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St Peter's Independent

Testimonial - What a past pupil says

Lousie Mayes, former Head Girl of St. Peter's School came to talk to students in assembly.

When I joined NSB sixth form this time last year, a popular question to both ask and be asked was “Which secondary school did you go to?”  Despite attending NSG until year 9, I answered with “St. Peters’ Independent school”, to which all but a handful replied “Where’s that?”  It came to a point where I considered answering the question with: “A small independent school, you wouldn’t have heard of it.” But I didn’t.  Because the questions that followed were questions I love to answer. I think everybody’s perspective of this school is different, and it’s the perceptions that make the school what it is.

I joined St. Peter’s in Form 4, the starting year of my GCSEs. I’d originally been at NSG, but it was never right for me. I come from a family with 4 brothers and no sisters, so to be educated in an environment full of girls was a bit of a shock to the system.

I came to St. Peter’s relatively shy, quiet and withdrawn. Even I’m surprised to say that it’s this school that taught me to feel comfortable in my own skin, be myself and speak up a bit; I hadn’t expected that such a small school environment could make an individual feel so revitalised. But it did.

One of the first experiences of my time here was the November “fun run” which, for an evidently non-athletic individual like myself, sounded like an absolute nightmare. I still find it difficult to admit that I actually enjoyed that run in the rain around Lings Park.

I think the school has always had the ability to motivate individuals to succeed in everything they do, regardless of it being their talent, weakness, or none of the above.

Most people describe the school as a family, which is something I’d agree with; Whilst being here, I loved how you could lean out of a classroom, call for somebody down the hallway, and they’d be there, it’s just that small. I fell in love with the prep department of the school; I felt like the pied piper during break time, when I’d have a trail of 4 to 5 year olds following me around. The school’s age differences taught even the “lads” in my year group to respect everybody, and to watch out for the younger ones. So many of the 18 boys in my year acted like older brothers to some of the smallest and most vulnerable in the school.

My favourite memory from St. Peters is the Badgers sleepover. I remember it so clearly; it was midnight, Mrs Carvell was working in her classroom, Mr Gibson was lying on a PE bench snoring, and I had Lexi and Sofia hyper on sweets and fizzy drink. It’s only in a school like this that you can experience a sleepover within the building.

I think the thing that hit me most when I first joined this school was how the head teacher knew who everybody was. The size of the school allows for everybody to be treated with equal respect and care, and it I don’t think it’s until you’ve been outside this school environment that you’re able to appreciate that. After a few days at St. Peters, getting comfortable and familiarising myself with everything, Mr. Cooper was full of his attempt of “banter”, his way of building up a relationship with his pupils and other members of the school community. It didn’t take long until I felt more than comfortable to go to him, as well as other members of staff such as Miss Calcott and Mr Gibson, with any issues or for any advice at all. If you’ve only ever known St. Peter’s, you’d be surprised how abandoned you become in a huge state school, in comparison to the familiarity of here.

St. Peter’s helped me to recognise how easily I can relate to younger children; I have 3 younger siblings, and whilst being here I spent spare afternoons helping the pre-preps with reading, painting, games, all sorts. It’s a fantastic place to help you recognise what you’re good at, and work at it. What’s more, it’s even better at helping you recognise your weaknesses; and instead of ignoring them, you’re encouraged to face it head-on, instead of cowering away with the fear of failure.

Since leaving St. Peters, I’ve achieved As and A*s in my GCSEs, 2 As and a B in my A level results, and during this summer I have been out with my current school on a charity trip to Africa.

During that trip, I met a little girl named Angela. Angela is 10 years old, severely malnourished, and she does not attend a school. I know many of you would jokingly declare how jealous you are, how you’d LOVE to leave school at 10! However, I’m sure you’d feel differently if you experienced her lifestyle. She wakes at 5 every morning, dresses and sorts out her 3 younger siblings, before setting out for a full day of work. She wore the same outfit everyday, and had no shoes. Her job was to wander her village and local area, bare footed, searching for old bottles to sell for a penny each in order to feed her family.

Angela and I spent three weeks in each other’s company, she taught me dances, games and songs, but most importantly she taught me how universal a smile is. Despite our language barriers, not to mention our differences in background, we got along like a house on fire. I left Angela in hysterical tears, heartbroken that I couldn’t take her home. I gave her my shoes, my clothes, mosquito nets, hair clips, food and money, but one thing I was unable to provide for her was a solid education. Because for her, as well as many children in her situation, an education is the only way out of the cycle of poverty they all experience. Education would provide an opportunity to gain skills, qualifications, and eventually, employment.

We are SO LUCKY to have a school, a uniform (no matter how long the skirts!) and teachers who care about us. Remember Angela the next time you wake up wishing you could take the day off school, and make the most of the opportunities this place will offer to you, because so many millions of children would love to be in our position.

This final part is mainly for forms 4 and 5:
I’ve achieved so much since leaving here, but the school has never slipped my mind. I visit regularly, as many of you may have noticed, and love to catch up with both the staff and pupils. It’s important for me, like many, to remember that the work I put into my school life, as well as the help I received from the staff here, has taken me to places and opened up doors for me that otherwise wouldn’t have been an option. GCSEs were long and tedious, and the nagging of parents as well as the repetitive nature of revision are things that you just want to push to one side and ignore when you have an option to scroll through twitter and watch re-runs of old TV programmes. But hard work provide stepping stones, and without those stepping stones, you’re likely to stand in the same old spot your entire life. It angers me to hear people say, “Well Jay Z didn’t get GCSEs, and he’s a millionaire!” because times have changed, and I hate to burst everybody’s bubble, but you aren’t Jay Z.