Gryphon S/S 20

Who could have foreseen what was to come? When we returned to school in early January, few of us had heard of the emerging coronavirus threat in China. If we were aware of it, it was only as a kind of background chatter - distant news from a distant part of the world. The post-Christmas cheer was still in the air as we readjusted to the daily routine of school life. The school's Open Day... The annual Careers Fair... Life went on. Everything was as normal in BGS, with its traditional busy cycle of school life.

Gradually though, the news began to increasingly report the severity of the coronavirus threat. We all watched, aghast, as the first wave reached the shores of Europe. By the end of February, there was no doubt that we would all be affected by this global situation. The month of March was to bring further excitement for BGS... The semi final of the Ulster Schools’ Debating competition was to feature a BGS vs BGS showdown.

The 1st XV were to compete in the final of the Danske Bank Subsidiary Shield and the U15 Hockey Team were to play either Belfast Inst or Banbridge Academy in the final of the Richardson Cup. This would have been the first time the team had been in the final since 1989.

At this point Covid-19 hit with a vengeance, and all plans, fixtures and routines were aborted; with the school building clearing as quickly as snow off the proverbial ditch. External examinations for GCSE and A level pupils were cancelled, with pupils, teaching and non-teaching staff all working remotely. Teaching staff found themselves having to upskill very quickly to allow them to ‘teach’ via Google Classroom. Parents and pupils had little choice but to readjust - some more successfully than others.

The summer term has been the oddest ever experience and likely to not be repeated in my lifetime. Weirdly, once the school emptied and lockdown was in full force, the school became a hub of safety for the children of key workers who needed to avail of the service provided by the school. A small number of children of key workers were on the school site daily and a routine emerged of school work until late morning, followed by fun and activities organised by the staff who were on the supervision rota.

Whilst the parents of these children were, in many instances, on ‘the front line’, the young people themselves probably had the best experience (in comparison to their peers at home) during the tight lockdown period. They were legitimately able to leave their homes every day and come to an environment where they saw and interacted with different people; all the while getting to know each other better. What was more unique was that the school accommodated two primary 6 girls, who between them brought a whole other energy and level of noise to the school.

School staff kept in close contact with the pupils and as the weeks passed it became clear that some pupils were having different experiences of lockdown.

Some liked being at home and getting on with their school work at a time that worked for them, whilst others experienced a variety of difficulties during lockdown. We had many communications from parents concerned about their son struggling to engage with learning. Others were starting to develop anxiety issues, with many becoming quite insular and reluctant to leave the house, even after restrictions had been lifted.

This edition of the Gryphon contains a number of interviews with members of our school community. As you will see, the experience of lockdown was different for each and every one of them. What unites them though is a sense of dislocation; a struggle to re-establish order when the routine and stability of school life is removed.

It is hard to know what the real impact of not being able to attend school for five months will have on our school community. For some of those who did not have the opportunity to sit formal external examinations, perhaps there is a sense of loss - the feeling of not being able to prove oneself. This sense of loss has been further compounded by a sense of unfairness, with government u-turns regarding how grades were to be awarded adding unnecessarily to the angst.

As teachers, we will need to be realistic and approach the new term in a balanced and positive manner, understanding that whilst some engaged well and kept working, others will be months behind in their learning. We as adults though will be managing our own anxieties about returning, to a school building with close to a thousand others, whilst Covid-19 is still at large.

Photo credit: Peter Allen

I fear it is going to be quite a while before we, as a school, will feel that life has gone back to normal. When we return, it will be a school without clubs and societies, no regular assemblies, staggered break and lunchtimes and where adults wear masks when in meetings or in the staff room.

As I write, it is hard to know what the 20/21 academic year will bring. I would very much like to think it will be better than 19/20, but then again – a year ago would we have anticipated a pandemic that would bring the world to a standstill and see people queuing for supermarkets and permitted to leave their homes for only one hour a day?

Only time will tell.

Elizabeth Huddleson, Principal

Name: Adil Mohamed (Year 8)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Making new programs: (Python) Internet checkers, password strength simulator, etc.

What was your daily routine? Wake up, revise, brood, watch TV, practice instruments and do some coding.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? See friends and joking about.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? The solitary aspect of working by myself.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Food Tech practicals

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Keep busy!

Name: Jacob Thompson (YEAR 11)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? My favourite memory was having more family time as you don't have that much time together on a regular basis.

What was your daily routine? Wake up - Eat - Homework - Sleep - Repeat.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? I missed the social interactions with my fellow pupils and the teachers.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? The inconsistent work schedule.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Moving Image Arts, as my teacher gave me feedback as soon as I handed a piece of work in.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? The advice I would give is to do the homework which has been set as soon as possible and to refrain from allowing the homework to be overdue as it's just another thing you have to worry about down the line. Get it over and done with asap.

