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Belvedere Academy gathered in Liverpool Cathedral for the annual Prize Giving on November 11th, 2016. Amongst the magnificent surroundings, students from Lower and Upper School, Sixth Formers and Year 13 leavers, gathered to be awarded prize, examination certificates and special awards.
The guest speaker, Sir David Henshaw, Chief Executive of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital gave an inspiring address about the new technologies and practices at the hospital. Mr Kennedy’s speech poignantly reflected on the highs and lows of the last academic year and you can read it below.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to Belvedere’s Prize Giving for the academic year 2015/16.
Our special guest today is Sir David Henshaw the Chair of Alder Hey Hospital.
Sir David has worked extensively in local government and after spending 10 years at Knowsley Borough Council he was Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council between 1998 and 2005. After being Chair of NHS North West for four years Sir David took up post as Chair of Alder Hey in February 2011. He was knighted in 2004.
Welcome Sir David, and thank you so much for coming today.
Following 2014/15 when we received a surprise visit from Ofsted and emerged once again as ‘Outstanding’ in all aspects, many of us expected 2015/16 to be a more normal, and perhaps even a quieter year. How wrong we were, as last year proved to be one of the most eventful, challenging, difficult but ultimately successful years in the history of this remarkable school.
If I could begin at the end by looking briefly at our examination results for 2015/16.
As most of you will know, external exams are changing drastically at the moment with much reduced coursework, little chance of repeating modules or part of a course, and a linear approach with terminal examinations based on 2 years’ work and so on. Essentially, they have become more difficult and we wondered how both staff and students would adapt.
The answer came in August when results were published and showed, at GCSE for example, that 94% of Belvedere girls had achieved 5 grades A* - C including English and Maths, an incredible outcome for a school which doesn’t select its students on the basis of their ability.
In terms of the new measures currently being introduced by the government, which will appear in the national league tables for the first time in January, last year’s GCSE results are also outstanding on all fronts. Whether it be Attainment 8, Progress 8 or the percentage of pupils achieving A* - C in English and Maths. Belvedere’s results are up there with the best of them, both locally and nationally.
In terms of the national context, our GCSE results for 2015/16 place Belvedere in the top 3% of all schools, including grammar schools, across England. The comparisons for non-selective schools are not yet available but Belvedere is likely to be in the top 1% of schools nationally, a remarkable achievement.
Our post 16 or A level results were also outstanding with over 50% of all grades at A* - B and 80% of all grades at A* - C. You will also see from your programme that girls from Belvedere now attend an incredible range of universities from Liverpool, Leeds and London to Oxford, Copenhagen and Edinburgh, studying subjects from Psychology, Law, Medicine and Chemistry to Graphic Design, Politics, Sports Technology and Neuroscience.
Almost 80% of our girls achieved their first choice of university and it’s great to see that some have been able to join us today to celebrate their achievements of last year.
I think that all the girls who worked so hard to achieve such fantastic outcomes in their external examinations, along with their brilliant and inspirational teachers who worked tirelessly to make sure their students were well prepared, deserve huge congratulations and a warm round of applause.
Given these amazing results and the ever growing reputation of Belvedere, applications for places in both Year 7 and 12 have reached record levels.
Almost 660 girls applied for 130 places in Year 7 in September 2016, meaning that around 470 were disappointed. Following the allocation of places there were 80 appeals which took an independent appeals panel 7 days to hear. Only two were successful. Applications for places in our sixth form also reached record levels with over 80 applications from girls in other schools. In September 59 external students took up their places alongside 91 girls already at Belvedere making a Year 12 of 150 girls.
Our sixth form is now 249, the largest sixth form ever at Belvedere and the total number of students in the academy now stands at 886 meaning that we are full in every year group.
The number of students in our sixth form should have been 251 instead of 249 but, as most people know, two of our girls lost their brave battles with illness during the academic year and are sadly no longer with us. However, as you will see in your programme, today marks the introduction of two new awards, the Jess Fairclough award for English and the Nina Saleh award for Mathematics. I hope that the introductions of these awards, which will be awarded each year from now on and for a long time to come, will ensure that Belvedere does not forget two incredibly brave students who were taken from us much too soon.
So it is with great pleasure that I would like to call on Sir David to present, for the first time, the Jessica Fairclough award for English, sponsored by ex-Belvedere student, Clare Devaney, to Claire Wood.
