Secondary school: Roedean, 2012-2014
University destination: Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, History of Art.
Walking along the cliff from my boarding house to main school on my first morning. It was brilliantly sunny yet windy day, I remember showing up to my first lesson, hair blown across my face – the infamous “Roedean wave”!
Roedean has the most phenomenal art department – one of the walls was tiled by the Pre-Raphaelite brother George Frederick Watts – that was open ‘til midnight every day. My happiest memories from Roedean are the late nights and long weekends spent painting in the studio with my two best friends.
When I was at Roedean, the boarding houses were a little bit run down, but they have done a massive renovation since I left. When I went back to give a talk on applying to Cambridge in 2016, I was blown away by how beautiful the new boarding houses looked!
Hand-shaking: on the first and last day of each term, all the teachers in the school line up along the cliff (weather of course dependent!) and each girl in the school, from the youngest to oldest, goes along and shakes every teacher’s hand. It’s a bit of a strange tradition but in many ways really encapsulates the community ethos of Roedean, which was so central to my time there.
Calling all the teachers “Madam” and “Sir” – we would always get slightly funny looks in Brighton station when we went on school trips or got the train home and were talking to our teachers on a Friday night.
During my time at Roedean the academic support varied from department to department, but since I have left, Roedean’s grades have improved in all subjects.
I came to Roedean from a very academic, pushy girls private school in London and wanted to go somewhere which had excellent teachers and facilities but none of the hot-box environment. Roedean provided a space to learn and think freely which was the best possible preparation for my time at Cambridge.
I really liked how Roedean had an ethos which encouraged everyone to enjoy learning and do the best they could – grades were not seen as the be all and end all.
There is a chapel that students can go to at any time and the school holds assemblies, carol services etc. there, but it is not religious in any strict sense. The chapel holds services for all faiths and Roedean often brought in figures from different religious communities to hold services.
As cliche as it sounds, my favourite co-curricular moment was singing in Roedean’s chamber choir during our carol service each year. Roedean feels like such a family and our carol service was incredibly beautiful. I felt very proud to sing in that.
During my time at Roedean, very little emphasis was placed on Oxbridge, but even so, the school did everything in its power to help my application – they arranged mock interviews at St Paul’s Boys School, brought in a lecturer from the Courtauld to help me, went above and beyond what I could have expected.
Since I have left Roedean, their academic results have soared and so too has the number of students getting places at Oxbridge. This year, there were 5 places, the highest number since 2017. That being said, Roedean by no means pushes Oxbridge as the best, or only option, and the school is really proud of how diverse its leavers destinations are each year.
Yes! I have remained in close contact with several of my teachers and have gone back to give talks on Oxbridge each year since I have left. Roedean also has a fantastic alumni network which has been very helpful in securing internships and remaining close to the school. I still feel very connected to the school and intend to always remain in touch.
Roedean had incredible pastoral support. This was both provided in an official – school counselling, boarding house staff etc. – and unofficial capacity – empathetic and caring teachers with cups of tea and biscuits. I felt very well supported during my time at Roedean, there was a strong sense that any problem you had would be listened to.
Individuality, welcoming, open-mindedness.