Alumni

About the School

Leek High is a school for students aged between 13 and 19. Its grammar school origins go back to 1900, with the present site on Springfield Road having been occupied since reorganization in 1965. The school serves mainly the eastern side of Leek and much of the Staffordshire Moorlands, with around half our students coming from the town and half from the rural areas.

We are proud of all our alumni; some of our young people who left us in recent years have kindly agreed to share their memories of Leek High and to tell us a little about what they have been doing since they left us. Did you go to Leek High, what are your memories of the place and what have you been doing since? Please let us know.

Pip Hurst

Pip_HurstWhen I describe my experience at Leek High to friends at university it tends to come out as some sort of comical mix between Waterloo Road and QI. The best thing about the school for me was that it was a huge dysfunctional family; the mix of students and teachers coming from every walk of life is its charm. It’s also brutally honest and you soon come to understand that you get out whatever you put in, a valuable lesson. When you hit sixth form you find the teachers don’t patronise but advise, that they have drive, passion and most importantly belief in their students You kind of all come to a level where you can rip each-other to pieces with banter, hold heated debates over differing opinions – mostly academically – and turn to them as a support when the stuff hits the fan. Leek High, for me, worked on three things: mutual respect, acceptance and stubborn determination.

Since leaving I’ve utilised that stubborn determination, and its definitely taken me a while to find my direction. I originally headed to Durham University to study Applied Psychology, a choice made in a rush and one that turned out to be the wrong move. As soon as I realised that this wasn’t for me I put the wheels in motion to make a change. The next year when all my friends were earning real wages, wearing nice clothes and driving swish cars I crossed the boarder into Scotland with ripped jeans and an overdraft to being a Scottish MA in History of Art. A year into the degree I was dealt a rough card in my personal life, which led to me putting my study on hold for a year. Whilst sorting life out I took on an internship with the Art Consultancy SMart http://www.facebook.com/smartconsultants (no, not the children’s program, although I too got a bit excited about the prospect of sticky-back-plastic and Morph) No, this company is a wee bit more ‘adult’ and deals with Contemporary High Art. I am now back into the throws of university, but that year within industry was invaluable to me; I still work with the company and they gave me the experience and confidence to curate my own exhibitions of student art on campus and within the city. This summer I have taken the opportunity to write for a new art webpage http://www.artfinder.com/ alongside volunteering in the Collections Department at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, which I have done for the past three years.

In retrospect all these exciting jobs and opportunities that have come my way occurred from chance conversations, an open mind, and that ingrained stubborn determination: if you have a good feeling about something just go for it, you always tend to regret turning down opportunities rather than simply saying yes.

Tiffany Berry

Since leaving Leek High School in 2009, I have been studying at Sheffield Hallam University. I’m currently a 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science student on the verge of completing my undergraduate degree. As of September 2012 I will begin my 1 year postgraduate masters course in Sport and Exercise Science, specialising in Sport Biomechanics, with an interest in further study (PhD) in the future. When I’m not studying, I spend the majority of my spare time playing hockey and I am a current member of both Sheffield Hockey Club Ladies 1s and Sheffield Hallam University Ladies 1s.

University is going well. 7 weeks until the big dissertation hand in, so as you can imagine things are pretty hectic at the moment. However, as of today all of my other assessments are complete so I can now solely focus on making sure my dissertation project is as good as it can be. Still feels like yesterday when I was collecting my A Level results, I guess time flies when you’re having fun.

 Leek High would like to congratulate Tiff on her first class honours degree.

Becki Gould

I look back on my time at Leek High with great fondness, not only the educational side but also the extra activities that were provided. All the staff were so helpful throughout my 5 years at the school and provided a nurturing environment for me to engage with the subjects that I loved. When I needed encouragement or guidance there was always someone there to help me to fulfil my potential. The study skills that I acquired at Leek High have been essential in my success at degree level.

The opportunities given to me at Leek High allowed me to become well rounded and confident. If I had been told in my first year that I would be up performing on stage every year I would have laughed, not to mention jointly running House Performing Arts for Dane House in my last year! The school also allowed me to develop my love of fundraising by giving me the opportunity of chairing the sixth form committee which organised events throughout the year.

The school was also amazingly supportive when me and a fellow student, Natalie Jackson, raised money for the Joshua Foundation during our A-Levels which allowed us the chance to do charity work in Australia. The school gave me the confidence I needed to apply to university further away from home, and so I did and was accepted at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

I am now in my third year of Forensic Biology at the University of Kent and expect to achieve a first class honours degree. I believe that it was my time at Leek High that has allowed me to become independent and able to thrive in a completely new environment. The self-confidence I gained at Leek High allowed me to meet new people and to push myself to achieve the best that I can.

