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Principal's Newsletter

December 2019

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Dear Parent/Carer,

I would like to send my very warmest greetings and best wishes of the season to you and your families.  I trust that when the Christmas holidays eventually arrive you will be able to celebrate the birth of our Saviour with those you love.

Since I arrived in September, I have spent my time developing a deep understanding of the school and its strengths.  I have watched every single teacher teach and am very impressed by both the standards of teaching and learning which is being delivered across the school and also by the excellent behaviour I have seen around the school.  The pupils and students have impressed me as being incredibly courteous and friendly, and I have felt very warmly welcomed by them. 

The co-curricular offer we make at Ripley is extremely important, and I am very grateful to my colleagues for   providing such a rich range of opportunities for our young people outside the normal classroom lessons.  I would ask all parents to encourage their children to get involved with all the activities the school offers, whether it is sport, music, drama, DofE, or cadets, to name but a few.  These activities really help young people gain essential skills which help them grow into the well-rounded adults we want them to become.  Please ask your child what they are doing, and if the answer is “nothing” then maybe you could find a few minutes over the Christmas holidays to look at this page on the school website to find some inspiration:

Moving onto new roles are Mr Aaron Campbell (ICT technician) and Mrs Sarah Woodvine (French and Spanish); we wish them well with their new career plans.  Mr Andy Owen (RE) has retired and will leave a big gap at Ripley, after having worked here for 38 years.  Mr Ian Janes (ICT network manager) is also leaving us to start his retirement. We wish them both long and happy retirements.

As well as wanting our young people to participate well in the life of the school, you will also be very familiar with the school’s emphasis on the importance of reading.  The parents’ section of the school’s website gives you lots of ideas for good books which will interest your child.  Please consider putting a good book into your child’s Christmas stocking this year!

The later part of the autumn term is dominated in the teaching world by the publication of league tables.  I’m delighted that we have maintained our position as one of the top non-selective schools in Lancashire and, because Lancashire is such a big county, this means we are one of the highest performing schools nationally.  Ripley continues to provide an excellent education to our young people, and this is something that I am determined to continue.

The autumn term is also a time when year 6 children’s parents make applications for secondary school.  Again we are heavily oversubscribed with over five applications for every place we have available.  I am very pleased by the obvious confidence our local community have in our work.

This term we have welcomed the following colleagues to the Ripley family: Mr Cameron Aveyard – Ripley Scholar, Miss Lindsay Benson – Music, Mrs Ema Blechynden – English / Sociology, Mrs Laura Cooper – Science, Miss Chloe Demetriou – Maths, Miss Emily Hirst – Subject Leader Maths, Mr John Holmes - Ripley Scholar, Mr Lee Foxcroft – ICT Network Manager, Mrs Cath Knight – Lead Practitioner English, Miss Rebecca Maddox –History / Geography, Mrs Rachel Newsham –English, Miss Georgia Payne –Teaching Assistant, Mrs Joanna Rice - Assistant Progress Leader, Mrs Joanne Shaw - Teaching Assistant, Miss Ellie Vedick – English and Mr Jacob Woodland – Science.

Christmas Services

  • Our Christmas services take place in the morning on Friday 20 December as follows:
  • Year 7 will be staying in school and having a service in the chapel. 
  • Year 8 will be staying in school and having a service in the Phythian Hall in the sixth form centre.
  • Year 9 will be going to St Paul’s, Scotforth; pupils should come to school as normal and register at 8.45am. They will walk up to St Paul’s with tutors.
  • Years 10 and 11 will have their service at The Priory and should meet there for 8.40am. Pupils will walk back to school accompanied by staff.
  • Years 12 and 13 will have their service at St Thomas’s and should go directly to church for 8.40am.

School Buses

School will end at 12.25pm on Friday 20 December.   

