OCR Bursaries Success

We’re delighted to announce our bursary winners for 2021. Fifteen of the West Midlands’ most talented A Level students, who are about to start as undergraduates at the University of Cambridge, have won bursaries to support them during their studies.

These exceptional students, who are due to begin their degrees at Cambridge next week, will receive a bursary of £3,000 from OCR for each year of their undergraduate course. The bursaries help students to make the most of their time at university and reduce worry about money during these exceptionally challenging times. Now in its 18th year, the OCR bursary scheme supports students from the West Midlands going to Cambridge due to our historical links with the West Midlands Examinations Board. This year sees the largest number of bursaries we’ve ever given out to students across the region.

OCR Chief Executive, Jill Duffy, sent a special message to each of the students today. She said: “It’s a huge honour and privilege for us at OCR to support such a talented group of young people with our bursaries. As well as their outstanding academic achievements, these young people impressed us in so many other ways. They’ve grasped every opportunity they’ve been given, they’ve been role models for their schools and colleges, and they’ve shown amazing resilience.

“The last two years they have faced during the pandemic have been like no others. Times are tough for young people and we decided to offer more bursaries this year – fifteen in total – than ever before. I hope this support will go some way to helping each of the students to achieve their goals at university.”

Congratulations to all our amazing 2021 bursary winners, which included:

Adnaan Ilyas who attended King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys in Birmingham

Adnaan Ilyas said: “It will definitely enhance my time at university and allow me to make the most of this opportunity.”

Applications for OCR’s bursary scheme will re-open in spring 2022.

Focus on Education September 2021 No.4

Some worrying news for you today, I’m afraid. At some stage this week, possibly as early as tomorrow, the United States is going to be invaded. By aliens. They are massing right now, as I write. Trillions of them. Not millions, trillions. Preparing for an initial assault on 15 States, from Georgia to Washington, and targeting the capital, New York. Worryingly for America, there is absolutely no defence against these hordes.

Not that they haven’t had time to prepare though. When this massive army attacks in the next few days, it will not have been unforeseen. America’s top scientists have been predicting this alien arrival for nearly two decades. Seventeen years to be precise; that is how long they have been warning about the onslaught. Pinpointing the timing of the invasion to within a week. This week.

You should be afraid. Just like every Sci-Fi movie you have ever seen, these alien invaders are terrifying to behold. Large, bulbous red eyes on the outside of their head. Not one but two sets of jaws, like pincers, protruding from their face. They communicate with each other in a deafening high-pitched shriek that drives humans crazy. Waving six black spiny limbs, and wearing full-body exoskeleton armour. Yet once they land, they become shape-shifters, with the ability to change their appearance. Hideous. Scientists who are monitoring the advance have named them The Brood. Are you scared yet?

No need to be. Unlike all those Sci-Fi movies, these aliens won’t be descending from outer space. Instead, they will appear in your house – often in the bath or shower. For they are just spiders. All a bit futile really.  Running around the edge of the bath often in pairs, but nothing to be worried about. It is the time of year when they head in doors and in our house, I have to relocate them back outside after a few shouts and screams from my daughter and wife!

I am sure you weren’t actually frightened. Unless you have a fear of spiders, in which case, I apologise. However, seeing my daughter’s and wife’s reactions to each and every spider in our house (to be fair some are quite big) did make me think about how easily we become fearful of the unknown. Understandably so, as our brains are hard-wired for it. Thousands of years of evolution have taught us that it is better to be cautious than curious.

Hence, we get scared at the prospect of potentially hostile aliens. Until we discover they are just familiar spiders. At which point, our anxieties die away, and our brain says, “Move on – nothing to fear here.”

At the moment, there is so much talk about fear amongst our generation. It is dressed up in different words these days, anxiety, worries, concerns, stress, even poor mental health. But the underlying theme is that we have become increasingly anxious and unsettled because of the pandemic.

