Welcome to issue 8 of The Rowntree Reporter Spring Term - March 2024


Welcome to another action packed edition of the Rowntree Reporter, with students travelling to London, Madrid, and the fabulous country of Iceland. We received great feedback from students about these trips, but were also delighted to hear how impressed members of the public were with how our students conducted themselves. We are really proud of our students, and they are always great ambassadors for the school.

Congratulations to the Oak House team for their victory in the House Quiz meaning that all houses have now won the trophy at least once. - Mr Hewitt, Headteacher

Geography Trip to Iceland

Teach and learn through inspiration

The geography department adopted an active, hands-on approach to learning with their trip to Iceland in mid-March. GCSE and A level students replaced their classrooms with the desolate countryside of Iceland to develop their understanding of the geological processes of our land.

Travelling between Reykjavik, Selfoss, and Vik - three places with various levels of development - left the students feeling inspired to absorb the Icelandic culture and really lean into the rural experience that is life in Iceland.

Spending two nights in the pastoral Guesthouse Hotel named ‘Vatnsholt’ aided this, and displayed the expansive scope of undisturbed nature to the party. The importance of nature in Iceland is explained by the sights themselves: The Golden Waterfall, a feature so large and powerful, yet so elegant that it is beyond human comprehension; geysers situated on the Golden Triangle were seen in the snow, adding a layer of wintery ambience to the explosive hot springs; black beaches lined by columns of basaltic lava rock.

As if this authentic taste of Iceland wasn’t enough, the group visited the Fly Over Iceland simulation on the first day - an indoor rollercoaster-esque experience that was a named highlight of the trip along many. Seeing parts of Icelandic nature that humans are unable to reach opened the student’s eyes to the diversity of Iceland’s environment.

Another crowd favourite was the glacier walk, where students and teachers alike scaled Sólheimajökull on ice of up to 600 years old. The top of the glacier was scattered with excited phone calls to parents and loved ones, sharing the views of unadultured wildlife. This experience was a unique one as glaciers are always changing - ice is melted and accumulated annually, shelves move, paths available for glacier walkers change, and new layers of ice are exposed, meaning no two glacier hikes are the same. - Ixia Speck - Year 13

The House Quiz 2024

Encourage wellbeing

The House Quiz made a return this term, having had a break following the pandemic. Four brave teams of students pulled on their contemplation coats and quizzing hats and prepared for battle.

The teams of students were drawn from every year group between Years 7 to 11, representing Aspen, Hazel, Oak, and Willow Houses. They met in the Hall after school on Thursday 8th February to compete for the illustrious and very shiny House Quiz Trophy.

The students faced a number of quiz rounds over the event, designed to test their knowledge. Teams needed to have five students at their House table during a round, but were able to strategically substitute players in and out in between rounds. The rounds included general knowledge, feel the sack, pictures on the big screen, the map round, the categories round, and the intensity of the buzzer round. Every volunteer should be applauded for their contribution and for being brave enough to step up and meet the challenge (hopefully having some fun along the way). Thanks also to the fantastic sixth form volunteers (Emma Long, Lucy Roberts, Sian Cockerill, and Anna Gamov) who marked all the papers and kept a precise eye on the scores. Thanks also to the students and staff who came along after school to cheer on their House teams and watch events unfold.

In the end, after a thrilling final round, the team representing Oak House (pictured below) took the win - a historic victory bringing to an end their unfortunate run of being the only House never to have won the House Quiz trophy. Year 11 Team Captain, Finlay Bond, remarked “it’s a proud moment and one to be savoured.”

The House Quiz will return next year. - Mr Hatch

The Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid

MFL Madrid Trip

Encourage wellbeing

In the early hours of Sunday 11th February, a group of 33 students and four members of staff left on their way to Manchester airport to begin their four-day trip to Madrid.