Rotary Ireland Strasbourg Trip

I would like to begin by giving Mrs McDermott full credit for beginning the process that would take me to Strasbourg. A quick conversation in the atrium saw me begin a series of interviews, the first of which being with the ex- principal Stephen Connolly, a man who I’d never had the pleasure of meeting before but I can say now I’m glad I have. The three interviews; the first at the school, the second at Bangor Golf Club and the final at the Stormont Hotel, consisted of complex questions on my feelings towards Europe, leadership and how I’ve shown leadership. Having succeeded, I was now one of 24 young people who were selected to represent Ireland at the annual Euroscola and it was a waiting game, however preparations were still needed for the trip including material for each of the topics we would be asked to consider.

Our trip began on the evening of Sunday the 2nd of February, when we were treated to a meal in Belfast and a stay at Jury’s Inn. You would expect the first day to be an awkward ‘get to know everyone’ session however this wasn’t true at all. Everyone was terribly excited and easy to talk to. Conversations before and after dinner didn’t cease and this was all with little mention of politics. That evening we were sorted into our respective groups, each with a topic of controversy, which needs solution. They ranged from the environment to human rights to the future of Europe. I was put in charge of the group called ‘migration and integration’ which set out to solve the issue of safe movement of migrants, solidarity in Europe with the distribution of migrants and their harmonious integration into European society. My group was made up by three girls and myself; Katie from Louth, Sarah from Donegal and Anna from Derry not Londonderry, and I must say I was very happy with my group. There were limited gaps in the others knowledge and their proposed solutions were both feasible and humane.

The next day began in a touristy way. Our morning occupation was at the Titanic Museum, which having already visited still didn’t disappoint as it is an interesting part of our history which is somewhat neglected by the exam boards.

After lunch we visited Stormont at a time at which the NI Assembly was actually sitting. This was probably one of the more humorous moments on the trip, pointing out the fact that our government was sitting when the Dail was empty because of their pressing general election. The tour guide in Stormont was excellent and really knew what he was talking about. We were then graced with the presence of some of our own politicians. The only memorable bit about meeting MLA’s from the DUP, UUP and Sinn Féin was the look on the face of the boy from the DUP when he heard more than half the room was from the south! I wasn’t impressed with what they had to say, and not even their names stuck with me. However we then got to meet Claire Hanna MP from the SDLP and she was excellent. She didn’t speak like a politician. If she didn’t have an exact answer to a question she was honest and didn’t try to fill the gap with meaningless waffle and she didn’t try and promote her party in any way, she was speaking from the heart.

The rest of the day was simply traveling. Our accommodation for the night was the Plaza Hotel in Dublin and we ate at TGI’s on O’Connell Street. One peculiar event from the evening was when we were walking down O’Connell Street and some of the group started pointing out holes in an old building. I thought it was just Irish engineering until I realised it was the GPO…

The third day saw us at the EU Office in Dublin where we met with James Temple-Smith, Head of the Liaison Committee in the European Union. He gave us a talk on how Europe is functioning at the minute and what kind of obstacles it’s likely to face in the future, most notably post Brexit. We were then allowed to question him on our various topics which was quite useful for my group as it allowed us to clear up our queries surrounding budget for policies on migration. The next part of our day was supposed to be spent at the Dail however it was closed because of the on-going general election. Instead we were treated to a tour around Dublin Castle which, although it sounds dreary, was actually very interesting. The tour guide was once again very knowledgeable and spoke with great confidence. The décor of the place was incredible and we were able to see what changes were made by each King, Queen or Viceroy. The rest of our evening was very relaxed to prepare us for the next day.

The next day we were woken at the delightful hour of 2:30am for our flight. Although a lack of sleep hits hard it was rather pleasing how empty the airport was and how quickly we got through. I decided to wear a face mask in the airport for a bit of fun due to the on going Coronavirus outbreak and it was amazing how many dirty looks you get! Having slept most of the flight it felt good to land in Germany. For any Marvel fans ,the airport where we arrived in Frankfurt was the scene of the big fight at the end of Captain America Civil War which was quite cool to see in real life. The bus journey to Strasbourg was pleasant but also quite eerie. I think I was the only one on the bus to realise we were driving through the north-eastern frontier, a site where many brutal battles had unfolded and where history’s most notorious tyrants had begun their campaigns of dominance of Europe. We were given free time to explore Strasbourg and all its beauty for the rest of the day. I took this opportunity to go on a mission for Mr Wolfenden in finding references to our history course in Strasbourg, which I am glad to say I succeeded in. In my exploration I found Vauban’s Dam, finished in 1690 with the aim to flood the city should in come under attack, and also Louis XIV had been immortalised on the Cathédral Notre Dam de Strasbourg. That evening we spent time in our groups to make our final preparations for the Euroscola whilst battling with sleep deprivation.

