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Our 'Top 5' prefects look back at life as a CLS pupil

Thursday, 12 March 2020

We recently sat down with the current Head Boy, Philip and the four Deputy Head Boys, Uttarayan, Sam, Pulkit and Emerson to find out more about their time at City of London School, how they feel about leaving this summer and why they’re running a Half Marathon later this month.*

As if revising for your A-levels wasn’t enough, you have signed up to run a Half Marathon to raise money for bursaries at CLS as well as the pupil charity of the year, Switchback - what made you do that?

Uttarayan: Philip.

Pulkit: I was coaxed into agreeing by Philip (a 10k run seemed far more manageable!) but this seemed like a great way to give back to the School, whilst simultaneously relieving exam stress and providing an opportunity to get myself into shape!

Philip: I seem to be getting blamed quite a lot here! Well, I really enjoyed my time on the charity committee in Junior Sixth Form, so when I stumbled across a route map for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and saw it goes right past the School, I thought it could be a fun way to set ourselves a challenge and raise some money along the way. The Bursary Fund and Charity Appeal are some of the best things about our School and symbolise what we stand for, so to mark our time at City and give back a little we thought fundraising for these causes would be a nice idea. 

(To support the Top 5 in their endeavour please click here)

Looking back to your first day at City of London School – what do you remember the most?

Uttaryan: I joined Mr Swann’s OG class in 2012, alongside Sam and Philip (we were all in the same class!) My first impression came earlier, as my brother also attended the School, but I remember it being a huge and welcoming place. 

Sam: I actually remember very little about my first days and weeks of City, but there is one thing I remember very clearly. Mr Swann, being a Classics teacher, set us a homework on our first day to find out what the school motto ‘domine dirige nos’ means. He said that he would give a commendation to all those who got it. The next day, when I walked into the form room, a few boys had looked up the answer the night before as I had done, many were simply copying it down from others in the classroom before Mr Swann arrived, but Uttarayan soon presented a full A4 page with not just the answer, but a further paragraph about its significance and how it came to be the School motto, and underneath a coloured-in picture of the badge. He still only got one commendation like the rest of us, but his work-rate has not changed one jot since that day!

Philip: My first impressions of CLS actually came from a trip I went on previously with my primary school, where we enjoyed a day of science experiments and language classes – one of the best things though was the school lunch which I remember to this day! 

Pulkit: I joined CLS in September 2018 in the Junior Sixth Form, from Colchester Royal Grammar School. It had been my dream to be a ‘City boy’ ever since I first laid eyes on the envious riverfront location. I remember standing outside the main entrance rather awkwardly with three other new boys in the autumn chill, anxious to make myself known. I must admit, I was wandering around like a headless chicken for the first week because I couldn’t quite figure out how to get from the dining room back to my form room in Art; knowing that there was a road running under the School would have been rather helpful!

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How would you describe CLS to a friend?

Sam: The alleged most photographed school in the world and the undisputed best-located school in the world.

Pulkit: CLS is a melting pot of different cultures, people and interests. I think this is fantastic as it creates a generation of open-minded people, who are accepting and forward thinking. I would also like to remind them that the star of the Harry Potter series attended CLS.

Philip: #KindAwareReady! I’m only half joking – the School really is inclusive, welcoming, and offers you so many opportunities for personal development.

What has been the best year or term for you?

Emerson: The summer term of Junior Sixth Form was definitely a memorable one.  Culminating in a Mandarin Speaking Competition trip to China and the Sponsored row for the School’s charity, Tiny Tickers, last summer was the last time during which I could switch off and immerse myself in the best of the School’s extra-curricular offering.

Philip: I would have to say Junior Sixth Form as well. Moving into the Sixth Form gives you so many new freedoms and responsibilities – there were opportunities to get involved with the Citizen, iGEM, the Charity Committee, CCF and the mentoring scheme. I don’t think I’ve ever been busier, but without the pressure of public exams that Senior Sixth Form brings, it was a good time to develop more personal interests. 

Uttarayan: This year has been my favourite, although not everything has gone to plan, I feel truly lucky to be in a place like this, and I am really enjoying the time I have left here. 

Sam: I look back at the summer term of Forth Form particularly fondly. It was a much simpler time, with only taking Latin GCSE a year early to really worry about. I remember a real sense of camaraderie amongst all the boys in our Latin and Greek class, all of us taking Latin early, especially when for example standing outside the hall before walking into the exams – we all felt very cool as there were ‘year-aboves’ taking the exam with us. When we all found out our grades the August after, it was really nice that everyone had done well, and we could all be super happy for each other. This was also the summer of Pokémon Go, so all in all a great time!

What are you most proud of during your time at CLS? 

Philip: Being Head Boy this past year has been a true privilege and I’ve loved representing the School internally and at a variety of events. It’s been a great opportunity to contribute to school life and working together with the four deputies has been a pleasure. That said, it’s a close tie between this and winning the 800 metres B team race in Second Form. 

Emerson: The School has given me many moments of which I am proud.  Being selected as a Deputy Head Boy, winning a trip to China for the National Mandarin Speaking Competition, succeeding at GCSE’s and singing in the Royal Opera House’s production of The Magic Flute are some of the highlights.

Sam: One thing I am proud of (and had the pleasure of sharing with Philip and Uttarayan) is being part of the school public speaking team for two years during Fifth Form and Junior Sixth Form. Whilst the three of us were very proud to go one round further in the competition in Junior Sixth Form than in Fifth Form, where we eventually got beaten in the national stage by three 13 year olds who were talking about “why we like books more than films” (we, for the record, chose the slightly more intellectual topic of “how language, humankind’s first and greatest invention, came about”!), we also had some crazy experiences over the two years which will make us laugh for years when we reminisce. It was rewarding but also really good fun.

