Author Archives: Tom Larkin

U18 basketball team wins County Cup

Congratulations to everyone involved with the U18 basketball team for winning the County Cup, a victory that continues AGS domination of the competition in a year of incredible success on the court. Here’s what Coach McCarthy had to say about the victory –

It’s been a successful year so far for AGS Basketball. Four teams from four in all County Cup Finals and of the two finals played so far AGS have been victorious in both.

First the U12’s came through with a dominant victory away to Dr Challoners, winning 39-22.

Followed by the U18’s who had a much closer encounter at home, again v Dr Challoners, winning 73-61.

With the u14 and u16 teams also in the finals, Basketball continues to look good at AGS. Can we make it four from four? What a great achievement that would be.

Today the u18 also play in the Dynamik National Schools Competition, if they win then they progress to the last 16 in the country. Let’s go AGS…!!

If you are interested in being part of something successful or if you simply want to play basketball then contact Coach McCarthy.

The U18 County Cup winning team Front (left to right) - Tom Sharpe, Robin Geddes, Tye Pistak (Captain) Back - Head Coach Lee McCarthy, Rupom Subrumanium, Trevor Lowe, Robert Humpston, Seehab Ahmed, Kyle Perry, Assistant Coach Pablo Míguez Fernandez

The U18 County Cup winning team
Front (left to right) – Tom Sharpe, Robin Geddes, Tye Pistak (Captain)
Back – Head Coach Lee McCarthy, Rupom Subrumanium, Trevor Lowe, Robert Humpston, Seehab Ahmed, Kyle Perry, Assistant Coach Pablo Míguez Fernandez

Old Aylesburian of the Month – Christian Purslow, former Managing Director of Liverpool FC

CP pictureThere’s only going to be one Old Aylesburian interview this month but, fortunately, it’s a big one. Christian Purslow has had a hugely successful career since leaving AGS, going from Cambridge to Harvard and into consultancy, eventually setting up his own investment company. However, it’s in the world of football that his name has become most widely recognised, particularly by fans of Liverpool. He was appointed Managing Director of the club in 2009, and eventually had to fight its American owners in a dramatic court battle to be able to sell Liverpool FC and settle its debts.

Despite his later success, Christian’s school career was far from perfect. He talked to me about how he turned himself around at AGS, and his turbulent time in football.

Hi Christian. What are your memories of AGS?

My overarching memory is that my time at the school got better and better the longer it went on. That’s because I started badly, I was a poor student for the first three years or so at the school. I didn’t concentrate at all, I didn’t take my work seriously or do it when I was supposed to which meant I was in trouble a lot, and I didn’t behave in class that well as I was too interested in trying to be funny. Being in trouble is not that much fun, honestly. I had a terrible nickname: ‘The Det Collector’, because I was in detentions most Fridays, which was pretty awful. It was so bad having to pretend to my parents why I was late home from school.

The important point that I’d make is that I eventually grew up and started to take being a student more seriously. I began to care much more about the quality of the work I did. I started to respect teachers and behave better around the time of my O-levels and then into the Sixth Form, and, of course, the more you put into school life then the more enjoyable it becomes. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

By sixth form I enjoyed my work, had fantastic friendships, great fun and I have many happy memories right the way through to when I left in the Autumn of 1982.

How did you get on with teachers at the school?

In the early days, when it wasn’t going well for me, I had an immature view of teachers. They were just dehumanised authority figures, and I fought against that authority. The supreme irony is that I’ve now been married to a teacher for 25 years, and even as an adult it’s such an eye opener to see that teachers are actually no different to everyone else – I didn’t get that as a schoolboy.

In UK society and in the education system we need to value teachers much more in every sense of the word. It was the few teachers in the early stages of my time at AGS who rated me highly, who I respected and for whom I did good work, who drowned out the many teachers who thought that I was not doing justice to my place at the school. That small group of teachers who believed in me got the best out of me even in my most immature phase- if they hadn’t been there for me then I wouldn’t have got through AGS and I would not have had the career opportunities I’ve had since.