  • The following buses will be available outside school at 12.25pm:  500, 501, 502, 582 and 935, and the 581 (across the road). 
  •  The 503 Kirby Lonsdale bus will be outside school at 12.35pm.
  • Pupils should go to the bus station for 55 and 80 services.
  •  Pupils should go to Scotforth Road for Garstang, Catterall and Blackpool services.
  • The 487 (Travellers Choice) will depart from Ripley at 1.25pm or Common Garden Street at 1.40pm.
  •  The 567 (Archer’s) will depart from Common Garden Street at 1.40pm or Ripley at 1.50pm

Car Parking

Our neighbours, Lancaster Medical Practice (Rosebank Surgery), have written to us in relation to the parking situation at their site which is of significant concern to them.  Staff and patients have reported difficulties in parking around the area of the surgery and in their car park, especially during school drop off and pick up times.  This often means that patients, some of whom have mobility issues, are unable to park and access the practice services, and it impacts on the ability of staff to support patients, particularly if they are required to leave urgently due to a patient emergency.  They also have concerns about the dangers to other road users and pedestrians when cars are parked on double yellow lines, or double parked with other vehicles.  Please be mindful of these concerns and drop off or collect your child further away from school, always ensuring that you park legally.

Firefly for Parents

We are delighted to announce the launch of Firefly for parents.  Firefly is our virtual learning environment which pupils use to see their lesson resources, homework, timetable and many other things.  Now you will be able to log in and see these resources too.  You will also be able to see basic contact information and let us know if there is an error in our records.  You will log in using the email address that you provided to school in your contact details.  Instructions for logging on to our cloud based system are given in the link below.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by Parentline

Year 11 Mock Exams

The first set of Year 11 mocks have taken place over the last week.  Mock exams are vital in giving pupils the opportunity to practise exam skills, especially time management, and in helping teachers to assess progress.  It is very pleasing to note that pupils have behaved impeccably throughout the exams.

Sixth Form Examinations January 2020

We are providing a formal examination period running from Monday 13 January until Friday 17 January for sixth form students. 

During this exam week, lessons will be suspended and students will have study leave, with the requirement that they attend school to take their exams.  The Sixth Form Centre will be open for students to make use of our excellent study facilities. 

Each student will be given an individual examination timetable.   Please note that the first exam session starts at 9am.  During the exam period, students must adhere to the Sixth Form dress code and wear ID badges.

Mock Election 

On Wednesday 11 December we held a Mock General Election to give our young people the chance to experience what it’s like to vote and to have their say.  Thanks to Lancaster City Council who lent us some of their polling equipment to help make it as authentic as possible for our students. 

Thanks to Year 12 and 13 students Faheema, Ben, Antonio, Jack and Daniel who stood as candidates.  We had an impressive turnout of 72%.  The result was a win for Labour!



French Speaking Boot Camp

In the first week of November a group of key stage 4 and 5 students of French took part in a ‘Speaking Boot Camp’ in Paris.

During the mornings the GCSE pupils worked hard preparing for their speaking exam with Ripley staff, focussing on the role play, photo card and general conversation aspects of the exam. Meanwhile, our A-level students went to lessons at the ‘Lycée Buffon’, giving them the opportunity to experience life in a French sixth form school, and to immerse themselves in French - following two hours of economics in French is no mean feat! The rest of the group were fortunate to be able to visit the lycée one afternoon for a guided visit by some students. This allowed us to observe the differences, but also see the similarities, in ‘la vie scolaire’.

In the afternoons we visited some of the many attractions that Paris has to offer: highlights were looking out across Paris from the top of The Arc de Triomphe; shopping on the Champs Elysées; and seeing ‘La Pyramide du Louvre’, Notre Dame and Les Tuileries. We were very excited to visit ‘Les Catacombs’, as we had studied this macabre attraction in Year 8, and the ‘Bateau Mouche’ boat trip on the Seine gave us chance to rest our tired legs! Of course, a trip to Paris is not complete without visiting ‘La Tour Eiffel’, and we were very fortunate to go all the way up to the top of the tower at night. The lights and the view were amazing!

Each evening we ate at different restaurants, allowing students to practise their French by ordering their meals, as well as trying out new foods such as ‘Tarte Flambée’, and to soak up the atmosphere of Paris.

We had a wonderful time in Paris, and our students have returned to Ripley with the enthusiasm and confidence needed to help them achieve in school. ‘Paris, c’est la vie!’


Art - Community Cohesion

Under the direction of Mr Fox, our Art Technician who is also a volunteer at the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service centre, pupils have been working on an art project with clients from the centre.   They have almost completed a composite piece similar to this which is in on display in Lancaster infirmary.

We hope to display the completed work in school in the new year.