Also, for the first time, the Nina Saleh award for Mathematics goes to Lacey Parris-Roberts, Year 13.
In a year of extreme highs and lows at the academy, Belvedere girls continued, as usual, to give their personal best to everything they attempted. It is always impossible on these occasions to do justice to what happens on a daily basis at Belvedere but there is, quite simply, always something going on!
There is an energy and infectious enthusiasm about the place which seems to bring out the best in both staff and students and manifests itself in the incredibly high standards synonymous with the school.
You have already witnessed the amazing standards achieved by our choir and musicians who truly go from strength to strength under the inspired direction of Mr O’Keeffe and his talented team. Last year, for instance, the Chamber Choir were crowned Youth Choir champions and Open Choral Champions at the Wirral Music Festival and during the summer break they toured Barcelona singing at Barcelona Cathedral, Montserrat Monastery and the amazing Sagrada Familia, who only allowed six visiting choirs to perform there all year. The Chamber Choir is now building a reputation on an international scale and is currently planning a tour of Prague. Our orchestra continues to grow with almost 60 musicians now involved, and we have 80 in the choir and 45 in the Chamber Choir.
Our girls also excelled at sport, and none more so than our Year 10 netball team who won their league, won their City Tournament and were crowned Merseyside champions at the county competition held in Southport. They remain undefeated since Year 7 – incredible! In rounders both the Year 10 and Senior teams became champions of the city with all other year groups acquitting themselves extremely well in their own competitions.
For the first time Belvedere entered the Key Stage 3 Swimming Gala in March at the Wavertree Aquatics Centre and became Champions of Liverpool at the first attempt.
At the GDST Northern Trust Rally in Nottingham in competition with some outstanding GDST schools from Newcastle, Sheffield, Birkenhead, Nottingham and Northampton our girls performed magnificently across the board and particularly in tennis where they managed to win the prestigious tennis tournament last won by Belvedere 44 years ago!
The incredible standards set by the Drama Department also continue to rise and those of us fortunate enough to witness their outstanding production of Blood Brothers last year will know what I mean. This was a real home grown performance written by Liverpool playwright Willy Russel, where everything from the set to the lighting, music and costumes was designed, made and produced by the students themselves.
An exciting development in Drama has been the ever increasing support provided by the Tech Team who are a vital ingredient of any good show or performance. The reason our shows look and sound so professional is down to the often unnoticed contributions of our Tech Team who this year managed to provide light, sound, haze and even snow during a brilliant Drama Festival in December.
Another exciting development, this time in Modern Foreign Languages, has been the introduction of Mandarin Chinese into the lower school curriculum with all Year 7 and 8 pupils now studying Mandarin alongside French and Spanish.
This follows a successful bid to the Swire Foundation whose aim is to develop the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in the UK. Only a small number of schools were successful in securing funding which lasts for a minimum of 5 years and will hopefully lead to girls being entered for external examinations in Chinese and going on to study the language at university level. Even staff are being encouraged to learn a bit of Chinese and some of us now know how to say hello, how are you, thank you, good bye and even I’m not well in Mandarin. It’s a start at least!
The range of what goes on at Belvedere never ceases to amaze us all and is often brilliantly reflected in our termly e-zine complied expertly by Mr Dykeaylen, Head of Graphics and a professional graphic designer. Girls can go from Dragon’s Den style challenges, pitching an App to a panel of judges or becoming a Digital Leader in our Computing and ICT Department. They can be listening to authors such as Cathy Cassidy in the library, taking part in the International Kids' Lit Quiz for the first time or taking part in a Science challenge to research and design a water carrier to be used by women and children in underdeveloped countries in Africa. (This actually achieved first place at the North West Innovation Award, by the way.)
In February, 40 girls went skiing in Italy for 9 days and enjoyed perfect conditions with beautiful scenery and plenty of pizza. In December 80 year 7 pupils went on a spooky ghost tour around Liverpool City Centre coming face to face with ghosts, ghouls and the living dead to inspire their creative writing.
Most of this is due to our outstanding Enrichment Programme which, in my view, is second-to-none and massively enhances what happens during a normal day enriching the taught curriculum in so many ways.
As you will know, today, the 11th November, is also Armistice Day, the day which marks the end of the First World War and this morning, a minute’s silence was observed in the academy to remember and honour those who have paid the price for our freedom. On 1st July 2016, the day which marked the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, a small and poignant remembrance ceremony was held in the school gardens attended by staff and students with words and music provided by the girls, culminating in the laying of a British Legion Wreath on behalf of the whole Belvedere community.