What I came to realise was that there were loads of great teachers at the school. Once I realised that it was much more fulfilling to have really good relationships with teachers who liked you, respected you and rated you for your work.

Who were your favourite teachers?

I can think of a couple of very strict teachers who, even in the early days, got the best out of me and kept me motivated. One was a guy called Mr Hunt, a Spanish teacher, another was Mr Larkham, a Chemistry teacher. Mr Brown in French and my Phillips Housemaster Mr Brooke were all really good from day one. What they had in common is that at no point did I ever mess them around as for some reason I wanted to do my best for them. By the time I left I could list many more who I had a good relationship with – Mr Wilson in the English department, Mr Horsfall, Mr Price, to name a few but it was those early believers who I have never forgotten.

The Headmaster K.D Smith was also incredibly supportive and helpful. Right up until the day after my A-level results when he set me up with interviews at both Oxford and Cambridge. He literally cold called colleges at both universities on the day of my results with me sitting in his office listening and arranged interviews for me for the next day. Without his personal intervention I would have been scrambling around. I’m eternally grateful to him for that. And he always seemed to know I would come good in the end.

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Did you have any idea of your future career when you were at school?

I did have an idea that I might want to be a barrister when I was at AGS… but it didn’t work out that way. I always say to students that you don’t need to worry if you don’t have a plan. I’ve got two teenage daughters at university and they still have no clue about what they want to do!

The best thing is to try to get a range of experiences in the holidays to test out new environments, cultures, and businesses, and what excites you and appeals will start to become very obvious. That’s what counts.

How has your time at AGS influenced you since leaving?

What AGS brought out in me was a competitive streak. I like winning and I always did. The school certainly brought out, fine-tuned and developed my natural desire to try and be the best at what I do – to not be satisfied with just being in the pack. It’s a competitive world, never more than today, and so wanting to get the highest grades you possibly can is something that the school instilled in me and it stuck.

Being surrounded by people of comparable intelligence, great teachers, a culture of excellence, those all stuck with me more than anything else. From the minute you got there it was a school where you were expected to do well and to try and achieve. I believe that was in my DNA but the school brought it out and it’s never gone away.

How did you find your time at Liverpool FC? What were the challenges?

The main challenge was that the club had been bought by two American businessmen with a huge amount of borrowed money, and the club’s income was to be used to pay the interest on that borrowing, which didn’t leave very much for running a top competitive football club. So I was brought in to more or less take away the credit card that the owners had bandied around and which had put the club into a hugely risky financial position.

To be the person who had to keep the club alive long enough to get it sold but on the other hand having no money to spend, that tightrope was the hardest part of the job.  Fans, naturally, want to see their team being highly competitive and to spend lots of money on transfers and wages. It was not an option for me to speak publicly about what a financial mess it was when I arrived; my job was to fix the mess and not whinge about it. With some people not appreciating that situation until the very end then there were naturally pressures put on me and questions asked.

It would have been so much easier if I had just told people how terrible the position was, but I preferred to try to fix it quietly and maintain the club’s reputation.  That was the only way I could keep players at the club and get people interested in buying it. Right until the last minute I managed to do that, until the owner’s decided to take legal action to try to prevent me from selling the club which put our crisis firmly in the news.

Christian celebrates his court victory over Liverpool's owners

Christian celebrates his High Court victory over Liverpool’s owners

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

To be offered the chance to go and run the football club that my grandfather and father supported made me hugely proud. It was a tough job, but the day that I won the High Court battle against the owners allowing me to sell the club was certainly a hugely proud moment in my life.

To come out of the High Court and have hundreds of Liverpool fans singing your name, that was obviously a very proud moment. My kids laugh about it because on YouTube I apparently say to the various microphones stuffed in my face “ I am elated!” about ten times which led some wag on Twitter to comment “ I think he’s elated”

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

Don’t have regrets when you’re 40 years old and wish that you’d taken school more seriously and taken the opportunity to learn. You need to be learning all the time and you need to be having fun, in life and at school, so try to balance those two sides of the equation.

