Millthorpe Remembers the First World War

Millthorpe Remembers the First World War

It was during the summer holiday of 2014 that I began to think of ways Millthorpe could remember the centenary of the First World War. I wanted a project that connected students to the stories of real individuals and that was ongoing throughout the duration of the four year centenary. After much thought, I decided to create three fictional characters, based on real life stories from the oral testimonies of those who lived through this period. Each Millthorpe house had a character to follow and would receive termly updates on the character’s experiences. Each year I also gave the whole school assemblies updating them on where the major fighting was taken place 100 years ago.

Here are the characters I created. Remember, there are strands of truth in all their stories, but they are fictional creations.

Saxons: Tommy

The first character I created was 15 year old Tommy. Like many boys he was signed up, despite being underage. Tommy immediately went to training camps, after spending a few weeks camping on the Knavesmire. Here is an extract from his account:

We went to Castlegate, the Headquarters of the Yorkshire Hassars to join up. They asked me my date of birth and like an idiot I told them the truth. The recruiting officer frowned and told me “You’re 15 and a half today but you will need to be 18 tomorrow. Walk around and have a few more birthdays son.” I didn’t know what he meant at first but I came back the next day. The same recruiting officer asked me my age and I replied 18. He looked at me sharply with the ghost of a smile and I was in.

In September 1915 Tommy saw the first (unsuccessful) use of gas by the British.

The officer commanding the gas company kept testing the wind direction and shaking his head. The order to release the gas on the German trench was given.  The officer at first refused but the order came again. As he predicted the gas rolled back onto our own infantry troops. I cannot tell you what the gas was like.  It smelt sweet at first and then we realised. We only had the most basic helmets, great white canvas things that were soaked in chemicals. Men who had breathed in gas would claw to try to take them off. Some who had been in the lower parts of the trench got it really bad and they became senseless. I was told that in the Southern sector it worked well and the German lines were in confusion.

Tommy survived the Battle of the Somme and Ypres. In 1918 he sustained a small cut to his hand.

I am in a field hospital waiting to be moved back to Blighty. After all these years dodging bullets and shrapnel and it is a small scratch that finishes me! I have blood poisoning from a cut in my hand. They are giving me tetanus injections every few hours but the doctor thinks I will lose my arm. Still despite how hot and ill I feel I am still glad to be in a clean bed. I crawled in without even taking my boots off. The nurse was furious!

This was Tommy’s last report. The infection that resulted caused blood poisoning and Tommy died on the ambulance train on the way home. I felt very conflicted about ‘killing Tommy’. More men survived the war than died and yet I wanted to make the point that it might not be an enormous explosion that killed soldiers – it could be something as simple as some muddy barbed wire.

Vikings: Ada

It was very important to me to have a woman represented in the project and I based my story on the Leeds munition workers. My character was named Ada and she lived in Burton Stone Lane. She was married with children. Her first entry reported the requisitioning of horses that took place in York at the start of the war.

There is panic buying and the food prices have already shot up. They are desperate for horses and are using the Barbican as a big stabling area. They were stopping all the farmers on Blossom Street this morning and buying the horses from them then and there! Well the farmers were none too pleased – they didn’t get a good price and were stuck in York with a cart and no horse.

Ada quickly becomes involved in the war effort:

They are setting up a new munitions factory in Leeds and I am minded to go and register. Since the boys have gone I feel I would rather work than sit around the house and IMAGINE! My sister has agreed to keep an eye on the two girls for me.

Ada was quickly trained. Here is her report from Sept 1915:

You are speaking to a fully trained member of the Munitions Factory team of the Barnbow Munitions factory, Leeds. About a third of us are not Leeds locals. We had a month’s training and then we get on with it! There are three shifts: 6am-2pm, 2pm-10pm and 10pm-6am. The factory is never silent, churning out shells to kill the enemy. There are no easy jobs here but some are more dangerous than others, such as mixing up the TNT and ammonium nitrate to make a mixture that will explode. The rules are ever so strict. One girl was fined a week’s wages for forgetting to take a match from behind her ear. You would laugh if you could see me in my overalls. But I feel proud to be working for my country. I am also being paid more than I ever have (£3 a week). My boys are outraged that I earn more than them!

Work in the factory resulted in many physical side effects. Ada commented in Dec 1915:

The chemicals in the air turn your skin a bright yellow and dyes the front of our hair, the bit that sticks out of our caps, a vivid ginger. The doctors tell us to drink lots of milk to try to clear it from our systems but I am not convinced it works.