Football, art, food, dance, and warmer weather were all they could think about. Madrid did not disappoint, and very soon they were walking through its long avenues, passing dozens of squares, and listening to the sound of Spanish. Over twenty thousand steps a day quickly became the norm.

The Bernabeu stadium looked majestic, and was much bigger than they were expecting. From the 1920s football boots to all the Ballons d’Or won for the team, the students and staff had a great opportunity to learn about Madrid Football club.

El Prado museum, with its numerous galleries, invited them to learn about the most important Spanish painters. Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’, one of the most important paintings in the history of Western art, was perhaps the central piece of their visit.

The group had a feast at Churrería San Ginés, the oldest churrería in Madrid. Not all churros taste the same, just as not all hot chocolate is the same, so everyone was excited for this unique opportunity.

Who said Flamenco dancing was difficult? Joseph Rowntree School students proved to be excellent at following the “un, dos, tres” beat of the Spanish guitars, despite the complex hand-foot coordination required to dance using fans and shawls.

With such a fantastic group of students there is no doubt that many wonderful memories were made in those four days! ¡Hasta pronto Madrid!

Student workshop with author Simon James Green

World Book Day 2024 and Visit by Author Simon James Green

Teach and learn through inspiration

World Book Day on 7th March was a great opportunity to generate some excitement around books and reading! We were delighted to welcome back staff from The Blue House Bookshop – our nearest independent bookseller – who ran their pop-up bookshop in the library. Both lunchtime sessions were very busy, with students exchanging their World Book Day Token for a £1 book or claiming their £1 discount on any book. Two lucky students were also chosen at random to receive their book for free. Other activities included the Library Book Cover Quiz and our annual Library Great Book Giveaway, where students had the chance to win one of five fantastic books, including the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel ‘No Brainer’, and a recent thriller for older readers ‘Catch your Death’.

Following on from the success of our World Book Day events, we continued to celebrate the joy of reading with a visit from popular children’s author Simon James Green, arranged by the York Book Award team. Simon has been shortlisted for the 2024 York Book Award for ‘Finn Jones Was Here’ – a funny, heartbreaking story about life, loss, and making each second count. Simon presented two entertaining workshops on ‘Writing Funny Mysteries’, with Year 7 and 8 students creating their own mini-mysteries filled with red herrings and hidden clues! It was wonderful for students to have the opportunity to share their writing and receive feedback from a published author, many staying for the book signing at the end.

“I loved all the twists and turns in this book.” - Mira Kaya, Year 7, from her review of ‘Finn Jones was Here’. Mira completed our York Book Award Reading Challenge to read all five shortlisted books.

“Overall, I would highly recommend ‘The Ministry of Unladylike Activity’ to anyone looking for a thrilling and well-written book with amazing characters and a captivating storyline.” - Sophia Cocker, Year 7, who won the award for best book review of a shortlisted book.

UKMT Intermediate Math Challenge

Nurture talent

In January, we had 43 students take part in the UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge. This is a nation-wide competition for students in years 9, 10, and 11, where students are challenged to think about the maths that they know in interesting or unusual ways. Our 43 competitors included students from each year group who all did themselves proud. Students can achieve a bronze award for being in the top 50% of entrants, a silver award for being in the top 25%, or a gold award for being in the top 8% of entrants nationally.

Our students achieved 10 bronze, 15 silver, and 5 gold awards.

'Best in School' award went to Oscar Unstead, Year 11

‘Best in Year awards’ went to:

  • Year 9 - Natalia Heras Terol
  • Year 10 - Evie Fawcett and Max Fuery
  • Year 11 - Oscar Unstead

Oscar Unstead and Tom Keast both qualified for progression onto the follow-on round and achieved the qualification award. This will be held 21st March, and we wish them good luck! - Miss Wilson

Sociology Trip to London

Teach and learn through inspiration

At long last, we were able to take Year 12 and 13 students away to London on our 'annual' Sixth Form Sociology trip. This was the first trip since 2019, following our long break due to Covid. The trip, expertly organised and led by Mr Ireton, was not without its challenges! A cancelled 6 a.m train and subsequent delays saw an unsettled start, but students met this with good humour and resilience, and Mr Ireton was able to rearrange activities so students did not miss out. Many commented that a river cruise by evening light was better than it would have been in the morning, and the pictures taken certainly illustrate this.