Uttarayan: Most recently, running our MUN conference as Secretary-General, something that my brother also did in his time! 

What have you enjoyed the most at CLS? 

Uttarayan: Chats in the Sixth Form Office with Mr Emerson and Mr Webb, or ‘history’ lessons with Mr McBroom (which were mostly culinary lessons, discussing things like the perfect angle at which to slice a roasting potato). 

Sam: One thing I have particularly enjoyed and appreciated is how willing the teachers are to help. I always heard from older boys that this was the case, but I have really seen it for myself in the past year or so - for example with university applications and coursework advice.

Pulkit: I love the School and the teaching wholeheartedly, but the one thing I will never forget is the smell of coffee and toast lingering in the Sixth Form Common Room!

Emerson: Its location is something which I have come to value more and more as I have progressed through the School.  Having been a chorister, I am well aware of the fantastic opportunities the City of London School offers to students, be it through music - with easy access to the Barbican, St Pauls, the Royal Opera House and for me, the Temple Church; through art and drama - with the theatres of the West End just a few tube stops away and Tate Modern and the Globe just over the river; or through the unparalleled access to speakers in politics, finance, academia and the arts.  However, it is the day-to-day experience of walking along the Thames in the morning or being able to grab lunch with friends in Paternoster Square which has made my time at CLS so enriching. 

Philip: Throughout my time here I’ve enjoyed the friendly and genuinely fun atmosphere – I've made some great friends along the way, and biology lessons with Mr Browne never fail to be hilariously entertaining.  

How has the School changed you?

Pulkit: CLS has been an amazing experience for me: I feel that I have become a more independent, mature and confident person throughout these two years. Being selected as one of the Deputy Head Boys was life-changing for my self-esteem, and I have learnt to believe in myself more as a result.

Emerson: Entering the School in the First Form, I was shy, lacked confidence, and struggled to keep on top of my work and extra-curricular commitments.  The School has motivated me, taught me to be independent, and has enabled me to build my confidence while aiming high academically.

Uttarayan: Perhaps to be myself and pursue my interests rather than to conform to the goals of others. 

Philip: Above all else, I think City has taught me to value my friendships and to take advantage of opportunities. It’s a very friendly place and I think that’s reflected across the school community. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Sam: Take stock of everything as it happens and enjoy it all as the time goes quickly, although I do actually think I have done this pretty well. 

Philip: Don’t panic about end of year exams until Fifth Form! Of course, these exams are an opportunity to check understanding, but looking back I shouldn’t have worried so much about things like Second Form exams.

Pulkit: To keep trying things out. Many people said to me that I wouldn’t become a Prefect, so there was no point in applying, but I went out of my comfort zone and put my name down on the list. When the list was revealed, that was when I felt truly integrated and a part of CLS. I will always be a ‘new boy’, but I use that term in a more endearing manner now. 

Emerson: I feel like an entirely different person to the one who entered the school in 2013.  The first few years of my time at CLS were challenging academically for me due to the contrast with my previous school, so any advice I would give would be to work harder and be more thorough with revision, but also to more fully embrace the extra-curricular side of the School and to make the most of every day before the pressures of public exams and university applications kick in. 

What are you doing next?

Uttarayan: Going to LSE hopefully, if I meet my offer, and enjoying life there (and probably missing City!).

Emerson: I am still unsure.  I will either be taking up an offer to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the London School of Economics, or I will take a gap year to reapply to Oxford. 

Sam: Like Emerson, I am not quite sure yet, but naturally A-level results will add some clarity. I think I will probably study Classics, however, at uni. 

Pulkit: I have an offer to study Medicine at the University of Birmingham as of the moment. I loved the campus, the course and the incredibly active Medical Society.

Philip: After A-levels we’ve got the longest summer holiday of our lives. I plan on doing a bit of travelling, and hopefully results day will bring good news – assuming it does, I’ll be off to UCL to study Medicine in September.

Where do you think you’ll be in ten years’ time?

Emerson: Trying to predict the next ten years would be absurd for someone who has no clue what the next one has in store!

Sam: Like Emerson says, a year at a time please! I have no idea, and thus I imagine my future self would think that I could never have guessed how life would eventually turn out, ten years ago.

Pulkit: Probably cleaning out bedpans or attempting to take blood from a patient for the seventh time. It is a grim reality!

Uttarayan: Hopefully doing something I enjoy and hopefully getting to travel with work. 

Philip: Hopefully in hospital. As a Junior Doctor, of course. If it all goes to plan, I’ll have finished medical school by then and will be embarking on a career in medicine. 

And one final question – where a yes is the only answer: Do you think you’ll stay in touch with the School?

Uttarayan: Of course, this place has shaped me and I hope that I can attend reunions and things as I get older. 

Pulkit: I will also definitely stay in touch. I will miss the daily walk down St Peter’s Hill, the open library overlooking the Thames, and the hustle and bustle of OGs and First Formers in the dining room queue.

Emerson: Of course. The School has given me so many great memories. My brother is in his first year at the School so I will be back for concerts and, through the alumni network, for well into the future!

Philip: Definitely. It already feels strange enough to be leaving this School after having come here every day for eight years. Going to university will be a big change but I look forward to coming back regularly for reunions and other events.

Sam: I very much hope so, without a doubt. That’s all there is to say on the matter!

Thanks for sitting down with us and good luck with everything – we can’t wait to welcome you into the alumni community this summer!

*Since we spoke to the Top 5, the London Landmarks Half Marathon has been postponed until further notice.

The alleged most photographed school in the world and the undisputed best-located school in the world!
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