What do satellites look like? How do satellites get into space? How do you make a water rocket? These are some of the many questions hurled in the direction of technology expert Tim Rogers during two weeks of space and science master classes at Bradford Grammar School (BGS).
Squeals of delight from hundreds of children from West Yorkshire’s local primary schools have drifted across from the sports fields as they’ve launched water rockets into ‘space’ at the end of each session.
Tim, of Future Transformation, is a STEM Ambassador and sits on various technology boards across the Leeds City Region. “There’s been a real buzz and excitement this past fortnight,” he says. “The children have had a great time. It’s inspiring to think that we might have lit a spark in the engineers and scientists of the future.”
“BGS alumni include Olympic medallists, prominent artists, entrepreneurs and politicians.”
BGS has been inspiring young people since the mid-sixteenth century. It is a place where enquiring minds are nurtured, where students feel at ease with excellence and are encouraged to be the best they can be.
On campus, tradition meets innovation as seen by recent investment of more than £6m. The grand Price Hall – often likened to Hogwarts by some of its imaginative Junior School pupils – sits alongside a state-of-the-art library and outstanding sports facilities.
BGS alumni include Olympic medallists, prominent artists, entrepreneurs and politicians. But regardless of career trajectories, each student leaves having being part of the BGS family, a diverse and inclusive community which gives them a supportive springboard into adult life.
Dr Simon Hinchliffe, headmaster at the school, says: “We are not a stuffy or elitist institution. While we have an esteemed history, BGS is rooted in Bradford, a diverse community with a big heart. Exciting things are happening here, such as the bid for City of Culture status. We are proud of our Northern roots and our students leave school as grounded, confident individuals with a desire to give back.”
“We are not a stuffy or elitist institution.”
It is the desire to help others from less privileged backgrounds which sees alumni donate to the school so generously every year. Bradford is the fifth most deprived area in the UK, with almost 50 per cent of all children living in poverty. With disadvantage deepening, access to a BGS education represents a transformational opportunity for the young people on its doorstep to make the most of their potential.
BGS was one of the country’s leading direct grant schools until the scheme was phased out from 1975. Its successor, a Government funded assisted places initiative, was abolished when New Labour came to office in 1997. BGS then created its own fund to meet a continued and growing need for funding. Today, the newly launched 1662 Campaign for Assisted Places has raised more than £1m, with aspirations to double the number of assisted places at the school over the coming years.
Tech entrepreneur Mark Richer was one of the last recipients of Bradford Metropolitan Council’s direct grant scheme, and has supported the education of 55 BGS students, making him one of the school’s largest donors.
Asked what BGS gave him, he says: “It meant that when I went to Cambridge, I wasn’t under any illusion that I was the smartest person in the place. It spurred me on to be better than I would have been and gave me a realistic view of who I was. No one was particularly held up high at BGS and people didn’t lord it over others, whether it was about money or intelligence.
“It meant that when I went to Cambridge, I wasn’t under any illusion that I was the smartest person in the place.”
“Giving back to the school is simply about doing the right thing. Anyone in my position would do it and it’s fantastic to see the students’ progress.”
One recipient of an assisted place, Charlie Kelly, has recently taken up a place at Cambridge University to study engineering. She wants to be an inventor.
“The place at Bradford Grammar completely changed my life,” she says. “It opened up the world of learning to me. It’s not just about the quality of education, it’s who you surround yourself with. If you’re in a school that cares about learning, you will succeed.”
Dr Hinchliffe says: “We’re extremely grateful to all our Old Bradfordians who donate to the fund, so others can enjoy the same education they did, irrespective of background. Our alumni and corporate benefactors don’t just support us with funding, they are an active part of school, giving talks to students and taking part in events. Our BGS family stretches across the entire world.”
Just as alumni give back to the school, BGS is keen to share its time, talents and wonderful resources with other children and schools, and has an active partnerships and outreach programme.
“Students learn about the positive power of giving back through opportunities to fundraise and volunteer.”
Matt Wilde, BGS’s head of PE outreach, leads multisport coaching sessions at St Walburga’s School and in partner primaries while there are annual high-profile author visits, where authors will talk and take small group sessions for large numbers of BGS students and many other local children.
Ben Edmonds, the principal design engineer with Dyson, recently held a design innovation challenge for dozens of youngsters, while every May, local primary schools come together on the BGS sports fields for the Brownlee Foundation’s Mini-Triathlon. The Brownlee Foundation events were set up by Olympic medallists and former BGS students, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, so they could give something back to the community.
During their school journey, students learn about the positive power of giving back through opportunities to fundraise and volunteer. Typically, 150 Year 12 students register with Vinspired, a UK volunteering charity, and complete more than 1,500 hours of volunteering between them. It includes volunteering as classroom assistants at several local schools and sitting with pupils to listen to them read. A group of willing and able Year 13 students also support young carers who arrive in school every Thursday as part of a Barnardo’s mentoring scheme.
“The young people of our region have so much potential.”
Dr Hinchliffe adds: “These opportunities aren’t simply tacked onto the curriculum, they’re part of a profound and integrated learning experience. It helps our students call out wrongdoing and injustice when they come across it. The personal qualities BGS fosters in our children cut across academic disciplines. It’s about compassion, empowerment and being able to imagine a brighter future, and that they have a part to play in that.
“For us, building and sustaining relationships remains part of our heritage and behaviour, bound to our identity and place within inner-city Bradford. Now, more than ever, there is an obligation to work together for the benefit of the young and through these partnerships and by widening access, we seek to remain a good neighbour in Bradford for generations to come.”
As the children at Tim Rogers’ space master classes can testify, a BGS experience can be out of this world.
“The young people of our region have so much potential,” he adds. “We want to show them what they can achieve. Today we’re building rockets, tomorrow who knows?”