Give &,

Speech Day 2019

The annual Speech Day of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School was held on Thursday 19th December. The school’s choir greeted the students and guests as they entered the hall with Christmas Carols.

Helen Baker, Chair of Governors, welcomed the large audience and Mr Garrity, Headteacher, then introduced his ‘QEGS Past, Present and Future’ presentation (see below).

Prize winners were announced by Mr Atkins, Deputy Headteacher and prizes were awarded by the guest of honour and former QEGS student Josephine Ewart‑Sear. In her upbeat and inspirational address, Josephine talked about her experience of school and her time since leaving QEGS.

Prayers were led by The Revd Duncan Ballard and everyone retired to the dining hall for refreshments.

Photos from the Evening

Speech – Mr S Garrity, Headteacher

Welcome to our students, our staff both past and present, our parents, our governors, our members of the community and our sponsors of prizes. Welcome everyone, to our 2019 Speech Day.

Welcome to Josephine Ewart-Sear – our guest speaker and presenter of this evening’s academic prizes and sports colours.

Josephine, it is a real honour to have you as our guest speaker and I know that this means a lot to you and your family. Thank you for also giving us your time earlier today, when you spoke to Yr11 students and for your time this evening to attend this awards ceremony.

Josephine will be speaking to us a little later on, about her time at QEGS and beyond in the world of higher education and industry. Such a fantastic journey of experience and talent, I know our guests will want to hear your story Josephine.

Josephine represents the wealth of opportunity and talent that has been fostered and developed at this amazing school where almost – anything is possible!

I have no problem with ‘anything is possible’. Some people feel that this is an unrealistic ambition or dream. However, as I said last year at Speech Day, dreaming and aiming high is a good mindset to have!

Our theme this evening is ‘QEGS past, present and future.’ You, our guests and prize winners already represent this in abundance; starting with an amazing past, where it has been proven on many occasions that almost – anything is possible:

  • A town without a school was granted a school by Royal Charter in 1585, there would have been many saying this was not possible and it was!
  • Led by Sir Thomas Cokayne, boys of noble birth were taught in the Grammar School until the age of 14 where they studied Latin, Literature, Arithmetic and Religious Education. Educating Ashbourne’s boys, many would have said that was not possible!
  • In 1603 the original building on Church Street opened its doors and thrived with new boys until 1795 when the school roll dropped to 1 pupil………anything is possible……and it recovered again in 1836 to 35.
  • After a successful year of exams in 1861 the school decided to reward the boys for their achievement at the first ever Speech Day. And this is a tradition we still uphold today, 158 years later, anything is possible!
  • By 1904 the school needed to expand to accommodate 120 pupils; 60 boys and 60 girls, yes girls joined the school, anything is possible! By 1909 the new school on The Green Road was opened.
  • Boys had lessons in how to use guns and were trained for combat during the war; girls learnt how to cook and sew, during WWI QEGS girls sowed socks in their sewing classes to send to the front and we still support many charities and worthy causes to this day, during those difficult wartime year, I wonder what QEGS students thought was actually possible?
  • In 1973 QEGS merged with the Ashbourne County Secondary Modern and became a comprehensive school and in 2011 became an Academy. In 2009 QEGS celebrated 100 years of teaching on the Green Road site and in 2013 Headteacher Dr Wilkes retired and was replaced by Mrs Ann Martin, yes a woman, the first and only female Headteacher in QEGS 434 year history, anything is indeed possible!!


  • Today, we are here to recognise the hard work and dedication from our students in their studies at QEGS. But also the hard work and dedication of the staff. This combined effort and success has recently been acknowledged for outstanding education and provision and going ‘above and beyond’ in QEGS being named as The Sunday Times East Midlands Secondary School of the Year, wow anything is actually possible, national award next then!
  • So many current successes and many memories are yet to come. Our exam successes have improved year-on-year, so many of our students have begun their journey into their careers with amazing achievements and these are not just down to exam success, it is the QEGS factor that makes these things possible.
  • Residential trips to Disneyland, Normandy, the Spain sports tour, Skiing in Les Menuires, Geography visits to Marrakech, camping in the outdoors to name just a few. With such a broad and enriching curriculum, QEGS students are able to develop their skills and passion through the Arts, sports, languages, engineering and literature to name just a few. Our performing arts students will be dancing on stage at Disneyland Paris in February and QEGS has been recognised for its Arts education and this year received a Gold award for Artsmark, anything is possible, because our staff make it possible!
  • In September 2019 we saw our largest intake ever with 254 new students joining year 7 and an additional 27 students joining other year groups. From 1 student in 1795 to 1354 students in 2019, anything is possible!


  • We now have more and more opportunities for students to develop their knowledge in new courses such as Level 3 Engineering, Government and Politics, and a BTEC in Supporting Teaching and Learning in schools. Providing students with additional choices to study at QEGS sixth form forming the path to lead to university and apprenticeships.
  • In looking forward, it is also important to look back. Who will be the next Trilby Shaw pushing the poppy sales and Royal British Legion work, who will be the next Mary Dear supporting the Ashburnians, who will be the next Clive Tougher, a long serving member of the QEGS staff making a difference to students’ lives, it may be you sat there today, anything is possible!
  • QEGS has an exciting future to look forward to with our expansion and building plans in partnership with the Ashbourne Rugby club. 18 months ago, I sat in a meeting where this project did not seem likely for lots of reasons, we decided not to take NO for an answer and not to let obstacles dampen our enthusiasm, anything is possible! Special thanks to ARUFC, our Governors, DCC Councillors Simon Spencer, Alex Dale, Steve Bull and Head of Development Sue Pegg – we could not have got this far without your support and cooperation.


Well done on your successes, enjoy your festive break and I hope 2020 will be another year of success, where anything (inc LFC winning the league), just might be possible!

Thank you.

S. Garrity

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Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Ashbourne Derbyshire