I am sure, to a degree, that is true. This has been a massively disrupted nearly two-year period and some people cope better with uncertainty and change than others. I am equally sure that much of it is over-hyped by the media, who, let us face it, know that fear sells their product. If the human brain is wired to be anxious about the unknown, it will naturally try to do two things. Constantly scan the horizon for new, unfamiliar (and therefore potentially scary) things. And then seek to understand them, so they aren’t frightening any more.

Unfortunately, the media know that they can get our attention far more easily by presenting a fresh set of new things to worry about every time we log on, rather than by offering reassurances. It is easy to find a hundred stories today that predict the pandemic is going to ruin our lives. Journalists happy to claim (with very little evidence) that the lockdowns and School closures have left the world’s teenagers broken, lonely wrecks. That cancelled exams have most likely guaranteed that students are all going to be homeless, broke, and miserable by 30.

The pandemic has been calamitous for many people. Those who have lost loved ones, or who were severely ill themselves. Those who have lost jobs or income. Those who have struggled with isolation or loneliness. But it is all too easy, when you are constantly bombarded with stories of sadness for others, to start to catastrophise ourselves. To get increasingly anxious without really questioning why.

So, if we do find ourself feeling agitated or uneasy at the moment, we should take the time to question exactly what it is that we are worried about. May our fears always have names.

My point is that it is all too easy to lump all the things that challenge us into one huge mass of misery. Life can be challenging at times and there is no doubt the pandemic has added more burdens this past year or so. But the way to deal with those challenges is to call them out, one by one. To identify and then deal with them individually.

There are no faceless cyborgs invading America. Just perfectly familiar, if somewhat irritating, spiders finding their way into our homes at this point of the year. Likewise, there is little cause for anxiety over not knowing what a global pandemic might mean for us anymore. It is now just a series of smaller, more manageable irritations. Cancelled exams, annoying bubbles, too much time stuck at home. Name the things you fear and you immediately diminish them. Describe them and you start to control them.

Give your brain what it really wants – answers, not more questions. Good mental health is not living a life with no challenges. Good mental health is being able to deal with the challenges that life inevitably hands us. Turn your anxieties from aliens to spiders, and you are halfway there.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird

LAMDA Results Summer 2021

We have just received the LAMDA results for the exams taken in July. They are testament to the hard work and resilience of our students and their LAMDA teacher Mrs Reynolds.

Student Name

Year Group Exam Award
Jayden Naik 8G Speaking in Public Grade 2 Merit
Faaris Alam 9W Speaking in Public Grade 4 Distinction
Hayden Lightfoot 10A Solo Acting Grade 4 Merit
Mustafa Shaik 10A Speaking in Public Grade 5 Pass
Hariikishan Nemal 10A Speaking in Public Grade 5 Distinction
Danyaal Zabir 10A Speaking in Public Grade 4


Benjamin Whiteoak 10G Solo Acting Grade 3 Distinction
Bradley Osadebe 10H Speaking in Public Grade 4 Pass
Yusuf Akhtar 10N Solo Acting Grade 3 Distinction
Dylan Guiney-Bailey 11G Solo Acting Grade 6 Bronze Medal Distinction

Two students who took their exams in July and have since left HGS received a Merit and a Distinction:

Cameron Amin (formerly 13PO) received a Merit for his Solo Acting Grade 6 Bronze Medal.

Jakub Szczecinska (formerly 9N) received a Distinction for his Speaking in Public Grade 4.


Focus on Education September 2021 No. 3

I imagine you were as struck as I was by the down-to-earth charm of 18-year-old Emma Raducanu. She was as incredulous as the rest of us over her spectacular and unprecedented rise to fame in the US Open, and equally remarkable was her natural poise in front of the camera. She comes across as a thoroughly nice person and I very much hope that she will not have her head turned by her sudden riches and all the media attention. She has the very real potential to be a fantastic role model for hundreds if not thousands of young tennis players not just here in the UK but globally. A real leader and example to others.

