The Abbey community of pupils, staff and alumnae is rich and diverse. Find out more about some of the girls and women of The Abbey who are achieving great success in their chosen fields.
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Rachael Middleton was camping on Skye when her GCSE results came out, something that was typical of a girl imbued with a love of the outdoors from an early age by her parents and grandparents. It was three weeks before she opened them to find out that her straight A* grades would see her on the road to Sixth Form at The Abbey. Academic development aside, though, it was the School expedition to Nepal in 2013 that would spark the obsession that seems likely to define her life: ‘I was standing, just staring at the Himalayas, and Miss Corderoy leaned towards me and said; “I can see it in your eyes, you know one day you’ll climb it,” and that was it.’
Following A Levels Rachael headed back to Nepal to experience high altitude trekking, solo expeditions and her first major peak, the 6000m Huayna Potosi in Bolivia. In December 2016 Rachael joined a team of 5 others, all male, all at least a decade older than her, to attempt the summit. One of her team mates, a tall, fit former US soldier, told her, ‘when I met you at the hotel I thought “she won’t make it.”’ Eleven days later it was Rachael who supported him as he struggled through exhaustion to make the summit.
Rachael credits The Abbey with building her mental toughness and resilience and encouraging her to set high goals and follow her dreams. ‘I think that if you have a dream, you should just make it happen.’ She has switched her degree from Biomedicine to Geography to enable her to pursue a career that will take in the world that she is desperate to explore. With her determination, fierce independence and passion for adventure there’s no doubt that she has many more summits to conquer!
Perseverance learned at a young age has proved invaluable to ceramic designer Emma as she pursues her dream of building a high-end homeware brand. After completing an art foundation course at Chelsea College, Emma undertook a degree in ceramic design at the renowned Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. Her graduate show in 2013 sparked immediate interest from buyers and this initial boost was all Emma needed to take the plunge and set up her own business.
Three and a half years later Emma now has a growing enterprise with exciting plans for scaling up in 2017. She gains inspiration from “anywhere and everywhere” as well as drawing on her past portfolio to develop and refine her ideas.
Recalling her days at The Abbey, Emma has very fond memories of orchestra tours and school productions. She credits the DofE programme, music practice and her academic studies with instilling the value of perseverance even when something seems like a struggle, saying: “It’s a life skill that I really value on a daily basis while I’m in the early stages of running a business.”
Admitting that finding balance in life can be hard when your workplace is also your home, Emma says that she’s getting better at switching off: “keeping active and staying social are my two magic ingredients.” In terms of business, she feels that having a balance of passion, determination and enthusiasm is vital, and advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be aware of their strengths and ask themselves the difficult questions: “Things like - What is your niche? What are the short and long term goals? How sustainable is your way of practice? How do you plan to expand? How are you going to price your work? These are all things which are easy to hide away from, but they all help get the ball rolling.”
It’s clear that Emma knows just where she plans to take her business and has the drive and determination to succeed. Find out more about Emma’s business by visiting http://www.emmaalington.co.uk/
“There is time for much more in your life than you think possible”
So closes the book that Marie has written about her own life, and which she has had published this year at the age of 90 – and for Marie, this statement could not be more true.
Marie was a student at the Abbey from 1937 to 1941, during which time her prowess at hockey became evident. After returning to her Scottish homeland where she finished her schooling, she went on to train as a PE teacher, as well as playing hockey for Scotland for several years. Her love and knowledge of the game led to her becoming the first national coach for women’s hockey in Scotland, during which time the team secured a series of notable wins in international matches, including beating England at Wembley in 1972.
Marie’s trailblazing achievements continued, including qualifying as a marriage guidance counsellor; being appointed as the first Student Counsellor ever in a Scottish College; and gaining a PhD at the age of 60. Alongside all these accomplishments, home life has been paramount to Marie, with her love for, and pride in, her family - including her late husband, Douglas, and her five children – pivotal to the steps in her life’s journey.
Marie’s book, “The Times of My Life” is a hugely beguiling read. If you would like a personal copy, it is available here.
A marketing degree may not necessarily be the obvious career path to the RAF, but for Philippa, her University studies were, in fact, a invaluable stepping stone to her fulfilling a long-held ambition to work in aviation.
