Oscar-winner returns to school

Oscar winner and Old Riponian Dr Mark Hills (centre) with Ripon Grammar School chairman of governors Dr Peter Mason (left) and headmaster Martin Pearman

Oscar winner and Old Riponian Dr Mark Hills (centre) with Ripon Grammar School chairman of governors Dr Peter Mason (left) and headmaster Martin Pearman

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An Oscar-winning computer expert has helped celebrate the performance of students at his old school in Ripon.

Dr Mark Hills, who has worked on Paddington, The Avengers and the Harry Potter movies, returned to Ripon Grammar School to present awards to students for their success in this summer’s GCSEs and A levels. As head of systems at Framestore, he is in the team that won the 2014 best visual effects Oscar for Gravity, a space-based movie starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Winners of special prizes for their GCSE work at Ripon Grammar School, back row, from left: Emma Wilkinson, Lucy Wicks, Katie Veitch and Katie Fraser; front from left: Ben Wayne and Sophie Ryan

Winners of special prizes for their GCSE work at Ripon Grammar School, back row, from left: Emma Wilkinson, Lucy Wicks, Katie Veitch and Katie Fraser; front from left: Ben Wayne and Sophie Ryan

He told the audience that his experience of film started at Ripon Grammar School.

“I spent quite a bit of time making short films with my friend Chris, things like music videos and kung-fu style fights, anything we could challenge ourselves with.

“I also got involved with sound and lighting for school productions. It was more that path that led me into film,” he explained.

The son of a former RGS teacher, Dr Hills went on to complete a degree and PhD in computer science, was a nightclub and student radio DJ and a professional photographer.

He told students: “After university I could have applied my skills to finance or accounting but I found my niche in the film industry because it was something I really enjoyed. It’s about looking at anything you are really interested in and what captures your imagination then peeling back the layers to find all the different places where you can apply your skills.”

Students who left RGS after A levels returned for the annual speech day to receive prizes alongside those who were recognised for GCSE performance, including 90 who achieved a C or higher in all their subjects.

Nearly 72 per cent of A level grades this summer were A*-B putting the school in the Telegraph Top 100 schools in England, while 63 per cent of all GCSEs were A or A*.

Leavers are now taking degrees in subjects from aerospace engineering to zoology, with one reading biomedical science in the United States.

Headmaster Martin Pearman said: “It is, as ever, a privilege to see students develop so much from the age of 11 through to 18 into people who have such a well-balanced view of life and a determination to make the world a better place. The contribution they have made to the RGS community in their time has been immense.”

Chairman of governors Dr Peter Mason highlighted developments at the school in the past year including the opening of the new humanities and languages building and a £1.1m extension to the girls’ boarding house.