Euroscola day couldn’t have begun worse. My alarm didn’t go off which meant I was forced to have a quick shower and no breakfast. Thankfully there was food provided in the European Parliament. The building itself was magnificent and the view was only furthered by the fact that there was a red sky that morning. It was around 9:30am that we were called into the chamber and the atmosphere within it was something I’ll never forget. Our morning began with an introduction to every nation within the European Union. Every country except Luxembourg and Malta had put forward representatives. From this you could really see who were going to be the leading voices throughout the day. The Belgians, Italians and ourselves were really good at showing what our countries were about and what our presence meant. We were also met with some more odd introductions such as the Germans who were drier than Weetabix and the Romanians who started dancing! This was then followed by speeches from 3 ex-MEP’s, from France, Spain and Cyprus respectively. Although they had some interesting things to say about the future of Europe which I did agree with, the best thing about their speeches was having somebody translate them for you. Looks like not doing a language at GCSE paid off after all! After lunch we formed committees for our respective topics. The migration committee numbered over 100 people with each country once again having at least one representative. Within this committee we had to elect a spokesperson who would report our solutions and a chair to manage the debate. I was elected spokesperson for migration (those who wanted to apply for the positions were required to give a short speech to the group and there was a vote) whilst a representative from Slovenia was chair. The debate itself was very interesting and productive but it also showed that there are clear xenophobic divisions in Europe, even amongst the younger generations. The Slovenians and Austrians didn’t get along very well and the Belgians had to constantly remind the Greeks that they were in no position to talk about the economy! However, we did come to some promising conclusions and so I quickly whipped up a speech to deliver. When we came back to the chamber it was clear that the Irish were taking over, the whole of the spokes board was Irish, something that had never happened in the history of the Euroscola. We were given four minutes to persuade the chamber with our speeches, followed by questions from the floor on our policy. There is a link below to my speech but to summarise, our committee wanted a simultaneous action of welcoming legal migrants into Europe with fair distribution and safe transport whilst cracking down on illegal immigration by strengthening the boarders of Europe. The questions were followed by a vote which was passed by a large majority. The day was a massive success and one that will be hard to forget.

I really want to put emphasis how grateful I am for this experience. The leaders of the week: Meg, Marie, Dave and Gareth were incredibly caring, well organised and all in all lovely people. Our group, which had people from all over the island was fantastic, a group of intellectuals who were very easy to get on with and I am very glad to say I will remain in contact with. Although we weren’t all like-minded everyone was very open to others opinions and respective of such which is a quality that is hard to come by.

Finally in the closing of the European Parliament, the speaker, an ex-MEP labelled us “the leaders of tomorrow” in that we would bring prosperity to Europe for people of all walks of life. After this experience I can say, I will make it a priority to makes these expectations become a reality.

Josh Carroll, Year 13

Name: Adam Bickerstaff

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Being able to play lots of rugby with my Dad.

What was your daily routine? I would wake up, then do my morning workout, then have my breakfast, then complete half of my school work. I would take a short break and continue to do the remainder of my school work. After all that I would chill out for a couple hours, then go an a run (usually about 5k). Finally I'd play rugby and chill for the rest of the day.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? My friends.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Having to scan through the entire Google Classroom app to see what work you have and accidentally missing one.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Art was the most fun and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Wear a mask so it doesn't happen in the first place.

Name: Elizabeth Huddleson

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? The sunsets in Ballyholme and walks by the sea.

What was your daily routine? Going to BGS every day with my daughter.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? I missed the energy that pupils in the building invariably bring with them.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Simple tasks took SO MUCH LONGER because I had to wait for people to respond to voicemails or emails.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Thoroughly enjoyed conducting the Head Boy interviews via Zoom. Super fun!

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? To the pupils i would say ......DO YOUR WORK, although I secretly did really enjoy getting to chat to some of you on the phone.

Food Technology

It is fair to say that Food Technology was one of the subjects that fully embraced the lockdown experience and turned it into a truly memorable learning experience for the boys of BGS.

Even before the lockdown, Food Tech students were involved in numerous exciting projects such as the Pancake Party, which raised funds for the Children's Hospice.

Knowing that the way to a BGS man's heart is through his stomach, the Year 8 pupils participated in the annual anti-bullying week, 'Change Starts With Me! The lure of free donuts proved to be a massive hit with the boys.

Even as lockdown loomed, spirits were not dampened - demand was high for the Easter Baking Kits. Even normally cool, cynical senior boys left school smiling - ready for the culinary challenges that lay ahead...

What challenges these would turn out to be. On an almost daily basis, the school's Twitter feeds were awash with images of boys baking ever more esoteric confections, combined with Mrs McDermott's seemingly endless archive of cookery tutorial videos.

BGS boys are deeply competitive, particularly in House-related matters; the House Bake Off Contest was fought with the usual high levels of internecine rivalry. In the end though, there can only be one winner, and Dufferin House won the contest despite stiff competition from the other Houses.