After graduating from the University of Brighton with a First in Business Studies with Marketing, Philippa joined the Sales and Marketing function of an IT company operating in the defence sector; as a result, her work involved spending lots of time on RAF bases and with military personnel, seeing first hand the fantastic work they do. This fanned the flames of her long-time love of aviation and flying yet further, culminating in her applying to join the RAF as a Flight Operations Officer.
Following a stringent selection process, with only 1 in 150 applicants making the cut, Philippa is currently wearing in her boots and embarks on her two year training at the beginning of April, starting with Initial Officer Training at RAF College Cranwell. We wish her every success!
Commercial Airline Pilot
Ellie has dreamt of being an airline pilot for as long as she can remember. One of her favourite memories as a child was going up to the flight deck and watching pilots doing what she saw as ‘the best job in the world’. After leaving The Abbey, Ellie went on to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester. She ensured her university choice had an Air Squadron, allowing her to learn to fly on her days off alongside her degree, as well as providing the opportunities to develop key skills and meet like minded people.
During her first year at university, Ellie successfully applied for the British Airways Future Pilot Programme. During a 15 month period she lived on campus at Jerez de la Frontera International Airport. The course involved 62 weeks of training, including a mixture of ground school and flying training, working alongside commercial airlines.
Ellie explains that she is very grateful to The Abbey for being so supportive in the lead up to her British Airways selection: ‘I studied for my Private Pilots License exams in the summer of my AS Levels, and the school gave me time to revise for these. The careers team were also amazing, putting me in touch with the RAF as well as organizing a visit for Flight Lieutenant Julie Fell to come to the school and speak to me about flying.’
Soon, Ellie will join British Airways as a First Officer, flying passengers all over the UK, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. She would eventually like to fly long haul, with her dream being able to fly the Boeing 787.
Year 9 student Isabella saw the reward for months of training and commitment as she and her team mates in the England formation tap team were crowned world champions at the IDO world championships in Germany in December.
Isabella started tap dancing at the age of six and has developed her skills to a very high level. She successfully auditioned to become an associate of the ‘Tap Attack’ dance company and then had the opportunity to audition for the England team. Upon selection Isabella embarked on a heavy training schedule which increased as the competition drew near and the team danced at charity events to give them performance time.
The competition took place over a week with Isabella’s team making the finals against 6 others including teams from the Russian federation, Canada, Czech Republic and the USA. The announcement of the winner was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of Isabella’s life: “The top three were announced via videos of the dancer’s feet, so we knew when ours didn’t appear on screen as second place was announced that we had won – I felt quite sick before the announcement, but absolutely elated afterwards.”
“I’ve hugely enjoyed the whole experience,” says Isabella. “I’ve made friends across the UK and throughout the world.”
Isabella is hoping to turn her love of performing – she’s also a talented dancer and singer - into a career: “I would love to have a career in musicals and hope to audition for stage school when I’m 16.”
Tessa had only just arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in October to begin her Fulbright Scholarship year when she had to jump on a plane back to the UK to receive her ‘Women of the Future’ award for Science. This prestigious accolade has been awarded to Tessa in recognition of her achievements in the field of Cosmology, where she is leading cutting-edge research into the applicability of Einstein’s theory of gravity, General Relativity, to the large scale structure of the universe. She has recently written a blog on the topic.
A founder member of the Abbey’s Rocket club whilst at school with an already highly developed interest in the cosmos and what’s out there, Tessa left School in 2006 and went on to read Physics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she specialised in theoretical physics and astrophysics. She then completed a PhD in Astrophysics at New College before commencing a post-doctoral research fellowship at All Souls College, to where she will return after her Fulbright year in the States.
More details on Tessa’s ‘Women of the Future’ Award is available here. We are very proud of her indeed!
Who knows whether her prowess in butterfly stroke at School swimming galas lit a spark which in time led to Elise’s current PhD research exploring the interrelation of circadian rhythms, human health and performance? What’s for sure is that this area of study has fascinated her since leaving the Abbey in 2008, and it’s therefore no surprise that it has become her specialism.
After a degree in Human Biology from the University of Birmingham, Elise continued to take her Masters there in Chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms. In 2013, she commenced her PhD with MIBTP, a Doctoral Training Programme jointly delivered by the Universities of Warwick, Birmingham and Leicester. Currently in her third year, her research has already received much international media interest, with her findings on athletic performance being showcased on television, radio and the global press in February this year. Here she is being interviewed on BBC Breakfast.
