City of London School and Me

Getting into City of London School was a huge turning point in my life. Maybe I would have done well at a local state school too, but I don’t think I would have been as challenged and guided as I was at City. I would never have ended up applying to Oxford University. That wasn’t something our family did. City opened my eyes to all the possibilities of what I might go on to achieve.

I had a cousin who had been to City ten years previously. Everyone else we knew went to local schools, but I thought, ‘Let’s give it a go’ and went in for the entrance exam and interviews. I still remember sitting in our hall during the school holidays, reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, anxiously waiting for the letter to come through, hoping I would be accepted.

I never even thought my parents would be able to afford to send me to City but somehow, they just about managed to do it – I felt incredibly lucky. Until a few years later when my Dad was made redundant.

That was an incredibly stressful time. I still remember our conversations with the bursar and the assistant headmaster. I had earned a reputation as someone who was quite serious about my studies. All my teachers vouched for me and the School found a bursary place for me to stay on.

It was a huge moment. City’s support for pupils like me whose families are not able to pay fees seems central to the school’s whole philosophy. I am still very conscious of the opportunity I was given. It has had a life-changing impact.

The academic side was always strong at City. There was a healthy atmosphere of friendly competition among the pupils. What stood out though, was that the teachers were not obsessed with exams. They helped us to do well in them of course, but they also had a longer-term view of how we might develop as people.

We were encouraged to throw ourselves into extra-curricular activities and find things that we were passionate about. I got into staging events to raise money for the pupil-chosen charity from the very start: in First Form, I enlisted some teachers to do a lunchtime show, a version of X Factor. In later years, we produced our own take on Mastermind, Pop Idol and put on other big events. All the things we were encouraged to do outside of lessons impacted on us as much as schoolwork, I think.

I did Russian, Spanish, Maths and Economics at A-level, thinking I would go into the City. Maths and Economics felt like the bread and butter subjects for that and I was good at them. But then, at the end of Junior Sixth Form, I had to decide whether to do the expected thing or something bolder at university. I was really torn but my former history tutor, Miss Murphy, told me to be adventurous. She made it clear to me that you didn’t have to do Maths or Economics to go into the City. “Do something different and don’t be afraid”. Languages would be another “feather in my cap”. And those messages really stuck with me.

City always made the point that a well-rounded education gave you transferable skills. I was encouraged to take up Russian at City and loved it so much I read it at Oxford, which led to me working in Moscow during my year abroad. From an opportunity there, I worked for the oil and gas industry throughout my 20s, becoming a partner in a rapidly growing recruitment company.

My career might look quite unpredictable in retrospect. But many of my friends from City have also made successful careers with no pre-set path.  Maybe what sets the City pupil apart is that whatever field they go into; they have the confidence and imagination to try and do something beyond the norm.

City fostered qualities of self-motivation, curiosity and ambition in me and my friends and allowed us to explore our full potential. The teachers inspired me and framed the direction my life has taken, and I’ll never forget that.

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