In March 1916 Ada’s story came to an abrupt end. 35 workers were killed in an explosion at the Barnbow Munitions factory on the 5th February. Ada was one of the workers killed.

The Barnbow munitions explosion was a real event that I wove into the semi-fictional narrative; the casualties bodies were returned to York and buried in York Cemetery. A memorial to the women was built after the war at Leeman Road.


Romans : William

Our final character was William. He was 17 when war broke out and already a member of the Officer Cadet Force. Prevented from joining up by his teacher, he was forced to wait until September 1915 to serve. William immediately became a Second Lieutenant but his experience in the trenches was not quite as he had imagined :

The 50 men in my command seem like a good bunch although some are not as respectful as I’d like. I had to discipline a soldier who was helping himself to a tin of bully beef. I got the sergeant to take his name then had him confined to camp.

In June 1916 William was part of the attack on the Somme.

As soon as I got out of the trench I saw a scene of carnage. My men were scattered everywhere, the metal triangles on their backs glinting in the sunlight. I stood up to lob a Mills bomb at a machine gun post and felt a terrific punch across my nose and saw an explosion of bright light then nothing. My wounds were so serious that I have been sent back to England. The shrapnel has left a huge wound across my nose and forehead and it looks as if my face is split into two. I can see how the nurses look at me, with a mixture of pity and disgust.  When Mother saw me I could see her struggle not to look away.

William spent the rest of the war recovering from his injuries. He was lucky enough to be sent to a specialist unit at Sidcup where he was given pioneering plastic surgery to try to restore his face.

They will stretch some of the skin from my chest and roll it into a tube and join it to my face. It will mean staying in that position for several months but hopefully the skin will knit with my face and then can be cut free from my chest. I have seen the pictures and I am hopeful that this might be worth the pain and effort. The visit was helpful, it was good to see lots of chaps with faces as terrible as mine.

William’s operation was operation was successful, and he lived into his seventies, but he had to live with his scars for the rest of his life.


The assemblies of 2014-18 mirrored the events of 1914-18. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions! In 2016 I had to report the death of Ada. It felt the mood had changed and we removed the house branding from the characters – we were now all in it together. Mr. Baybutt (Head of Saxons) kept checking in: How’s Tommy doing? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already written Tommy’s fate in 1918. I remember Mr. Baybutt’s relief as Tommy made it through the Somme! William’s story was even harder to tell. I had to share the traumatic surgery he had to undergo and it was extremely hard-hitting at times. There were, however, also moments of relief. William’s face at 70 was restored, his features blurred by the softening effect of time.

Over the four years these characters have become very real to me. Our current Year 11 were in year 7 when the project started.  I hope, like me they now have a very real sense of how long the war took to finish and the impact it had on the lives of York’s citizens.


Millthorpe School passes Ofsted Inspection with Flying Colours

Government inspectors have awarded a “Good” rating to Millthorpe School, commenting that “leaders have an accurate view of pupils’ progress” and praising the improvement in results this year, the improvement in teaching and “the quality of pastoral support and care for pupils.”
This short Ofsted inspection, which took place at the end of November, was the first since the school became an academy within the South Bank Trust in April 2016. It was aimed at confirming the school’s “Good” status awarded at Millthorpe’s last inspection in 2014.
The report compliments Head of School, Gemma Greenhalgh’s “clear focus on the necessary improvement priorities” and noted her experience and strong leadership. They said “The recent focus on pupils’ learning conduct has already resulted in an environment across the school where further improvements, with strong and focused leadership, can be made rapidly.”
Ms Greenhalgh joined Millthorpe as Head of School in September 2017.
Inspectors also commented that “Without exception, pupils were found to have positive attitudes to their learning in lessons.” Governors were also praised and found to be “committed to supporting the school and bringing about any necessary improvements.”
Both parents and pupils had good things to say to inspectors. A large number of parents responded to Ofsted’s survey and “their responses were overwhelmingly positive.” Pupils “spoke positively about their experience at the school and reported that pupils show respect and tolerance towards each other.”
Ms Greenhalgh, said “I’m very pleased that the report acknowledges many of the improvements we have already made. We are always looking for ways to improve and have ambitious plans for the future. We’re delighted that the inspectors agreed with the priorities we are currently working on. This report helps us with that ongoing process, but for today, it feels good to take a moment to be proud of what governors, staff and students are achieving.”
Chair of Governors, Bill Schofield, commented that “We are glad that inspectors recognised the significant improvement in our 2018 results and the impact our focus on learning conduct has had.  We are proud that inspectors noticed that not once was there disruption in lessons during their visit and that pupils’ attitude to learning was so positive.”
Executive Headteacher Trevor Burton said “I’m very pleased with the report. Millthorpe is continuing to show improvements in its results and in its students’ attitudes, whilst also working as a support school within the South Bank Multi Academy Trust.  Staff and students have every right to feel proud of this report.”
Ofsted will publish the report on their website at on Thursday 20 December and a copy is available on the Millthorpe School website at

Students send shoe boxes to Silver Santa

Millthorpe School has joined a new project launching in York that will help give Christmas presents to care home residents who will be alone throughout the festive season.

