By Geoffrey Stanford, Headmaster of Newcastle Royal Grammar School.
The Newcastle Royal Grammar School community was delighted when we were recently awarded the accolade of overall Independent School of the Year for the whole of the UK. Someone even quipped that it is not often that a team from Newcastle goes down to London and brings home a major trophy! However, it was tremendous to know that the impact we have in our region on a daily basis, is being recognised at a national level.
The genesis our latest accolade started from our vision to inspire young people to make a positive contribution to society and, through promoting excellence, raising aspirations and attainment across the North East. I often say that for the RGS to have region-wide impact, what we do in school has to be excellent, and this is clear in the tremendous academic results that our students achieve. This summer over 40% of our GCSE results achieved grade 9 and 34% of our students’ A-Levels were A*.
Perhaps more importantly, however, the RGS was one of the highest ranked schools in the country for “value added”, a measure of how we help students to fulfil their potential. This is significant because it shows the impact we have for students of all ability, not just the most able. Indirectly, it also reflects how well our students are cared for pastorally as well as academically. Our commitment to promoting emotional wellbeing and positive mental health for our students, staff and parents was recognised upon being awarded Wellbeing for Schools accreditation earlier this year.
That said, a key mantra is that results should be the consequence of a good education, not the purpose. Indeed, our students probably learn at least as much outside the classroom as they do inside their lessons. The wide range of our co-curricular programme allows each child the opportunity to find their own niche from which they can grow in confidence, develop the life skills needed for working alongside other people and, above all, simply have fun. Activities available span across sport, music, drama and outdoors activities, as well as a multitude of clubs and activities, not to mention the breadth of educational visits both in this country and abroad. Outside the classroom, our students and staff are also active in a wide range of service and charity activities which help them develop entrepreneurial skills in a social enterprise context. In doing so they learn to engage with people from all walks of life and develop the understanding of the importance of making that positive contribution to society.
Our focus on having positive impact across the North East is genuinely central to what we do at the RGS. We have always had a strong commitment to supporting deserving students through our bursary programme which last year supported 84 students and our aspiration is to increase this number thanks to the support of our very generous alumni donors. In parallel, last year our students and staff also ran more than 50 projects in over 100 schools, regularly engaging with well over 10,000 young people and supporting more than 700 teachers. For those who are interested in the detail of how we did this, our most recent social impact report is available on our website. However, we are very grateful to organisations such as the Reece Foundation, British Engines, TSG and others who have helped us to develop a scaleable model for achieving such demonstrable impact. It was as a result of this work that we also won the category for Outstanding Educational Partnerships at the Independent School Parent Magazine Awards.
While this award is a tremendous validation of what we do, we are in no way complacent because we recognise the scale of need in the North East. Our state sector partners whom we support are doing extraordinary work in the face of extreme systemic challenges. The next generation of children who come to the RGS will be able to play their part in building on this success and, I hope, helping to make the North East into the powerhouse that it has the potential to be.