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School Captain’s Blog: February, April 2014

After a week’s rest over February half term, it was nice to return to school and see the opening of Café 6 in the canteen. This is an area selling food only for sixth formers (hence the name) during break and lunch. With a rapidly decreasing amount of time left at school, I was glad to be able to sample what was on offer.

One of the activities dominating this term was the senior school production of Twelfth Night. With the complexity of the lines demanding rehearsals three times a week, it was clear that this play would be no easy task. I chose to watch the second of the final three performances and can report that it was highly enjoyable and entertaining.

The CCF contingent has been extremely busy over recent weeks, with events including CCCT at Farchynys, Biennial Review day, Cyprus camp at RAF Akrotiri, Adventurous Training, and finally UK camp at RAF Brize Norton. Cadet gliding scholarships would also have featured in this list, were it not for an engineering fault causing every glider across the UK to be grounded. Aside from gliding, I am assured that everything else went as successfully as ever and hopefully any engineering faults will have been fixed by the summer when the next round of scholarships will take place.

Open evening was a little different this time around. As well as handing out the usual information to families who came into the entrance hall, the Vice Captains and I were greeting them with Boost bars. This was part of an advertising campaign led by QM – leaflets had been sent out to primary schools promising a chocolate bar to pupils who came to the evening. It was hard to gauge the success of the campaign, but it certainly was a popular one.

As is always the case, there were a lot of house competitions going on throughout the term. However, the one I am going to talk about is the senior swimming gala which took place on the very last day. Due to coursework commitments a lot of swimmers were unable to attend but that did not stop the contest from going ahead. Some races even featured only a single house participating, simply to gain the points for coming in first place.

The final assembly saw the long-awaited awarding of Hockey colours, with the slight exception that the ties were unavailable to be handed out at the time. Nonetheless, it is uplifting to see the players’ achievements recognised for their dedication to the sport throughout their seven years at Queen Mary’s.

School Captain’s Blog: 1st Half Term 2015

This is my first Captain of School blog after a pretty eventful first half-term. I’m Liam O’Connor and I currently study Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Economics; with the aim of studying Mathematics with Theoretical Physics at university. Within school I am vice-captain of the rugby 1st XV, Sergeant in the RAF section of the CCF, as well as taking part in last year’s very successful sun-chaser Horizon Project and the venturous drama production this year. This year the pupil senior leadership team has expanded with two new posts being created: Head girl, as well as Captain of house who has an oversight of the whole house system, both of whom will be of great help to the school community.

After spending a month in Tanzania over the summer with 19 other students from the school, conquering Mount Kilimanjaro and volunteering at the orphanage run by ‘Light in Africa’, it was nice to come back to news of record-breaking GCSE results from last year’s year 11.

After the 6th form and year 7 induction day, the new cohorts all quickly settled in. Indeed there were several opportunities they could get involved in straight away. The year 7s and 6th form got a chance to show off their skill with the launch of the new Futsal House competition. Whilst the 6th form girls took a chance to visit Farchynys with a Mountain Biking weekend. Straight back from Tanzania, Mr. Rendu has set about preparing for another expedition to Borneo in 2017. Whilst despite the departure of Horizon’s founder, Mr Coghlan, at the end of the last year, ‘The Near Space Race’ will see two teams of students launch balloons this year. Whilst this year’s drama production of ‘Bassett’ will see 7 boys and 7 girls all the way to the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in April.

With events left, right and centre, this half-term, my role has been a busy one. The annual speech at the Old Boys’ Dinner was a highlight for me. With Old Marians from as far back as the 1930’s it was a very enjoyable evening, even with the difficulty of the speech looming over the dinner. But, it was an honour to meet members of the Club that benefit the school in so many ways. The evening also saw the launch of the bid to purchase new property in Farchynys, which would see the site secured for several decades, and allow everyone in the ever expanding school to enjoy the facilities that we have there.

Speech day this year was a huge celebration of just how much had happened in the last year. The event was again held at school, with the school hall transformed with the help of many bouquets of flowers. Everyone involved in the evening was a massive tribute to the school. The school band once again received outstanding reviews, thanks to the work from Mr. Vause, and the events that were highlighted by the pupil senior leadership team kept the whole evening flowing. My Vote of Thanks, was a fairly easy speech compared to the one at the Old Boys’ Dinner, and it made the whole evening very enjoyable for myself being able to share my thoughts on the day and the whole year with the rest of the school.