The Silver Santa project asks people to donate shoeboxes full of gifts to Silver Santa who will distribute them to care homes in York including Amarna House. The project is being trialled in York before it is rolled out nationally by the charity Attend UK.

Organiser, Pauline Redman, said: “More than 30 percent of elderly individuals in care homes won’t have a visitor on Christmas day. We have had a lot of help from schools across the city including Millthorpe, Manor CE and Joseph Rowntree who are donating several shoeboxes. Several students are going into Amarna House on Christmas Day to spend time with residents.”

English teacher at Millthorpe School, Arielle Redman, said: “Our student council decided that this scheme would be a worthy cause. We spent a day preparing shoeboxes and the children can’t wait to see the difference it will make to the care home residents.”


The York Independent State School Partnership (ISSP), an equal partnership of secondary schools in the city, has received a prestigious award at an awards ceremony at the Tower of London.
York ISSP was chosen, as one of only four schools/school groups across the UK, to receive one of the Legacy 110 Outstanding Contribution to the Centenary Remembrance Awards 2014 – 2018.
The award is in recognition of the exceptional work undertaken by staff and students on First World War Centenary ‘Legacy 110’ projects, designed to ensure a lasting remembrance of the First World War across the local community. York ISSP received the Legacy 110’ Best Partnership Community Award 2014 – 2018.
The award came about after the York ISSP campaigned to persuade the government to allow independent school students to take part in the government-sponsored First World War Battlefields visit three years ago alongside their state-school peers. The visit was followed with a joint project coordinated by York ISSP, to host a student-led service of commemoration in York Minster and a public exhibition at the York Castle Museum called ‘1916: It’s more than just the Somme.’ The students chose the theme because they wanted visitors to remember and respect other key events of 1916, whilst also remembering the more well-documented Battle of the Somme.
Millthorpe School was one of the schools involved in the project. In 2015, two of its students, Angus Gatus and Kirstin Thornton, joined the York ISSP and other local school pupils on the battlefields trip and then pursued their own research and interests as part of the ISSP project.
Kirstin completed a project about the impact of the zeppelin raids on York in 1916, with the help of the Clements Hall Local History Group. Angus, who has a passion for naval history, undertook a project on The Battle of Jutland in 1916. In addition to producing information boards, he hand-made a number of model battleships so that visitors to the exhibition could see the types of vessels involved in the battle.
Adam Baybutt, Senior Director of Achievement and teacher of History at Millthorpe School said “All of the students involved in the legacy project demonstrated unbelievable commitment and an unwavering desire to ensure that their generation never forget. I am immensely proud of all of them and delighted that this opportunity has had another lasting legacy in terms of a supportive and beneficial collaboration between history teaching colleagues across the city. I would also like to publicly thank York Minster and the Castle Museum for being such welcoming and supportive venues for our legacy projects.”
Angus and Kirstin are both now studying A Levels at All Saints Sixth Form in York.

Millthorpe Remembers Poppy Project

Students and staff at Millthorpe School are marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 this week with a Poppy Fountain dedicated to service people, many of them from the immediate local area, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war.

Each student and member of staff was invited to make a poppy with materials of their choice including wool, felt, paper, ribbon or tissue. The finished poppies, each with their own dedication to an individual service person, have then been crafted into a stunning display in the school’s entrance hall.

Many of the students used the Clements Hall History Group’s database of local people who died in the war, to find people who lived on their street or even in their house, so that they could then dedicate their poppies to someone who lived in their neighbourhood. Students have also been encouraged to go on to the ‘Every One Remembered’ website to write a personal message of remembrance for the person they dedicated their poppy to.

Adam Baybutt, Senior Director of Achievement and teacher of History at Millthorpe School said “The students and staff have created an incredible display, which is very poignant and makes us all stop and think about the effect the war had on people across the country and particularly in our locality.

“We also held Remembrance assemblies last week, encouraging students to reflect on the horrors of war and remember that the service men and women gave their lives so that future generations could live theirs.