It was fantastic to see students grasp the opportunities made available to them, and engage fully in activities that clearly widened their horizons. The students visited Westminster to learn about our political system. It was a very busy Wednesday lunchtime, and PMQs were happening in the Commons during our visit. Students witnessed the procession of the speaker at the start of the tour and got to speak to both Julian Sturdy and Rachel Maskell at the end of the tour, who answered students' questions on a range of issues. As much as the students appreciated the opportunity to meet the MPs, an impromptu meeting of Love Island's Dr Alex George, who was visiting parliament in his role as UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador, was the highlight of the visit to Westminster for many!

Dr Alex George meeting students

Students enjoyed a river cruise to the other side of London for a great meal and a forensics tour in Whitechapel, focusing on the case of Jack the Ripper and looking at developments in investigating crime since the late 1800s, when these crimes were committed. It was a gory, atmospheric, and informative experience for all.

On Thursday we visited the courts to learn about our criminal justice system, beginning with a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice, and ending with sitting in the public galleries watching court cases in the Old Bailey. It is clear from their comments upon our return, how valuable and enjoyable the students had found the various activities they had taken part in.

The students were an absolute delight during the visit. Their conduct was so impressive that a member of the public who was on the Royal Courts of Justice and Old Bailey tour with us took the time to write to Mr Hewitt to compliment the 'exemplary' behaviour of the students, praising their politeness and friendliness, and wishing them well in their forthcoming exams.

All in all, the 2024 Sociology trip was fabulous. Mr Ireton has received many thanks from students and their parents for making it happen. - Miss Wiseman (Head of Sociology)

Student Feedback

"It’s hard to pick my favourite part, but probably the Jack the Ripper tour because I find true crime really intriguing, and it was great to learn more about it and the forensics and police work involved in the case! The boat trip too was amazing, especially later in the day as it was lovely to see the city’s landmarks all lit up - train cancellations created a brilliant boat experience!" - Charlotte Lines
"I knew very little about the courts and how they operated, and our guide provided me with so much detailed knowledge. We got to see uniforms/outfits throughout history and a real document of the Guy Fawkes court case. I learned about how justice has changed over the years, and also about how people working for the courts (judges, clerks, and mainly barristers) have been paid significantly less, leading to a backlog of 65,000 court cases still waiting to be held in court." -Emma Long
"The Houses of Parliament are so impressive, and more grand than you would expect them to be - especially the King’s golden throne in the House of Lords. Meeting the local MPs was a very exciting opportunity to learn about what they do on a daily basis, and to ask them about local issues." - Charlie Dunne

Duke of Edinburgh

Work together collaboratively

Bronze DofE students have been working hard on the volunteering, skills, and physical sections of their award. Look out for our volunteers litter picking, serving drinks in Aroma, helping display clothes in the Cats Protection shop, helping sports teams, and many more worthy causes.

On Mother's Day (sorry mums - the date was booked a long time ago!), the students carried out a practice expedition to help prepare them for their overnight expedition after Easter. It was a very wet and muddy day but students smiled throughout and had a great time jumping in muddy puddles and squelching through the mud.

They showed great promise with their map reading and team-work, gaining confidence for the next outing. Students put their emergency shelters to good use at lunch time to hide from the rain whilst eating their picnics. - Mrs Vaughan

Performing Arts

Encourage wellbeing

Year 9 Theatre Trip, Tour & Workshop

In February, 20 high achieving Year 9 Drama Students took part in a project with Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal. We went to watch the really well reviewed (The Stage, The Guardian, and Reviews Hub each gave it 4 Stars) play 'A Song For Ella Grey' at York Theatre Royal. This new production, from the Company that brought us ‘Noughts & Crosses’, ‘Run Rebel’ and ‘The Bone Sparrow’, is a magical retelling of the Orpheus myth, full of music, sound, and storytelling.