One of the more inspired and zany tasks was the Michelin star baked beans and toast challenge. Pupils were set the task of transforming this humble dish into haute cuisine works of art that would turn Heston Blumethal green with envy. Needless to say, BGS boys rose to the challenge and the end results were exquisite and often astonishing.

These are only a snapshot of the many tasks, tutorials, challenges and competitions set by Food Technology over the lockdown period. It cannot be argued that this is one of the liveliest, most vibrant areas of our school life and they are to be commended for their work over lockdown, in engaging with our boys and keeping their spirits up - all the while teaching them valuable life skills (which their parents will undoubtedly appreciate).

Art in Lockdown

Every one of us have had a different experience of lockdown. For some, it has been a very sad and difficult time. For some it has been scary, confusing and frightening. For some, it has meant they are separated from loved-ones, holidays, hobbies and sports cancelled. For others, it has been a strangely positive time. Some have enjoyed having more time to spend together as a family, relationships have become closer, people are enjoying nature more, the sea is clearer, the air less polluted - even Orcas have visited our shores because of the reduction in boat traffic. During the lockdown, we experienced unseasonably good weather and many of us learned new skills like baking and gardening - or got really good at computer games!

Students were asked to create artwork expressing their own personal response to, and feelings about, lockdown. They responded with drawings, paintings, photography, Photoshop, digital drawing, collage, short film and animation. The following galleries are only a small sample of the excellent work produced by BGS pupils during the lockdown.

A-Level Work
Years 8 - 10 Work

Name: Clare Steele

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Spending time with my family and enjoying our beautiful coastline together.

What was your daily routine?

  • Home schooling and online teaching in the morning.
  • Cooking lunch and baking with the family.
  • Coastal walk with dog and family after lunch every day.
  • More home schooling and online teaching.
  • Cooking dinner (we had a family Come Dine With Me competition every week)

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? My exam classes and my friends at work.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Sharing computers and trying to balance my work with the children needing help with their work.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Get outside in the fresh air!

Name: Rowan Magee (Year 13)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? When I shaved my entire head down to the skin with a beard trimmer.

What was your daily routine? Get up at 7:30am to complete any work I had. I would work until around 4pm, go for a cycle in the afternoon and watch a movie or tv show at night with my family.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? I missed seeing some of my friends.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? When certain teachers just set an abundance of reading tasks instead of actual interaction. Also, insisting upon having documents with a black background printed out - despite having no working printer at home. Oh, and telling us pupils to mark our own past papers...

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? I thoroughly enjoyed the research tasks set by the Drama department and the questions and video lessons set by the History department.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Get into the habit of getting up early and into a routine. Do some sort of exercise at home and, if possible, spend some time outside.

Mental Health Award

BGS was awarded an Investors in Mental Health Award By Aware NI for their commitment to breaking down the stigma attached to mental health in male environments. Spearheaded by our very own Mrs McDermott, BGS continues to demonstrate its commitment to caring for the mental well being of all in our school community.

A team of senior pupils embarked on a training programme with Inspire to become Mental Health Ambassadors. They will help further support the pastoral structure for pupils at BGS.


Careers Fair

Our annual Careers and Universities Fair took place on Friday 14th February 2020. It was attended by BGS pupils in year 10 to 14 with the extended invite to Key Stage five pupils from schools in the North Down Learning partnership. The afternoon was very busy and informative for all who attended. Around fifty businesses were in attendance. Representatives from over twenty-five UK and Ireland Universities travelled to be there as well as SERC and Belfast Metropolitan College. The pupils were able to ask questions and learn more about their areas of interest both as a career and potential course opportunities.

Students could find out about new and exciting areas that they may wish to pursue but also help them to make a more informed choice of subjects at GCSE level and A level. For the current sixth form this event helped them with UCAS applications and potential career choices.

Name: Robbie McCartney (Year 13)

Favourite memory of lockdown? Being appointed as a Senior Prefect.

What aspect of school life did you miss the most? Definitely the banter with teachers and my peers.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Having to sit down and do work in a different environment.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Physics with Mr Gilmour - lots of great laughs online.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Keep a good routine and pace your work well, try to do little bits every day as opposed to it all in one day

Name: Kerry Will

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Long walks along the beach to start my day.

What was your daily routine? A long walk, working till mid afternoon and then time with my son or a socially distanced coffee in the garden with my mum.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? Seeing the boys and chatting to them every day.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Working on my own without any interaction with others.

What work was most memorable during the online teaching? I loved phoning the boys and their parents to chat through their UCAS personal statements with them and to catch up with them and hear all their news.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Keep in touch with your friends and talk to a member of staff if you are finding it hard - we are here to help even if we are not in the school building.