“We are very proud of our students, particularly as the younger generation are often accused of being unwilling to remember and reflect on the past. This proves that this is a wholly inaccurate and unfair accusation and that the young people of today are very interested in and are moved by the events of 100 years ago. When The Last Post is sounded

on Sunday morning, I know that a whole generation of Millthorpe students will pause and pay their respects.

“Huge thanks go to Miss Frankland and Ms Watson, the Design and Technology team and the students and wider staff for creating such a beautiful, thoughtful display.”

Careers Hub Sets New Sights for Young People in the Region

Careers Hub Sets New Sights for Young People in the Region

Students from Millthorpe School joined forces with the Careers and Enterprise Company and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership to launch the Careers Hub on Wednesday 10th October 2018. Speaking to representatives from 35 schools from across the region, Louella Rebbeck and Theo Steele shared the valuable experience they gained from undertaking work placements in commercial theatre production, highlighting the responsibility they experienced, the new skills they learnt and the benefits their experience will have for them in the future. To conclude his speech, Theo said “It’s an opportunity I’m glad I got to have and wish everyone could have. If asked to do it again, I’d say yes every time.”

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP) won their bid for the region to host one of 20 Careers Hubs in England, designed to help transform careers education for young people. Central to the LEP strategy for tackling the aging demographic and enabling economic growth in the region, is ensuring that young people are knowledgeable and inspired by the diverse career routes that are available in the region. The Careers Hub will work to ensure that schools, students and parents understand the value of all available destination routes out of secondary education and that young people are getting the right support to progress into their chosen career path.

The Hub is made up of 35 schools and colleges which will work in partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company to improve careers education. The Government’s National Careers Strategy sets a standard for all schools and colleges to meet the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, standards of excellence in careers education. NYBEP, lead delivery partner of Careers Hub support programmes, will work with schools to build bespoke programmes of careers education, addressing the specific needs of students within individual schools and addressing gaps in provision that will help schools to achieve against the Gatsby Benchmarks.

As well as providing schools with access to support and funding, the Hub will play a crucial role in developing networks between schools, so that experience and best practice can be shared. Millthorpe School in York, is the lead school for the York, North Yorkshire Careers Hub. Tim Gillbanks, Deputy Head of Millthorpe School, said,

“Schools’ most important role is to send out well rounded, polite, curious and inquisitive young people who have aspiration and employability skills. To achieve that, schools need to work together, with enthusiasm and passion, to build relationships with businesses and create opportunities for our young people. I am very much looking forward to doing that.”

Partnership with local businesses can help schools to bridge the gap between education and the world of work. The lead business in the Careers Hub is Sirius Minerals, based on the North Yorkshire Coast. The £3.2 billion project by Sirius Minerals to construct the Woodsmith Mine, positions it as a large employer for the region, for the long term. The company is committed to bringing opportunity to young people in their local community, delivering an Education Outreach programme which has engaged with over 80 schools and 10,000 young people in the area. The project aims to support careers provision in schools and colleges and raise the profile of the science, technology, engineering and maths careers available.

Matt Parsons, External Affairs Manager at Sirius Minerals, speaking at the Careers Hub launch, said

“We want to engage the spark in young people by increasing their skills and aspirations towards STEM and other career opportunities. We are delighted to be the lead employer in the Careers Hub and want to show good practice to help others get involved.”

Jane Hinkins, Personal Development Coordinator at Harrogate Grammar School said,

“This is an exciting opportunity to build a network and grow our confidence as Careers Leads in schools. We need to understand and act fast to keep up with the changing world of careers, ensuring that parents and students know about the huge breadth of careers out there.”

Alongside the Careers Hub, the LEP have also developed a ‘Leading Careers Guidance’ toolkit, which eases the way for schools to meet the standards of careers education required by the Department for Education. The LEP is also working to develop Apprenticeship and Higher Apprenticeship provision in the region, with an Apprenticeship Hub to be announced later this year.


