Author Archives: Tom Larkin

Alfred Mawdsley wins gold at national rowing championship

Alfred Mawdsley (Philips 8) took home the gold from the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championship at Lea Valley Stadium; a fantastic performance and a great reward for all his hard work.

 Our new national rowing champion, who is one of six AGS boys taking part in the Halton “Legacy Project” for budding athletes, is going from strength to strength across a whole range of sports. During the 2013 season Alfred was ranked as number one in the discus at U13, and number two in the country for shot put.

Massive congratulations to Alfred, keep it up!

Matthew Man shines in international shooting competition

Congratulations to Matthew Man (Denson 11) for his success at an international shooting tournament in Dortmund. Matthew came 6th from 57 entries, with 617.7 points, only 3 points behind the winner.

The competition in Dortmund is an annual international, attracting competitors from all over Europe and beyond, including former Olympic gold medallists.

Well done to Matthew, and best of luck with future competitions!

Old Aylesburian of the week – Wing Commander Lee Cobley

This week’s OA spent his career in the RAF, educating servicemen and women in the UK and around the world. Now retired, Lee Cobley (Hampden, 69-76) has given a huge amount of his time back to the school, taking a leading role in the campaigns to improve the science labs and redevelop the squash courts. We talked about his great memories of AGS, his years of service in the armed forces and what motivates him to stay involved with his old school…

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 How do you remember your time at AGS?

I got off to a strange start actually, because I turned up two weeks late. I went to KenilworthGrammar School for a week because my father was in the Air Force and we were posted down here, so I was known for the next three years as ‘the new boy’!

I soon really got to enjoy school, particularly as I got older and played more sport. I had a wonderfully kind House Master called John Glover; he had written books on English and had taught in Africa, and was like a father figure for me in that he always seemed to find a reason to praise his pupils rather than find fault. We had a really good atmosphere within Hampden House; I had lots of great friends there.

When you look back, it’s always the teachers that come to mind; we had some fantastic teachers. There was Chris Williams, or CJ, and Ian Rowe who taught me French. It was my favourite subject, just because of those teachers who made their subject come alive.

I really enjoyed the Sixth Form and the camaraderie amongst the Prefects; the A-level teaching was excellent and I met some of my life-long friends.

I had a great time there; I’ve got some happy, happy memories of the school.

What kind of student would you say you were?

I was good for a couple of years, and then I was extremely mischievous for a couple of years, getting myself into detentions quite a lot! The penny dropped about halfway through my fourth year, I think; I buckled down to do surprisingly OK in my O-Levels….

Did you know what you wanted to do in the future when you were at school?

No I didn’t, I had absolutely no idea. I was good at maths, reasonable at physics, and at that time the school appeared to decide for you what you do and where you were going. It was either going to be Engineering at Oxford, or Engineering somewhere else. It turned out to be Engineering at Bristol.

In the end, I decided that I didn’t actually like engineering, and decided to go into teaching instead. Having worked in a factory for a couple of years, it really was just working to earn a living. Then I started teaching English as a foreign language overseas, and suddenly my job wasn’t a chore anymore; I enjoyed talking with people and helping them to learn a language. That pleasure of teaching people came back with me, and I taught maths for three years before joining the Royal Air Force.

How did your career develop after you joined the RAF?

Well my thinking was ‘join the Royal Air Force, and you’ll see the world’, but they sent me straight back home to RAF Halton! I was teaching engineering and maths to the apprentices there; suddenly life was a whole lot better because the teaching load was very favourable compared to what I had at a comprehensive school, plus you had loads of sport on offer. I got back into my squash, back into the swimming and running; I just really enjoyed RAF life.

We had several overseas tours to Cyprus and Holland, and about five years ago I was sent to the Green Zone in Baghdad to help the Iraqis re-build their Defence Forces. The tour was completely out of the blue for me. I’d done about 23 years in the Air Force, I was heading towards retirement and got a phone call saying ‘how do you fancy four months in Baghdad?’ I said yes without hesitation.

We were part of a multi-national NATO team given the job of mentoring the Iraqi forces – it was four months of real excitement, with a few bombs going off nearby which kept us all on our toes. What we were doing there totally makes you appreciate the importance of teaching in a society; it was basically teaching from scratch, giving them basic computing, basic army skills and teaching them basic English, everything they needed to help build up their own armed forces.

How does life at AGS match up to life in the RAF?

I see a lot of similarities between the two. There’s the academic side, so you have to knuckle down and work hard to complete your professional training, but you’ve also got all the sport, and secondary duties like running the Mess, on the side.

I think AGS prepares you well for military life, as well as life in all other areas – simply it sets up boys to be successful in whatever their chosen career is. The sport and all the other activities, like drama or public speaking, means that the school develops people who can communicate with confidence and intelligence.