Poland Trip 2020

The annual Poland tour has concluded for another year. It is one of BGS’ most popular trips, and rightly so, as it offers GCSE History students the opportunity of a lifetime. It allows pupils to visit a country that we spend such a large portion of our time studying and to see, first hand, how it has suffered as a nation across both the Second World War and the Cold War. Quite simply Poland is a permanent monument to the resolve of humanity against oppression in any form. It is a trip that is truly any historian’s dream, travelling first to Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, before moving on to Krakow with its breathtaking old square and the magnificent presence that is St Mary’s Basillica.

Our bus was due to arrive at school around 4am and the excited atmosphere was evident even earlier than that from the queue of cars driven by parents keenly waiting to drop their sons off to become the responsibility of someone else for the next 6 days. Despite the bus being scheduled to leave the school site at 4:30 almost everyone had arrived within ten minutes of the gates opening, eager for our departure to Dublin and then Warsaw.

Upon our arrival at the hotel we immediately went to visit 'Stalin’s Syringe' (Poland’s tallest building) to watch the sun set over the historic city of Warsaw before taking a trip into the old town later that evening. The magnificence of the old town and its surrounding buildings is simply undeniable, a view I am sure everyone else on the trip would concur with. This brilliance is only added to when one discovers that the whole area had been destroyed by the Nazis during the occupation of Poland and every building there had been rebuilt by volunteers during the Soviet era.

On our first full day we went to visit the Warsaw uprising museum, a lasting memorial to the brave stories of those who resisted Nazi control to the end and held off the SS from the inside of a ghetto for six months. The visit taught us all a lot more about a part of history that is often forgotten and really brought into sharp clarity just how awful the conditions inside a WW2 ghetto were. After lunch in Warsaw we went back to the old town for a walking tour, taking us past the presidential residence, into the old town. We marvelled at the many buildings rebuilt against the will of the USSR, before visiting, what is in my opinion, one of the most poignant examples of the destruction of Warsaw - St. John’s Cathedral. The presence of the track of the tank which levelled it, built into the wall of the new building, provided us with an exceptional reminder of how indiscriminately the Nazis destroyed everything in their path. In the course of this tour we also had the opportunity to visit Piłsudski square where the grave of the unknown soldier is housed in the remains of the Saxon Palace. The square is also the spot where Pope John Paul II said his first mass in Poland as Pope, and brought together millions of people who resented the control communism had over them, it was a major factor in the end of communism in Poland in 1989.

The majority of the next day, Saturday, was spent in transit from Warsaw to Krakow as some unexpected roadworks slowed our progress. This transport problem left our teachers perilously close to having to control a mutiny as we all had to wait for lunch! All was saved, however, when our bus driver executed what may, or may not have been, a slightly illegal turn into a nearby McDonalds. The scene of us all pilling inside was vaguely reminiscent of the opening of the Eastern Block’s first McDonalds in January 1990. Now that we were all fed the bus moved on to Czestochowa, where we toured the monastery and visited the cathedral, before finally reaching Krakow at about eight o’clock. After our meal in the hotel it was decided that we would go to the old square to see the beauty of the area, in particular the Basilica by night.

It was Sunday the 23rd and, after an early start, we left the hotel by eight o’clock for Auschwitz. The coach arrived an hour and a half later and we were immediately greeted by the foremost site of one of the most heinous atrocities the world has ever seen. Words truly cannot do justice to the feeling of standing in Auschwitz; and for all of the wrong reasons. Immediately, upon walking through the infamous gate to Auschwitz One, or along the train tracks of Birkenau, you are taken back in time to when humanity looked the other way until it was too late.

Walking past the exhibits, to the punishment block and the death wall, truly drives home the sheer number of lives brought to a brutal end, due to the ‘final solution’. We all experienced the exact same harrowing sensation when walking into Auschwitz Birkenau and our exceptional guide showed us just how vile and inhumane the conditions inside the camp were.

After the tour we returned to Krakow for our lunch and for a further walking tour where we visited the ancient Wawel castle with its dragon tales and bones to back them up. We also viewed the window from which Pope John Paul II addressed a crowd of 2.5 million showing them that unity is always stronger than oppression.

On our last full day we went into Krakow one final time until lunch, before getting on the coach to visit the salt mines. The mines themselves were incredible, with carvings dating back to the 17th century. We were also given the opportunity to lick the salt off the walls, the latter being a particular crowd-pleaser! We are reliably told, however, that salt is aseptic so there is no need to be concerned.

What there is good reason to be concerned about, however, are the lifts out of the mine. These lifts do a 40 second journey covering 135 metres right up to the surface. An attraction in their own right, it was a very peculiar experience going in a two level lift for the first time. Later that evening we went to an escape room and I can most definitely say that my group probably would have still been stuck there trying to escape had it not been for the half an hour time limit! Our final morning in Poland looming, we were told to pack that evening and get a good night’s sleep as we would be leaving early the next day for home.