I graduate in July and then I intend to go on to study for my doctorate, hopefully in the field of fertility and reproduction science or genetics. I have strong links with a genetics based laboratory at the University of Kent and have an interview for a PhD there in 2012. That PhD will involve working on porcine IVF to benefit the agricultural markets.

I stay in contact with the school as the supportive atmosphere did not stop when I moved away. The staff were always helpful if ever I needed them, even though I was no longer a current student. It is that relationship that makes me so glad I went to Leek High and was able to build up that network of support which will stay with me throughout my career.

Jodie Newton

When I look back at my time in school it all seems to be somewhat of a haze, many memories blurred by a mist of emotions and naiveness. These are the years that set you up for the rest of your life, but at the time all you want is to be shot of the place. Who really knows what they want to do with their life when they are 15? But nevertheless, choices must be made.

My time at primary school was spent on sports day, sand pits, worrying over whether to ask for the green or silver “jelly shoes” for Christmas and finding ways to un-knot my hair (usually ended with chunks of hair being cut out). For a short stint of four years, middle school felt like everyone was rushed through on a conveyor belt, growing from snotty kids to moody pre-teens, some of the most awkward years we will all know. However, high school was different. This was where everyone started to grow into their own personalities, but standing out was not quite yet the thing to do.Leek High was where I feel my life really began. Decisions on what car to get, what qualifications to take, which Universities to apply for, where should you take your life? Students were always encouraged to study what they enjoyed, what they wanted to, and in turn these decisions brought people to life.

When choosing my A-levels took the option for a distance learning course in Law, only because I needed to choose one more subject. I had no idea what this would be like but was naturally curious, if not about the course, but the method of teaching.

It was because of this decision, and because of the guidance by one particular teacher, that I now have aspirations to be a Lawyer. Three years on I have completed my LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree (having put my whole heart and mind into it) and have never felt such enthusiasm to make something of myself. From this September I start Law College (it sounds so grown up and important, it’s crazy to think where those years went) and don’t plan to come out of it without even more spirit to throw myself into a training contract (needed to become a qualified Lawyer).

University will be the best years of anyone’s life, you meet so many people and really grow into your own person, an independent adult. So much so that it’s almost impossible to move back home. When I look back to the years of school, where I didn’t necessarily feel lost, but didn’t know what I wanted to be, and didn’t have any particular passion, I am so grateful now for the support from Leek High and the encouragement to find a path that has resulted in being a prospective lawyer. Without the nudges in a certain direction, the encouragement to do my A-levels (I’d never get a job now without 360 UCAS points, luckily I got 400), the on-going support throughout the personally and academically challenging times, I would not be where I am now. I wouldn’t have such a bright future, and (cliché though it sounds,) there would be one less Lawyer fighting for what is right (I hope to specialise in Human Rights and Medical law).

Leek High would like to congratulate Jodie on her 2:1 honours degree.

Andy Bloor

I was recently browsing the site to see how many of the teachers were still in the school from my day (and there are a few, even though I left in ’91).  When I saw the Alumni tab, I thought I’d update you on what I have been up to.

I was in LHS (as it was) between 86-91 when Tony Hague was the Head. I studied Music, English Lit and Economics at A level, before going on to college to study my degree.  After that, I qualified as Secondary Music Teacher and started teaching Music in Lincolnshire.  After other teaching posts across the Midlands, I moved to London and became an Advisory Teacher for Behaviour, during which time I got my Masters degree.  During this time I also lectured nationally and internationally on ADHD.

I am now a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education with a specialism in SEND, Inclusion & Diversity at Canterbury Christ Church University.  I sit on the executive of a national charity that supports people who work with children with Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, am on the editorial board of two journals and am about to be published (a resource for SENCOs to train staff on ADHD), although I have had journal articles published.   I’ve also just started my PhD.

So there we go: give my regards to Mr Hayward and Mr. Alcock if they remember me (at the very least Alan should remember my father who worked at the school at the same time).  As for Ms. Berrisford: I was in Year 11 when she arrived and she got me through my GCSE Maths, but since I was an unremarkable student, I’m sure she has forgotten me!

Sean Holroyd

Sean_HolroydMy educational journey is somewhat obscure. I completed my GCSE’s at Leek High School with a view to going on to complete my A levels. My GCSE grades were distinctly average and I had a clear lack of focus and direction. After starting AS Levels with a similar attitude it became clear to me that my relationship with education was over. At this point I left to work at a local building society, where I stayed for two years.