Talented artist Tanisha Walker, who is currently studying A2 Art within the Upper Sixth, has recently had the honour of having her work displayed in an exhibition to raise awareness for black history.
The photo shows Tanisha's exhibited piece.
A taster lesson on the bassoon has led to an enduring love of music for Sixth Form student Helen. A listening music teacher spotted her talent when she tried the instrument for the first time aged nine and persuaded her that she should take it up. Now Helen is a Licentiate of Trinity College London, a qualification she gained with Distinction and which entailed her devising and performing a 50 minute recital on bassoon and providing suitable programme notes.
Achieving this third year degree-level qualification alongside straight A* grades at GCSE has been no easy task and Helen has had to work hard to balance her music practice with her studies. “When rehearsing for concerts I can be practising for anything between 30 and 50 hours per week, so I’ll often be bringing some school work with me to get on with.” She notes that with music you can get carried away with practising: “I might decide to practise for half an hour and end up spending three hours working on a piece. It’s different from a sport, for example, where you are limited by coach availability, or physical stamina, for example. You have to discipline yourself which can be hard when you are trying to perfect a performance.”
Helen is principal bassoonist with the Berkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra for two years, orchestral music being her true passion. She also achieved grade 8 in flute. She has her sights set on a career in medicine and is taking A Levels in chemistry, maths, biology and music.
Helen feels music will always play a large part in her life as: “It combines art, languages, maths, history, plus you meet so many interesting and lovely people along the way – a lot of real characters.”
A chance trial session at the age of 9 turned into a passion for Lottie when she agreed to join a friend at Reading Royals Synchronised Swimming Club. After being accepted on to the fast-track programme she soon became drawn into the competitive and social world of synchro.
Thanks to their talent and enormous dedication Lottie and her squad were very successful, reaching second place in the national championships and Lottie herself achieving 19th position last year. This qualified her for for England Squad trials, which she made the difficult decision to decline as she wanted to continue other hobbies.
Training 8 times per week, with two morning and six evening sessions on top of school work and working towards grade 6 ballet has proved a major challenge, so this year Lottie has switched clubs in order to maintain her enjoyment of synchro as well as balancing it with her other hobbies and commitments as she enters her GCSE year.
She gains enormous pleasure from performing at such a high standard: “I love the feeling underwater and being so free, and I love the feeling of watching a swim back, knowing it looks beautiful on top disguising the hard work and pandemonium beneath the surface. I love competing at national competitions. It is so rewarding to get good results after a year of hard work and a highly demanding training regime. I'm looking forward to continuing the sport that I love.”
Whilst in the LVI in 2008, Fiona’s involvement in an Abbey project working with a Latvian school was pivotal in helping her identify where she hoped her career path would lead. Having experienced first-hand the challenging environment in which children were educated in Eastern Europe, she realised that she wanted to find a professional role which provided the opportunity to make a positive social impact.
After her English Literature degree at the University of Exeter, she first worked in Marketing for a small telecoms company in London, and has since gone on to join Accenture on its graduate training programme. Since joining Accenture in May 2014, she has specialised within the Health and Public Services Operating Group, and has worked on a range of projects for UK public sector clients.
Whilst at the Abbey, Fiona was a very active member of the School choir, and took part in several music tours. Her love of music has endured, and since leaving the Abbey she has continued to participate in musical theatre and choral groups. She feels very strongly that the Abbey develops in its pupils the desire to get involved and make a difference, whilst at the same equipping them with the interpersonal skills to enable that to happen. Without a doubt, Fiona, herself, is a real testament to that.
From stocktaking Burberry handbags in New York, to persuading a curmudgeonly local client to converse with her in Castilian rather than his native Catalan – it’s safe to say that Sarah Gaselee (née Cooke)’s accountancy career has given her a lot of unexpected moments.
Whilst a geographer at heart – her love of which developed here at School – she also has a passion for all things Spanish. She went on to graduate with combined honours in Geography and Hispanic Studies, and gained a Geography Masters, before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. Throughout her career, her Spanish and French language skills have aided her to secure interesting overseas client assignments and work placements. She currently successfully manages her own accountancy practice alongside being a mum of two young children.
