Prizegiving was held as usual at the end of term, on a gloriously sunny North Yorkshire day. Students had decorated the large marquee in the Stack Yard, which had also been used for the end of term assembly and a very successful summer dance the night before. A large number of parents and friends turned up to support the school in praising all those Fyling Hall children, whether they won prizes or not, who worked hard and threw themselves into sports and activities this year.

The Headmaster’s report is reproduced below:


“Mrs White, members of the Board of Trustees, parents and pupils,

I’d like to welcome Mr Clive Rennison, and to his wife Sandra. Clive was at Whitehall and Fyling Hall from 1971 to 1979. His two brothers were also in the school. Clive is Director of Co-Curricular education at the Royal Hospital School, which is where we met when we were both housemasters there.

Fyling Hall will be 90 years old this autumn, and remains as remarkable a place as it was originally. Mab Bradley kept it on course for almost 40 years, and since then it’s been the school’s great good fortune to have Clare White constantly involved. Mrs White is fond of saying that she has absolutely no legal status in the school, as if that would somehow stand in her way! She has been tremendously welcoming and helpful to me and to Katherine, and always willing to provide some impartial advice and the longer perspective. If Fyling Hall the movie were to be made, Mrs White would undoubtedly be played by Helen Mirren, though I imagine she’d audition for the role herself.

Three people have been head of Fyling Hall this year, and it’s appropriate to start by thanking them. Ken James was headmaster for nearly five years. He dropped in yesterday, is looking well, and enjoying living in Australia, and generally re-arranging it and telling them where they’re going wrong. My thanks also, and especially, to Dr Ian Richardson, who did a second stint as Acting Head in the spring, and, along with our estimable Bursar, has helped to guide me through my first term.

Because I’ve only been here a term, it’s hard for me to give you a review of the whole year, which would, in any case, leave little time for more than a list before Ted Gaffney starts coughing loudly and pointing at the Dining Hall. So I’d like to talk about just two weeks – the last two weeks of June, in fact.

After that I’ll ask Mrs White to dedicate the new school clock, and then we’ll move on to the prizes. I’ve been told by at least a dozen members of staff to remind prize winners not to wander off with the silverware at the end of the day, though the bursar says you are allowed to take the book tokens and cheques home.

We started our two weeks with a mistake, because we managed to put far too many things in and around the first of these two weeks, which also contained the school examinations. Let’s not go into whose fault that was – and, anyway, he’s only been here a term. There were also going to be problems because a huge sycamore tree overhanging the geography and English rooms had been condemned, and we had the huts out of use.

We started with the second of our camps at Bewerley Park, with a group of children learning bush craft, raft building and throwing themselves off an 8m pole to catch a trapeze. On the Monday the start of school exams at least made the lack of classrooms was less of an issue!

You’ll be aware that this term lots of people put a great deal of time and effort into refurbishing the Barn. Much of the work was done by Mrs Wormald, Mr Husband and the students. The result is a refurbished space which looks nicer, is easier and safer to use and shows our musicians and actors how much we value their efforts. It’s also a great place for school assemblies. During the first out these two weeks, we had two concerts, the first, on the Wednesday was mostly given over to drama. The next night there was mostly music, including some from visiting musicians and groups who performed with our pupils. Most memorable for me, was the foremost of our school bands, By the Sea, with the addition of a violin, a trumpet and a harp. Pupils who stray from the straight and narrow next term and fall foul of the headmaster, might console themselves with the knowledge that he shed tears during a Mumford and Sons song.

Obviously exams and concerts took up most of the week, so it was lucky that Mr Coates had only arranged three cricket matches. The year 7, 8 and 9 boys had what we might call a challenging season, and Aflie Husband brought the house down at the Friday assembly by starting his match report with the simple words “we won” We also had rounders that week and the next as well as athletics. The extent of effort and commitment from so many children as so many levels of ability is astounding. In a short space of time Sarah Taylor won two athletics events at county level, Thea Fenwick won two gold medals at the English Ski Championships in Manchester and Ryan Gibson made his professional cricket debut for Yorkshire at Scarborough.