On our last morning the coach left the hotel by about a quarter to eight with amazingly only one group of people keeping us late (apparently this number is often a lot higher!) After check in we had a few hours before our flight, which left at 11:15 and we were back at BGS by three o’clock, all tired but having had an excellent time. On behalf of all of the boys, I would like to take this opportunity to say a very sincere dziękuję to Mr Wolfendon, Mr Moreland, Mrs Sterrett and Mr Sinclair for organising and supervising us on this unforgettable trip.

Patrick Davis, Year 11

Name: Mark Dickson

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Probably being a Zoom quizmaster for some of the BGS staff and confounding them with weird and wonderful questions. Their general knowledge was pretty good, to be fair to them!

What was your daily routine? Woke up, wondered what day it was, got on the computer, did some work during the school day, answered emails and then a dander in the evening times down to the coastal path.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? The quick witted banter with staff and classes alike.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? The fact that you can't motivate pupils over a computer connection. Also the fact that you couldn't take the laptop outside - the weather was so good that you couldn't see the screen!

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? I did enjoy making my Screengrab videos, despite the fact that some of them took 10 or more takes, due to me messing up what I was trying to say.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Life at BGS WILL go back to normal in the near future - hopefully in 20/21. The need to motivate oneself to engage with the work we set has to be front and centre of your minds, if this happens again. Bear in mind that lockdown raised issues that we all have to work through, and life has been tougher for all of us. But, if you can see that all the staff here do care about you, your education and your future, you should try your best to complete whatever work comes your way.

Name: Jack Ramage (Year 11)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Sleeping.

What was your daily routine? I slept in until late, then did my school work. After that I relaxed and watched movies before going to bed.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? Face to face interaction.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Finding the motivation to do the work as best I can.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? The most memorable online task was the Moving Image Animation task.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? To do your best to be optimistic about everything.

Year 8 Virtual Relay Race


After a busy end to 2019 with our three carol services split between Bangor Parish Church and our school’s atrium, it was gratifying to see our pupils achieve in a range of areas that highlighted their individual passions.

The jazz band made its annual pilgrimage to Belfast’s Black Box to share the bill with the Ulster Youth Jazz Orchestra and a range of other top NI schools. As always, it was a pleasure to see the band thrive in front of a packed venue and deliver an outstanding performance that raised many an eyebrow from some of the other music teachers and their students.

Sadly, that was the final BGS musical performance of the year with a range of engagements, including our annual Spring Concert, being cancelled much to the disappointment of our musicians and staff. However, our boys would not let something as trifling as a global pandemic get in the way of their own extra-curricular musical projects.

Lucas Stanfield (oboe) and Jakub Ozarek (percussion) played, alongside other young musicians, with the Ulster Orchestra at their Come and Play Concert at the beginning of March. An afternoon’s intense rehearsal culminated in performances of John Williams and Brahms before delighted parents and invited guests.

Year 14 A level Music student Christopher McCutcheon achieved a number 1 single in the Irish Pop Charts (number 5 in the overall chart) with the release of Better as Friends. This saw his artistic alter ego CRIM collaborate with the producer known as Uppbeat.

Lockdown saw a variety of online performances by pupils such as Oliver Rea, Niall Warden, Eli McGonegle and Philip Acheson, to name a few. Our own chamber choir produced a beautiful video that lifted the spirits of all that were lucky enough to view it.

The Florentinas continued on their heady trajectory by being taken under the wing of Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and signed to his management company. The summer ended with them signing a publishing deal with BMGUK.

Chamber Choir

In February, the Chamber Choir travelled to Belfast once again to take part in the BBC School Choir of the Year competition.

We had worked hard on a beautiful new arrangement of the hymn Nearer My God to Thee with solos from Philip Acheson and Theo Rea. We contrasted this with a performance of God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. The judges panel were complimentary about our work, pointing out that there are no passengers in the choir. They loved the very assured opening of our second piece and described the finish of Nearer My God to Thee as “magical”.

The programme was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster in April and BGS were given a special mention for their contribution to the programme. Once again, I am proud to be leading and directing this particular group of musicians, whose instinct and input into our performances always make it special.

You can lock down a nation, but you can’t lock down creativity. I was delighted to work remotely with our Chamber Choir boys in producing this virtual performance of Light in the Hallway. In the process of recording there were hiccups, there were challenges, there were frustrations and there were difficulties, but the end result was worth all the work and effort. There is no doubt that this was a learning curve for us all, including me! However, with a carefully recorded guide track and rehearsal video, the boys rose to the challenge.

The bizarre circumstances surrounding the Easter period and summer term of 2020 meant that all music-making in BGS was brought to a halt. The Spring Concert was cancelled and in some circumstances, months of hard work and musical development were never brought to fruition or enjoyed by intended audiences. This recording was one small way in which we could keep making music. Many of the boys enjoyed the break from Google Classroom in order to participate in this project. Thank you to each of them for their hard work to endlessly perfect the sound. Thank you to Mr Cunningham for editing the video footage to create a poignant visual that matched the lyric of our audio files. No matter what life throws at you, just keep singing, even if it’s just in your bathroom.

