A later Christmas break-up date this year meant that instead of making their way to the Town Hall through the Christmas market crowds in Albert Square, our students and guests could witness the collective dismantling of the market stalls, whilst possibly picking up a few very late bargains on the way. On arrival they were entertained by the college wind and string ensembles playing a selection of seasonal favourites in the Bees Area of the Town Hall, and the college Chamber Choir singing carols. Assistant Principal Aidan Bruce started proceedings by welcoming the audience of past students, family members, friends, staff and governors, before the Chamber Choir took to the stage and delivered a moving rendition of ‘A Spotless Rose’ by Paul Mealor, followed by an equally impressive ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’ composed by student Toni Bruce, winner of the Loreto Composition Prize, 2016. Euphonium soloist Ben Corbridge then enchanted the audience with his faultless version of the classic ‘O Holy Night.’
In the absence through illness of Principal Ann Clynch, Vice Principal Andrea Pritchard delivered the address, welcoming the guest of honour Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshaw and Sale East, and ex-Loreto student. In greeting the audience Mrs Pritchard remarked that demand for tickets this year has been so high the college has had to arrange a second presentation event, to be held at Loreto in the new year. She went on to praise the splendid academic achievements of the students present, who have produced an outstanding set of exceptionally high exam results at A level and in the vocational courses, and who will soon be joining the numerous ex-Loreto students studying currently at universities up and down the country, or taking up apprenticeships and employment offers. Our students have academic opportunities beyond the classroom, of course, and Mrs Pritchard mentioned in particular the Maths and Science challenges and Olympiads, in which we get involved, with considerable success.
Mrs Pritchard drew attention to the achievements of our students on the Pathways to Independence course, many of whom leave Loreto as fully independent young men and women and go on to find gainful employment. The continuing generosity of the Rotary Club and David Camplin, in sponsoring, mentoring and providing scholarships for students, was commended; no fewer than thirteen Dick Camplin scholarships have been awarded this year. Loreto students have once again demonstrated their altruistic side by raising huge amounts of money for charity, with many worthy causes, international, national and local, being chosen. Mrs Pritchard highlighted the fundamental role of the Chaplaincy at Loreto in raising awareness of social justice and offering a spiritual dimension to the life of the college, in particular in their annual trips to Lourdes and Taize. Mary Ward Day in November was a major success, the huge logistical exercise seeing well over three thousand students and staff off timetable and participating in a variety of activities reflecting the core values of Loreto.
The artistic and creative life of the college is thriving, with students exhibiting textile designs at Manchester Art Gallery, performing with considerable grace and expertise in the annual Dance Show and producing Art and Photographic work of an exceptional standard. Loreto’s musicians go from strength to strength, with the string and wind ensembles, the jazz band, the Chamber Choir and Pop Choir appearing at numerous events throughout the year, culminating in the magnificent musical evening held at the Halle Rehearsal Space at Easter. Mrs Pritchard pointed out that many of the students present had appeared in college drama productions, such as Guys and Dolls, Elf, 1984 and the MANCAP Shakespeare Festival in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Loreto’s Student Council continues to represent the views of all students and is instrumental in organising the splendid Leavers’ Ball, which this summer saw over five hundred students and staff enjoying a fantastic night at the Manchester Hilton.
Our universal 1.00 – 1.50 college lunchtime encourages the formation of clubs and societies, too numerous to mention, but with Debate Club being one of the most popular and successful, running on a weekly basis throughout the year and sending teams of Loreto debaters to take on other sixth formers in local and national competitions. On the sporting front the year saw further achievements for our footballers and basketball players, male and female, with excellent league positions and success in cup competitions. The summer trip to Kolkata in India is an enterprise of which the college is justifiably proud. Always oversubscribed, this year the students chosen raised over £5000, which they were able to donate to the Loreto sisters working in Kolkata. Our students planned and delivered sessions in sport, dance and music, working mainly with the Rainbow Children, orphans who otherwise would have no access at all to education.
Mrs Pritchard paid tribute to four long standing members of staff who have now retired. Pauline Winn has been Head of Chemistry, Head of Hall, and coordinator of Loreto’s highly successful medics, dentists and vets programme, advising and guiding students as they apply for these extremely competitive university courses. Physicist Peter Baker was thanked for his sterling efforts over many years, as was Head of Art Joan Gatley, who has overseen the growth of a department that now comprises five discrete disciplines. Assistant Principal Charles McCann has also retired, after many years ensuring that academic standards at Loreto are consistently high and that our students realise their full potential. Mrs Pritchard expressed the gratitude of all at Loreto for the unstinting and selfless work put in by members of the governing body, including retiring Chair Mike Sedgwick and Sr Ann McEvoy, our Province leader.
Mike Kane then presented the prizes and certificates before delivering a brief address, in which he drew a parallel between the situation of the Irish immigrant community in 19th century Manchester, with whom the Loreto Sisters worked to such great effect, and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in current times. He also reminded the audience of the pioneering work of our founder Mary Ward, in fighting for the entitlement of education for girls and young women, a fight that goes on to this day in so many parts of the world. Mike Kane described how his horizons had been broadened by his experience at Loreto and commended the college as an agent of change in the city. Quoting American social campaigner Ralph Nader, who described the primary function of leaders as being to produce other leaders, he urged our students to go out into the world and lead.
In drawing the evening to a close Aidan Bruce announced that Principal Ann Clynch has tendered her resignation after thirty-nine years at Loreto, seventeen as Principal. He paid tribute to her dedication, commitment and drive, which has seen the college develop to its present state of excellence, a beacon of aspiration and achievement in the city, and the provider of life enhancing opportunities for so many generations of students.
The formal part of the evening was concluded by a vote of thanks from a representative of the student council, leaving students and guests free to mingle and renew old acquaintances before making their way home.