What lessons from AGS stuck with you through the rest of your career?

What AGS taught me through sport and the house system was teamwork: getting on with each other, supporting each other, helping each other.

I was house athletics captain, and I encouraged my team-mates to do a couple of weeks training before sports day, then the satisfaction you get from seeing someone who’s not really done much athletics before come through and get a second or third place, when they had no idea they could do that, gives you a great sense of achievement.

What motivates you to keep coming back to AGS and get actively involved?

I feel a great affinity for this school; I still see a lot of the squash players and a lot of my mates from my school year – there’s a great community spirit still. It’s fantastic at the dinners where all the old boys get together and you can see faces you haven’t seen for twenty or thirty years. Esprit de corps is absolutely huge at AylesburyGrammar School.

I did a huge amount of campaigning for the new science labs, because I just felt that it was so important to renovate that block. It’s important for the country to get people interested in science…. for those vital doctors, engineers, and dentists etc to come through the system. I actually enjoyed travelling around peoples’ houses in the rain and dark one winter to collect funds which contributed to the £750,000 we finally raised. It was such a pleasure to see everyone smile as they handed over that money, too, because they could see how important it was in developing AGS.

What advice would you have for the boys who are at the school today?

My advice would be to knuckle down, do the basics and do the homework. Listen in class. But that’s only one part of it – the other part is to get as involved as you can in as many things as you can manage.

Get involved in a school team, and do something extra rather than just playing. Do some public speaking; get a part in a play. You won’t know what it’s like until you’ve done it; if you don’t do any public speaking you might always be wary of it, but once you’ve stood up and read something out a couple of times you’ll have all the confidence to do it again and again. Build your confidence, build those personal skills, but just make sure you keep up with the academics too.

 

AGS sportsmen reaping rewards of Halton ‘Legacy Project’

On the one year anniversary of the London Olympic Games, Halton Health and Fitness Club launched their very own “Legacy Project”.  This was aimed at aspiring athletes from all sports aged 8-18 years and offered them 12 months free gym membership, along with expert strength and conditioning support from the Halton trainers. It was designed to assist our local sporting community of youth athletes with their physical development and preparation for their sport. The project now has eight aspiring athletes, six of whom are students of Aylesbury Grammar School, who have been benefiting from gym membership and strength and conditioning sessions and who will no doubt continue to work hard to be the best they can be in their field. Below, the athletes on the project detail what they feel being part of the project has brought to them:

AMawsleyName: Alfred Mawdsley

Age: 13 years old

Sport: Discus and shot put.

Level: In the 2013 season I was ranked number one in the country for discus U13s, number two in the country for shot and number four all time.

Comment: The legacy project has helped me to accurately follow my training plan so I can be ready for the 2014 season.

 

CBradleyName: Callum Bradley

Age: 14 years old

Sport: Basketball

Level: Regional

Comment: The legacy project has helped me by giving me a gym which I can go to regularly whenever I want to. It has helped me increase my strength so I can take control more in basketball games and helped me increase my vertical so I can now slam dunk. I have a program which has helped me gain muscle for my basketball and I am really happy I had this opportunity. Thank you Halton Health and Fitness Centre!

 

CPopeName: Cameron Pope

Age: 14 years old

Sport: Rugby

Level: Oxfordshire County U15s-and U16s. London Wasps EPDG Academy U15s and U16s. South West England trials U16s.

Comment: I train at Halton Health and Fitness Club twice a week and have a personal training session with Gemma once a week with a set programme that she has put together for me. Using these facilities are helping with my strength and core which is great in my Rugby career.

 

JCookName: James Cook

Age: 15 years old

Sport: Rugby

Level: County

Comment: It has given me access to much more equipment than anywhere else and to have a programme has helped massively as I did not really know what to do to make myself better. In doing these things it has helped me in my sport a lot as I can be more effective and play better.

 

JCroninName: James Cronin

Age: 15 years old

Sport: Rugby

Level: County

Comment: The legacy project has given me easy to get to facilities and also a huge array of different equipment to use to achieve my personal goals.

 

Jay Patton, Wycombe Wanderers and AGS U16 footballer, has also recently joined the project.

There are still TWO more places available. Please contact Gemma on gemma@everyball.net or 07762 543207 for more information and how to apply.

 

 

Old Aylesburian of the week – Tom Hunter-Watts, Mayor of Aylesbury

This week’s OA is none other than the Mayor of Aylesbury himself, Tom Hunter-Watts (Paterson, 84-90). Tom was elected to the role in September of last year and continues to serve as the councillor for Bedgrove, a position he has held since May 2011. He took some time out of politics to talk about his memories of the school, what interested him about becoming a councilor and the issues he’s been tackling over the last few years, including his frustration at the Turnfurlong parking nightmare…

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Hi Tom. What are your memories of your time at AGS?

