top of page

On returning to school

Returning to your secondary school is always a strange experience. Driving up the leafy avenue of Goddington lane, walking under that many-sided chapel, through the white reception gates – such mundanities are charged with an unexpected significance. A place containing some of your most formative childhood memories cannot help but reflect them back with startling clarity: free periods spent in the ADT block; mass pileups in the corridors; those daily organ solos in the Great Hall which everyone took for granted.


I’ve come back to St Olave’s for a few events over the past month: a careers talk and a careers fair, as well as an interview preparation day. The talk was a great chance to dig through my Olavian archives: I remember giving a talk to an assembly of prospective year 7’s, various triumphs (and heartaches) on sports day, and being joined by Dr Sidhu and other teachers on our final day pub crawl. I tried to imagine I was back at school, with no idea what I was going to do with my life. At that age, I knew I wanted to study something creative (along the lines of literature, film, or art), yet I found all those careers tests and skills assessments we were offered to be pretty uninspiring.


I wanted to tell students things I wish I’d been told at their age, which seem far more obvious to me now: that getting into Oxford doesn’t define anybody’s success; that it’s OK not to know what you want to do; that you should be honest with yourself about what you truly enjoy, as opposed to fitting your interests into a pre-conceived life-plan. These things are easy to talk about, of course, and much harder to put into practice. We’re always in the process of figuring it out. Some of the most interesting and exciting things happen when you remain open to chance and possibility, and treat each day as its own, not insignificant adventure (I got my current job at an advertising agency by chance, really, like many first jobs in the creative industry). I hoped that this would take a bit of pressure off the current students. Seeing two of my old English teachers, David Budds and Liz Goodman in attendance was lovely – especially as I was able to give one of my best defenses of studying English in front of them both! I hope I’ve made them proud.


Coming back for the school careers fair and interview preparation day reassured me that Olavians are continuing to flourish into bright, sensitive and driven people, and I was proud to be helping with this in some small way. After the interviews, I took a walk through the school grounds. The renovations that have taken place at Olave’s are heartening: the school values proudly displayed across the grounds, a new Astroturf (always promised whilst I was there, but never built!), and an intangible yet real sense of optimism in the air. If you haven’t returned, I would urge you to – you’ll probably end up learning far more about yourself and the debts you owe to St Olave’s than you expected.

bottom of page