RGS has supported over 420 bursary students since our Bursary Campaign was established in 2002. Here are just some of their stories.
It's hard to believe that it is almost a year since war broke in my beloved Ukraine. I am from Khmelnytskyi which is 170 miles west of Kyiv. While not on the front line, the city is still attacked by missiles and everyday life is disrupted, with daily blackouts and no electricity. My parents understandably panicked after the invasion and my mother decided to flee with me and my younger sister. My father had to stay – men cannot leave Ukraine – and he is staying to work in my family’s clothing business, which has been commandeered to manufacture uniforms for the Ukrainian military.
The last thing I wanted was to leave my country; I was sad and furious, and so many young people like me felt the same. I think it was because the choice was made for me; before the war I always imagined I would travel and perhaps study abroad, ideally Stanford in the US. Now all I want to do is return and build my life in Ukraine. It’s indescribably difficult to be apart.
We were able to briefly stay with friends in Germany, before finding our host family through Facebook. I quite literally opened a map of the United Kingdom and my finger fell on Sunderland, so it’s a huge coincidence that the host family we were paired with were from nearby Newcastle! I Googled ‘the best school in Newcastle’ and of course found the Royal Grammar School. I could not believe the second coincidence when I found the Headmaster is called Mr Stanford; I now realise that my destiny did involve Stanford, just not quite what I imagined. My host family managed to connect with RGS through LinkedIn and the rest is history.
At first the move was very difficult but I kept busy with online projects with my friend and raised money to provide laptops for children from schools destroyed by bombs. My sister is very grateful to have a bursary at Newcastle High School for Girls and she’s happy and finding good friends. But I am passionate about Computer Science which is uniquely available at RGS. Also, in Ukraine there are no girls’ schools and so many of my friends are boys, so RGS feels like the very best place for me.
I am in Year 12, or Lower Sixth Form, and I am studying Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computer Science. I am passionate about maths, but I admit I am better at Computer Science. My teachers say they are shocked at the level I am working at and that I sometimes teach them! But I can only explain that it comes naturally to me. I have won various competitions; I’m presenting a research paper at the PRIX EIFFEL global innovation meeting; and I’m excited to push myself to see what else I can do. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have these opportunities to excel were it not for RGS.
I have a dream that I will go back to Ukraine and be of use to my country. In the meantime, I am working hard on my A Levels, and perhaps I will try to go to Cambridge to study Computer Science, or maybe even MIT in Boston before I go home.
I am so grateful to my mum for making the decision to leave and to protect us; my incredible host family who took a leap of faith to take us in; my RGS teachers who challenge me every day and to all of the amazing donors who enable me to come to RGS. I am a stranger to you and you will never really know how much your gift has changed my life. I will never forget, and I will also do my very best to make you proud.
As a barrister, I find myself privy to some of the most intricate and interesting aspects of our society, and individual lives. For example, I am currently a junior barrister for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and have previously worked with more senior barristers on larger cases, including: the Supreme Court judicial review of employment tribunal fees; challenges to the legality of state benefits and immigration policies; and inquests investigating the role of our state in individual deaths.
Where does the RGS come into all of this? Well in truth, I have always had good grades and been argumentative (in a good way, I like to tell myself), but when I arrived at the RGS I was yet to learn how to apply those traits productively.
At RGS, my arguments were challenged by those who were more intelligent and articulate than me, which forced me to focus on the loopholes of my logic, pre-empting the rebuttal. For the first time, I was not merely taught the syllabus and how to pass an exam, but actually taught the subject; I was taught to think more broadly, to consider cultural and philosophical references, and to generally expand my horizons.
I now use these skills every day: for example, when I am digging for material to persuade a judge why a policy should be declared lawful or unlawful. I will often utilise broader philosophical, political and moral notions, all of which govern a surprising amount of our daily lives (political or otherwise). Or when I am cross-examining a witness: I try to plan several questions ahead, planting tripwires and nuggets of undermining material.
It would be a great injustice not to mention the people that make up the RGS. I attended the Sixth Form, which were two of the best years of my life, and certainly the best two years of my education. I have made lifelong friends, from whom I have learnt a great deal, and I am a better person for knowing them.