I have fond memories, but they are not particularly nostalgic. I think that when you go to school as a child it’s not particularly different to when you to go work; it’s the place where you go because you have to, you do your business and then you go home. To me, it always felt more like a place of work than anything else and I suppose that I treated it like that.

I was a solitary sort of child really, so I filled my bag with books, did my homework and handed it in. It was lovely to be here, but I didn’t enjoy it more than I enjoyed being part of the council, or being in a workplace – it felt much the same as that.

What were your favourite subjects when you were here?

Latin, Greek and English: they were the only things I had any interest in. I plodded along very conscientiously in all the subjects that I had no interest in whatsoever, but I didn’t enjoy them; I was only interested in languages and creative things.

I was excited by words and by language. I was interested too in the excitement of ancient history and the marvellous world that opens up for you, which, in a way, is the world hidden behind this one because it’s the history which has made us what we are. I think if that is taught well it is exciting to anybody, and can open anyone’s eyes.

In games I was floridly bad, really wretched. When I was in sixth form they introduced the option of doing table tennis because certain students were rather feeble and not capable of doing rugby or football, so we got to play table tennis instead. In practice, that meant that you went to the assembly hall where they had laid out some table tennis tables, and you sat on the stage beside the curtains to chat about literature instead. I have fond memories of that!

What was it that motivated you to become a councillor?

I have always been interested in politics and was always an avid consumer of news programmes and the papers. It’s a subject that virtually everyone has an opinion about and some very strong feelings, but few want to commit themselves to it with a party or organisation.

I wanted to take the risk of doing something politically to see whether it could be fulfilling and worthwhile. I was motivated originally by my loathing of the government of the time; if you can move beyond the expression of hatred into something more positive then you know you can have a life in politics.

What issues have you been trying to tackle since you were elected?

As a politician there are so many unforeseen difficulties with everything you try to do. For example, I’ve been working with some colleagues to try to improve the car parking situation outside AGS. We started doing this, full of determination, almost immediately after I was elected, but there’s been no change made at all.

We’ve had great cooperation from the schools, but it has taken an incredibly long time, through a remorseless sequence of consultations and even still you have to continually push and negotiate.

I am told that there are improvements on the way, with some dedicated spaces for boys over at Walton Street car park and marked parking bay areas to allow wider turning spaces for all the coaches; it sounds promising but it really should have happened two years ago, and I apologise.

How are you finding the job of Mayor?

I am enjoying it tremendously. As Mayor, you get the opportunity to meet lots of dedicated, hard-working volunteers who are making very wonderful things happen in their own communities. You really see the extent to which our communities organise themselves and work to maintain a civilised environment; that cannot fail to make you feel good and feel happy about things that are happening.

I do enjoy the day-to-day business of chairing meetings, but you also get to make quite a few speeches. I like to try to make the words mean something that isn’t fatuous or false, to make an impression or stimulate some thought, while at the same time not being overly serious. The other thing you have to do these days is to keep up the website and the Twitter; I find that because I am comparatively young people expect me to be very savvy with that, so I feel like I have to maintain those things – really I hate it, but I have to do it!

By and large the job is tremendous fun, and I’m very proud to do it.

Could you ever have imagined yourself in that kind of role when you were at school?

Oh yes, certainly. I could have imagined myself as a teacher or a vicar, anybody who’s paid to pontificate! I was quite shy at school, but then shyness often masks self-regard, doesn’t it?

I don’t think that I would have been surprised to have ended up in politics, although I am certainly very surprised to be Mayor – that’s something which I didn’t expect at all and an honour you really can’t refuse. It’s not a job that you campaign for or negotiate yourself towards; it’s more of a unifying role. That’s why I was particularly honoured to be offered it, and why I accepted almost without hesitation.

Are there any particular campaigns that you are using the position to promote?

I am raising awareness and funds for the cancer care and haematology unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital.

I am also promoting advanced driving skills; the traffic situation in Aylesbury is so bad, and it’s not going to get any better without a bypass which is never going to be built, so I think it’s important that we try to protect ourselves as drivers.

Because of these road conditions some people get very aggressive and very impatient, so it’s important to ensure that you can get the most fun out of the driving experience and have the most straightforward journey possible from A to B. I’m blogging my own advance driving course on the town council website; I am not a great driver at all, so I think that I’m a useful test case to see if something better can be made out of someone with lots of scratches down the side of their car.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Representing the town on Remembrance Day, because my father was involved in the British Legion for many years and, although he died last year, he would really have enjoyed seeing that. Undoubtedly, that experience makes it all worthwhile.