As part of the 2015 Modern Foreign Languages Week, we were delighted to welcome Sarah back to school to talk to girls about how her language skills have benefited her career. Hasta la próxima, Sarah!
There is an element of ‘going full circle’ for some recent research undertaken by Professor Louise Archer. More than 20 years after having left the Abbey herself, her ‘ASPIRES’ ESRC-funded project –which explores the influences on children in deciding (or not) to study ‘STEM’ subjects at school and beyond – included interviews with a number of Abbey girls within its primary research. The second phase of this research is now underway, tracking the progress of the subjects in the first phase through the next stage of their educational journeys.
Louise has been at Kings College London since 2006, and holds a Chair in the Sociology of Education. After leaving the Abbey in 1991, she studied Social Psychology at the University of Kent, followed by a PhD at the University of Greenwich, after which she embarked on an academic career at London Metropolitan University. Along the way, she also became a mum of twins!
Louise loved studying A level Sociology whilst at school, and this ignited a spark which has proven to have shaped her career path from thereon. She credits the Abbey for developing independent learning skills in its pupils, and for instilling confidence in their ability to achieve.
For many an Abbey girl, New York is on the list of places they would like to spend time in the future, and Annabel is living the dream. She is currently working for Morgan Stanley in Manhattan and her office is right in the heart of Times Square. She works in Fixed Income and Commodities, doing sales and trading, focusing on interest rates and foreign exchange and her clients are hedge funds and large institutional investors such as pension funds.
Her flat is in the trendy Lower East Side area with its bars and restaurants and fantastic Sunday brunches and a couple of Abbey friends are already booked in for a visit! Annabel was Head Girl and starred in ‘Kiss Me Kate’ which obviously gave her a taste for America. She gained 4 A*s at A level and went on to read Engineering at Oxford from where she was recruited to start at Morgan Stanley in London. It was lovely to see Annabel at our alumnae event at PwC this summer and the Sixth Formers who chatted to her there have been thrilled to hear of her move Stateside.
A keen eye and steady hand have seen Lower IV (Year 8) pupil Alex hitting the gold in the field of archery. After trying the sport during a summer camp Alex persuaded her parents to book her onto a beginners’ course and she fell in love with the sport. She has made many friends while shooting at her own club and at competitions and enjoys the challenge of trying to continuously improve her performance.
As a member of Wokingham Archery Club she trains every Sunday and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. She is currently a Junior Master Bowman shooting a recurve bow and has been selected to shoot recurve for the Surrey County team for the past 3 years. This summer she changed from shooting recurve to shooting a compound bow and is aiming to achieve her Junior Master Bowman award in this more technical bow type next year and also to get selected again for the County Team shooting a compound bow.
When it comes to sporting inspiration Alex has to look no further than her Godmother Katherine Grainger, the UK’s most successful female rower. As Alex puts it: “She has been on such a journey in achieving silvers in three Olympic Games and then I was there in London to see her win her gold medal. She has shown tremendous courage to go back to rowing and try to be on the podium again in Rio. She is a good example of how important perseverance is and that you should never give up.”
Sisters Hattie, Maddie and Lottie Orr have been at The Abbey since 2007 and are all keen rowers for local clubs where they have achieved enormous competitive success. They have also applied the commitment needed to training for rowing to their studies. Following a successful season with wins at Schools’ Head and Womens’ Eight Head in their respective boats, this summer all three girls won Gold medals at the British Junior Rowing Championships in their Fours, Hattie and Maddie also won Silver in their quad.
They have all represented Great Britain J16s in the annual match against France, Lottie with still a year to go in the age group, and her older sisters alongside gaining 18 A*s & 3 As between them at GCSE. This summer, Hattie and Maddie represented England in the Home Countries Regatta in both a Four and an Eight, winning both. They feel that the discipline and structure that training 20 hours a week and competing regularly entails has definitely helped them to both achieve excellent AS Level results and will help them in their University applications for Architecture and Geography & Biology.
All three sisters will be competing against hundreds of others, as well as against each other, as they enter the GB Junior trialling system this year.