Being an ON is a lifelong affiliation, and I will be happy if I can give back only a fraction of what that affiliation gave to me. As a bursary holder, I know that I owe a substantial amount of my success to my time at RGS, and the generosity of the donor who supported my bursary.
One of the best gifts I ever received has been an education at RGS. I come from a single parent family and education was of huge importance for my mum. Unfortunately she could never afford the fees of a top independent school, but was encouraged to nominate me for a bursary place.
Thankfully, due to the generosity of Sir Peter Ogden (through The Ogden Trust) and The Hospital of St Mary the Virgin Trust, I was able to attend RGS on a bursary.
I went on to study at Newcastle University, gaining an Economics degree. On graduating, I entered the Financial Services Industry, joining a relatively small local finance firm. Whilst there, I became an expert in a relatively niche field of investments and wrote a textbook on my specialist area for the largest exam board in Financial Services, Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).
Currently, I work for True Potential, a Fin Tech firm based in Newcastle which works with around 20% of UK Financial Advisers and their clients. I am the Senior Pension Transfer Specialist within the Wealth Management division, and was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2017 from the Newcastle Chartered Insurance Institute, in recognition of my progress within the industry.
It was only after I started my first job that I began to realise how my time at RGS had helped me in so many ways: I had confidence, ambition, self-respect, and respect for others. All qualities instilled in me thanks to RGS. How different my life could have been if I hadn’t been accepted into RGS. I don’t think many young people consider the type of education they are receiving, how it can be different from one school to the next, or, what impact the quality of the education you receive can have on your life.
A bursary at RGS enables young people, like me, to access the very best quality of education, creating life-changing opportunities.
It is difficult to overstate what impact my RGS Bursary has had on my life and career.
I went to a state school until the Sixth Form, was always top of my class, and thought I’d have no issue getting a place at a top university. Within a few days of being at RGS, I realised that was a naïve view. At RGS, I was introduced to an environment where the calibre of teaching – and general conversation amongst students – was such that I consistently felt challenged, both in the classroom and in my extracurricular endeavours. I was taught by teachers who knew what I needed to do to get into top universities beyond anything I had realised, was surrounded by students who were engaged with current affairs that I had never experienced in people of my age, and was studying in an environment where I was encouraged realise my potential beyond what I thought I was able to achieve.
I left RGS to realise my dream of studying law at Oxford University. I graduated three years later with a First class honours degree and awards for two of my modules. Even if I had been able to get to Oxford without first moving to RGS, which is very far from certain, I wouldn’t have been prepared for the kind of academic study that was required to excel. RGS was a tough learning curve, but the work ethic it instilled in me has me set up for life.
In September, I qualified as a solicitor, working in the London office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, having spent two years on a training programme in both London and Washington.DC. I am now an Associate in what is widely recognised as the world-leading Competition Law practice, advising clients on antitrust aspects of their businesses. Even still, I owe some degree of responsibility to my time at RGS, which would not have been possible without a bursary. Ever since the RGS Economics tour, and in particular the visit to the then UK competition regulator, that I wanted to practise this area of law; and, had I not made the connections I did at RGS, and subsequently gone on to start my legal career at Square One Law in Jesmond, the door to City law firms would perhaps never have opened.
Music has always been a massive part of my life, and played a significant part in why I applied for a RGS bursary.
My previous school sadly didn’t have great music provision; we didn’t even have regular rehearsals for choir. Looking round RGS at an Open Day, I remember the orchestra performing and knew immediately that I wanted to come to this school. One of the Music Teachers took time to speak to me and my mum and reassured us that bursary support might be available.
I didn’t know what to expect of the school, but from the very beginning, I had a brilliant time. My Upper Sixth buddy looked after me during my first few weeks, and became a good friend throughout my time at RGS. I got involved in a variety of activities, including choirs, orchestras, cookery club, trampolining, voluntary service and plenty more. There was so much choice, and if there wasn’t something, you would be encouraged to set something up! I was also supported to go on school trips, travelling abroad for choir tours and to see Shakespeare plays.
