After many years celebrating the achievements of our students in an annual event held at Manchester Town Hall, Certificate Evening finally came ‘home’ this year and the class of 2018 was able to return to the college to receive certificates and special awards. The appalling weather conditions did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the past students, family members, friends and Loreto staff who gathered in the Sports Hall to see last year’s leavers receive their well-deserved recognition.

After Danny Price’s opening remarks, the Chamber Choir captivated the audience with its beautiful performance of Personent Hodie, composed by student Hannah Beech, and a lively version of Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad.

In his address, new Principal Peter McGhee, paid generous tribute to the guest speaker, Professor Francis Campbell, Vice Chancellor of St Mary’s University, highlighting his years of distinguished public service. Mr McGhee went on to remind the audience that whilst he is the new Principal, he is not new to the college, having been a member of the teaching staff at Loreto earlier in his career. He was keen to point out that whilst the physical appearance of the college may have changed over the years, the values and ethos, embodied in the spirit of Mary Ward, remain constant. The academic achievements of the class of 2018 were praised, Loreto scoring above the national average on all indicators; indeed, Mr McGhee emphasised the fact that Loreto seeks much more of its students than that they be considered ‘average’: we are more ambitious for our young people. It was pleasing to report that most of the leavers from last year are now either in universities up and down the country, in worthwhile apprenticeships, or in full time employment. These achievements include those students who left the Pathways Department as independent travellers and often went on to further education courses or into paid employment.

Mr McGhee itemised the huge range of extracurricular activities to which the class of 2018 contributed, including numerous creative arts events, debate club and science related projects. An impressive number of the students were CPR trained; Loreto remains the largest provider of the Dof E scheme in the north west, and the trips abroad included visits to Iceland, America, Greece, and of course to India, where Loreto students work with the Rainbow Children in the slums of Kolkata. The class of 2018 raised thousands of pounds for a number of charities, in particular the Toilet Twinning project and the Cornerstones appeal. Mr McGhee made special mention of David Camplin and the granting of bursaries, which he coordinates, helping Loreto students who find themselves in straitened circumstances achieve their full academic potential. Tribute was also paid to our governors, who give of their time and energy in unstinting manner and serve the college with loyalty and dedication. Mr McGhee closed his remarks by quoting from ‘I Hope You Dance’ a song recorded by country singer Lee Ann Womack, extolling the virtues of making the most of life’s opportunities.

Professor Campbell then presented the certificates and awards, before addressing the audience. He reminded those present that the magnificent achievements being celebrated were based on the foundations built by the pioneering Loreto sisters many years ago; foundations imbued with a belief in the fundamental importance of education. Professor Campbell informed the audience that in his senior role in the diplomatic service, serving in south Asia, he had witnessed at first hand the continuing good works of the Loreto sisters. He asked the students present to thank their teachers, and concluded his remarks by reminding students that as alumni of Loreto they have been given moral guidance; they know the difference between right and wrong. He urged the young people, as they go out into the world, to never postpone making the ‘right’ decision.

After a vote of thanks given by representatives of the student council, guests and audience members made their way into the Ellis and Kennedy building, where the Loreto Wind Ensemble played a medley of Christmas favourites, and everyone had the chance to socialise and ‘catch up’ before battling the elements on their homeward journeys.