After the initial shock of the organisation required within my role, I feel I have settled in well. There’s many events to look forward to over the coming months, many of which I mentioned at the start and should be exciting as they come to fruition. The next big events for the school take place in the form of the annual QMA fireworks event that takes place straight after half-term, as well as Remembrance Sunday the day after for CCF.

School Captain’s Blog: Autumn Term 2014

Autumn Term 2014 (September to October)

Hello, I’m Reece Bhatoe, welcome to my first blog post as Captain of School. Firstly, I’d like to share a little about myself with you. I currently study English Literature, Geography and History, with the intention of studying Human Sciences/Geography at university. At school I’m captain of the rugby 1st XV , Flight Sergeant 2IC of the CCF’s RAF section and generally just enjoy getting involved in everything school life has to offer, whether it be dramatic productions or the Horizon near-space project. Outside of the school gates I play rugby for Walsall RFC and I love to travel.

The term wasted no time in getting going with the sixth form and year 7 induction days going ahead on the first day back; now both cohorts have fully settled at school, and it is good to see them enjoying their time at the school already. The new arrivals didn’t have to wait long get involved at QM with the launch of Team Horizon’s newest venture: “Sunchaser”-an attempt to catch a photo of the sunrise from near-space, and the opportunity to participate in the expedition to Tanzania this summer.

For me as Captain of school this half-term has been a ‘baptism of fire’ of sorts, in that perhaps the most difficult public address for any Captain of School lies within it, the speech at the Old Boys’ Dinner. However, overall the night was very enjoyable with old Marians from as recent as last year, to as long ago as 1954 coming together to celebrate the work of the Queen Mary’s club over the last year. Additionally, I didn’t mess up my speech, which is always a bonus.

This half-term has been one of many challenges for me, with speeches, presentations or jobs to do seemingly hiding around every corner. However, after the shock of capture, I think that I am slowly starting to settle into my role as Captain of School.

Autumn Term 2014 (October to December)

If the previous half-term was the frying pan, then this half-term was the fire. If I thought that I was settled and ready for anything that the role could throw at me based on last half-term, these assumptions were blown out of the water, but not necessarily in a bad way, because the busy half-term I’ve had is a true reflection of just how much has gone on at school.

This year the annual Speech Day had a new look, In that for the first time the evening service took place at school, rather than the town hall, with prize winners receiving their prizes in a morning presentation. Thanks to the unrelenting work of Mrs. Wood and an endless list of helpers the school hall was decorated superbly and laid the setting for a fantastic evening. As any Captain of School will tell you, compared to the speech at the Old Boys’ dinner, the Vote of Thanks on speech day is a walk in the park, and I thoroughly enjoyed relaying my thoughts on the evening to the rest of the school community.

For me the hardest weeks of the half-term came in November where I had to divide my time between the organisation of the school’s Fireworks event, a part in the senior production of ‘Goodbyeee’ (a compilation of First World War productions) and the Air Squadron Trophy competition with the CCF. Despite some stressful times the fireworks event made record profits, the production was a huge success and we placed 4th in the Air Squadron Trophy, which is the best result I have achieved in three years with the team, so all in all I was pleased with how this testing month went, and was glad to be through it and no worse for wear. The efforts of those who supported me are what I believed made all the difference in this challenging time of year.

The school also marked the centenary of the First World War in many ways other than ‘Goodbyeee’, and the CCF’s annual remembrance Sunday was impressive as ever, making up a third of the entire Walsall parade. A re-enactment of the 1914 Christmas truce football match also took place (the Germans coming out on top 1-0) and a visit from Tom Wyre, Staffordshire poet Laureate 2013-14 who shared some of his work with the A2 English Literature set, a workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with a published poet in.

Finally in sport for the half-term it was good to see the QMGS netball team secure their first (hopefully of many) victory over the high-school’s team. The house cross-country and rugby competitions went ahead despite some ‘adverse’ weather conditions. However one of the highlights for this term for me has been the success of the 1st XV who continue to produce outstanding performances and results.

The term ended on the perfect note, a thoroughly enjoyable final assembly before Christmas featuring a cameo from Mr. Hughes’ Skiffle Group and of course Mr. Matley’s quiz, now the stuff of Queen Mary’s legend. With next term being my last full term at Queen Mary’s I can only hope for it to be as full and enjoyable as this term has been.

