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The Alex Sutton Prize

The inaugural Chemistry Competition took place in January 2024
22 Feb 2024
School News
Winners of the inaugural Alex Sutton Prize
Winners of the inaugural Alex Sutton Prize

Alex Sutton, OH Staff 1962-2002, was a much loved Chemistry teacher at Hymers College, teaching at the school for 40 years. He started in 1962, becoming Head of Chemistry six years later in 1968. During that period, he participated in many aspects of the school.  As well as supporting the students in achieving outstanding exam results, he was also involved with the sports teams, drama productions, school trips abroad, the staff choir, squash for the staff team, helped run charity appeals, the Old Hymerians, and much more. He was also the only non-Hymerian to serve as President of the Old Hymerian Association in 1994!  When the school celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in 1993, he helped co-write the school book, 'Hymers College, The First Hundred Years’. He sadly passed away in January 2021.

Mr Sutton was an amazing chemistry teacher, who helped me to understand and enjoy the subject. It was through his enthusiasm and support that I decided to continue studying Chemistry for A levels and after leaving Hymers, I continued to keep in touch with him, swapping Christmas cards up until he passed away in 2021.

Victoria Bastiman, OH 1989-96

This year, Head of Chemistry, Gordon Prescott has set up a new chemistry competition in the name of his predecessor. The Alex Sutton Prize will be awarded to the winners of the year group Chemistry Challenges. The first competitors to take part were in Year 10 and there was a theme of the energy storage branch of Green Chemistry.

The students tackled a practical exercise, with the details given below:

The technicians at a leading manufacturer of ultracapacitors, CapUlt, have a problem. The researchers on the night shift have returned a set of solutions but the labels have been peeled off. Unfortunately, all the solutions are clear and colourless, and they are needed for the morning shift, which starts in less than an hour. Can you help the technicians work out which solution is which? There are five solutions in total. Two of the solutions are hydrochloric acid, but one is more dilute than the other. The remaining three solutions are sodium hydroxide solution, distilled water, and phenolphthalein. There aren’t any test tubes as they are all being washed, but you do have access to some dropper bottles and a couple of dropping tiles (dimple trays).

The teams were assessed on successfully identifying the five solutions (all the teams achieved this), the time it took them (times ranged from 343 seconds to 1633 seconds), a clear and concise report on their methodology, outcomes, and analysis of results, health and safety, teamwork and organisation, and a set of 23 difficult and unusual written questions on scientific thinking 'outside the box'.

I was delighted that 12 teams of 2 entered the inaugural Year 10 Chemistry Challenge on 30 January 2024.  The winning team is the first holder of The Alex Sutton Prize, an honour in the memory of a long-serving and distinguished previous Head of Hymers Chemistry. In future, all winners of Year Group Chemistry Challenges will hold The Alex Sutton Prize.

The Chemistry Department instigated a Chemistry Challenge for each year group in the Senior School this year. The Years 7, 8, 9 and 13 events have already taken place, and there will be opportunities for Years 11 and 12 in March. It is intended that these will be annual events, and the winners of all subsequent challenges will receive a Sutton prize.

Gordon Prescott, Head of Chemistry

Well done to all the students who have taken part in the competition.

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Since this article has been published, we have received some lovely comments from former students regarding Mr Sutton, a selection of which can be seen below:

I’ve just read all the lovely comments.  He would have been honoured that you’ve remembered him in such a fantastic way.  I read them to my mum, and we’re both so very touched and happy that he has been remembered in such an incredible way.  Thank you so very much.

Sarah Sutton, daughter of Alex

Alex was an absolute Hymers legend. He made me most welcome when I first came to the school and remained a good friend throughout our time working together.

Steve Walmsley, Director of Sport, 1989 - current

I had the same experience as Steve, of being welcomed by Alex when I arrived at Hymers in 1974. When he learned that I had played squash for Durham University my feet did not touch the ground and he had signed me up for the Hymers League team.

Neil King, Head of English and Director of Sixth Form, OH Staff 1974-2006

Brilliant teacher who guided me to getting my Chemistry A, which was crucial to getting my Uni place.

Amazing teacher and made chemistry one of the best subjects in the school.

I have a fond memory of him converting my tie into a bow tie whilst we were waiting to go into the lab. He was an excellent chemistry teacher at Hymers.

Proud to have been one of his students! Great memories of an excellent teacher!

Fabulous chemistry teacher and an absolute blast on ski trips.

What a lovely tribute to a wonderful teacher.

A great teacher and even better man.

What a superb idea! Alex was truly one of a kind.

What an absolute legend this man was. Absolutely loved him.

The most wonderful teacher, mentor and person was Mr Sutton. A perfect tribute.

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