International visitors from five countries have visited a York secondary school this month in a bid to unleash their creative sides, as they take part in an international project to bring more creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship into their students’ education.
Millthorpe School is one of ten partners from five countries participating in the DICE (Developing Innovation and Creativity in Education) Project, an international project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union which aims to foster innovation and creativity in education. The ten partners, based in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Bulgaria, have received a joint grant of €284,000.
Two members of staff from Millthorpe School went to Spain earlier this year where they learnt about the Creative Platform, a teaching style which encourages students to let go of traditional patterns of thinking so that their creativity is not limited. The teachers were also introduced to LEGO BuildToExpress, a ground-breaking teaching technique which encourages students to build models using LEGO Serious Play, to demonstrate their understanding of various curriculum areas. Another Millthorpe teacher spent time in a Danish school and at a Danish university to look at ways to implement creativity into lessons and how Danish teachers teach.
The visiting group comprised of 27 delegates from ten different overseas institutions who spent two days at the school. The visitors spent time in classes, meeting the students and sharing best practice and ideas with each other. The main focus of the visit was on how the different partners were going to implement the methodology behind the Creative Platform, for the good of the students.
Millthorpe’s Deputy Headteacher, Tim Gillbanks, is DICE coordinator for the school. He said “As the only UK secondary school involved in DICE, it’s wonderful to be part of such an exciting project and to welcome the international delegates to Millthorpe. The new style lessons we have delivered so far using the Creative Platform methodology, have encouraged students to think differently, use problem-solving techniques and also more importantly, to realise that it’s OK to try things, take a risk and sometime get things wrong. Students have been really engaged and excited to learn in a new, creative way.
“To get the most from DICE, we are getting as many staff as possible involved so that we can all learn together and bring new techniques and innovation in to the classroom for the benefit of the students. We’ve gained so much from the experience so far and we’re really looking forward to welcoming our DICE partners to the UK later this year.”
DICE Project Coordinator Eufemia Rosso Delgado said “It has been wonderful to visit the UK and especially York, with my fellow delegates. We have all learned so much from each other and gained so much knowledge from visiting the partner schools and teacher training institutions. In turn, all of the students we come in to contact with can benefit from creative teaching and learning techniques.”
Next year, all the DICE partners will head to Bulgaria and then there will be a final visit to Portugal where the project will conclude.


Students at a York secondary school have been exploring their future education and career opportunities this week, with the help of a number of external agencies and educational organisations.
Year 11 students at Millthorpe School took part in the Exploring Pathways event organised by the school in conjunction with NYBEP (North Yorkshire Business & Enterprise Partnership) which was aimed at equipping them with the necessary information, advice, knowledge and skills to help them to start thinking about the opportunities available to them when they leave school at 16. 
Students took part in a variety of workshops, listened to talks about student finance and apprenticeship schemes, talked to employers, trainers and education establishments in the careers exhibition and also learned about interview techniques and skills. Representatives on the day included: Askham Bryan College, Derwent Training Association, the Job Centre, British Army, Royal Navy, Huddersfield University, York St John University and All Saints Sixth Form College.
Sharon Maddison, Delivery Team Lead from NYBEP said “The event is about helping our young people prepare for their future. In addition to looking at the opportunities that are available post-16, we also want to instil into them the fact that planning and organisation are essential, the importance of working hard and having a positive attitude and ways in which they can work on their confidence and self-belief to help them progress.”
Tim Gillbanks, Deputy Headteacher at Millthorpe School added “As a school we do everything we can to ensure that our students have as much information as possible about the huge variety of opportunities available to them post-16, but we also want to equip them with the skills and knowledge to make a smooth transition to that next step, whatever that might be. We are hugely grateful to NYBEP for their ongoing support and to all of our speakers and exhibitors who helped make the day such a success.”
Representatives from York College, Askham Bryan College and York St John University all commented on how engaged the students were and were impressed with the preparation the students had done before the day. 
When asked about the event, Year 11 students, Mary and Amy said “It’s really good to have everybody in school all at once so that we can talk to as many people as possible. It helps us to work out what we don’t want to do as much as what we do want to do! We’re both thinking of A Levels at the moment, but it’s been really good to see what else is available.”

Millthorpe Messenger

Millthorpe Messenger is Millthorpe School’s e-bulletin which goes out to parents at the end of each half-term.

Through Millthorpe Messenger, we keep parents in touch with news, announcements, success stories and achievements from across the school, giving you a really good insight into just some of the great things that happen at Millthorpe.

The Millthorpe Messenger can be located through the media drop down menu tab on our main page. Alternatively you can click on the link below:

Click here to read  Millthorpe Messenger

Millthorpe School’s Mental Health Champions

On Wednesday Councillor Johnny Crawshaw came to meet with Millthorpe School’s Mental Health Champions to hear about their plans to promote the well being of young people and campaign to tackle stigma around mental health. Over the last year 12 students received training in peer-to-peer support as part of a citywide initiative supported by the local authority and public health. This year, the campaign, supported by the well being Service and led by students, will be running in secondary schools across the city. It is hoped that this project will encourage students and their parents to talk more openly about pressures faced by young people. Councillor Crawshaw was impressed by Millthorpe’s student leaders and happy to swap notes on how to run an effective campaign.