News From The School – November 2018
Which is the best rugby school in the country? As an ardent supporter of all things both Whitgift and rugby, this is a question I have often asked myself over the past twenty five years. Before one can answer, you first need to think of the correct criteria upon which such a judgement can be made. An obvious place to start would be to look at the results of the First Team. A national cup has run under various guises for over twenty five years now and we, of course, were the winners in both 2010 and 2011. Win the cup and surely you are best school in the country that year? It’s not as simple as that.
Not all the top schools go in for the Natwest Cup, as it is currently called – Sedbergh being just one such example. Is there not a league which pits all the top sides against each other? Well, yes there is: The Daily Mail Trophy has just entered its sixth year. Over 100 schools participate (including all the big names) and, whilst everyone cannot play everyone, a complex algorithm ranks all the sides, so that you get an appropriate amount of points for home and away victories, depending on the historical strength of the school you are playing.
It’s not perfect, but then neither is the international world ranking system, yet most people agree that New Zealand is currently the best team playing! However, it still only focuses on the First Team – a squad of 23 boys. Most top rugby schools like Whitgift put out up to twenty teams on any given weekend; that’s three hundred boys putting in the hard yards in the name of their school – shouldn’t they have some say in who is ranked the best? On every Monday morning, the rugby coaches at Whitgift receive an email informing us of the result of the block fixture from the previous weekend.
From rugby hegemony to success in another field: whilst not quite record-breaking, the school fared very well over the summer exam season. Following the fantastic International Baccalaureate results, where the students achieved an average points total of 38 this summer (eight points above the global average), and superb grades in BTEC examinations, we are again celebrating some impressive A Level results. 84% of all grades were awarded at A*-B (85% A*-B when combined with the IB results). 35 pupils gained straight A* and A grades (or Pre U equivalent) and one pupil achieved a remarkable 7 A* grades at A Level. The Year 11 students did not let us down either, coping well with the new, sterner grading system. Nearly half of the new style entries were awarded at the top grades of 8 or 9, with further achievements including:
22% Grade 9 – compares with 4.3% nationally
74.3% level 7/8/9 (A*-A)
Particular success with the new style grading was seen in Mathematics, where 40% of candidates were awarded the new top grade 9. The grade 9 has been introduced to recognise those pupils who have performed exceptionally well, at the very top of the A* grade. Of those subjects using the lettered grades for the final time, there were notable achievements in the Sciences where A* grades were awarded to a superb 70% of Biology candidates, 60% of Chemistry candidates and 60% of Physics candidates. An impressive 32 pupils achieved the top grades possible (9 or A*) in eight or more of their subjects, and three achieved the rare feat of gaining top grades in all 11 of their subject entries: Max Ronte with five A* results and six at grade 9, also Robert Heaver and Spencer Wood, each with four at A* and seven at grade 9.
One key reason for Whitgift’s continued success in the academic sphere is all the co-curricular opportunities provided to the boys with the intention of facilitating their independent learning. As has been the case over the past few years, the academic enrichment programme has invited eminent guest speakers to the school to lecture the boys in a university style environment.
The first of these this year occurred on Thursday 20 September, when the school was delighted to welcome British linguist, academic and author, David Crystal. Professor Crystal delivered an engaging lecture on Shakespearean ‘OP’ or ‘Original Pronunciation’ – research that he pioneered in conjunction with Shakespeare’s Globe in 2004. He enthralled listeners with a range of entertaining renditions from memory, examples from ‘OP’ productions and worked with Sixth Form pupils to examine the shift in vowel and consonant sounds over the last 400 years. Next up was Old Whitgiftian, Tim Davie, who addressed a packed Concert Hall on Friday 12 October. Tim has risen through the ranks of the BBC to the position of CEO, and he delighted the audience with fascinating anecdotes, giving a unique insight into what it means to be at the centre of such an iconic institution. Other guests of note to visit the school and speak with boys have been poets Ruth Sutoye and Spoz (aka Giovanni Esposito), who came to us on Thursday 4th October to help celebrate both National Poetry Day and Black History month. Both visits created an explosion of activity around the School, celebrating poetry’s power to bring people together and explore how it can be used in reading, writing and performing.
It is always a pleasure to celebrate the individual successes of the boys in these pages and we certainly have not been short of those so far this term. Firstly, Fifth Form student, Daniel Martin, was awarded third place in the national finals of the TDI Challenge for his bike-storage device. The competition focuses on technology, design and innovation and is hosted by The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), celebrating students’ creativity within the curriculum. Daniel has also been awarded an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship this year. This scheme is aimed at inspiring and nurturing students to be the country’s future leaders of the Engineering profession and entails a rigorous selection process.
Next, Upper Sixth Form Whitgift student and entrepreneur, Arminder Dhillon, has won the Horners Bottlemakers Award 2018 for his impressive Boot Buddy invention (originally of Dragons’ Den fame). The annual prize is awarded in conjunction with the British Plastics Federation and entrants are required to have significant UK content in design, materials or manufacture, alongside a proven record of commercial success. This is a further great accomplishment for the young founder, who earlier this year was placed on TransferWise’s ‘20 Under 20’ list. The company, which offers a cost-effective way for users to transfer money internationally, was searching for Britain’s most promising young entrepreneurs. During a pitching, training and mentoring trip to Estonia, Arminder faced a judging panel of renowned investors and business minds, presenting exceptionally well to be selected as one of the top five entrants. Watch this space for more from this savvy young businessman. Lastly, Rex Elliott and Harvey Stedman both won Bronze in the U55kg and U73kg categories respectively in the British Schools Regional Judo competition. Although both in the Fifth Form, the boys had to fight other students up to Upper Sixth. I’m sure they had a flipping good time!
To conclude, I would like to take advantage of this journalistic platform to draw your attention to some rather impressive journalism being produced currently at the school. For several years now, the Economics department has overseen the production of a magazine called Whitonomics, the latest edition of which has won an award for ‘Exceptional Promise’ in the Shine School Media Awards. The publication is a collective effort, produced entirely by Sixth Form students; the boys decide which articles to write, create the copy, carry out the editing and liaise with the graphic designer on the design and layout. Thought-provoking and academically-enriching topics in this latest edition include ‘Hawala: An ancient alternative to banking’, ‘The e in Economics: How to become a millionaire’, and ‘Income inequality in the UK: Is it at the right level?’. The Shine School Media Awards is a national competition rewarding UK secondary schools who produce an outstanding newspaper, magazine, podcast or website. The culmination of the competition is a special gala awards ceremony at Stationers’ Hall in the City of London, which co-editors Euan Pringle and Amaran Varma attended this year on behalf of the whole magazine team. Copies of the magazines can be found on the school’s website if you would like to peruse them. Also available on the website is the W, the School’s new online publication containing a thought-provoking collection of writing and carrying on the best traditions of Whitgift scholarship and thought. Contributions have come from students and teachers, and topics include curiosity, kindness, creativity, perseverance and ambition.
Dominic Edwards OW (1988-96)