RGS Bursary Campaign
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The RGS Bursary Campaign, supported entirely by voluntary donations, has supported almost 400 students since the campaign was launched in 2002. Currently, 82 RGS students are benefiting from bursary funding, the vast majority on a 100% bursary in line with our commitment to direct our finite funds to those who demonstrate the greatest need. The immediate practical impact is tangible.
And yet, if this story is to continue, long term, very long term, we need to grow the fund both in terms of financial strength and the numbers of bursary students. From the Penrith generation of 1939 - 1944, to the current day, Old Novocastrians provide valuable support to the Bursary Campaign, along with current and former parents and staff, local charitable trusts and North East businesses. We are grateful for every donation which we spend with great care. Please join us.
Chair of RGS Bursary Campaign
Sarah Bannister, a District Nursing Sister in the East of Newcastle and RGS bursary parent, talks about what a bursary meant to her daughter Ella Bannister.
It all came from Ella: it was her dream, her desire, her wish to come to RGS. As a single parent I’d always told her that she was bright, and empowered her to believe she could do anything, but she also knew that the transformational opportunities at RGS were beyond my financial reach. When she realised the bursary programme existed and this was her chance, she came home and thrust those details in my hand, determined she’d win her place at the school on her own merit.
I knew Ella had talent, but perhaps her work ethic is her most inspiring characteristic; she’s always reading, studying and making revision cards and her efforts have been rewarded with stellar results. She’s super-headstrong so I was surprised when she shifted her lifelong dream to be a dentist, to follow her love of English, Art and History and - at the direct encouragement of RGS to follow her heart – she’s successfully pursued her dream of reading History at Oxford.
I was blown away, when I realised that her education has been funded by so many small donations, mostly from Old Novos - individual gifts that have collectively funded her phenomenal journey at RGS.
I am so humbled and indebted to those who have invested in my daughter’s future. If I can ever repay RGS then I will, and I know Ella will honour our family’s gratitude by making an indelible mark on the world.
As a barrister, I find myself privy to some of the most intricate and interesting aspects of our society, and individual lives. For example, I am currently a junior barrister for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and have previously worked with more senior barristers on larger cases, including: the Supreme Court judicial review of employment tribunal fees; challenges to the legality of state benefits and immigration policies; and inquests investigating the role of our state in individual deaths.
Where does the RGS come into all of this? Well in truth, I have always had good grades and been argumentative (in a good way, I like to tell myself), but when I arrived at the RGS I was yet to learn how to apply those traits productively.
At RGS, my arguments were challenged by those who were more intelligent and articulate than me, which forced me to focus on the loopholes of my logic, pre-empting the rebuttal. For the first time, I was not merely taught the syllabus and how to pass an exam, but actually taught the subject; I was taught to think more broadly, to consider cultural and philosophical references, and to generally expand my horizons.
I now use these skills every day: for example, when I am digging for material to persuade a judge why a policy should be declared lawful or unlawful. I will often utilise broader philosophical, political and moral notions, all of which govern a surprising amount of our daily lives (political or otherwise). Or when I am cross-examining a witness: I try to plan several questions ahead, planting tripwires and nuggets of undermining material.
It would be a great injustice not to mention the people that make up the RGS. I attended the Sixth Form, which were two of the best years of my life, and certainly the best two years of my education. I have made lifelong friends, from whom I have learnt a great deal, and I am a better person for knowing them.
Being an ON is a lifelong affiliation, and I will be happy if I can give back only a fraction of what that affiliation gave to me. As a bursary holder, I know that I owe a substantial amount of my success to my time at RGS, and the generosity of the donor who supported my bursary.
One of the best gifts I ever received has been an education at RGS. I come from a single parent family and education was of huge importance for my mum. Unfortunately she could never afford the fees of a top independent school, but was encouraged to nominate me for a bursary place.
Thankfully, due to the generosity of Sir Peter Ogden (through The Ogden Trust) and The Hospital of St Mary the Virgin Trust, I was able to attend RGS on a bursary.
I went on to study at Newcastle University, gaining an Economics degree. On graduating, I entered the Financial Services Industry, joining a relatively small local finance firm. Whilst there, I became an expert in a relatively niche field of investments and wrote a textbook on my specialist area for the largest exam board in Financial Services, Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).
Currently, I work for True Potential, a Fin Tech firm based in Newcastle which works with around 20% of UK Financial Advisers and their clients. I am the Senior Pension Transfer Specialist within the Wealth Management division, and was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2017 from the Newcastle Chartered Insurance Institute, in recognition of my progress within the industry.
It was only after I started my first job that I began to realise how my time at RGS had helped me in so many ways: I had confidence, ambition, self-respect, and respect for others. All qualities instilled in me thanks to RGS. How different my life could have been if I hadn’t been accepted into RGS. I don’t think many young people consider the type of education they are receiving, how it can be different from one school to the next, or, what impact the quality of the education you receive can have on your life.