Farm Club

Members of the Farm Club  have enjoyed  5  weeks  of  hands  on  time  with  large  and  small  animal  interaction  and  observation, during November and December.  They groomed ponies and used the training arena to spend time with Sheena and Hamish, the Shetland ponies and Sunny and Harvey our ponies and had more interactive time with our 3 Alpacas. Cuddling the rabbits was very therapeutic and lots of fun.

They have tidied up the greenhouse, ready for planting in the spring, made sure that the bird feeders are filled up and tidied up the pond.  We definitely have some budding farmers on the horizon.



Y7 and Year 8 students battle it out for top of the class with Times Table Rock Stars!

Our youngest students enjoy practising their division and multiplication skills in a weekly 'battle' with other classes in their year group. Since September, an incredible 305,093 games have been played, with students battling it out to win monthly certificates for their class or as an individual player.

The title for most trophies won this term goes to Miss Montgomery / Mrs Beeden's Class - 7J3 who have won all of their battles - well deserved!

Across years 7 and 8, the fastest 'timestabler' award goes to Dorian P (Y7) and the greatest Lifetime Earnings goes to Esther T (Y7). Well done!

Y12 Mathematicians to attend Florence Nightingale Day at Lancaster University

Year 12 mathematicians will be attending a Florence Nightingale enrichment day at Lancaster University on Thursday 9 January 2020.  This is part of an enrichment day to encourage budding mathematicians and statisticians to consider taking these subjects at university. Students will attend a full day of activities, talks, a quiz and careers advice to inspire them to further their studies.


Success at Senior Team Challenge!

Congratulations to M Walls, I Mort, B Davey and D Coates who attended the Regional Heat of the Senior Team Maths Challenge on Friday 6 December and achieved second place!

They competed against more than 20 other schools, tackling extremely difficult maths problems and puzzles, impressing the organisers so much that they have been rewarded with one of the few reserved places for the National Final on Tuesday 4 February. We wish them luck in this next round!


As ever, this term has been very busy for the Music Department, with a broad range of performing opportunities, both in school and further afield.  The year started with a large number of our pupils taking part in the Lancaster Priory Festival song, including a lunchtime concert given entirely by Ripley singers, and a vocal masterclass with a professional opera singer for Year 11 pupils P Heywood and E Blewitt


The Chapel Choir also sang choral evensong as part of the festival. Evensong continues to be a regular feature of the worshipping life of the school, with the Chapel Choir singing this centuries-old service fortnightly during term time (all are very welcome to attend); we were delighted that choristers from LRGS and LGGS were able to join us for this on Thursday 28 November and are already planning a repeat visit in the spring term. 

Alongside our singers, Ripley instrumentalists have been similarly busy, kicking off the year with a September performance for the jazz band as part of the Lancaster Jazz Festival.  A sixth form jazz trio (S Virdie, C Connolly and J McAllister) also featured in the line-up for the Lancaster Music Festival, entertaining a very appreciative audience in the Butcher and Tonic.    

In October we held our first music exchange with Gymnasium Waldstraβe (Hattingen, Germany). The project was a fantastic success, with pupils from the two schools collaborating to make music as a unified ensemble. Concerts were held in Lancaster and Hattingen to celebrate the new partnership. We also had the opportunity to learn about life in our respective countries and to explore the local area. The exchange demonstrated how music can bring people together and highlighted how much we have in common. Pupils have kept in touch with each other and we understand that many are exchanging Christmas gifts and arranging to visit their exchange partners. We look forward to the next music exchange, taking place early in the new academic year. 

Music ExchangePop-up Choir

Another new venture for 2019, we asked for volunteers from Year 10 to form a pop-up choir to sing in Nazareth House nursing home during the October PSHE day on social action.  This group entertained the residents with a range of songs, including a set of Beatles songs which were particularly well-received.  After the performance, we walked into town to sing for shoppers in Market Square.

Also new for this academic year, the Creative Collective is a project working with external partners which is designed to fuse traditional musical instruments and electronics to create unique live performances. As part of the process, pupils have been learning how to use specialist music software, try different approaches to music composition, and develop their performance skills. We look forward to hearing the results at future concerts. 