School Captain’s Blog: January – February 2014

After what was hopefully an enjoyable Christmas holiday for everyone, it was nice to be eased back into the school routine with a teacher training day on Monday 6th and a 10 o’clock start on the Tuesday. That said, it didn’t take long to get right back into the spirit of things with the inter-house basketball competition. Regrettably I cannot remember which house won overall but I can say that it was a well-contested and successful event – the only unfortunate occurrence being an injury during one of the senior girls’ matches.

After winning the regional final earlier in the year, the senior maths team journeyed to London for the national final of the competition at the beginning of February. A night’s rest in St Pancras Youth Hostel saw the team ready to give their all the next day. However, despite our best efforts, a few minor mistakes ended up costing us greatly with Queen Mary’s ending up 28th out of 60 schools from across the country.

As far as exchanges go this term, a group of our students paid a visit to Spain at the end of January, looking forward to a week of sun and language practice. Unluckily for them the weather turned out to be worse over there than it was in England at the time, but reports from the group members have assured me that it did not stop anyone from having a good time.

Given that the government has put an end to January exams, this half-term was a much more relaxed one as far as sixth formers are concerned. Speaking of firsts, this is the only year of school I can remember without there being any significant snowfall; so that meant no snowball fights, broken heating systems or even a day off.

The final day of school saw the start of the trip to Huntsville in Alabama, the home of the United States Space & Rocket Centre. After meeting at 00:30 on Friday morning and a twenty-three hour journey later, we were ready for some rest at a nearby hotel. On the more tourist-style days we enjoyed watching an Ice Hockey game, going bowling, and shopping at the local malls. By contrast, our time at Space Camp was spent completing mission trainings, being spun around in a multi-axis trainer, or simply learning about NASA and space exploration. Overall it was a highly worthwhile trip as well as being memorable to say the least.

School Captain’s Blog: Autumn 2013 (Our New School Captain’s First Post)

Hi everyone, I’m Callum Macintosh and this is my first blog entry as Captain of School. To start off, I would like to introduce myself a little bit; I am currently doing Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths A Levels, with the aim of studying Mechanical Engineering at University. As well as being a hockey player, I am a member of the CCF’s RAF section, and generally enjoy getting involved with the wide variety of things going on in school.

It seems this half-term has gone so fast that there’s barely been time to take everything in, so here’s a few of the highlights: The German exchange went as successfully as ever, with a group from Biedenkopf immersing themselves in a week of English culture. Shortly after, the French exchange got underway as a group of Queen Mary’s pupils found out what life is like across the pond. Senior house Rugby took place just last week with Darby coming out on top, while the senior house Hockey competition has just the final (Aragon v Darby) remaining to be played.

The new year sevens (and lower-sixths) should be thoroughly settling in to QM life after undergoing their first Speech Day. One of the most enjoyable aspects for me was the musical entertainment on the day, both by the choir in St Matthew’s and by the performers at the Town Hall in the evening.

For me, this half-term will be remembered as having to write a multitude of talks and speeches, and I look forward to next half-term with a feeling of a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Furthermore, I can’t wait to see the completion of the new canteen and kitchen area, not least because it signifies the return to a fully functioning dinner service.

School Captain’s Blog: October – December 2013

I doubt a day goes by at Queen Mary’s without at least one competition, trip, or other exciting activity taking place either externally or within the School itself. You need only glance at Petypher’s page of the House Trumpet to gauge how much is fit in. The events dominating this half-term’s inter-house calendar were Table Tennis, Chess (which is still ongoing) and Cross Country. All seemed to run without a hitch and by the end of it Darby managed to come out on top. However, there is still plenty of opportunity for the positions to change with house points representing a large proportion of the overall scores.

After the one-week break, it was nice to come back to School to experience the fully-operational lunchtime catering service. Queuing was a bit slow at first, but soon became much more efficient and I think I vouch for everyone when I say the food is of a very high standard, with the Christmas dinner on the last Thursday being no exception.

A lot of musical talent was unveiled in the recent charity busking week which took place during break and lunchtimes. With notable performances from the likes of the QMGS Skiffle Group, a substantial amount money was raised for World Vision – a charity with aims to improve education for girls in less developed areas of the world. The annual Carol Service was as spectacular as ever, with memorable pieces from the Handbell ensemble.