On the same Wednesday as the concert, the Junior School held its Sports Day and Summer Fair. There was fierce but friendly rivalry throughout, and all the way down to the Reception and Year1 dressing up race. Special mention must go to Jenna Coleman and Gabriel Hodgeson, who have been excellent house captains, and led by example in continuing the tradition of older junior pupils looking after the youngest. My thanks also, at this point, to the active members of the PTA. The Summer Fair is just one of the many things they do to help the children during the year, another being the provision of tea and coffee (and a photographer) today, and we’re very grateful to them.

Via the Saltburn Music Festival and an entire coachload of boarders and day pupils going off to Flamingo Land, we now get to the middle Sunday of my fortnight. It rained. It rained really hard, in fact. This had not the slightest impact on the enthusiasm and competitiveness of the Fyling Hall World Cup, or even the BBQ afterwards, thanks to the grit and good humour displayed by all.

The next day was bright and warm and steam seemed to rise from the grass. It saw by far the oddest event of the two weeks – the launch of a ship on the grass outside the Junior School. As if launching a ship wasn’t odd enough, anyone watching from indoors would have seen children singing while wildly flailing their arms around their heads, watched by an invited audience similarly flailing their arms – the summer midge invasion had begun – only Miss Edwards didn’t flail, stoically keeping both hands on the accordion as the children sang What shall we do with the drunken sailor from the deck. (Some handy ideas for us to apply in the sixth form there.)

The wonderful singing, the poetry and the polished way that the juniors played host to their guests, were all a great credit to them and to their teachers. The tradition of excellence in the Junior School has been in the safe hands of Mrs Val Rowe this year. Mrs Rowe has been in the Junior School for three years, this last one as head, and she will be leaving us today. The send-off the Juniors gave her on Thursday was extraordinary. Mrs Rowe sets a high standard in the Junior school, and she expects the best from her pupils in class and out of it. Her organisation, calm and endless kindness and good humour gives the children space to work hard, enjoy themselves and follow their own enthusiasms. They also endear her to her colleagues, and she will be very much missed, but our loss it her grandchildrens’ gain.

From September Miss Stephanie Armitage, who is returning to the UK after teaching in Kenya, will take over as head of the Junior school and form 3 teacher – she has an awful lot to live up to, but I am sure that she will. I have also appointed Mr Adrain Batchelor to be head of Business Studies, and we will start to offer a joint Economics and Business Studies A Level from September.

The next day, the GCSEs and A Levels ended. We’d all like to wish the year 11, 12 and 13 children the best of luck with results and, good or bad, there’ll be someone here if you need us when they’re published. Good luck in particular to our Year 13 students. All nine of them have worked hard this year, and have good offers from universities to aim at. Particular thanks to Josh and Sandra for their work as head boy and head girl – they’ve done an excellent job and carried their fellow pupils with them in maintaining standards and levels of enthusiasm.

My chosen fortnight ended with two incredible events. Senior Sports Day here is very unusual – everyone does every event. It creates a unique atmosphere that combines some fairly intense competition with a lot of fun and a great sense of pupils supporting each other. Those who cross the line first get a cheer, but so do those who cross last, and the sense of valuing excellence while also enjoying mass participation is a running feature of the school.

Exactly the same was true the next day with the Daisy Hardy Poetry Competition. It took place to a background of chainsaw noise as yet more trees came down – not rot this time but preparation for replacing the sagging roof on the Art Room. All four categories, junior, intermediate, senior and international were contested at a very high standard – it’s not just that few prompts were needed, but that the poems were read with understanding, passion and flawless timing. The judges struggled with decisions, and no one was surprised that they did. The winners are worthy winners, but all of the participants did themselves great credit, and it was another event where mutual support and appreciation was as striking a feature as the high standard. My thanks to the English department for organising the event. One of their number, Mrs Barker, will be leaving us this summer to spend more time with baby Annalise. Heather Barker has taught here for four years, providing some inspirational and innovative teaching, being a valued tutor and running the Duke of Edinburg award and all sorts of other events. We’re glad that Lizzie Rowland will be joining us permanently as a replacement.

And that was two weeks – well, not quite, 35 children walked round to Ravenscar to see the seals on Sunday – the last in a very impressive year of weekend activities. My thanks to Mr Coates and the many staff who took part in them all and to all the staff who worked so hard on behalf of the children this year.

It’s not that my chosen two weeks were especially unusual, or that we had deliberately tried to make them busy, quite the reverse, it’s just the kind of school this is, and long may it remain so.”