It was whilst working at this job that I started to believe I was capable of more and I toyed with the idea of returning to education and finishing what I had started almost three years ago. This time more confident, with a revised focus and a clear goal that I wanted to become a Doctor.

The idea of becoming a doctor was not a new idea, I had always had an interest, but lacked the confidence and perhaps the motivation to really peruse it. This is where the support of Leek High comes in.

After a brief phone call with the head of sixth form, I was given a second chance to return to the classroom and have another shot at sitting my A levels and going to university. I was made to feel extremely welcome, and this was a massive factor initially as all of the students were younger than me, and many of the teachers could remember me! I anticipated this presenting  a challenge of it’s own, those teachers who remembered me would surely remember the workshy, apathetic character of two years ago. Here I was wrong. I quickly learned a lot about respect, give it and you will receive it. To maximise my chances of succeeding in medicine (applicants succession rates being of the order 1:100, that is for every 100 applying, only one will be successful) I listened to my teachers, and in turn they listened to me, they did not pre judge me, and recognised that I was there to do something that up until then had been alien to me, work hard and try.

The class sizes were small which gives a huge advantage in that you often get personalized teaching, this is important because people learn in different ways. I for example like to know that tiny bit more than is required, so that I can be prepared for every eventuality (this must have annoyed the teachers at times when I would approach with questions at ten-to-four, although they never said anything). As my goal was now set, and with it my focus restored I was able to work closely with my teachers to start achieving the higher grades that would be a minimum requirement for medical school. The staff at Leek High made me believe that I could get there, even at times when I myself thought it was a pipe dream. The support extended beyond the syllabus for the individual subjects- my personal statement, mock interviews were all analysed by the staff, often after the final bell when the easy thing would have been to drive home as they saw me approaching!

The staff at Leek High support you in a way that can only be compared to that of a family, there are often bumps in the road where opinions differ between students and even staff. These discussions are welcomed rather than avoided and certainly stand you in good stead for similar encounters at university.

I had interviews and offers from two medical schools, as well as an offer from Bath to study Biochemistry. I achieved AAAB in Physics, Biology, Chemistry and History respectively and met my offer to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Bristol.

I have now graduated and start my job at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in July.

Leek High would like to congratulate Dr Holroyd on his new post.

Mathew Blackhurst

Mathew_BlackhurstI have just graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in Music, having achieved a first class degree. Whilst at Leek High School, out of the blue, I developed a love of piano and started having lessons with a local teacher. During school lunch times, I would ask permission to play the grand piano in the hall. It was by doing this (together with the encouragement I received from staff) that I decided to continue my musical education at Buxton College where I took a BTEC National Diploma. I also gained a number of ABRSM and LCM certificates during this time. During my first year at Keele I was awarded the Montford Scholarship for Piano Performance.

Having also developed a keen love of the church organ I commenced lessons with Stoke on Trent Consultant Organist, Michael Rhodes. In 2012, I was appointed the first organ scholar at Stoke Minster where I am tutored in all aspects of church music. Performing a number of recitals at the Victoria Hall in Stoke, Stoke Minster, and playing for Radio Stoke, I have also accompanied the Keele Chapel Chamber Choir and  Keele University Choir. I play at a number of churches in the local area and I consider this has given me a sense of responsibility as well as good grounding, although I must confess to still getting a touch of nerves on these occasions!

When looking back at my time at Leek High I would say one of the most important things for me was the approachable and friendly staff. Being able to ask for guidance is so important! Ironically, I never took a music lesson at Leek High, but it was an Australian music teacher there at that time, Kirsty Button, who heard me play and encouraged me to go on. I intend to study a PGCE course in the future which will allow me to teach music in schools. Additionally, I am pursuing my first love and studying computing at Leek College.

Leek High would like to congratulate Mat on his first class honours degree.

Ryan Holroyd

Ryan_HolroydI can look back on my time at Leek High School with an honest sense of pride and gratitude to every member of staff that helped me along the way.  It was whilst studying for my GCSE and A-Levels that my love for exercise and sport became more infectious, and without the right guidance of the Biology and PE department being in the position of holding a BSc in Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham and now being on a two year full USA sports scholarship to McNeese State University, Louisiana would be inconceivable. The scholarship covers everything from running equipment, living costs and most importantly my masters in Human and Health Performance. So I’m now luckily in the position to be travelling in the United States, competing against the best student-athletes in the world and all while earning a great education in an amazing place.

