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.”

WEEKLY EMAIL Friday 7 December

School Production: Elf the Musical JR 11, 12 and 13 December at 6.30pm

A final reminder to buy your tickets for what promises to be an unforgettable Christmas production. Priced at just £3 each, you can buy them via ParentPay: just select the relevant date(s) and the number you need. They are also on sale for cash in the entrance lobby at lunchtimes.

Year 8 Parents’ Evening Tuesday 18 December, 4-6.30pm

Follow this link for a letter with more information: Y8 Parents Evening Letter

Follow this link to book your appointments online:

or click on the Parents’ Evening System icon on the school website

Christmas Dinner Wednesday 12 December

A reminder that Christmas Dinner will be served next Wednesday – thanks for your survey responses. Remember to top up ParentPay if your child doesn’t normally use the canteen for dinner.

PE Cold Weather Clothing Update

A further point to note following on from last week’s message about cold weather clothing:

– from now, all students are permitted to wear navy blue or black skins or leggings under their blue shorts in outdoor Games lessons during the colder months. A reminder that they may also wear the uniform tracksuit bottoms (available from Keal teamwear).

– wearing these items is optional and is intended to increase the comfort of students when taking part in outdoor Games lessons in colder weather

– the indoor PE kit remains unchanged.


WEEKLY EMAIL Friday 30 November

School Production: Elf the Musical JR 11, 12 and 13 December at 6.30pm

A reminder that tickets are now available for what promises to be an unforgettable Christmas production. Priced at just £3 each, you can buy them via ParentPay: just select the relevant date(s) and the number you need. They will also be on sale in school – students will be given details of where and when.


Year 10 Parents’ Evening Thursday 6 December, 4-6.30pm

Follow this link for a letter with more information: Y10 Parents Evening Letter

Follow this link to book your appointments online:

or click on the Parents’ Evening System icon on the school website


Year 8 Parents’ Evening Tuesday 18 December, 4-6.30pm

Follow this link for a letter with more information: Y8 Parents Evening Letter

Follow this link to book your appointments online:

or click on the Parents’ Evening System icon on the school website


Christmas Dinner Wednesday 12 December

On Wednesday 12 December, we will be serving a traditional Christmas dinner of roast turkey with trimmings and pudding, priced at the normal Meal Deal price of £2.40 and paid for as usual via ParentPay. Note that vegetarian and other food options will be available on that day. In order to get an idea of numbers, please could you complete a very short online survey if your child is planning on having a Christmas dinner on 12 December. Responses by Monday (3 December) would be much appreciated.


PE Reminders

Cold weather clothing

As the weather starts to change, parents/carers and students are reminded that wearing two layers for outdoor games is a good idea, i.e. a t-shirt/skin/thermal layer under a reversible top for boys, or a PE top under a fleece for girls. A suitable pair of gloves and/or hat may also be appropriate, especially for students who struggle with the cold.

Students unable to take part in PE

Parents/carers should write a note in their child’s planner if he or she is unable to take part in PE. Students are expected to bring their PE/Games kit to every lesson in any case so that they may be involved in the lesson as far as possible (e.g. umpiring). If it isn’t appropriate for your child to change into PE kit, please could you contact your child’s PE teacher to discuss.


Please remember that all items of kit should be clearly marked with the student’s name.


If your child requires an inhaler for asthma, please remind them that it is very important that they take it to every PE lesson. If they do forget, they must advise their PE teacher at the beginning of the lesson. Spare inhalers are held in the office for emergencies.


WEEKLY EMAIL Friday 23 November 2018

School Production: Elf the Musical JR 11, 12 and 13 December at 6.30pm

Tickets are now available for what promises to be an unforgettable Christmas production. Priced at just £3 each, you can buy them via ParentPay: just select the relevant date(s) and the number you need. They will also be on sale in school – students will be given details of where and when. As they are all offered at the same fantastically good value price, they can be easily transferred, so if Gran can’t come, you can bring a friend!

RSC at York High School Wednesday 28 November at 7pm 

More comic drama of a slightly different vintage: a cast of professional actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company will be performing at York High School next week. The production is The Comedy of Errors, a brilliantly inventive farce and one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays. The play is just under 90 minutes long and is aimed at 7-14-year-olds but very much accessible for everyone.


Tickets are only £6 (tickets for the same production at York Theatre Royal are £8.50-£15) and can be ordered via Judy Cooke at York High School on 01904 555502. More information about the production can be found on the link to the RSC website below:


RSC first encounters


Trip for Year 7, 8 and 9 students to Stratford-upon-Avon 7-9 December 2018

There is one place remaining on this exciting residential English and Drama trip for Year 7, 8 and 9 students. The price is £335 per student and includes two nights’ accommodation, travel and admission to an RSC production and a range of exciting educational activities. You can email Ms. Redman on stating your child’s name and form to register your interest.

Stratford Letter Sep 2018


Children in Need Update 

Thanks again for all the generous donations. The final fundraising total is an incredible £1,118.87.



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.

WEEKLY EMAIL Friday 16 November 2018

Year 9 Parents’ Evening Wednesday 21 November, 4-6.30pm
Follow this link for a letter with more information: Year 9 Parents Evening 21.11
Follow this link to book your appointments online:

School Production: Elf the Musical JR 11, 12 and 13 December at 6.30pm
Save the date(s) for this year’s fun-packed Christmas production, a musical adaptation of everyone’s favourite seasonal feel-good movie. Details of ticket sales to follow soon.

Year 10 Work Experience
The presentation to launch this year’s work experience programme for Year 10s that was given at the parent information evening and student assembly this Wednesday is now available on the website, alongside other useful information about work experience: Work Experience

Children in Need
Many thanks to everyone who donated to this worthy cause today. We have collected over £800 so far and still counting.


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.”

WEEKLY EMAIL Friday 9 November 2018

Year 9 Parents’ Evening Wednesday 21 November, 4-6.30pm

Follow this link for a letter with more information: Year 9 Parents Evening 21.11

Follow this link to book your appointments online:


Overview of Art Topics

An overview of the topics to be studied by each year group can now be accessed via the school website. Follow the links in the ‘Project Outlines’ section of the Art department page:



A reminder of our expectations regarding piercings for students:

– students with pierced ears are permitted to have one plain stud in each ear; hooped earrings are not allowed.

– no other piercings are acceptable: if a student has already had an additional piercing made, any jewellery must be removed during the school day or a completely clear plastic retainer should be worn.

From this point forward, no new additional piercings are allowed and students will be instructed to remove anything worn in such piercings.


Travel Survey

As part of the planning application for the all-weather sports facilities, the school has been asked to commission a travel survey of the different modes of transport used to access the site on two particular days (Wednesday 14 November and Saturday 17 November). This will involve setting up cameras at each of the school entrances on these days: the purpose is simply to tally up the number of journeys made and no personal data will be collected or retained as part of this exercise.