A bursary at RGS enables young people, like me, to access the very best quality of education, creating life-changing opportunities.
It is difficult to overstate what impact my RGS Bursary has had on my life and career.
I went to a state school until the Sixth Form, was always top of my class, and thought I’d have no issue getting a place at a top university. Within a few days of being at RGS, I realised that was a naïve view. At RGS, I was introduced to an environment where the calibre of teaching – and general conversation amongst students – was such that I consistently felt challenged, both in the classroom and in my extracurricular endeavours. I was taught by teachers who knew what I needed to do to get into top universities beyond anything I had realised, was surrounded by students who were engaged with current affairs that I had never experienced in people of my age, and was studying in an environment where I was encouraged realise my potential beyond what I thought I was able to achieve.
I left RGS to realise my dream of studying law at Oxford University. I graduated three years later with a First class honours degree and awards for two of my modules. Even if I had been able to get to Oxford without first moving to RGS, which is very far from certain, I wouldn’t have been prepared for the kind of academic study that was required to excel. RGS was a tough learning curve, but the work ethic it instilled in me has me set up for life.
In September, I qualified as a solicitor, working in the London office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, having spent two years on a training programme in both London and Washington.DC. I am now an Associate in what is widely recognised as the world-leading Competition Law practice, advising clients on antitrust aspects of their businesses. Even still, I owe some degree of responsibility to my time at RGS, which would not have been possible without a bursary. Ever since the RGS Economics tour, and in particular the visit to the then UK competition regulator, that I wanted to practise this area of law; and, had I not made the connections I did at RGS, and subsequently gone on to start my legal career at Square One Law in Jesmond, the door to City law firms would perhaps never have opened.
I am currently reading English at the University of Cambridge, and I was a bursary student at the RGS for Sixth Form between 2017-2019. Before Sixth Form, I attended my local state school and applied to RGS without much confidence in my academic abilities. While education is about so much more than finances, I’m keenly aware of the fact that I would not be where I am today without the opportunities provided to me in receiving a bursary to the RGS.
The greatest shock I experienced in coming to the RGS was the sheer number of resources available to me. In Spanish, I was used to learning set phrases in a crowded class to prepare for my exam, while at A-Level, I had weekly one-to-one speaking sessions. The English Department completely broadened my horizons and gave me access to any and all reading materials I needed for both my A-Level, and eventually my Cambridge application. In both of these subjects I had been used to sitting in classes of up to thirty-three students, whereas the small group teaching in Sixth Form allowed for teachers to give each student detailed feedback. Outside of my English Literature classes, I was a member of the Sixth Form Reading Group, in which I engaged in critical discussions about literature, fostering a passion for English that led me to apply to read it at undergraduate level.
In Art, it was astounding to have an entire department’s worth of resources and space at my disposal. I quickly developed enthusiasm for performance art, creating unique sculptural costumes with which to perform dances, and learning to edit videos for my final coursework piece. At first, having no oil painting experience, I tentatively took life classes in the hope of developing a new skill. I loved taking these classes, and through experimenting and painting anatomy I even used oil paint for my final exam piece. I never imagined I would be able to paint, let alone for my A-Level exam.
Some of the highlights have to include the times I performed in the theatre. I was part of four productions over the two years – Fiddler on the Roof, Arcadia, and Coram Boy as dancer and actress, Addams Family as co-choreographer. The latter was performed in the same week as my Cambridge interview – it was certainly a stressful one!
I also received tailored advice on my university application, something which simply was not available at my old school. In applying to Oxbridge, a student needs to be completely prepared for entrance exams and interviews as well as submitting a personal statement. The English Department gave me the courage not only to apply in the first place, but also to have confidence in myself through the application process. I am part of the first generation in my family to attend university, and am the first person to attend Oxbridge, something which I still cannot quite get my head around even now.
When I first arrived at the RGS, I was so grateful for these opportunities that I knew I had to dedicate every moment I had to making use of absolutely everything on offer. But I think it became so much more than that. Each time I walked through the RGS reception in Y12, I would always look at the display showing all of the bursary donors, just to remind myself of how lucky I was to be there, but one day I realised that I had forgotten. This was not because I appreciated the bursary any less, but because I knew that the RGS had become somewhere that I genuinely belonged. I was part of an academic community filled with likeminded students who each had their own ambitions and were driven to achieve whatever goals they set. It is in this environment that I felt myself truly thrive.
I walked away from the RGS with a place at Cambridge and 2A*s and an A in my exams (one mark off a perfect set unfortunately). More importantly, I was equipped with the skills I needed to succeed: confidence in myself, critical thinking, creativity, and a desire to learn.