After completing my MSc in Human and Health Performance, I get the opportunity to stay in America and complete a Dietician Internship which I fully intend to pursue. If there was one key message to prospective Leek High sport students I could give is that being a student first and an athlete second is vital. Even as part of my enrolment conditions at McNeese depend upon this agreement.  You will find that by striking this balance, your time at Leek High will be a fun and successful memorable experience.

Leek High congratulate Ryan on this Degree and his further achievements in America.

To give you a quick update, I’ve completed my MSc in the United States, and upon my return I have recently been offered the role of Graduate Sport Assistant at Sherborne International, Dorset.

Wishing the school continued success!

Leek High congratulate Ryan again; on his MSc, return to the UK and employment.

Richie Goldstraw

I studied at LHS from 2002 to 2006, during my time there I made many friends and a variety of memories of which come back to me and often raise a smile. I remember PE lessons with Mr Sales (Brilliant character), RM with Mr Mole, Maths with Mr Broad, Geography with Mr Stonier, Physics with Miss Emery and IT with Mrs Large all of which could have been classed as my favourite.

When I think back to my time spent at LHS I realise I may not have had the best attitude towards education because I didn’t know where I wanted to go in life or what I wanted to do as all I wanted to do was play football, but without the effect that the school, lessons and teachers had on me I doubt id have arrived at where I am today.

I left LHS during my AS Levels, I guess I should have stayed and completed them but I was offered a plumbing apprenticeship of which I was intrigued to begin and felt would be a good career to pursue. The plumbing apprenticeship didn’t work out and for a few years I was in and out of various jobs from Alton Towers to being a Shop Assistant. I eventually managed to gain experience working part time in garages which was enjoyable as I have always had an interest in cars. During 2010, 4 years after leaving school I decided to go back into full time education and I put myself through college to gain my Motor Vehicle qualifications. Luckily due to my experience and the knowledge that I gained through many years of interacting with vehicles I was offered a fast track to the final stage of the course (Level 3 Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair) at Buxton College. I successfully completed the year long course and achieved my qualification along with Student of the Year Award. Towards the end of the course I was persuaded to look into furthering my education even more which led to me applying at University. I applied to study Motorsport Engineering and I was offered Places at Oxford Brookes, Staffordshire and Derby to which I chose the best option was to study at Derby. After 3 years hard work I have recently graduated with a B Eng (Hons) Motorsport Engineering, something I had never imagined after my indecisive years prior to finding something that I was interested in. I have recently started work as an Engine Development Technician for a local plant machinery company and I enjoy my job very much.

I feel that my time spent at LHS has contributed to my achievements and although leaving during my AS Levels the years of attendance previously obviously set me up extremely well for what was to come. University was a challenge and the education I received at LHS deemed valuable for my return to education years after it ended.

You may or may not know where you want to go in life when your young but school life is important and it sets you up for whatever comes your way. Thanks for the memories and also the guidance throughout my school years. I wish that I could go back.

Leek High congratulate Richie on his Degree and employment.

Amy Jones

To be honest, I didn’t really work as hard as I could have done in Year 11 – I was a stroppy madam sometimes but I did step it up in the 6th form and was pleased to get into Keele University.  I don’t remember much about my first year, a few too many parties perhaps.  I really focussed from then on.

My course was English and American Literatures.  I studied abroad in the first semester of my second year at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I got a high 2:1 for my second year overall.  I enjoyed the course but it wasn’t until the third year that I really started to love it, particularly a module on Dickens, Collins, detective fiction and Post-Colonial and World Literature.

I was struggling with ideas for my dissertation having settled for gender in Ernest Hemingway as a topic but ended up changing at the last minute (I know, me? Last minute?) to Post-Colonial reading of some of Charles Dickens’s  works based on those modules – the actual title was: ‘Dickens and Colonialism: an exploration of the representation of ‘savagery’ in selected works of Charles Dickens’. This is also funny because Dickens has always been one of my favourite writers and I remember putting that into my personal statement and Mr Spencer telling me to say how I liked his social commentary particularly his stance on penal reform.  I didn’t even know what that meant but I wrote it anyway – it must have worked!  I was pleasantly surprised to have achieved 68, 70 and 70 in the third semester of the third year and so I saw the possibility of a first overall and decided to chase it down.

At the moment I don’t have any plans to move on to further education or a career because I don’t know what I want to do.  If money was no object I would absolutely pursue a masters in English and it’s not completely off the table but I need to think about it more so for the next year I plan on working part-time and travelling  and continue my new sporting passion, road cycling.

I was delighted to get my results – the stroppy 16 year old is now the owner of a shiny new first class honours degree.

Leek High congratulate Amy on her first class honours degree.

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