Personally, I will remember this half-term for its Arctic Warfare weekend, which added itself to the long list of successful training weekends, thanks to the work and effort of Alex Jones and Reece Bhatoe. Driving back to Farchynys from Llanfachreth on the Saturday, we encountered a fierce rainstorm which felled trees, twice blocking our path. I think Mr Ridler is due some recognition for his completion of a fifty-point turn in a minibus on a narrow country lane during the storm, barely avoiding the need for a new rear tow-bar on multiple occasions.

The assembly on the last day proved a fitting end to another thoroughly exciting term. A return of the Handbell ensemble along with Mr Matley’s famed Christmas Quiz delivered entertainment for all the pupils before they journeyed home for an assuredly enjoyable Christmas break.

School Captain’s Blog: Summer Term 2013

The summer term for myself is one of huge importance; along with the rest of the upper sixth form due to it being exam season. The most stressful time of the year was upon us and even for the most laid back students such as myself, it was worse than expected. However, 7 years of work at Queen Mary’s all came down to these 2 weeks of exams and it was a huge relief for everyone when they had finished their last exam.

Unfortunately for many the book return day would be the last time they step foot in Queen Mary’s for this year and most probably for ever. However, the vice-captains and I accompanied Mr.Collins and the year 7′s on the annual wreath laying trip to London. We got to wear the Queen Mary’s uniform for one last time and pay tribute to the Queen who was responsible for creating this great school. The day itself was made even more special due to the warm weather we got, albeit sometimes a little bit too hot when in our blazers, in the centre of London.

It was been a privilege to represent Queen Mary’s as captain of school, fulfilling something that I said to Mrs.Wood on the first day of year 7. I have had 7 brilliant years at Queen Mary’s and it has taken me until my final year to realise how much of an influence Queen Mary’s has had on my life in terms of my morales, playing rugby and my overall personality and being captain of school has only added to that.

To end I would like to wish the new Captain of School, Callum Macintosh all the best in his role as Captain in the forthcoming year. I think he will be a brilliant Captain of School and a credit to Queen Mary’s and I look forward to hearing his speeches at Old Boys dinner in September and on Speech Day in October.

School Captain’s Blog: February – March 2013

So we came back from our February half term refreshed and raring to go, with the end coming into sight. The last half term really was the hardest in my opinion, finishing off all our A level courses, getting stuck into revision and finishing all the notes you somehow forgot to do earlier I the year. This was not helped by the ridiculously cold spring that we were having, with temperatures in and around school close to Arctic conditions.

The return to school saw a return to normality for many students, especially a group of 40 sixth form students returning from Alabama Space Camp organised by Mr Elsden and the French trip which saw Mrs. Sharpe take a number of students to Morocco over the half tern. Furthermore we were only back for 5 days before another trip set off, this time to the Rheindalen in Germany on a German exchange! The trips continued in this term with our CCF contingent, with trips Air Experience Flying and Gliding, the CCF CCCT weekend with the Territorial Army in Yorkshire and the annual CCF adventurous training weekend to Farchynys.

Unfortunately, by the middle of the half term, the big Siberian Freeze hit Walsall, and hit it hard. Temperatures fell to as low as -7 and all of the sports fixtures, rugby and hockey, got cancelled, no house sporting fixtures took place and even Project Horizon got cancelled due to the abnormal weather conditions. To the latter part of the term the snow hit, creating the huge drifts, hazardous driving conditions and perfect snowballing conditions. Unfortunately the term’s Field day also got cancelled due to this weather, for many of us this would have been our last ever Field day.

The last week of the term was upon us, and that meant open evening. Open evening had yet again been moved forward due to the changes in taking the admission test. So, on a bitingly cold Wednesday evening my vice captains and I stood in the entrance hall and outside welcoming people into our school, for the last time.

Then came the last day of the term, Thursday the 28th of March and the day I had been looking forward to since the start of the term. No, this was not because it was the start of 2 weeks of holiday, but because it was the night of the annual rugby dinner. This is an occasion where all the rugby players and many old boys and parents get together to celebrate this year’s achievements, but being 1st XV captain I also had to do a speech and it had to be funny, something a lot harder than people think. However the night went well and I wish to congratulate Josh Pepper on taking over as next year’s 1st XV captain and Gursant Singh for being awarded vice-captain. I am sure they will do a brilliant job and I wish them a prosperous season.