Tracey left The Abbey with no firm ideas about her future, but an open mind. Fortunately the excellent foundations laid at The Abbey provided a springboard for a career that took off quickly, and by 23 she was director of a PR consultancy. In 1993, attracted by the opportunity to work on one of the first “green” business to business products, she joined Kyocera as PR manager and was responsible for the campaign that beat the launch of Windows 95 to the award for best technology campaign. Tracey has remained with Kyocera, holding several positions in marketing and sustainability before becoming Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in 2012. A fellow of the RSA, she is a regular contributor to conferences on sustainability and values-centred business and in 2014 was named Sustainability Executive of the Year in the Businessgreen Leaders Awards. Tracey is also a guest lecturer at Henley Business School, a trustee of Connect Reading and sits on the board of the Reading Climate Change Partnership.
Tracey still lives in Reading with her husband and teenage son; her stepdaughter lives nearby. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, preferably with home-grown ingredients, travelling and volunteering as welfare officer for the youth theatre group attended by her son.
Dr Debby Reynolds is Chair of Governors of The Abbey School. After attending The Abbey for her entire school career she studied Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol. This was followed by a PhD in Microbiology at the University of Reading. A career in animal health with a focus on infectious disease culminated in the role of Chief Veterinary Officer and Director General of Animal Health at DEFRA. Debby was the Government's chief media spokesperson on veterinary issues nationally and internationally and primary adviser on animal health issues to the Prime Minister for which she was awarded a CB in the New Years Honours 2009.
Debby is particularly interested in the natural world, a keen world birdwatcher and chaired a Panel advising the National Trust on natural environment and conservation until recently. She also held a non-executive position in the national Health Protection Agency and was previously a Board member in the local NHS. Debby is affiliate Professor at Colorado State University, USA and consults for the US Department of Agriculture, Defence Threat Reduction Agency and World Bank on global health matters, particularly in the country of Georgia. She is an honorary professor at the Royal Veterinary College, London.
Debby's photo shows her birding in Columbia.
In 2015 Ciara was one of only around 200 students of the 141,000 worldwide to achieve the top mark of 45 points in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Her exceptional achievement included gaining a 7 in Higher Level Maths – the first time an Abbey student has achieved full marks including Higher Level Maths.
Ciara is considering a career in financial journalism but her first step is to join the IBM GAP year apprentice scheme, which will see her gain a wealth of business experience at one of the world’s most prestigious employers. On completing the programme she will take up her place at the University of Warwick to read Economics.
Outside her studies and business experience Ciara is a keen rower with Upper Thames Rowing Club.
Opera singer in the making
Music scholar Josie’s dream of becoming an opera singer was sparked by a visit to West End musical ‘Wicked’ when she was six years old. Her love of music has seen her successfully audition for both the Royal College of Music and the Royal Guildhall Saturday Schools, gaining places for both vocal and saxophone.
Josie loves performing and listening to opera, musical theatre and film music and is part of the concert band at The Abbey, joining them on the recent summer tour of Belgium. “I love being part of the concert band and I love the enthusiasm of the whole music department.”
Having recently achieved high distinctions in Grade 8 singing and Grade 7 Saxophone, as well as studying music at GCSE, Josie is hoping to study opera at the Royal College of Music before pursuing her dream career as a professional opera singer.
Sixth Form student Louise is already a highly experienced international chess player and has led The Abbey’s chess team since she was in Year 7. Most recently she led the team to third place at the National Girls' School Team Chess Finals, winning all her own matches. She was the Female Silver Medalist at the European Amateur Chess Championships in 2014 and competed at the European Youth Championships in 2011 and World Youth Championships in 2012 and 2013. She also represented England in Greece at the 2015 World Youth Championships where she was the top ranked girl for England in her age group.
As well as achieving membership of the England National Junior Chess Squad, winning British and English Girl Champion titles, plus playing for local club Crowthorne and Berkshire Junior Chess, Louise coaches chess at The Abbey Junior School, helping more girls to follow in her footsteps.
Louise’s aim is to become a titled player – Woman International Master – and to play for the England women’s team.
Photo credit: John Upham
National Gymnastics Champion
Eleanor is a rising star in the world of aerobic gymnastics. She won the u17 individual and group competitions at the Welsh National Competition in 2015 and was praised as having ‘the most potential for Senior category’. Eleanor retained her national championship titles in individual Women and Group for the 15-17 age group this year. As national champion she represents Great Britain in competitions at home and abroad.