Before the performance, we were treated to a backstage tour by Julian Ollive from YTR and Eliza Beth Stevens, the show's Assistant Director from Pilot. Eliza introduced elements of the story and how these were captured in the simple but highly effective stage design. Julian took us on a really comprehensive tour of the theatre, and shared a lot of its wonderful history as one of the oldest theatres in the UK.

The show itself was magical and held us rapt. Student reviews included "it was mint and ACT 2 was even minter" and "what a brilliant show".

By way of follow up, we were delighted to welcome Eliza into school the following day to share aspects of the production with us in a two hour workshop. This had students bringing to life key scenes from the play and devising their own around the text.

A fantastic theatrical experience and a great introduction to BTEC Performing Arts and GCSE Drama studies. - Mr Coates (Head of Drama)

Drama - It's Not Just Acting!

Whilst most of our work is performance based - we do also feature the amazing design work that further enhances these productions. We have recently enjoyed a number of stage lighting workshops with local specialist Andy Metcalfe. Andy has supported our students to create lighting designs for forthcoming Key Stage 4 GCSE Drama and BTEC Performing Arts exams. Students have enjoyed experimenting with intensity, angles, gobos and the haze machine and their designs are really enhancing the work. - Mr Coates (Head of Drama)

Year 10 GCSE Drama Trip - 'Blue Beard' at York Theatre Royal

Seeing Live Theatre is both an important part of GCSE and A Level Drama studies, and often highly influential for our young theatre makers. Dr Seuss said 'the more you read, the more things you will know'. In a similar vein, the more theatre you see, the better theatre you make.

‘Blue Beard’ has its origins in a 17th Century French Folk Tale in which a man marries a succession of women who then mysteriously disappear. Emma Rice, one of the UK's leading directors, has adapted this with her company Wise Children, following her intense reaction to the murders of Sarah Everard (herself originally a York school pupil) and Zara Aleena - young women who were simply walking home.

Following the performance, our group took part in an exclusive Q&A session with Tom Fox, an experienced theatre maker and the show's Assistant Director. This explored the themes and structure of the play, and gave us a behind the scenes look at how the show was made.

The group were a credit to themselves and the school, with the usher stopping staff on our way out to congratulate the group on their conduct and connection to the piece. - Mr Coates (Head of Drama)

Careers Events

Overcome obstacles to success

Year 10-13 Careers Fair Evening

Thank you to all those who attended our first Parent/Carer and Student Careers Fair in January. The evening was a huge success, and parents and students were able to visit stands from local employers and education providers, and join talks about apprenticeships and UCAS. We look forward to hosting the event again next year.

Career Ready

Our year 12 career ready students are halfway through their Career Ready programme, and are currently working with their mentors to develop their skills ready for their post 18 plans.

Recent masterclasses have taken place at local employers, including Boxxe and Aviva, and at beautiful venues such as The Guildhall.

The Trading Game

Year 8 recently enjoyed taking part in The Trading Game, which is a fast paced, interactive game themed on the Stock Market. Some of our sixth form students supported the Trading Pit on the day, and encouraged students taking part to make as much money as they could to win the game.

This event is a firm favourite with staff and students alike!

Mock Assessment Centre

Year 13 were invited to take part in a mock assessment centre to give them a taste of what to expect should they be invited to attend one in future. The teams were tasked with saving valuable items from flood damage using only the tools provided.


If you are a former Joseph Rowntree student and would like to join our Alumni, please register your interest here: https://forms.gle/VPYgd3PXt7TjNRbXA

Thank you for taking time to read the Rowntree Reporter - we look forward to sharing more fantastic stories with you in the summer term.