Award-winning Ripon Grammar students won praise from a successful entrepreneur who returned to his old school to congratulate them on their achievements.
Ed Ellerington, who set up his first business when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy, told how he had been inspired by his teachers.
He told them: “I had one of the best possible starts in life at Ripon Grammar School. My school days really were among my happiest.”
Speaking to students, their families, staff and civic dignitaries, Mr Ellerington, who left RGS in 2005, was the special guest at the school’s annual lower school prize-giving ceremony.
He told students, who received a host of awards for academic and sporting prowess: “I encourage you all to think big and soak up as much as you can from this place.”
Earlier, headmaster Jonathan Webb announced that RGS, which has been the top-performing state school in the North for six years running, has just won planning permission for a £250,000 changing block and cricket pavilion to sit alongside the school’s new world-class 3G pitch, opening in autumn.
Following a solo singing performance by third form student Emilia Lennox, Mr Ellerington, said it was fantastic to see how the school now.
He told the packed hall how he set up his first text messaging property marketing business, which he later sold to the Halifax Estate Agency, while he was a boarding student.
Having joined RGS from a tiny village primary school, the former deputy head boy deferred going to university to follow a career in banking and real estate and recently launched an innovative £25m build-to-rent property business with an estimated portfolio pipeline of £300m.
He confessed his school days were among the happiest of his life: “I look back fondly on the people, both the staff and students that I met here. I joined as a somewhat rural bumpkin and left a confident and well-educated individual.
“It’s the pupils and staff that really shape this place and it’s a fantastic achievement that this year’s results are the best ever. The number of prizes and commendations today is further recognition that the school is in safe hands.”
Chairman of governors Elizabeth Jarvis praised students and staff for their latest exceptional exam results, which place RGS in the top two per cent of schools for pupil progress.
She added: “But exam results aren’t the only thing that make RGS. The school community and the people are what makes it such a special school.
“Today we also celebrate activities outside the classroom, all of which contribute to our special community, where every student is valued and encouraged to achieve their potential.”
As the only state boarding school in Yorkshire, she said staff always go the ‘extra mile’: “Ripon Grammar School is never closed.”
Headmaster Jonathan Webb reflected on a year of tremendous academic and sporting successes alongside outstanding music and drama, and said he had read hundreds of overwhelmingly positive end-of-term reports.
He said: “Whether you receive a prize or not, you can be proud of the work you have done.”