The biggest event of the term was our annual Christmas Concert where all of our main ensembles and choirs performed to a packed audience in the school hall a massive variety of music, from Telemann to Shakin’ Stevens!  Highlights of the evening included superb solos from B Pollitt (Yr 7) and E Hobbs (Yr 9), as well as an excellent quartet of sixth form violinists, an ensemble made up of twenty-five guitarists, and a debut performance from our newly-formed Brass and Percussion ensemble. 

Well done to all our musicians; we are extremely proud of all that you are achieving. 




Spring term musical dates for your diary: 

Tues 17 December, 7pm Carol Service

Thurs 16 January, 4.15pm  Choral Evensong

Thurs 30 January, 4.15pm Choral Evensong

Thurs 13 February, 4.15pm Choral Evensong (joint service with Chapel Choir of Stonyhurst College

Thurs 27 February, 4.15pm Choral Evensong 

Thurs 12 March, 4.15pm Choral Evensong 

Thurs 19 March, 7pm Taizé-style service 

Thurs 26 March, 4.15pm Choral Evensong 

Thurs 31 March, 7pm Spring Concert  

Science Club

The year kicked off with what seems to be becoming a tradition - mentos and coke.  We put a twist on this and carried out an investigation to find which type of fizzy pop makes the highest fountain.

We celebrated Biology Week by extracting DNA from frozen peas; carrying out an investigation into woodlice behaviour; and marked Halloween by making “milk stone” shaped into bones and blowing the faces out of carved pumpkins. The seeds from these have been saved ready for planting in the spring in the science garden.

During November we had visitors leading two weeks of activities.  Lancaster University Physics Department came in and ran a particle physics workshop in which the club built cloud chambers to view muons, electrons, and even the odd alpha particle. This was a great event, and is normally reserved for KS4 and above, but our students were engaged and enthusiastic throughout the whole event, asked thoughtful questions and impressed us all with their knowledge on the subject.

Our second visitor was Rachel from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, who gave a presentation about her research in marine biology. The science club were shown photographs and videos of the wonderful places Rachel has visited for fieldwork.  They were introduced to the different methods of recording data in the field (or under the sea in this case), and played a fun game to finish the event. Rachel was a true inspiration to the students, with two members telling us they now want to be marine biologists, which was great to hear.

We now have two tanks full of science club “pets”. Following months of the students asking for sea monkeys, we now have a tank of baby sea monkeys, along with a tank of orange tropical woodlice.

The last two weeks of term brought us lots of Christmas themed experiments including making “snow”, bird feeder baubles, and crystal decorations.

After the Christmas holidays, we will be completing the Global STEM Bronze Award, carrying out delicious pancake experiments, and going on our annual Science Club Trip; all very exciting.

Sixth Form Enrichment

Enrichment has got off to a flying start this term, with Year 12 and 13 students having the opportunity to engage with a huge range of exciting groups and activities, allowing them to explore their interests and build new skills.

Our careers academies continue to offer students valuable insight and experience in three different sectors. Aspiring Healthcare students have been discussing current issues in the NHS and evaluating some of the causes of issues such as bed blocking, 'post code lotteries' for treatments and reduced recruitment and retention for some healthcare roles.  A number of pupils have been successful in gaining work experience placements, whilst Year 13 students have been busy preparing for interviews for courses including medicine, adult and child nursing, radiography, pharmacy and midwifery.

Our Aspiring Engineers have been working with a professional engineer to investigate the feasibility of all cars being powered by batteries. This is a challenge but there are many advantages to the environment and health as well as reduced fuel costs. Challenges that have been identified include increased electricity generation, huge demands for Lithium to make batteries, and convincing the public that the range and charge times are actually more than good enough to meet the needs of modern life.

The Aspiring Teachers have been studying key aspects of teaching and learning as well as researching the role of the teacher.  Students are enjoying their placements in secondary classes and primary schools, and some are even involved in the organisation of school nativity plays! Meanwhile, students from both year groups have been independently undertaking a wide range of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) including courses on everything from forensic science to video game design to management and leadership!  

Students in the Eco Group have been working hard making recycled (and recyclable) Christmas gifts to sell in order to raise money for Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service, whilst the Social Sciences Ted Talks group are preparing for their version of the ‘Pepsi Challenge’, developing their understanding of eating and food perception in the brain.