Also, just remember that teachers are no different to you. They’re human beings who turn up come rain or shine and perform in front of you in the classroom- you should respect them for that and recognise that it’s a choice they’ve made to help you develop as a person. Pupils should respect their teachers- the reverse is just plain wrong.

Sitting back now as a nearly 50 year old, my main memory of AGS is that it was definitely a marathon and not a sprint. So to the guys there today who are languishing around at the bottom of the pack, whether in terms of results or just not enjoying it, honestly and truly you can get your act together, you can improve and it’s amazing how different the outcomes are when you take your work, in the classroom and at home, seriously.

Students at AGS are highly privileged – many children, indeed most children in England, do not have the opportunity to go to a school of its quality – so enjoy it and make the most of the incredible opportunity it gives you to get a great start in life.

 

 

 

Calum West designs winning Christmas card

Calum West (Lee 7) has won this year’s Perry’s Christmas card competition, which runs in association with Mix96. Calum collected the grand prize of a £75 Amazon voucher and earned £500 for the school; the school winnings will be put towards awards to be dished out during the Year 7 residential trip.

Head of Year 7 Mr Josephson congratulated Calum on his achievement: ”Well done Calum on winning the Perrys Christmas card competition! I was very impressed with your artistic efforts and I hope you find some nice things to buy with your prize voucher. I am also delighted that your prize included £500 for the school; this will be spent on awards for the Year 7 Residential in June, making it an even more exciting trip than it already promised to be! Thank you!’

xmas card

Old Aylesburian of the week – Mr O’Driscoll, Spanish teacher and Head of Year 8

RODThis week’s Old Aylesburian needs no introduction. Teacher, Head of Year, man of the people – Mr O’Driscoll (Pa 87-93) returned to AGS in 2003 after studying at Oxford University and teaching elsewhere. In the decade since he rejoined the school he’s introduced hundreds of students to Spanish in his ‘unique’ style: often weird, occasionally a little disturbing, but always entertaining. Read on to learn about his experience at AGS the first time round, and how he found the challenge of returning to the school as a teacher.

Hello Mr O’Driscoll. What are your memories of your time as a student at AGS?

I remember it as a very good school for me, I enjoyed my time here. I had some great friends and I really enjoyed my time here. Many of my memories are of the house activities that I did and the lessons that I enjoyed, which would have mainly been the languages.

I did quite a few house assemblies. I remember at one point borrowing someone’s lab coat to pretend that I was a scientist, we re-enacted a Monty Python sketch, I once got inside a giant beach ball… I can’t completely remember the reason for that, but it was in the Lecture Theatre and the assembly ended with me inside the beach ball being thrown out.

How would you describe yourself as a student?

With hindsight, I was actually very quiet indeed for the vast majority of my time at school. My parents came back from the first parents’ evening and told me that one of the teachers had said that they’d only just noticed me, and that was in March. Going through the school I didn’t put my hand up much, I was quiet and just got on with my work.

I was really quite shy, but that started to change a bit later in the school. I think when I got into sixth form I became a bit more extroverted and outgoing. I have a lot of good memories of free periods and lunchtimes getting up to all kinds of nonsense.

Looking back I’m obviously very different now to how I was then. It’s interesting to be able to tell boys or their parents who are concerned that they’re very quiet in school that this was the journey I had – I was that quiet and I’m definitely not now.

What did you enjoy about languages?

It was all about the teachers. Looking specifically at Spanish, which is obviously my first love, there was a teacher called Mr Hunt. He’s basically the reason why I’m doing Spanish, and the reason why I’m a teacher. He was superb, a great guy and absolutely inspirational. He would teach you all the language but he also had great stories, great anecdotes and got you to work hard because you wanted to impress him.

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Mr O’Driscoll, with several fans, on the 2013 Salou trip

What particular highlights stand out from your time here?

In terms of house activities I was not incredibly sporty, and I’m still not, but I did do house swimming a couple of times when I was further up the school. I won what was called ‘The Plunge’ twice. It was a competition where you stood on the end of the pool, you dive in and you let your momentum carry you as far as you can go. There was a great moment in house assembly when one of the teachers paced out my dive to show how far I’d gone because he was so impressed with it!