Name: Flynn Mitchell

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Nothing particularly stands out.

What was your daily routine? Unscheduled and erratic.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? The routine and the stability that school provides in my life. Also, I missed consistent social interaction with friends and teachers which is extremely important for my mental wellbeing.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Nothing in particular.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Use Zoom and recorded lessons to keep the students more engaged, set larger work with longer deadlines so that you can progress through it at your own pace.

Name: Dylan McKim (Year 11)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? When I found out it was getting eased and I could see my friends again.

What was your daily routine? Wake up around 3pm, shower at about 4pm, walk the dog around a lap of the local park, eat dinner, play on my xBox till around 2am. Then I would go down to the kitchen and eat toast while watching Come Dine With Me. I would then ascend into my bedroom around 4:30am and sit on my phone till about 7am.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? Just seeing people that you wouldn't necessarily go out of your way to see in your free time but you appreciate that they make school what it is.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Actually getting myself to do work was hard since I find it hard to get anything done at home compared to school, where it's a learning environment. That, and sitting on xBox and having probably the worst time of my life.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? I looked at a page of Chemistry trying to teach me about moles but it was far too difficult. I never did any Chemistry through all of lockdown and still don't know how to calculate moles to this day.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? I wouldn't really have anything to say to anyone else as no one really talks about how they found lockdown and each person had very different experiences.


The Northern Irish Schools Karting Cup (NISKC), was due to take place on Wednesday, March 18. Unfortunately the competition was forced to postpone due to the restrictions imposed by the nationwide lockdown.

The competition would have seen several team of BGS students get on the grid and put their racing talents to the test. The challenge is a team-based sport, with teams consisting of three drivers from the same school/ college. BGS was represented by Christian Orr, Adam Simmonite, Matthew Drysdale, Jack Gill, Jack Gibson, Reece Simmonite, Joshua Parsons, Zach Cummings, Connor Leeburn, Jacob McCrea, Cohen Bickerstaff and Adam McGivern all ready to take pole position.

Hopefully, when the competition returns, there will be success for the BGS teams, and we wish them luck.

Name: Lewis Keenan (Year 13)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Having the time to play a lot of great games.

What was your daily routine? Wake up between 9-11am, do any work I had set on Google Classroom, then play games/eat/workout/watch something to relax.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? A more rigid structure to the day

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Working in a more comfortable environment like your room where no one else is around and distractions are everywhere. It practically promotes procrastination and laziness.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? All of the AS Biology work set; there was a lot of it, but that just meant it was more engaging for me as it never left my mind; and since I was interested in the subject I constantly gave it my best, almost recreating the feel of being in school again.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? The lockdown won't last forever - see it more as a challenge of discipline and work through it diligently to prove your independence and capabilities to yourself and others.

Name: Nathan Wiggill (Year 8)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? My favorite memory was when my family and I went on a trip to the highlands of Scotland. For the first two nights, we stayed in Edinburgh, then we traveled north to Loch Ness and stayed in the area for four nights. For our last night we went to Ardrossan and then took the ferry back to Northern Ireland.

What was your daily routine? My daily routine was as follows. I would wake up between seven and eight o'clock and get ready for the day. Once I was ready, I started my online schoolwork. After I finished my work I would either go for a bike ride, watch YouTube or practice flips and parkour. I would have tea at around six o'clock and go to bed between nine and ten o'clock.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? I missed being able to see my friends and doing practical subjects like Technology and Food Technology.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? One of the most difficult aspects of working from home was getting into the routine of doing my work consistently.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? The subjects I enjoyed were Food technology, Art, English and Drama.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? I would say to not spend all of your time in front of a screen and make sure to do something practical and fun every day.

2XV Rugby

The 2nd XV arrived at Pirrie Park in high spirits for the Plate final, having swept aside Omagh Academy comfortably the week before. The side were confident of a victory over their Wallace High School opponents, whom they had already beaten earlier in the season. Riding high after a successful season which included notable victories over teams such as, RBAI, Mr. Henry’s boys were the obvious favourites.

It didn’t take long for Bangor to draw first blood, as within the first five minutes, after a period of sustained pressure Ben Gibson would cross over for the first try of the afternoon much to the delight of the travelling Bangor support. Tries followed from Ewan Kennedy and Michael McCreary in quick succession, as the team looked to have their tails up for a big day out. Soon after, Skipper Pyper and 2s veteran Harry Blaney would link up expertly to take the score to 33-0 to BGS. After, came arguably the try of the day as vintage, free flowing Bangor attack led to Scrum-Half Callum Campbell executing one of his trademark dinks over the top for try machine Rory Wood to glide over the try line to bring the score to 40-0 at the interval. The Bangor support were now in full voice as the game seemed to be all but done with a half of rugby still to play. With this in mind, the coaches made a number of changes to allow some other boys who had contributed to the season a run out on the big day.