My RGS bursary allowed me to fully access and experience all the opportunities the RGS has to offer without the financial burden and stress for my mother.
I never felt that my financial background separated me from my peers or hindered me from taking unmissable opportunities giving me the confidence to take these when I could.
I went on many school trips, from Classics to Biology excursions, I was part of the senior prefect team and the Classics prefect team, and I also gave back to the community by being a member of the Amnesty International Society.
The academic support I received both from the knowledgeable teachers and the resources available at RGS was absolutely critical, but it was the encouragement of teachers and staff who helped me apply to study Classics at Oxford, where I am today.
Being able to immerse myself in both the academic and extra-curricular activities not only developed my ability as a student, but it also gave me opportunities to connect with people who have varying interests and make truly wonderful friends.
The kindness and immense generosity of the donors whom I have never met are particularly inspiring to me, and I always endeavour to pass on this kindness to others and continue their generosity. I will be forever grateful to all those involved with the RGS Bursary Campaign and for the immeasurable help they have given me.
Without an RGS bursary, it would not have been feasible for me to study at the RGS, and for that, I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to the RGS Bursary Campaign.
It was my dream to become a doctor, and thanks to my bursary, I had the opportunity and support to apply to study medicine at Newcastle University.
The academic environment at RGS was both challenging and stimulating, with teachers being knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They were not only supportive, but very encouraging of my drams and pursuits. For this, a lot of my achievements are attributed to them. I wasn’t discriminated because of being a bursary student, which meant I could study on my own merits and had all of the same opportunities as the rest of my classmates.
I made lifelong friends; expanded my love of languages by learning Latin; joined unique clubs and societies, such as dance, choir and Amnesty International; was involved in school productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, The Tempest and Les Miserables; volunteered for The Bling Society; completed my Duke of Edinburgh awards; and went on invaluable trips such as the China Exchange, World Challenge to Ethiopia, and choir tours. All of this helped me become a mature and well-rounded person, and my love for global health has surely come from my experiences at RGS as well.
The kindness and generosity of individuals and associations who contribute to the RGS bursary campaign is inspirational, and receiving such kindness is humbling. Thank you so much, you really change lives such as mine, and I will be forever grateful to you.
It is lunch time and I’m sat in the lobby of an airport hotel with a paper and a tea. I’ve been sat here since 10am having already done a seven hour shift this morning. I’m from Gateshead; after my parents’ divorce, where my father left and never came back, my sister and I were raised in a single parent family. My mum did an excellent job of hiding us from any financial difficulties she might have had. Her parents, my beloved grandparents, until they both died helped us all physically and financially as much as they could despite their terminal illnesses.
I even lived with my grandparents for a few years and they were a fantastic inspiration to me. My mum raised me with a, ‘you can do anything you want as long as you pay for it’ attitude. Hence, from leaving school age, my younger sister and I grew up working alongside, studying and saving wherever possible. My dream was to be an airline pilot. As a five-year-old, I had a look in the flight deck and realised at that age that was all I wanted to do.
Next I find myself, at 16 with a great dream, lots of ambition, a part-time job and no way of knowing how to fund my dream. I learn quickly the cost of an Air Transport Pilot’s Licence is similar to the cost of a mortgage in the UK. Living in a council house with no chance of being able to apply for an unsecured funding makes that dream impossible.
I worked my socks off, working around school doing two (and often three) jobs at a time, 78 hours a week, every week, for years. I researched everything I could about the industry, applied for every relevant job, every scholarship and made friends that might help me.
At the age of 21, and with financial help from The General Electric Foundation, I paid for my own Private Pilot’s Licence and paid to keep it up-to-date; as much as it nearly killed me. I also paid to learn how to fly aerobatics with a world champion and to compete nationally. My grandparents and mum had taught me the only way I might make it was to persevere, no matter what. So, in addition to ‘the normal’, I volunteered at airfields, flew unusual aircraft, got in contact with aircraft owners and taught myself everything there was to know about general aviation.
Three years ago at the age of 26, I was chosen by my current employer, to be sponsored through a full Air Transport Pilot Licence. This morning for work, I reported in at 3.20am to fly a British Aerospace 22-tonne, turbo-propeller ATP to Jersey and Guernsey, to deliver the morning post. The view was fantastic, the captain was most helpful, and I really was sat in a cruise at 18,000 feet over London pinching myself and thinking, ‘This is the best job’.
There are very few women flying and I hear fewer ‘northerners’ on the radio, so I know I am in a minority. The other identical company aircraft flying a similar route also had a female colleague who is a captain flying with a male first officer.
Without the RGS bursary scheme, The Ogden Trust, The General Electric Foundation, The West Atlantic Cadet Scheme and the love and support from my mum and sister I wouldn’t be where I am today. These organisations paid my fees and helped me to feel accepted amongst an elite of wealthy young people. They encouraged me to persevere with my aim of being a pilot, regardless of my background or financial situation.