Year 13 Film Production students have been working on a stop motion animation using Lego models mixed with live action to produce a film inspired by the classic TV children's programme Mr Benn, and Year 12s have just begun their second project, a spoof of a John Lewis Christmas advert.  Creative Writing students have been looking at areas such as writing flash fiction and using unsolved mysteries and song lyrics to inspire narrative ideas, and students in the Law enrichment group took part in a seminar where they applied their knowledge of the law to come to decisions about real legal cases. The Politics Society has, understandably, been dominated by discussion and activities around the upcoming election, and five members of the group have done an excellent job of standing as candidates in the school’s mock election. 

Finally Year 13s who are currently working on their Extended Project Qualifications enjoyed a trip to Manchester University to make use of their excellent library facilities for independent research and to take part in a workshop on critical thinking and project management.

Year 13 Future Planning

There is a palpable buzz around Sixth Form with the arrival of offers for university courses. Students have applied to study a wide variety of subjects from medicine, veterinary and law to international business with a year in industry to equine therapy and rehabilitation. There is a steady stream of students heading out to interview for design courses, nursing and teaching, having benefited from the support offered through our Careers Academies and in-house experts. We also have nine students invited to interview at Oxford or Cambridge before Christmas and have welcomed the input of external specialists this week to provide them with practice to aid their final preparations.

Many Year 13 students have active apprenticeship applications at present and are making it through to online assessments and video interviews, staging posts on the long journey to securing a valued apprenticeship. Some of our students are beginning to formulate planned Gap Years and fill us all with a sense of adventure. Into the New Year, our dedicated team will continue to encourage all our students to secure a pathway post Sixth Form.

Sporting Highlights Autumn Term 2019

Congratulations to B Hughes, (Year 9) for an amazing performance at the UK National Scooter Championships, finishing in 11th place at only 13yrs old!


Our boys’ football teams enjoyed good English Schools FA cup runs with Year 11 reaching the third round, eventually losing 2-1 to The Nelson Tomlinson School, and Year 8 losing 7-6 on penalties to West Lakes Academy in the fourth round.

The U13 girls’ football team reached the final of the Morecambe FC Community Cup, eventually losing 2-1 to Carnforth in the final which was played at half-time during the Morecambe FC vs Carlisle FC EFL Division 2 match.

Year 8 Boys ESFA team
U13 Girls Community Cup Football finalists

Table Tennis

Congratulations to the following: J Dennison (Year 8) who represented England Table Tennis at the Euro mini championships in France - a fantastic achievement and an amazing experience for him; A Dennison (Year 9) who, along with his brother,  was selected for the England Table Tennis Aspire and Hopes training squad; and J Felton, A Dennison and A Walsh (Year 9) who represented Lancashire Table Tennis.  Our U16 girls and the U16 boys table tennis teams became Lancashire Table Tennis Team Champions 2019, qualifying for the zone finals.

U16 Girls Table Tennis Team
U16 Boys Table Tennis Team


The Holland Hockey tour, involving over 30 girls on a 5 day tour to Upward Hockey Club, Arnhem, Netherlands, was another brilliant success.


The Boys’ swimming teams have set their gala season off to a winning start with a 156-148 win against Bolton School.


Congratulations to Year 11 rugby players J Bonia, B Dobson, L Mather and I Quarry who have been selected for the Sale Sharks Developing Player Programme along with J Bradshaw, M Higginson and R Midgley (Year 9).

The Year 11 Rugby team recorded excellent wins against LRGS, Stonyhurst and Audenshaw before eventually losing to Manchester Grammar in the Lancashire Cup competition. 


Train to teach at Ripley

Ripley SCITT: we are recruiting for trainee teachers in a range of subjects, including RE and a part time Science route which are both new for 2020. We also have new primary teacher training courses, including a part time route (so that you can continue to earn while you train) and Primary Maths, which attracts a £6000 tax free training bursary. Please see our website for more details


As the busy autumn term comes to an end we take this opportunity during Advent to reflect on the true message of Christmas, I would like on behalf of all staff in the school to wish all parents, pupils and students a Happy and Holy Christmas with every best wish for a prosperous and successful New Year.

With best wishes

Mrs Gill Jackson





December 2019 

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December 2018 

September 2018