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Ilkley Grammar School celebrates the exceptional Class of 2023

It was with great pride that Ilkley Grammar School welcomed back the truly exceptional Year 13 Class of 2023 for an evening at the King’s Hall in Ilkley to celebrate their outstanding A level, BTEC and wider successes.

With the promise that grading would ‘return to normal’ after years of pandemic disruption there was, once again this year, a degree of uncertainty as to whether their hard work would pay off, but it did, and Year 13 Presentation Evening was a final, formal opportunity to celebrate the achievements of this year group who were sitting their first full set of national exams since their Primary School SATs in 2016 due to the cancellation of GCSE exams in 2021.

The excited buzz of results day last summer was repeated at the King’s Hall last Thursday evening as IGS staff, students and their families gathered one last time, in person, to reflect on what had been achieved. The evening started on a high with a fantastic performance from the winner of the IGS Battle of the Bands ‘Shaded’ and Headteacher, Carly Purnell, continued the evening by welcoming back former students (many having just finished their first term at university) and their parents/carers.

She went on to celebrate the fact that as a year group they had achieved a fantastic set of A-Level and BTEC results, with almost one-third of all grades at the highest level of A/A*, 63% at grades A*-B, 83% at grades A*-C and a pass rate of over 99% with IGS ranking, once again, as one of the highest performing comprehensive 6th Forms in the north of England.

Mrs Purnell spoke of her pride at being their Headteacher and celebrated the resilience and courage they had shown over their years in Post-16. Students proudly collected their A-level and BTEC certificates to the warm applause and congratulations of friends, family, IGS staff and special guests including the Guest of Honour, Professor Becky Malby and Ilkley Town Mayor, Karl Milner.

There were many superb individual achievements which were recognised in 33 subject awards, as well as in prizes for outstanding progress and attainment across the curriculum.

In total 9 students achieved three or more grades at A*/Dist* and a further 17 students achieved straight As or above with a record 10 students taking up places at Oxbridge last term, as well as many other unique individual successes.

With these results students had progressed to over 50 different universities onto courses ranging from Engineering, Urban Design and International Relations to Computer Game Technology, Japanese, Journalism, Neuroscience and everything else in between! Other destinations included Degree Level Apprenticeships with companies such as Alvarez & Marsal, PwC, Ernst & Young, Rolls Royce, Deloitte and one student securing a contract with the Pro-cycling team DSM.

In his speech Mr Sykes, Director of Year 13, welcomed back this very special year group and spoke of what a privilege it had been to work with them. He compared the success of the year group to the beauty of a coral reef which is the outcome of a symbiotic relationship. Just as polyps and algae combine together to form incredible coral reefs, so staff, school and parents work together to achieve success. He went on to thank all the members of the post-16 team and teachers at the school.

Professor Malby - Guest of Honour

The school also welcomed Professor Becky Malby as the guest of honour who is visiting Professor in Health Systems Innovation at the Universities of York, Huddersfield and London South Bank. In her speech she drew upon her experience of working with local entrepreneurs and activists in South Africa to support the development of the Health Service in the country. She encouraged the audience to ‘start the change with you’, and for us to be ‘curious and rigorous with our opinions’,

speaking powerfully about the fact that we are defined by:

What we choose to step by and what we choose to step into

What we choose to avoid and what we choose to embrace

What we choose to wash past us and what we choose to understand


Professor Malby framed her speech with a quote from a poem ‘The Hill we Climb’ which the American poet Amanda Gorman read at President Biden’s inauguration, and which starts with a question - “When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” The poem ends with an answer…

“When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Special awards recognising wider achievements beyond academic success and celebrating each of the school values of Responsibility, Respect, Kindness, Resilience, Courage and Pride were also awarded.

With additional excellent musical performances from current year 13 students Charlotte Dear (vocals) and Callum Whitton (piano) and a finale from Josh Palaca with a superb rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, there was a wide and diverse range of talent on display. 

Callum Whitton and Charlotte Dear sing 'So In Love' from Kiss me Kate

Jamie Gutch, Deputy Headteacher, who compered the evening said “Post-16 represents the culmination of the school experience and it was so exciting to be able to welcome back students and parents/carers to celebrate their achievements. I would like to publicly thank all those who taught this cohort as they made their way up the school and while in the 6th Form. Special thanks must also go to Mr Fox (Assistant Headteacher for Post-16), Mrs Pickard (who led the year group through year 12), Mrs Walsh (Senior Pastoral Manager), Mrs Greenwood (Student Support Manager), Mrs McCutcheon and Mrs Herring (Student Achievement Managers), the dedicated team of form tutors and all those who tirelessly provided both academic and pastoral support to these students over their time in Post-16. Success is always a team effort.”

Josh Palaca sings 'Feeling Good'

Mr Gutch continued “This event is one of the highlights of our annual calendar and we were delighted that so many of our former students and parents/carers were able to celebrate with us. Well done the class of 2023.  Your school and your families are very proud of you, and we wish you all the very best for the future!”

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