When I was in Year 13 we won house music. I was in a production of Primal Scream’s Loaded, which is a great song. I played the block, and it’s a joke amongst all my friends because I was so bad at music that I was once sent out of a music lesson to go and read in the library; my lack of ability was putting other people off… I’ve got no sense of rhythm and I’m basically tone deaf, but I wanted to be involved. Thankfully, because it was very loud you couldn’t hear me at all. The rehearsal went fine – I was out of time but it didn’t matter. Then when the real thing happened, I froze ten seconds in and didn’t hit the block once. One of the things the adjudicator said was “it was great to see everyone taking part”, but I’d literally not moved.

Did you ever imagine that you would end up becoming a teacher while you were at school?

I didn’t have the vaguest idea that I would be a teacher, no. I went through a variety of jobs in my head: pilot, until I realised that I had very poor eyesight, psychiatrist, I don’t know what the thinking was there because I was never good at sciences…

In the end I went off to university knowing that I wanted to do languages, which was key. Then I started to think that I wanted to do a job involving languages, so I looked into all kinds of things before I suddenly realised that if I’m a teacher then I would get to speak Spanish every day; that’s what I wanted to do.

At first, that was it. There was a vague idea that I could make a difference but it was mainly about the language. I think after the first few proper lessons though I realised that there was something else to it as well – the creativity, the freedom to improvise, the combination of unpredictability and laughter. When I first started thinking about my career I didn’t really understand what teaching was, but as soon as I started I felt like it suits me as a person.

Was it a weird experience to come back to the school as a teacher?

It was, yes. It’s quite odd at the start, seeing people who taught you and having to use their first names. It does make you feel quite old too, I don’t want to make this too autumnal and sad, but off and on I’ve been here for over 25 years, which is a very significant amount of time.

On the other hand it’s good to know the mind-set of the boys that you’re talking to. For example, the boys still occasionally talk about lift passes for the tower block and that sort of thing, they were talking about that in my time too. You know where there will be problems as a Head of Year, and you quite often know what a boy is going to say because you’ve been through the same process yourself.

Mr O'Driscoll is unveiled as Barcelona's star signing in 2012

Mr O’Driscoll is unveiled as Barcelona’s star signing in 2012

You’ve developed a reputation at AGS for your…unusual…sense of humour. Where does that come from and how does it work in the classroom?

I’ve always had a slightly odd sense of humour, as my friends will attest. I’d say that it fits in the classroom because boys don’t deal well with confrontation, if you tell them off and are in their face about it then I think that they react badly. You can use humour to defuse the situation and to make them laugh at themselves, and to show that you’re human yourself.

I also think that if you’re able to laugh at yourself and act the fool in the classroom then your students will not feel as bad about making a mistake. That’s one of the things that’s a huge problem for boys, the desire to not be seen to get things wrong, which is a really negative thing in languages where you need them to be willing to take a risk. If they see that their teacher occasionally uses glove puppets to demonstrate dialogues or has a pumpkin of knowledge to throw around at the start of the lesson, or uses Miley Cyrus too often in grammar examples then I think that can help. Basically, if I’m bored in a lesson then I imagine the boys will be too, so that’s what I’m trying to avoid.

There are a lot of schools where I couldn’t get away with the odd random moments of humour, where students wouldn’t get it or work with me. Because of the boys here and the level of intelligence they have, that’s what allows me to do this. I was utterly blown away in my first lessons here with the response from students, so the way that lets me teach is more of a reflection on the boys than anything to do with me.

What advice would you have for the boys?

My advice for the boys is, now more than ever, to find what it is that you enjoy doing and do it.

If I hadn’t taken the risk to go into teaching, because I wasn’t sure that it was for me, then I wouldn’t be here and I don’t think that any other job could have been as good. I found out what it was that I loved and threw myself into it.

Increasingly people talk about the job market or employable skills, I think the best thing is to do what you love. If you do that then things like qualifications will come from it. If you don’t know what it is that you love doing, then that’s what you need to be finding out.