For the first time in my life, I had been awarded huge financial gifts, and only realised after receiving them how much more that meant to me. It was a fantastic feeling to know that there were people other than my family who were rooting for me to do well. They believed in me enough to pay, ask for updates on my progress and understood that even on the hardest days (on the brink of giving up during my A Levels), that there had been, and would be, others in my exact situation – from the highest academically achieving pupil in a state school to the lowest in an independent school (because the gap was so extreme), and that, in itself, was no reason to give up at the first hurdle.
After winning an iPad, I wrote a blog, which made me think about how I could get the job I really wanted. That in turn gave me the last drop of encouragement I needed to continue to be proactive in getting the job.
One day I hope I can give back the money and support to a deserving young person. I continue to volunteer in local schools, helping with careers advice, and to encourage young people, young women and in particular, those from single parent families to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects. I have received excellent feedback from the schools for which I am thrilled to bits.
I just want to share my story with you and inform you that, as long as I am able, I will continue to volunteer as a role model for young women who want to get into high achieving and/or male dominated work places.
Never give up on your dream: it will be worth it!
I was born and raised in Syria where I lived for more than fourteen years. I had a relatively peaceful childhood, spending my time between books, friends and family. Entering my second decade, the peaceful childhood shattered: life became catastrophe, devastation and fear. Until peace eventually came back into my life.
Having witnessed four years of the worst civil war in history I really thought I had no future left; until I decided to leave the country in 2015. Luckily, I managed to arrive in the UK successfully with my dad after a lot of effort and hard work. Then I could see that maybe I have a future again, something to work for.
With no ability to speak English, starting at a community school in North Shields was highly challenging. I would stay behind school for an hour or two every single day just to ask questions or to have something clarified. I am very grateful for my teachers who were always keen to help. Within two months I was able to speak English well enough to sit my first public GCSE exam and achieve an A grade. I made new friends and enjoyed doing so. A teacher at this school noticed me, and she saw in my hard work the potential to be at RGS. She advised me to apply and told me about the bursary scheme. I could not be more grateful to her for this advice.
RGS allowed me to explore many things I cannot imagine being able to explore elsewhere, at that stage of my education. For example, the Plus Programme on Tuesday afternoon where we had a lecture about life-related advice: financing, cooking, inspirational talks and much more. This kickstarted the journey to learn many skills that I found essential later on. I realised the importance of extracurricular activities at RGS where everyone has many! Not only did the extracurricular activities made available by RGS strengthen my university application, they were also a great way to look after myself and take some time off the hard work. In addition to the excellent academic teaching, there is the outstanding career advice from the careers department.
I was enlightened at RGS by having the opportunity to be more involved in literature and to enrich my cultural integration in this country by exploring work by national icons such as Shakespeare, Beckett and Stoppard. I was also able to visit theatres in London, including Shakespeare’s Globe, during a school trip. Thanks to the bursary campaign I was able to get involved in this, which is one of my best experiences at RGS. Being a student of science, I vitally needed this exposure to literature and humanities. The necessity of humanity and literature to everyone is a strong belief that I hold right now, and this need for humanity is something I am an advocate for at university.
I was delighted to be made an offer to study medicine at Leeds. I thrived during my first two terms, spending my time between studying, swimming and hanging out with friends on the weekends. The early clinical exposure to hospitals and GP clinics allows me to consolidate my scientific learning at lectures. The weekly anatomy classes and clinical work sessions on campus expands my knowledge of the human body. I particularly enjoy anatomy and find it the most interesting aspect of the course. One of our modules (IDEALS: Innovation, Development, Enterprise and Leadership, Safety) encourages us to be more reflective of our daily experiences and events that make us feel happy, sad and other emotions. As a result, I have become more self-aware of my feelings. In addition, the rich cultural diversity at university strengthens my connection with many parts of my identity. For example, students from all over the world are proud of who they are, at the same time accepting each other’s differences. Personally, I find it more comforting when I go to the prayer room with my fellow Muslim students instead of going on my own.
Growing up in a war zone, and having experienced medical emergency at first hand, I have realised and understood the vital role of a doctor to society. This is why I love studying medicine at university right now. An experience that RGS is a main contributor to.
The RGS has enabled me to fly!
Music has always been a massive part of my life, and played a significant part in why I applied for a RGS bursary.
My previous school sadly didn’t have great music provision; we didn’t even have regular rehearsals for choir. Looking round RGS at an Open Day, I remember the orchestra performing and knew immediately that I wanted to come to this school. One of the Music Teachers took time to speak to me and my mum and reassured us that bursary support might be available.