Eleanor made history by taking the first gold medal for Great Britain in the Age Group 2 Individual Women competition at the Slovak Open. Eleanor’s group also took away a silver medal in their competition. Outside of national and international competition she has also continued supporting the school gym teams, fitting her training and coaching around academic commitments.
Eleanor gained an outstanding ten A* grades at GCSE and will be joining The Abbey Sixth Form in September.
Head girls Hannah and Kate are looking forward to their year as leaders of the student body at The Abbey. Working closely with staff and the Sixth Form officer team they’ll ensure that student wishes are represented and help to co-ordinate the many responsibilities of the Sixth Form.
Kate is studying A Levels and has long been a stalwart of the school swimming squad, this year captaining them at the national finals in the Olympic Pool. She also trains with Basingstoke Bluefins in the Performance Squad. She is aiming for a career in sports media and has undertaken an internship with News International at The Sun, as well as learning broadcast skills on Royal Berkshire Hospital radio.
Hannah co-presents the hospital radio show with Kate and was also chosen to take part in Roundhouse Rising – an opportunity offered by the Roundhouse in Camden for new radio talent to cover the Rising Festival. She’s studying the IB Diploma and like Kate, is aiming for a career in media. Hannah is planning to study to liberal arts at university, something that is common in the US and which is being introduced in UK universities.
Head of The Abbey School
Despite a convent education where she regularly found herself ‘in trouble with the nuns’, Head of The Abbey Rachel Dent discovered a vocation for education that has led to her becoming the sixth Head of The Abbey School and leading the education of more than 1100 girls. Following a degree in English Mrs Dent’s first teaching post came about ‘by accident’ when she was travelling in Egypt with her future husband. Engaged to teach English in a regional school Rachel says: “after one lesson I was hooked.” Returning to the UK she taught English at Wisbech Grammar School, before joining Cokethorpe School, Oxfordshire in 1995. Rachel joined The Abbey School in 2006 as Director of Sixth Form, responsible for initiating the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, and became Head in September 2014.
As Head of The Abbey Rachel favours a "girl's-eye-view" approach and spent an entire day joining in Year 7 lessons - everything from Biology and Maths to a professional cricket coaching session - in order to get a proper insight into life in the school. Her verdict: "Great fun but very tiring!"
Rachel shares her study with a model of Sir Thomas More, or “Tommy” as she affectionately calls him. She is a keen proponent of balancing work and life and encourages the whole Abbey Community to do the same. She achieves this balance in part through long walks with cheeky Labrador Bruno and spending time with her husband and daughter.
Area Coordinator, NSPCC
Candia credits her involvement with the European Youth Parliament whilst at the Abbey with awakening her interest in politics and international relations. This has defined her career journey since leaving the Abbey, with her first notable step being a First Class honours degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford. Her interest in Conflict Resolution has been pivotal ever since and this has become her career specialism. She secured a prestigious paid internship with the Quaker Peaceworker Scheme on graduating, developing and delivering a pilot Conflict Resolution skills programme for secondary school aged students. She continued working with young people at her next position at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, before moving on to her current position as the NSPCC Schools Service Area Coordinator for South East London.
It is with great fondness and gratitude that Candia thinks of the Abbey; not least because her best friends today remain those she made at school. She believes that the School not only instilled in her that dedication and commitment would reap rewards, but also the confidence to get involved and make a difference, just as she is currently making a huge difference to the safety and wellbeing of children in over 480 schools.
Marketing Intern, The Abbey School
Roxy has been our first-ever Marketing intern at The Abbey this year. She is a former student and graduated from the University of Leeds with a 2.1 in English Language in 2015. Gaining work experience is vital for any young person these days when trying to get into a particular sector, and Roxy has taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to her over the last year.
Although Roxy found it a little strange at first being back at school with all her old teachers (and being able to call them by their first names, as well as going into the staff room!), she has got a huge amount out of her time here at the Abbey, and has become an invaluable member of the team. We shall miss her very much when she heads off travelling in Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Cambodia for four months at the end of the summer, after which she is aiming to pursue a career in Marketing.