It is fitting that our choir will today perform ‘Hymn to the Fallen’, chosen by Steven Spielberg to play over the closing credits of the film ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as a ‘tribute to those who died in conflict.’
In February of this year Belvedere made news around the world for the wrong reasons when a motorist lost control of her car and mounted the pavement where girls were queuing to take their seat on our coaches at the start of the half term holiday.
The staff on duty were soon joined by other staff, parents and members of the public, together with other students including Josephine Zuzan, one of our Year 13 pupils trained in first aid, in trying to come to terms with an unprecedented scene of chaos outside the school gates.
The emergency services were quickly on the scene and several girls were rushed to Alder Hey Hospital, whose Chair, Sir David Henshaw is fittingly with us today. Miraculously, there were no fatalities but several girls had been badly injured and some spent a considerable time in hospital and are still recovering.
As a result of this awful event, which could easily have been so much worse, the academy, strongly supported by our parents, worked closely with the city council to make Belvidere Road a safer place and, as you will know, a new pedestrian crossing together with a 20 mph speed limit have now been introduced. The police have been extremely helpful in ensuring that parking restrictions are adhered to but cannot be present all the time leaving it up to our parents not to park illegally outside the academy. Could I just take this opportunity to thank all our parents who have observed the parking restrictions on Belvidere Road, and ask those who have yet to do so to remember why the restrictions are there in the first place, in other words to protect your children.
I would also just like to take this opportunity to thank the emergency services and the staff at Alder Hey for their magnificent response to the accident and also the city council for their support in helping us try and ensure that this does not happen again.
When members of staff and I visited the girls in hospital immediately after the accident I promised them that they would receive a special award for bravery at this year’s Prize Giving. So, could I ask Sir David to present forget-me-not badges, only awarded for very special achievements, to the following girls for bravery:
And finally, I’d like to ask Sir David to present Josephine Zuzan with a forget-me-not award for her magnificent response following the accident and for using her first aid training to such good effect in an exceptionally difficult situation.
The accident in February once again showed the strengths of the Belvedere Academy community and many parents commented on the excellence of our support staff team in particular who helped the girls in so many ways, especially in the aftermath of what was a traumatic experience not only for those injured, but also for those who actually saw what happened.
The work of the support staff in the school of today is as important as the work of the teachers and underpins everything we do from administration, finance and technical support to catering, cleaning and the upkeep of the estates, and from supporting individual students with complex needs to ensuring everybody is entered for the correct examinations. This work often goes unnoticed but I think that this is a good moment to show our appreciation to Belvedere’s outstanding team of support staff by giving them a well-deserved round of applause.
On a personal note, I’d also like to thanks my brilliant senior team, Mike McGarry, Jenny Jones, Steven Jamieson, Julie Marshall, Emma Speed and Sue Donnelly, together with my PA Nicola Smith, and temporary PA last year Hannah Miller, and also our Administration Manager Julie Collin, for their incredible hard work, commitment and loyal support during an exceptionally challenging year. In addition could I also take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, the GDST, our Academy Trust Board together with our very supportive Local Governing Body, parents and Parents’ Association for everything they do to help Belvedere remain the outstanding school it has become.
Also, in case you didn’t know could I just mention that our annual carol concert, which had originally been postponed this year due to financial constraints, has been reinstated.
Unfortunately, the cathedral in which we all now sit was unavailable so, whisper it, our annual carol service will this year take place in the other cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral, on 19th December at 1.30pm.
Just like today, the girls will not have to return to school after the service and can make their own way home or go home with parents.
So, as I said earlier, the last year has been exceptionally challenging in so many respects and the Belvedere community has had to cope with a range of emotions from grief and sadness to delight and exhilaration. As sometimes happens, what we go through brings us together more and makes us even stronger. We will remember those we have lost and we will try to look after those who we very nearly lost. We will also celebrate those who have tried hard and given their personal best as well as those who have excelled and that is really why we are here today, to recognise the outstanding effort and achievement of the Belvedere girls who never cease to amaze us all each day. As Her Majesties Inspector of Schools said of them not long ago “They are confident, articulate, ambitious young women who want to succeed and are proud of their achievements.” We are also proud of their achievements so let us now recognise those achievements by beginning our Prize Giving for 2015/16.