I didn’t know what to expect of the school, but from the very beginning, I had a brilliant time. My Upper Sixth buddy looked after me during my first few weeks, and became a good friend throughout my time at RGS. I got involved in a variety of activities, including choirs, orchestras, cookery club, trampolining, voluntary service and plenty more. There was so much choice, and if there wasn’t something, you would be encouraged to set something up! I was also supported to go on school trips, travelling abroad for choir tours and to see Shakespeare plays.
My self-confidence grew as I was given the opportunity to take part in music and sports I enjoyed, and also took on the role of a Prefect, which came with plenty of responsibility. I also volunteered within the Junior School and at a local primary school; I’m sure these experiences influenced my career as I now work with children in choirs and music lessons. I applied to study Music at Oxford University and gained an Organ Scholarship at Worcester College, something I don’t think would have happened without the great teaching and support I received at RGS.
After graduation I later went on to complete a Masters at the Royal College of Music. I now work in London as an Organist, Conductor and Teacher, and am passionate about broadening access to music for those who would not have the opportunities otherwise.
Some of you will know bits of my story, most will not. In amongst the smorgasboard of negative parenting which my mother displayed while I was aged between six and 15, she did two things of real benefit to my future; applied for me to go to RGS on a bursary, and persuaded me to join the Combined Cadet Force (CCF).
My home life throughout this time was quite turbulent with my mother often a passive witness to her boyfriend’s abusive behaviour towards me. If anyone were to ask English Teacher, Chris Goulding his opinion of me when I was in his form in Year 8 I feel that, “Oik” would be the first word to be used, I regularly wound up in fights with the other boys in my class and I lost count of how many yellow slips I received. In short I was bringing problems from my home life to school with me and I had a chip on my shoulder about the fact that everyone around me seemed to have an easier ride than me with loving and affluent parents who acted in the interests of their children.
At the start of Year 9, my mother persuaded me to join the CCF. I rapidly realised that it was a way for me to avoid spending weekends at home when my mother’s abusive boyfriend would be present. As such, I embraced my time in the CCF with gusto, attending every combat weekend, Self Reliance weekend and summer camp which I was able to (unfortunately money at home was too tight to attend Easter Camp as well). Through this I became friends with many of the people whom I had previously had a chip on my shoulder about as, at the end of the day, when you’re lying down in a ditch at 1.00am in the rain you will accept a chocolate bar from almost anyone. I had a great many adventures with these people throughout my time in CCF, notably David MacFarlane (04-11), Matthew Deakin (04-11), Richard Oliver (03-10), Eliot Dayan (04-11), Sam Bates (01-11), Christopher ‘Tiff’ Heasman (06-11), Jamie Robson (01-11) and Matthew Walton (04-11) as well as various peers from Newcastle Central High School, most notably Lucy Davidson who gave me the courage to speak to Mrs Stewart about what was happening at home which enabled me to end the abuse and move in with my dad.
The other main benefit of my time in CCF was that it sparked a love for the hills and mountains, both those in Northumberland and further afield, along with an interest in radio communications which secured me a pre-university placement with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, however that is another story.
When I arrived at Loughborough University I promptly joined the University Mountaineering Club there and on my first meet we ventured up to Pavey Ark to do a scramble called Jack’s Rake in torrential rain. My only previous knowledge of this crag was David Greenhalgh telling us not to get our navigation wrong on the way past Pavey Ark as “that is climber’s territory and if you find yourself up there you will die”. This all lent a great sense of novelty to the adventure, my boots had puddles in them and I doubt there was a dry stitch on my body despite wearing a full set of waterproofs, but I was hooked!
Since then my passion for this absurd hobby has also taken me all over the UK, Europe and even to Australia and Morocco! Many of these adventures have been facilitated by several mountaineering clubs (notably the Oread Mountaineering Club, The Northumbrian Mountaineering Club and The Climbers’ Club) where I have made some of the best friends I could possibly wish for, learned a huge amount about myself and fed my desire to explore the wild places which our beautiful country, continent and planet have to offer.
Without my bursary I would likely never have joined the CCF, without joining the CCF and doing Duke of Edinburgh Gold award, I would not have been equipped with the basic skills necessary to safely enjoy the mountains in an independent fashion and therefore would not have introduced so many other people to the beauty of the mountains. I know more than most that the mountains can be a threatening and dangerous place, having witnessed 2 horrific accidents, found the results of a third and been rescued by helicopter once, but they are also a refuge from my memories of the horrors I experienced early in my life and I feel that I ought to thank a good number of current and former staff for this priceless gift: Rob O’Hagan, John Camm, Emma Malcolm, Phil Barlow (81-91), Mike Barlow (53-64), David Greenhalgh, Jo Greenhalgh, Ned Rispin and Gareth Dunn.
In 1982 my mother was faced with a daunting issue on behalf of her son - accept the offer of a full scholarship for seven years to the King’s School Tynemouth, or accept a (paid) place at the prestigious Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Times were tough - my parents had recently separated and money was a bane of (court) contention. But fortunately I have a mother who believes in what is right, and sees the bigger picture regardless of how tempting the daily snapshot may be.
And so, knowing she had a son who (clearly!) had his wits about him, she left the decision to me. I chose the RGS. I knew it was the ‘better school’, not because of its standing in the top independent schools list, but because it would expose me to a life that I had not yet experienced. A part of me knew that I would have my eyes widened and my brain challenged, although at the time I had not imagined a life different to the one I had. I also did not think of the cost my education would bear.
My father did not support my decision, sadly, nor did he contribute to my education from thereon in. But with support from the courts, and a new central government Assisted Places scheme, I was able to enjoy an education as good as anyone could get in the UK. I know my mother fought tooth and nail to keep me in the RGS. And the RGS supported me all the way through, providing support above and beyond what would be expected of any school, unbeknownst to my fellow pupils at the time.
And 30 years since that pivotal decision, I find myself in Singapore, where I first moved to in 2004, very happily married to my husband of 7 years, having enjoyed a long career in ad agencies as a global strategist for the likes of Samsung and Unilever, and now with my own global marketing consultancy, Remarkability. I have circled the globe 100 times over, and had my eyes widened much further than they were ever intended, I’m sure! Life has been extraordinary and never dull.
So please believe me when I say my life would not have been the same without financial assistance to take my place at the RGS. Programmes like the RGS Bursary Campaign changes lives. And attending the RGS changed mine.
My starting point at the RGS was in 1952 at 11 years old. My family lived across the river in Low Fell. As it must have been for many new starters, it was quite an experience to come from a small local school and suddenly find yourself among hundreds of pupils of all ages, in an environment with imposing buildings and an extensive sports area.
In the 50s, you encountered boys; yes, it was entirely boys at that time, from Durham, South Shields, Tynemouth, Jarrow, Shotley Bridge, Blaydon, and a host of other places. The school certainly provided an output for self-expression in areas we had barely heard about, let alone had the opportunity in which to participate.
The sports programme throughout the school years was incomparable, slogging around the Town Moor being a major feature. One of the activities that really got us together was the School Camps held in Race Week. I went to Wensleydale and Littondale, and later, to a survey camp on the Isle of Eigg. Many of the teachers spent their holiday time supervising these camps, assisted by ONs. How invigorating the camps were, the long walks during the day to appreciate the beautiful countryside, and the camp fires in the evenings. Many of those boys are still close friends today and how priceless that is.
One of the most striking aspects of the school was the quality and dedication of the teachers. They were an extraordinary group of individuals whose teaching was stimulating and proficient. Not only were there core subjects, but we were fortunate in having options such as Woodwork, with Bill Elliot (52-88). We first made towel rails and then progressed to bookcases. One boy made a complete hash of a fine piece of wood: “What are you doing boy, wood doesn’t grow on trees you know!”
One of our Summer Holiday assignments in Geography under Laurence Meaken (31-74) was to carry out a survey of our home area. Three of us went around every company in the Low Fell Trading Estate: floor tiles, glass, carpets, engineering, Hunters the Bakers and De La Rue. It opened our eyes to the working world. In the last day or two of each term it was the tradition to do something recreational. Once,Colin Hunter (48-76) brought in his record player and put on some classical music for us to listen to; he was trying to get us to appreciate something he obviously loved himself. MG Robinson (34-72) our English Teacher was a master of benign sarcasm.
One day in class I was squinting through the window, lining up a tree with a lamppost. Suddenly, I was interrupted by MG saying, “Walker, would you kindly read us the second verse of the poem we are studying; of course, when you have finished your optical experiments!” Jimmy Herdman (22-66), French Teacher, used to vacation in Corsica in the Summer Holidays, and would tell us stories of the local life, transporting us to an exotic world. In the Sixth Form, I was fortunate to take Engineering Drawing under Colin Dales (50-84). I still have some of those drawings with three projections. Little did I know that designing things would be something I would still be doing 60 years later, the only difference being that I now use CAD software rather than a drawing board, pencil, compass, and protractors.
After the second year in the Sixth Form, I took the Cambridge University entrance exams which required staying for another term. Several teachers helped make it worthwhile: MG Robinson with Poetry lessons, Cecil Marfitt-Smith (32-70) teaching about Picasso and how to paint posters, and ‘Willy’ B Macro (36-62) teaching extra Maths.
I was accepted to Cambridge University to read Mechanical Sciences and still have the vision of going there for the very first time and seeing all those ancient college buildings. Even when I visit today, there is still a magic about it. After Cambridge, I spent three years as an Engineering Apprentice at George Angus (now Dunlop) on the Coast Road, then did a PhD at Leeds University on the Lubrication of Human Joints. I was then recruited by a Surgeon from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where I started designing artificial joints. After that I worked at other prominent institutions in the USA and England. My present and probably final job is Professor at New York University, with positions in Orthopaedics and Mechanical Engineering.
This year, I had the honour of receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the USA Knee Society. Looking back, the experience at the RGS provided a solid foundation for a Cambridge education and for my subsequent career. Last year, my wife Wuliang and I visited the RGS. Wuliang, who came from an academic background in Beijing, studied Molecular Biology, and worked at a research faculty at New York University was very impressed with the school.
For me, remembering what the RGS was like when I was there, the changes that had occurred seemed remarkably progressive. Wuliang and I are more than pleased to make a donation to the Bursary Campaign. We hope that our gift can support talented students of tomorrow to receive the type of education at RGS that I so much benefited from.
I provided some bursaries way back, indeed before the official launch of the Bursary Campaign. It’s not widely known because at the time I chose for my gift to be anonymous, but I don’t mind revealing this now if it encourages others to contribute.
Here’s how it came about.
I attended the first ON Newcastle dinner shortly after the Blair government scrapped the Assisted Places scheme, it was the first time I’d been back to the school since I left in 1970*.
In his speech, the headmaster, James Miller, told us about how this decision would impact the RGS. He was very worried. A substantial proportion of the school intake benefited from that scheme, which enabled bright boys from poorer backgrounds to come to the school. I was shocked by the effect it would have not just on the school, but on the North East as a whole: RGS pupils made such an important contribution to life in the region at every level, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if only the children of the rich flowed through in the future. When I was at the RGS, it was a direct grant grammar school and without that support my parents could never have sent me there. Most of my friends from that time benefitted from grants too.
After the dinner, I took James aside and offered to provide bursaries for 3 boys for their entire 7 year schooling. In return, I had three conditions: my gifts would be anonymous; I wanted copies of all their school reports so I could see how they were getting on; finally, the RGS should establish a Bursary scheme with the aim of providing bursaries to at least 97 more children, making 100 in all. Funding would cease if the school failed to do this. James agreed.
I still have some of their school reports. One even wrote me the sweetest thank-you note when he eventually left the school for a very good university (I don’t think he ever knew my name, but I treasure the letter).
I also have a letter from James dated October 2000, enclosing the boys’ reports, where he promised that “raising enough money for bursaries is going to be a major objective in the next few years”. The ON Bursary Campaign was launched after that.
*I was with two ON friends (neither of them were actually at school with me - between us we spanned 21 years at the RGS). On a whim, we had dared each other to go to the dinner — it was the first time back for all of us. We spent a wild weekend staying in the Copthorne (I know, ‘wild’ and ‘Copthorne’ are not frequently used in the same sentence), driving around our old haunts - getting misty eyed over the sight of the Long Pier at Tynemouth, the locations of our first trysts with reluctant girlfriends, — we behaved like naughty schoolboys. Paul Campbell was one of those friends, and the trip clearly had an effect on him, for he upped sticks from London and moved his family back to Northumberland, started a business in Gateshead and became an RGS governor. I stayed down south, went to Hollywood, and only returned to Newcastle ten years later (I’m back working in California now).
I have given to the RGS Bursary Campaign since it began in 2002.
I was educated here myself as a student from 1973 to 1974 when the Direct Grant system was in operation. Without the grant my Dad would not have been able to afford my place.
To be honest, I came aged 8 as a Geordie Gateshead boy with a few chips on his shoulder about the rich kids he was mixing with! The Junior School years were difficult but I found my feet and then came to immensely appreciate the teaching I received, the brilliant people I met and the opportunities I was given. I experienced what the Bidding at the old Founder’s Service spoke of – staff with ‘understanding hearts and love of sound learning’.
So, I partly give to the Bursary Campaign out of nostalgic gratitude for what the RGS did for me and the desire for members of the Geordie tribe in a similar situation to mine to experience the same.
As someone who leans somewhat to the left politically I have some reservations about the independent system and see the point in critiques such as those of the Sutton Trust about entrenched elitism. It would be great, would it not, if all schools could provide an RGS quality of education appropriate to the needs of its students?
But this is not an ideal world in any way and while things are as they are, I believe access to the RGS for the materially less well off needs to be maintained. A 21st Century school with as broad a social mix as in my Direct Grant days will be more balanced for all concerned and go a little way to aiding social mobility. The Bursary Campaign helps to facilitate this.
I can’t be all that anti private schools, as I have worked at RGS in some incarnation or another for 40 years. Staff do not
generally know which students are on bursaries and rightly so. Having said that, sometimes we do get to know and I have
often been struck by how much bursary students appreciate being here and make the most of their time. Some of
their stories are published in ONA Magazine and they make moving and inspiring reading.
The RGS in 2019 is a different beast from the one I joined in 1963. However, it is still a great place and can still claim to be – in the words of the now defunct School Song – the ‘School of the North’ and potentially a ‘Mother and Maker of men (sic)’. I give to the Bursary Campaign to help enable young people to access the
opportunities it affords.
From 2000 to 2007, I was given a gift - an education at Newcastle Royal Grammar School.
Coming from a single parent family, my Mum wanted to give me the best possible education, but couldn't afford the full school fees. After successfully passing the entrance examination and interview, and with thanks to the generosity of Sir Peter Ogden (through The Ogden Trust) and The Hospital of St Mary the Virgin Trust, I received a bursary which allowed me to enter RGS.
This may be the first time that many of my peers reading this will be aware that I was the beneficiary of a bursary, but I am so grateful and proud that I was able to be educated at RGS. Not only was the quality of education exceptional, I was given responsibilities, and gained a confidence and self-respect which I do not believe I would have gained elsewhere. This confidence and awareness of my abilities and the opportunities open to me in life; have been the foundation of my career to date.
Now, eight years after leaving the School and successfully passing an Economics degree at Newcastle University, I work for True Potential, a Newcastle-based financial advice network with 420 advisers around the UK, as a Compliance Officer - one of a team of three staff tasked with assessing the suitability of high risk business to protect both clients and the company. My previous role at another Newcastle-based financial advice firm was as an Investment Analyst, with oversight of £100 million of client assets and managing a research service with over 10,000 users. Last summer, I was told that I had the most impressive CV the interviewer - a senior manager at a large accountancy firm - had seen from anyone under thirty.
RGS instilled in me a work ethic which has been reflected in my career achievements to date. None of this would have been possible without the quality of the education I received at RGS, and RGS would not have been a possibility for me without the offer of a bursary.
Collectively, the Old Novocastrians could make a huge difference to someone's education and life, and I sincerely hope that you will join me in making a donation, however small, to allow another young person, just like me, to be given the opportunity of a life-time.
You can support us by donating to one of the followings funds:
Could you help disadvantaged children from across the North East with their education? We welcome donations of all sizes to fund our means-tested bursaries. By donating £13,164, you'd be supporting a bursary-funded child for one full year of their education.
You can donate through one-off gifts, standing orders, grants from charitable trusts and foundations, company donations and legacies. Download a legacy notification form if you wish to leave an amount in your will. Your company may also be able to gift match your donations, please enquire to find out more. If you would like to donate regularly, please download and complete a pledge form to set up a standing order.
You can also donate directly online at the bottom of this page.
If you currently live in the USA and would like information about tax-effective giving, or for any other queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We are very mindful of the potential impact that national measures to address the pandemic may be having on our families' personal finances. Undoubtedly every family will have been affected to some extent but, we know of some families experiencing severe financial difficulty.
In addition to our Bursary Campaign we have established a Hardship Fund. We encourage anybody who can make a contribution to any of the above funds, whether big or small, to either contact our Development Director, Susan Beck, at email@example.com or to make a donation below.
Hardship Funds will support our Bursary families who are particularly vulnerable, or current RGS families in significant need at this unprecedented time.
All such donations are payable to the Royal Grammar School Educational Trust (registered charity 508285) and are eligible for Gift Aid for UK taxpayers. Any surplus from the Hardship Fund will be allocated to the RGS Educational Trust's General Bursary Campaign Fund, unless you notify us that you do not wish for this to happen (please use the comment box below).
We are incredibly fortunate that the RGS has such a strong community of parents, staff, pupils and Old Novocastrians and we are grateful for your continued support to ensure that we all get through this very challenging period together, your gifts will make a significant difference to the lives of others in a moment of crisis.
Cathedral Pew Campaign
You've done it! Thanks to your generous donations, we've already managed to crowd fund the £2,000 needed for the cost of the pew, its transportation to RGS and the cost of a plaque. As a result of this, we will no longer be taking donations for this particular campaign. Huge thank you to everyone who donated, we can't wait to see the pew in its new home.
The school is grateful to hundreds of individuals, Old Novos, parents, charitable trusts and companies who have already made gifts to the campaign and helped us to raise over £7.3million and provided bursaries to over 375 children so far.
To celebrate the first 10 years of fundraising for the RGS Bursary Campaign, a report was compiled to mark this significant milestone.
The following individuals and organisations have been made Fellows of the Royal Grammar School Educational Trust by the Governors of RGS due to their commitment and substantial support in making a difference to less advantaged children and their families:
The Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust
Christine and Brian Daglish
The Northern Rock Foundation
Susan and David Ratliff
Garfield Weston Foundation
The Benfield Motors Charitable Trust
Dr Bernard Trafford
The Advani family
The Reece Foundation
The Sir James Knott Trust
Peter and Wuliang Walker