Rosalind was delighted to be selected to represent GB in the 2015 Junior World Rowing Championships in Rio de Janeiro which took place at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon - venue for the 2016 Olympics. She made it through to the final of the Double Sculls and only just missed out on a medal coming in a very creditable 4th place. What an amazing experience!
Such has been Rosalind’s commitment to both rowing and studying that she managed to combine representing TeamGB at the Munich International Regatta with taking her finals exams for the International Baccalaureate Diploma in the two weeks either side. On IB results day Rosalind competed in her Marlow Rowing club Quad for the last time in the Henley Regatta J18 final before coming to school to discover that with a superb IB score of 38 points she had secured her place at Durham University to read Natural Sciences.
Wildlife expert and broadcaster
“My years at The Abbey taught me to set my goals high and that, through hard work and enthusiasm, I could realise my dreams.”
To date Miranda’s realised dreams have included becoming one of the UK’s most well known divers and naturalists, presenting on BBC’s ‘Coast’ series and appearing regularly on The One Show.
Upon leaving The Abbey in 1991 Miranda read Zoology at the University of Bristol, where she caught the film-making bug and secured work with the BBC Natural History Unit. Miranda’s passion for wildlife, conservation and film-making has resulted in a rewarding career which she combines with a love of music, being a regular performer with the New Bristol Sinfonia. She lives near Bristol with her husband, two children and ten chickens.
Sophie has put her hand to most sports during her time at The Abbey, and has excelled by reaching national standard in two: tennis and netball.
In tennis, she has been ranked no.1 nationally and was a runner-up in the U18 Nike Winter National Tour Finals – a Grade 1 tennis tournament.
In netball, Sophie was selected to join the U17 England squad where she competed at the 2015 Netball Europe Championships, playing every match and winning the gold medal. Since then she has been selected for the U19 England National Academy which shows her impressive talent, competing for her place against girls almost two years older than her! Sophie also captained Woodley Netball Club to their victory in the National Club U16 Championships in 2015 (with 4 other Abbey girls in the squad!)
Despite having a rigorous schedule, fitting in training for two sports at national level, Sophie also represents The Abbey in athletics, rounders, netball and hockey competitions. Juggling her sporting commitments and school work can be difficult, but Sophie somehow manages to find the time to do it all.
After gaining ten A* grades at GCSE Sophie is joining The Abbey Sixth Form in September.
National Table Tennis Champion
A typical week for Maria involves going to school during the day and then honing her table tennis skills after school and at weekends, training for up to 10 hours a week. Maria started playing table tennis just before she left primary school and continued on to join the Kingfisher club where she trained with the best of the best. Maria has represented England in a variety of tournaments and this year became the Senior Women’s Doubles winner in the English Senior National Championships as well as the Junior Masters winner. Being so highly involved in the sport allows Maria to meet fellow players from all over the world which she feels is a fantastic network to have. Due to her constant success and dedication, Maria was awarded a SportsAid Award which will enable her to attend important training camps abroad.
Sport can teach young people significant life lessons and one that Maria has particularly learnt is the importance of focus. She explained that playing table tennis motivates her to be the best she can be in her life and that has started to rub off on her academic work. Her future aims are to achieve good results in her A Levels, allowing her to go to The University of Nottingham to study Geography, and to hopefully compete at the Olympics someday. Maria has just received her first England Senior Team cap and will represent her country at the European Championships in the autumn.
On returning to the Upper Sixth in 2004 after summer work experience at the renowned costumiers ‘Angels’, Beverley declared to Mrs Lesbirel, her Textiles teacher, “I want to make hats!”.
Roll forwards 10 years, and that is exactly what she is doing - hundreds of beautiful creations every year - via bespoke commission, for her own wholesale collection available online and through retail partners, and on behalf of other well-known brands.
After the Abbey, Beverley undertook an HNC in Millinery at Kensington and Chelsea College, and gained work experience in Australia with the Melbourne-based milliner, Louise Macdonald. Her commercial hat-making had its early beginnings via market stalls and pop-up shops. In April 2010 she opened her own permanent business and boutique in Farnham, Surrey. This has gone from strength to strength, and she now employs a team of 4 staff.
In recognition of her talents both as a milliner and as a businesswoman, Beverley was one of six shortlisted finalists in the ‘Niche Fashion Retailer of the Year’ award for the 2015 Drapers Independents Awards.
