were being eliminated in their first round match and played no further part in the competition as there is no subsidiary competition for the BDSSFA Cup. However, this year we were placed in one of the smaller group sections and will only have two matches in the group stage against BRA and Regent House.

In the NISFA U18 Cup we have, for the second season running, been ceded/given a bye to the third round of the competition. This, in my view has a negative impact on football at schools like ourselves, as once a team reaches the 3rd round of the cup they are no longer eligible to be entered into the Plate competition for the NISFA Cup. I raised this issue at the AGM in May of this year and argued the case that schools were being ceded/given byes in the competition based on a team from the previous season and for schools like ours that often meant that the players from the successful team had left school. This draw means that we will have less playing opportunities in the NISFA Cup for the second year running and our closest comparable schools like Regent House and RBAI have had successful runs on the Plate competitions for the last two seasons while we have not had the opportunity to do so.

We played one match in the other competition we are involved in, namely the U18 Grammar Schools League which is run amongst a group of grammar schools who, like ourselves, only have access to football from Y12. Teams in this league this year are BGA, RBAI, BRA, Campbell College, Methodist College, Grosvenor Grammar and Wellington College. We played BRA in this league and beat them 4-2 in a convincing display from what is a fledgling team for us. This bodes well for us in the BDSSFA Cup, where we will meet BRA again in the group phase of the cup.