By way of contrast from the customary battle through the Christmas market in Albert Square, en route to the Town Hall, this year a change of venue saw guests and students negotiating the intricacies of the new traffic flow system on Oxford Road as they made their way to the Whitworth Hall at Manchester University, for our annual Presentation of Certificates Evening. Past students with their families and friends were entertained on arrival by Loreto music ensembles playing a selection of Christmas tunes before Danny Price opened proceedings formally and our special guests, including Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, took their places.

The Loreto Chamber Choir performed three seasonal pieces to establish a suitably festive mood, accomplished, as ever, in their rendition of ‘Deck the Halls’, innovative in a quirky ‘White Christmas’, arranged by Head of Music David Lloyd-Mostyn, and mellifluous in ‘I Heard the Bells’, winner of the Loreto Composition prize, composed by student Bob Koropisz.

Principal Ann Clynch opened her main address by paying tribute to special guest Sir Richard Leese, and the part he has played in the regeneration of the city, Hulme in particular, before directing her remarks to the class of 2017. She observed that they could be characterised as a year group that worked hard and played hard, overcoming all the uncertainties of new linear examination specifications to produce the best set of results the college has achieved, and in the process placing Loreto at the very top of the list of sixth form colleges, nationally, for value added. Ex Loreto students from this year group are now to be found studying at prestigious universities throughout the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, and other Russell Group institutions. In addition, an increasing number are taking up much sought after apprenticeship offers with high profile companies and organisations, such as KPMG, Deloitte, Jaguar LandRover, Network Rail and Balfour Beatty. These splendid results were spread across all areas of the college, A levels, BTEC vocational courses, and Pathways to Independence, the latter recording an admirable success rate in placing students on other courses, finding paid employment opportunities and enabling the young people to have the confidence to become independent travellers.

The class of 2017 threw themselves into charity projects, raising huge amounts of money for a variety of causes, international, national and local, including the highly successful Toilet Twinning enterprise, and ongoing support for the Cornerstones day centre in Hulme. Some of our students were recognised formally at the inaugural Social Responsibility Awards event, where their selfless endeavours were celebrated. Others took an active part in a scheme organised by the Maths department, which saw students teaching school pupils in local primary and high schools. The range of extracurricular activities offered at Loreto expands year by year and the class of 2017 took full advantage of this. They appeared in the college musical and various other drama productions; they performed in our growing number of music ensembles, and took part in literary competitions. So successful were they as members of Debate Club, Loreto won the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters competition in London and went on to represent the UK in an international event. Our potential lawyers and barristers won the regional final of the Mock Bar Trial competition and went on to perform with distinction at the national final, held at the Law Courts in London.

The class of 2017 helped to cement our place as one of the top providers of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme in the North West, and they were prominent in a health related campaign that led to over 1500 of our students becoming competent in CPR. Our footballers, basketball players and netballers competed at all levels and, of course, an array of foreign trips saw Loreto students visiting Greece, Germany, Spain, USA and many other countries. Ann Clynch reminded the audience of our special relationship with the Loreto schools in Kolkata, and the effort that goes into fund raising for our trips to India and the valuable work that our students do with children, who are not blessed with the same opportunities that we enjoy.

The Principal closed her remarks by acknowledging the work of David Camplin in offering scholarships to Loreto students, and the tireless contribution of the governing body, which supports the college with the utmost commitment and professionalism. In particular, the Principal thanked Mike Sedgewick for his unstinting efforts during his time as member of the governing body.

After the presentation of certificates and prizes, Guest of Honour Sir Richard Leese spoke of the pride he derives from his long association with the college. He pointed out that Loreto cares about education and believes in the potential of young people, not just in its own sector but throughout the city of Manchester. He reminded the audience that Manchester has the fastest growing economy in the UK and that an expanding jobs market will require knowledge and skills, attributes that ex-Loreto students will have in abundance.

After a vote of thanks delivered by two members of the student body, a poignant note was struck when Deputy Principal Andrea Pritchard paid tribute to Ann Clynch, who is retiring this year after serving the Loreto family with care and dedication for forty years.

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