Ilkley Grammar School is celebrating a ray of sunshine in these dark days with a record-breaking eight current or former students receiving offers to Oxford and Cambridge this week.
Congratulations to Reuben Baldwin, Polly Bridges, Brodie Gibson, Lois Logan, Izzy Matear, Ben Radick, Georgina Remmer and Emma Whitaker-Pitts.
This is a fantastic achievement and reflects positively on the hard work of the individuals concerned as well as on the enhanced support and enrichment opportunities which have been provided to all post-16 students at IGS. These range from the Cutting Edge talks given by visiting speakers, bespoke events during the virtual Next Steps week in June 2020, completion of online Eton X modules to develop leadership and critical thinking skills, as well as access to wider reading and film lists created by staff during lockdown.
Headteacher, Carly Purnell, stated: “We are delighted that the abilities and talents of eight Ilkley Grammar School students have been recognised by such prestigious universities with offers in subjects as diverse Natural Sciences, History, Modern Languages and Veterinary Medicine. Whilst applying to Oxbridge is always an extremely rigorous and character-testing experience, this year students were also faced with the additional challenges of remote interviews. They have each demonstrated huge ambition, resilience and exceptional academic ability and we are so proud of their achievements.
Securing places at Oxbridge is a tremendous accolade but is only one measure of our success at IGS. We embrace the achievement of Personal Best in all of its forms and are equally proud of all of our post-16 students, many of whom are currently receiving offers on a wide range of competitive courses at universities, medical schools and high-quality apprenticeships. We hope that their success inspires all of our younger students to work hard and aim high.”
Preparation for the Oxbridge application and interview process is intensive and time consuming, and all applicants have demonstrated high levels of commitment, initiative and drive. One student, for example, established a weekly discussion group which set out to address controversial subjects. While this did not have a specific Oxbridge interview focus, those attending benefitted from the opportunity to challenge their thinking and debate complex and difficult ideas with their peers.
Throughout the application process, individual preparation was complemented by weekly support sessions with live virtual Q+A sessions with visiting speakers and also with alumni who shared their experiences of applying to Oxbridge organised by Mr Sykes who oversees the Next Steps programme. In December 2020, students also benefitted hugely from a series of virtual mock interviews offered by a number of local contacts and the school is very grateful to them for their invaluable support as it enabled students to gain experience of talking passionately about their subjects with an expert they had not met before. The school is also grateful to the many subject teachers who have taught these students over the years and for the specialist support and advice they have given them, and so many other students at the school.
Polly Bridges, who has been offered a place at Cambridge to read Natural Sciences recalls the moment she received her offer: “I'll never forget the moment when the decision email came through during an online lesson. I owe it to my subject teachers, form tutors and the Leadership Team for advising me through every step of the application process. They have continued to support me in securing the grades I require to earn my place and I don't know where I'd be without them.”
Lois Logan who applied to Cambridge after receiving her results last summer writes: ‘The support the staff gave me was out of pure generosity as I’d chosen to apply after leaving school. Thanks to the time and resources they shared with me, I now find myself in a position I thought unattainable on the university open days.’
Emma Whitaker-Pitts, current Head Student at IGS added: “I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even try for Oxbridge without the fantastic support and encouragement of all the staff at Ilkley Grammar School, who always go above and beyond to help everyone to succeed. This just shows that something which seemed out of reach a year ago can be achieved thanks to these amazing teachers.”
Part of the process also involved preparing students for not receiving offers in the knowledge that at the very highest level there is always an element of chance. Alongside the successes there are of course a number of very talented students who were disappointed this time who have very bright futures ahead of them. An essential ingredient in success is the importance of being unafraid of, and unembarrassed by, disappointment and all the students who applied to Oxbridge this year displayed that quality. We are very proud of all of them.
Jamie Gutch, Deputy Headteacher and Director of Post-16 added: “While it is not right to be fixated by just two university destinations, with many students now actively choosing apprenticeships, work, or top courses at other universities, this is an important achievement for students representing a non-selective state school which is committed to inclusivity as well as excellence. We are looking forward to celebrating all the destinations achieved by our 6th form students this summer, by whatever route these are achieved.”
“At this time a lot of hope rests on the shoulders of the new generation of students coming through the education system and we are proud of this group of students who will hopefully take up places at their chosen universities next year, conduct research into their chosen subjects, and thereby, as our school motto says, ‘sapientia et statura proficiamus’ (grow in wisdom and stature).”