School Captain’s Blog: January – February 2013

The last half term is probably the hardest half term of them all, with Christmas still fresh in the memory of both pupils and teachers the mood at school was depressed and the weather was not helping either. The snow had begun to fall in Walsall during the first week of school, resulting in the closure of the school and another day and a half at home after our Christmas break, making my peers and I realise we were getting older when we didn’t get excited about the snow.

The oldest pupils at school were cursing the weather due to the January examination period. This was an important time for sixth form and one that saw sixth formers, including myself, trekking to school in the snow for their examinations. Once back in school after the snow days the sixth form got their ceremonial snowball beating on the field from the rest of the school, but for all the enjoyment we got out of the snow it took a devastating effect on the school rugby pitches thus meaning the house rugby competitions got cancelled along with all of the rugby fixtures.

Half way through the half term we saw the launch of the project horizon. Project horizon was a project that hoped to send a balloon beyond the realms of the breathable atmosphere into the outer atmosphere. The launch was a success and balloon went up a few thousand feet and floated away, eventually landing down in the Home Counties in a village near Reading. The space craft however could not be found and shot to fame in North Hampshire and Reading, as the BBC south team did an appeal on television for residents to help our school find the space craft. Unfortunately the search is ongoing and so do the conspiracy theories.

The end of term was one that the upper school needed with examinations really taking its toll, but in true Queen Mary’s style 6.1 pupils were not allowed to have a relaxing half term but ended the term with their post 18 pathways evening; an evening of UCAS talk, university talk and the dreaded A level talks, something my peers and I found rather amusing as we had been in that position the same time last year. The final few days of school saw Queen Marys undertook their ‘international in outlook’ prophecy once again with 6.2 mathematics pupils undertaking space camp in Alabama, America which was organised by Mr. Elsden. This saw them travel into Atlanta airport and become space cadets for a week, eventually passing out with their wings. Not only this but Mrs. Sharp led a languages trip to Morocco where pupils were able to indulge themselves in the Moroccan culture, experience camel rides in the Sahara and practise a bit of French as well. This term has already got off with a bang with a trip to Vigo, Spain and the last rugby game of the season and we have only been back 3 days!!

School Captain’s Blog: Autumn Half Term 2012

The start of my term as captain of school has been a manic one to say the least. I was thrown into the deep end straight away having to organise prefect rotas, a sixth form welcome morning and afternoon, a lower 6th form parents briefing and the opening of the Collier centre.

The Collier Centre was the building that every single 6th former was eagerly awaiting since its plans became reality early last year. The Bateman room is the 6th form common room, a room that blends modern, comfort and space into something anyone would be proud of. This new learning hub gives a new classroom and 2 smaller seminar rooms along with an 80 seater lecture theatre. This new building has been a breath of fresh air at Queen Mary’s and sparks the start of a construction year which has already seen the three geography rooms of S10, S11 and S12 be converted into 2 larger multipurpose science rooms. The second and third stage of development is under way, expanding S5 and S7 and the extension of the language block to create a new Geography department on top of the languages wing.

The manic first 2 weeks all seemed to lead up to that first nerve racking public speaking event at the Old Boy’s Dinner, a dinner that bring Old Marians back to Queen Mary’s to give thanks and express their gratitude to the school. Luckily my speech went down well with all the honoured guests and the night was one of my best experiences at Queen Mary’s.

In the first half term, there is always a mad rush for the QMA committees to get the meetings in order for their events. The fireworks committee have been working hard to get all their arrangements in order for their event on the 3rd of November, something I have been to every year. Being part of the planning of these events has led me to realise how much planning goes into these events that raise so much money for the school.

Of course, the last event that happened before the end of the half-term was, Speech day; a day that is said to be the most important for me, the Captain of School. The day that starts with a church ceremony and finishes with the prize giving at Walsall town hall. The church ceremony saw a new look choir accompanied with a full band and an engaging address by the Archdeacon of Walsall, the Venerable Chris Sims on the 11th commandment. Prize giving saw two talented musicians, Casey Tang on electric guitar and singer Paolina Adamo give us all the delight of listening to their amazing talents. The guest speaker was a Guardian reported called Luke Harding. Mr. Harding gave us all an insight into his life in Russia and how he got on the wrong side of the Russian Federal Security Service and eventually got thrown out. This day was one of the most rewarding days of my Queen Mary’s life, giving the first lesson in church and a speech on the night of prize giving made me realise how I have achieved at Queen Mary’s.