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D6 students enjoy visits from leading academics and professionals

Posted on: 04/07/2019

One of the many ways in which our Year 12 Enrichment Afternoons have been used this year has been to invite visitors from a plethora of backgrounds to speak to our students.  

Most recently, we have been visited by two speakers who were provided thanks to Speakers for Schools, a free programme offered by the charity that gives schools access to talks in which leading professionals and academics share their experiences and expertise

Firstly, Basil Eastwood, former Ambassador to Syria, came to talk to the students about Cecily’s Fund. This was set up in 1997 in memory of his daughter, Cecily Eastwood, who died tragically in a road accident while volunteering with children orphaned by AIDS in Zambia, during her gap year.  From its humble beginnings, the charity now works tirelessly to change futures by enabling AIDS orphans and vulnerable children go to school, succeed at school, and prepares them for life beyond school. Whilst the focus of Basil’s talk was on the impact of this amazing charity on children and young adults, he demonstrated to students that with passion, determination and resilience, even in times of great adversity, you can overcome and achieve anything you want in life.

The students were next visited by Professor John Wass who is a Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Oxford. He has undertaken much research and written the Oxford textbook of Endocrinology as well as making a film for the BBC on Hormones.  His talk titled “You are your hormones”, gave a fascinating insight into the impact that hormones have on us, from affecting our height to determining our sexuality, including transexualism and testicular feminisation. Excellent anecdotal examples demonstrated how his research has been pivotal in helping him both treat and help individuals manage hormone related conditions. He also talked about the skills and qualities that he felt were the most essential in making someone an effective Doctor. These essential values include empathy, which he demonstrated clearly in the way in which he talked about all the patients and engaged with our students. Professor Wass has kindly offered to do mock interviews for those students wishing to study medicine, and for this we are truly appreciative.

We were then visited by Sian Carr, Executive Head of Skinners Academy in Tunbridge Wells. Sian has had an extremely varied career, having been the Head Teacher in two schools, and holding the highest positions in some of our most influential educational bodies.  Sian currently sits on the UCAS board, and it was her knowledge and expertise in this area on which she initially focused, as our students embark on their UCAS journey. She gave an impartial presentation highlighting the merits of both a University and apprenticeship route, and encouraged our students to consider carefully whether either of these options would suit them the best.  She talked about Unconditional offers and was very clear that students should aspire to achieve the best grades they could since these would be with them for life.  Sian also focused on the importance of the choices we make and how these can be key to the direction we are taken on in life. In her case, Sian’s Father had given her the motivation and passion to want to teach, even though as a teenager she was adamant this was not a career path she wanted to take. It is now a career choice she has loved and feels privileged to have been part of. 

During the talk, Sian challenged students to think about “how they wanted to be remembered” and encouraged them to be the very best they can be in everything they do. She told students to live their lives according to a constant set of values with “Excellence and Elegance,” to aim high and never accept second best. She finished by emphasising the importance of always embracing  new challenges and new horizons as she, anecdotally, heads off to Japan to be a Director of an English School at a time most would be seeking retirement.

The focus then changed to student health as the Stroke Association raised awareness about what a stroke is and more importantly emphasised to us that it is not age-specific. They highlighted the key lifestyle choices that can make us more susceptible to a stroke and that young peoples that choose these are as much risk of a stroke as at any other age. Blood pressure was a key contributor and students were advised to ensure that they did get this measured. This, in fact, prompted two students to remain behind to have their blood pressure checked.

We are incredibly appreciative of all these visitors and their willingness to both give up their time and to share their knowledge and expertise with our students. We hope that it will broaden both their aspirations and give them some food for thought.  We very much look forward to welcoming them back next year as well as broadening our offer to other speakers.

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