There can be a fine line between natural self-confidence and arrogance, and I am pleased to say that at HGS our students are often commended for the former. This perhaps stems partly from the healthy challenges which we set down on their path, and partly from our encouragement to get involved in activities outside the classroom, to try out new things and to learn from the experience. Some will still waver in their self-esteem and at times need to be convinced of their abilities and their potential. Some also need to be reminded of their many personal qualities and to understand that an element of self-doubt is actually quite normal and helps us to become stronger as human beings. And those who appear outwardly the most sure of themselves will undoubtedly have their own insecurities too.

Leadership in a school takes many forms. It can be the moment that a Year 9 student offers a helping hand to a Year 8 student who has fallen in the playground. It can be the time when a team Captain encourages his or her players to dig deep and score the winning goal against an equally matched opposition. It can be using one’s initiative and looking to invite outside speakers to the school. It can be deciding to go the other direction on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition as the rain beats against you and other members of the team have becoming exhausted.

Within the community, everyone has an opportunity to lead at various times. One of the greatest strengths of HGS is the variety of activities that we offer in addition to those related to the subjects studied. Our teachers, working with their Heads of Department, will plan a variety of trips and activities that are designed to augment student’s learning. Students may find themselves being inspired by the Ski Trip team up a mountain, on the Football pitch, at Whitemoor Lakes or in Paris or Berlin (when we can travel abroad once more).

In all these situations, students will often be required to lead, as well as required to follow. And it is the job of teachers here to guide them in how to lead effectively, with compassion, and with respect. Leadership is not shouting to get the person in front of you to do what you want. Leadership is not being arrogant and abusing a position of authority or preferment of prestige.

No. Leadership is about caring for those around you, and making decisions in their best interest, sometimes having to do so knowing it won’t always be popular, but always communicating with those who you support. Over the course of a student’s career at school, we will encourage them to lead, and guide, we will support and coach them.

The culmination of their time at HGS may see them take on leadership roles in their house or year. It may see them as sports captains for example Cricket or Football. Schools will each year appoint leaders of the entire community. At HGS, these are called Senior Prefects. We will expect our Senior Prefects to lead with compassion, kindness and respect. We will expect them to have to speak truths in an uncomfortable circumstance. We will expect them to hold up the rules and expectations of our school. But ultimately, we want them to be here for their fellow students.

It is absolutely right that we should encourage our children to be proud of their achievements, yet never to be boastful. Indeed, humility is one of the finest qualities we could hope for in them and one to respect and admire in others, wherever they appear in any hierarchy.

 “Well rounded individuals, confident but not arrogant, such a good reflection on the school.”

This is feedback we have regularly received in the past about our students. I will finish where I started and that is talking about Emma Raducanu. She has all the hallmarks of a great leader and is someone to look up to following her win in New York. The individuals who leave us are our finest ambassadors: a great credit to the school and also to their parents.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird

Virtual Open Evening

UCAS Information Evening 2021

Focus on Education September 2021 No.2

Those of you who had an eye on the news over the past few weeks may have followed the progress
of Hurricane Ida, the latest mega-storm to hit the United States. You will know that it caused
widespread destruction and a tragic number of deaths as it tore up the country in ten days of chaos.
Ida came ashore in Louisiana and rampaged all the way up the Eastern states, even claiming lives in
New York. There was no escape.

The problem with hurricanes, especially those huge ones that strike Central and North America
every year in late Summer, is that it isn’t easy to move out of their way. They go where they want to
go and, although you might be able to evacuate yourself beforehand, you can do nothing to keep
your livelihood, your house or business or farm or possessions, from being hit. If you live on land
that is in a hurricane’s path, you have few options.

It is a bit different if you are at sea though. In the days before Ida struck the American coast, the
massive storm was forming out over the Gulf of Mexico. Sucking up energy from the ocean, and
driving huge waves and gale force winds ahead of it.