The second half didn’t get off to an ideal start, when Bryn McCartney was yellow carded for consistent infringement on the offside line as the teams began to fatigue. Wallace took advantage of the man advantage adding two well worked tries, possibly reviving Wallace hopes of a monumental comeback. However, upon McCartney’s return Bangor refocused as Finn Ritchie showed great footballing ability as he chipped the ball on the half volley over the final defender and gathered the ball for yet another exquisite Bangor score. With the final flourish of the game Bangor finished off with a superb team score as McCreary crossed over in the corner for his second of the day, bringing the score to 54-12 as Ben Gibson added his sixth conversion of the day.

Skipper Pyper raised the trophy aloft as the jubilant Bangor team celebrated their hard earned spoils of war. Special mention must go to Mr. Henry who coached the team to victory as all boys thoroughly enjoyed the season playing with smiles on their faces throughout and to all the parents and supporters for the much needed support. Sadly, this was to be the last game of the schools’ season as the IRFU swiftly after would cancel all future fixtures due to COVID-19. However, many would call it fate that the cancellations held off just long enough for this fantastic side to take home their well deserved crown at one of the last sporting gatherings they would see for quite some time. Floreat!

Chris Pyper



The BDSSFA U18 Cup was restructured this season with a group phase which then progressed onto the finals. We were drawn in a smaller group with Regent House and Belfast Royal academy. With both BGS and Regent House defeating Belfast Royal Academy the match between ourselves and Regent House effectively decided who would progress into the Quarter-Final stage and we lost to Regent House in a competitive game.

Match results:

BGS 3 v 1 Belfast Royal Academy

BGS 0 v 2 Regent House


We were ceded into the third round based on our performances in this competition over the last two seasons. However, most of the players from those successful teams had now left school and we were trying to rebuild a team in the 2020/21 season. We were drawn against Blessed Trinity, Belfast in the third round and lost.

Match Result:

BGS 1 v 4 Blessed Trinity

U18 Grammar School League:

BGS is part of a group of several local grammar schools who run an informal U18 Grammar School Football League. This is usually a close competition and we have fared well in the two seasons we have participated so far.

Match Results;

BGS 1 v 4 Grosvenor Grammar

BGS 4 v 2 RBAI

BGS 7 v 1 Methodist College

BGS 4 v 2 Belfast Royal Academy

BGS 2 v 4 Regent House

We still had 2 matches to play in this competition, against Wellington College and Campbell College, when the season was abruptly ended with the move to online learning in schools at the end of March. The competition was not finished.

Other Competitions:

IFA Schools Futsal competition district heats 8Th October 2019:

We entered a Y9 and a Y11 team into this competition and both teams acquitted themselves well. Both teams reached the semi-finals in their respective groups.

‪IFA mixed 9-a-side competition, 22nd November 2019:‬

We needed to link up with another school to enter a team in this competition as the teams are mixed with boys and girls playing together in the competition. The IFA organisers arranged a link up with St Louise’s Ballymena. The Y8 and 9 boys and girls played well but did not make it past the group stage in this competition.

IFA Links:

IFA Schools Quality Mark ‘Let Them Play Programme’:

By organising teams to participate in the above IFA competitions and our ongoing commitment to the BDSSFA and NISFA competitions at U18 level we are pursuing being awarded with the Bronze Level Award in the IFA Schools’ Quality Mark. This has not been finalised due to the break in school competitions but M Nesbitt hopes to be in a position to follow up on this in the 2020/21 season.

Martyn Nesbitt

Name: Connor Scott (Year 9)

What is your favourite memory of lockdown? Sport returning was great, to fill the void lockdown caused.

What was your daily routine? Wake up late and get work done, then just chill for the most part.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most about BGS? Playing sports with my friends.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? My house is quite distracting so it was difficult to concentrate.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? Spanish, as they were horrific.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Make sure to take time to do things other than schoolwork

Name: Aqeel Mohamed (Head Boy)

What was your daily routine? As I had a job at a pharmacy, I would wake up, grab breakfast go to work, come back from work and then have dinner before watching TV. It didn't really feel very different to when I was at school.

What aspect of daily school life did you miss most? Seeing my mates.

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of working from home? Not being able to go outside much and being stuck in the same place for like a month and a half.

What online classwork/lessons were most memorable during the online teaching? I didn't have any particularly memorable lessons, and I say that with the greatest of respect to my teachers.

What advice would you give to members of the BGS community in the event of a second lockdown? Try and keep in touch with your friends as it is really easy to become isolated. Check up on your mates as well!


On Thursday 12th March, the week before the school closed as part of the official lockdown, a group of BGS swimmers set off for London with both excitement and trepidation to take part in the Bath Cup.

As well as competing in the prestigious event where Bangor Grammar School placed 17th out of 80, the boys took time out to enjoy the World of Harry Potter