For more information on Beverley and her fabulous hats, please click here.
Managing Partner, Powerscourt Group
For someone who claims she was “terrible at Maths” at school, this seems to have been no hindrance whatsoever for Victoria’s career in Banking and Finance! After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she pursued a very successful career in Investment Banking, and is now a Managing Partner for Powerscourt, a City-based Financial PR company. In her current role, as well as working with, and advising, key corporate clients, she also supports the delivery of Powerscourt’s operational strategy.
Victoria credits The Abbey with not only great teaching , but also with paving her way to Oxford through its academic standards. The advice and support she received from a former pupil, who was already at Oxford when Victoria was in the Sixth Form, also proved invaluable to her. As a working mother, she herself has been able to provide advice and guidance for other Powerscourt staff returning to work after having children.
More information about Victoria’s career is available here.
Chief Operating Officer, Optomen Television
After leaving The Abbey, Helen knew she wanted to do something in the media - even with aspirations of being a newsreader - so chose to study English at Manchester University. Due to her “extremely risk averse” nature, she felt instead it was best to qualify as a Chartered Accountant because it was considered a well-respected qualification to have.
Via accountancy, Helen realised she could also follow her dream of working in the media. She got a job as a Production Accountant for Hat Trick Productions working on well-known television programmes such as ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ and ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’.
Whilst working at Hat Trick, Helen was still in touch with the Chartered Accountancy world and bumped into her old Economics teacher from The Abbey, Miss Baron, who was coincidentally married to a film producer. This producer was looking for a Production Accountant for the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’. Helen was offered the job and has since continued to thrive in the film and television industry.
Helen has worked on programmes from ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ at Endemol, to ‘Strictly Dance Fever’ at the BBC. She joined Optomen in 2005 as a Unit Manager, working on the first series of ‘The F Word’, and has worked her way up to her current position of Chief Operating Officer at Optomen, where she hopes to stay for the foreseeable future.
A passion for public service
Despite her youth, social activist Immie Hobby already has a powerfully developed sense of commitment to community and to improving society for the disadvantaged and disengaged. This has driven her to undertake a wide variety of voluntary and political roles representing young people in the Berkshire region.
As Junior Mayor of Newbury from 2012-2014 Immie led the Youth Council and ensured its active representation at Town and District council meetings. She was also the young people’s representative on the board of the Cabinet Office Vulnerable and Disengaged Young People Fund – a £2 million grant fund for social action projects that reach out to the most vulnerable young people in society. In 2013 Immie was awarded the title of Social Leader of the Year by Future Foundations for her leadership of the team of 12 young people who delivered the successful social action project Reading for Reading – aimed at encouraging children from disadvantaged backgrounds to enjoy reading in order to advance their educational prospects.
Explaining her enthusiasm for public service Immie says: “I have come across so many passionate people who run phenomenal projects working on issues that I feel are important. I’m acutely aware of the importance of widening your horizons in terms of growing up to be a well rounded and responsible member of society, for me getting involved in community work or public service is a fantastic way to do that.”
Immie is firmly focused on a career in public service and hopes that her studies at Oxford University will lead to a future in the civil service or politics.
Spotlight beckons for actor Emma
Year 11 pupil, Emma enjoys nothing more than getting her teeth into complex characters as she pursues her dream of a career in drama. Emma recently gained a Distinction with a score of 93% in her Grade 6 LAMDA acting examination, showing her versatility by tackling two very different roles: an American comedy piece from ‘Barefoot in the Park’ by Neil Simon, and an emotional piece from ‘The Spidermen’ by Ursula Rani Sama.
Emma has attended Stagecoach for the past 11 years and has won lead roles in ‘Annie’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She made her West End debut as a chorus member in ‘Never Forget’ and this autumn she will play gang leader Riff in the Stagecoach production of ‘West Side Story’.
In school, Emma is studying GCSE Drama as a Drama Scholar, particularly enjoying creating and developing characters for the devised element of the course. She is heavily involved in extra-curricular drama; she was an assistant director of The Abbey’s production of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.’
Her acting inspirations are Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway, who impresses with her commitment to each of her roles. She also follows West End actor and youtube star Carrie Hope-Fletcher. Looking to the future Emma says: “I’d love to be an actor but I know I’ll be happy doing anything connected with drama.”