There were plenty of people in its path there as well, but the difference was, they could move. The
Gulf of Mexico was peppered with boats of every size and shape last month. Pleasure craft, cruise
liners, container ships, yachts, super yachts, oil tankers, even oil rigs. Yet they all heard the early
warning alerts and scrambled to get out of the way. Seized the chance to up-anchor and make for a
place of safety. Usually, headed for a port. A safe harbour, in which they could drop their sails,
power off their engines, batten down the hatches. Whatever their purpose had been out at sea,
their priority shifted to protecting their crew as the storm passed. Sensible. My question for you
though, is this: Where are those boats now?
Because thousands of boats avoiding Hurricane Ida is not a bad analogy for how we have all
responded to the ravages of the pandemic. Wherever you may have been over the past 18 months,
in your own homes in the UK or in any other country, you and your family have hunkered down in
your own safe harbour. Sheltered in place.

Just like that flotilla of vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, we were all lucky enough to get some advance
warning of the impending storm that COVID brought, and we took cover. You all scattered ahead of
the waves of the virus, taking shelter in the sanctuary of your homes. The School was no different.
Like a fully laden oil tanker, we are a large operation and we had lots of momentum when the first
lockdown loomed. Yet we did well to change our course as fast as we could and moved,
metaphorically, to a place of safety.

And there we have stayed, relatively untouched. Safe behind our own breakwater, made up of
masks and sanitiser stations, bubbles and social distancing, Teams and mass testing. And although I
know some of you have contracted the virus and others have struggled with being so isolated for so
long, by and large, we have all weathered the COVID storm.

More than weathered it, in fact. We slowed down as a School, but we did not sink, and we did not
stop. Although you have missed an awful lot over the past 18 months, the one thing that did not
suffer is your academic education. Your teachers did a superb job in maintaining your studies and
you responded brilliantly. That should give you great confidence as you start this new year.
The pandemic is not completely over, of course, and we should spare a thought for those who are
still struggling with it. But here in the UK at least, the worst appears to be behind us, and the clouds
are breaking.
But back to my question: where are all those boats that fled the Gulf of Mexico today? When I was
undertaking some Army training many years ago, there was a quote we referred to. It said:

“A ship in the harbour is safe,
but that is not what ships are built for.”

Those words were meant as a daily challenge to test ourselves, our bodies and our minds. A
reminder that we were designed to live life, not hide from it. Encouragement to have confidence to
strike out from the comfort of those barracks every morning and seize the day.

I believe that same sentiment is equally applicable here, now. For each of you and for the School as a
whole. We have sheltered safely from the pandemic over the past 18 months. Scaled back our
operation, set anchors, lowered our sails a little. In the pandemic harbour we created, HGS has
indeed been safe. But that is not what we were built for. Not what you are here for. Nor the talented
people that make up our team of staff.

HGS has a reputation that stretches back over a century and a half. A reputation for excellence and
energy in everything we do. A tradition of aspiration and applying ourselves to all that is offered.
Academic study, sport, service, performance. Any of it and all of it. We are known for our sense of
purpose, a culture of enthusiastic engagement. And it is time we lifted our anchors, hoisted our sails,
and got back on that course once more.

Not recklessly. The COVID seas are still a little choppy and we will continue to be careful. But we
were not built to sit at anchor any longer. We owe you all the School career that you came here
seeking. The education, the experiences, the chances to excel. And that has all restarted with

“A ship in the harbour is safe,
but that is not what ships are built for.”

We have set sail once more. So, as the School heads out of its COVID harbour and builds up a head
of steam once again, I wish you all the best possible start. Just remember, protection from the virus
may come from a jab of vaccine in the arm, but protection from the impact of the pandemic on your
lives will only come through a daily injection of determination on your part.

Stay well and safe.
Be kind to yourself and others.
Best wishes,

Dr Bird

Learning Without Limits

Mr Dubay’s article on Reading published

Please click on the link below to read a research article on engaging with evidence to inform a school reading culture by Mr Dubay: