It’s you that makes Merchants’ Academy special! The Princess Royal tells students and staff
Press release issued: 9 February 2011
The Princess Royal gave her seal of approval to Merchants’ Academy this week [8 Feb] after seeing students showing off their talents and skills at the £30m Bristol school, which is co-sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol.
The Princess Royal gave her seal of approval to Merchants’ Academy this week after seeing students showing off their talents and skills at the £30m Bristol school, which is co-sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol.
At the end of her hour-long tour, the Princess unveiled a plaque marking the official opening of the 11-19 Academy in south Bristol.
As all 750 students gathered in the central courtyard for the unveiling ceremony, Chair of Governors and University of Bristol Council, Denis Burn urged them to learn lessons from The Princess’s own sporting success as a three-day eventing champion and a competitor at the 1976 Olympics.
“Your visit here means a very great deal to us,” he told The Princess. “We need your desire to win and the courage to go for it; we need to develop the trust between staff, students and parents – and we need the perseverance to over come the setbacks when they occur, as they inevitably do.
“Our prize will be that our leavers can hold their own anywhere in this community or in the world. We must challenge and support our young people, helping them to achieve successes and prosper.”
After thanking students, staff, VIP guests and supporters of the School for their enthusiastic welcome in the winter sunshine, The Princess said: “It is always a pleasure to see facilities like these being built and, more importantly, being used by everyone. It’s taken a few years, I know, to get to this stage, but remember that they are just buildings and it’s what you make of them that will really transform people’s lives.”
The Academy’s Principal, Anne Burrell, added after the Princess had left: “It was a privilege and an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness to Merchants’ Academy, and it was a wonderful opportunity to show her the outstanding students we have here.”
Those students included 12-year-old Hollie Malin, who presented The Princess with a posy at the start of the visit. Each of the five lessons and activities she then visited was introduced by one of the Academy’s students. She called in on lessons in mathematics, science, hairdressing, basketball, bricklaying and carpentry. She also heard a recital from pianist Lewis Young, 14, and singer Georgia Phelps, 15.
The Princess met visitors who included children from a number of partner primary schools, parents and a line-up of VIP guests. These included: The Lord-Lieutenant of Bristol, Mrs Mary Prior; the High Sheriff of Bristol, Mrs Peaches Golding; the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Colin Smith; the Lady Mayoress, Ms Jenny Bradley; Supt Steve Jeffries, Avon & Somerset Constabulary; Mr Giles Clarke, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers and Derek Pretty, Registrar of the University of Bristol.
Since it opened its doors in September 2008, numbers applying to join the Academy have risen dramatically. In 2010, the Academy was given a very good interim OFSTED progress report and students achieved a 47 per cent improvement in its academic results (5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Mathematics).
Underpinned by the £30m initial investment in award-winning buildings and facilities, the Academy has from its earliest days forged strong relationships with business.
The Princess met representatives of these business partners including law firms, Burges Salmon and Beachcroft, as well as Bank of Ireland.
Burges Salmon Partner Ian Whitehall said his firm had been supporting the Academy and its predecessor school for five years. “We support the Outposts Programme for new kids coming into Year 7, which gives them 36 hours under canvas and the chance to take part in a range of outdoor activities. One of our lawyers, Will Woodall, joined the kids on that this year,” he said.
Tony Cherry, Regional Senior Partner for Beachcroft, said The Princess had discussed with him the transition from primary to secondary schools. “We like to offer our staff opportunities for voluntary work and so at the Academy we help with reading schemes and an artwork project."
During a break for coffee, The Princess met the Academy Parliament and its Army Cadet Force.
Her visit concluded when 14-year-old Merchants’ Academy student Jonathon Amey presented the Princess with a riding hat to be donated to the Riding for the Disabled Association, of which she is President.