My self-confidence grew as I was given the opportunity to take part in music and sports I enjoyed, and also took on the role of a Prefect, which came with plenty of responsibility. I also volunteered within the Junior School and at a local primary school; I’m sure these experiences influenced my career as I now work with children in choirs and music lessons. I applied to study Music at Oxford University and gained an Organ Scholarship at Worcester College, something I don’t think would have happened without the great teaching and support I received at RGS.
After graduation I later went on to complete a Masters at the Royal College of Music. I now work in London as an Organist, Conductor and Teacher, and am passionate about broadening access to music for those who would not have the opportunities otherwise.
Sarah Bannister, a District Nursing Sister in the East of Newcastle and RGS bursary parent, talks about what a bursary meant to her daughter Ella Bannister.
It all came from Ella: it was her dream, her desire, her wish to come to RGS. As a single parent I’d always told her that she was bright, and empowered her to believe she could do anything, but she also knew that the transformational opportunities at RGS were beyond my financial reach. When she realised the bursary programme existed and this was her chance, she came home and thrust those details in my hand, determined she’d win her place at the school on her own merit.
I knew Ella had talent, but perhaps her work ethic is her most inspiring characteristic; she’s always reading, studying and making revision cards and her efforts have been rewarded with stellar results. She’s super-headstrong so I was surprised when she shifted her lifelong dream to be a dentist, to follow her love of English, Art and History and - at the direct encouragement of RGS to follow her heart – she’s successfully pursued her dream of reading History at Oxford.
I was blown away, when I realised that her education has been funded by so many small donations, mostly from Old Novos - individual gifts that have collectively funded her phenomenal journey at RGS.
I am so humbled and indebted to those who have invested in my daughter’s future. If I can ever repay RGS then I will, and I know Ella will honour our family’s gratitude by making an indelible mark on the world.
I was born and raised in Syria where I lived for more than fourteen years. I had a relatively peaceful childhood, spending my time between books, friends and family. Entering my second decade, the peaceful childhood shattered: life became catastrophe, devastation and fear. Until peace eventually came back into my life.
Having witnessed four years of the worst civil war in history I really thought I had no future left; until I decided to leave the country in 2015. Luckily, I managed to arrive in the UK successfully with my dad after a lot of effort and hard work. Then I could see that maybe I have a future again, something to work for.
With no ability to speak English, starting at a community school in North Shields was highly challenging. I would stay behind school for an hour or two every single day just to ask questions or to have something clarified. I am very grateful for my teachers who were always keen to help. Within two months I was able to speak English well enough to sit my first public GCSE exam and achieve an A grade. I made new friends and enjoyed doing so. A teacher at this school noticed me, and she saw in my hard work the potential to be at RGS. She advised me to apply and told me about the bursary scheme. I could not be more grateful to her for this advice.
RGS allowed me to explore many things I cannot imagine being able to explore elsewhere, at that stage of my education. For example, the Plus Programme on Tuesday afternoon where we had a lecture about life-related advice: financing, cooking, inspirational talks and much more. This kickstarted the journey to learn many skills that I found essential later on. I realised the importance of extracurricular activities at RGS where everyone has many! Not only did the extracurricular activities made available by RGS strengthen my university application, they were also a great way to look after myself and take some time off the hard work. In addition to the excellent academic teaching, there is the outstanding career advice from the careers department.
I was enlightened at RGS by having the opportunity to be more involved in literature and to enrich my cultural integration in this country by exploring work by national icons such as Shakespeare, Beckett and Stoppard. I was also able to visit theatres in London, including Shakespeare’s Globe, during a school trip. Thanks to the bursary campaign I was able to get involved in this, which is one of my best experiences at RGS. Being a student of science, I vitally needed this exposure to literature and humanities. The necessity of humanity and literature to everyone is a strong belief that I hold right now, and this need for humanity is something I am an advocate for at university.
I was delighted to be made an offer to study medicine at Leeds. I thrived during my first two terms, spending my time between studying, swimming and hanging out with friends on the weekends. The early clinical exposure to hospitals and GP clinics allows me to consolidate my scientific learning at lectures. The weekly anatomy classes and clinical work sessions on campus expands my knowledge of the human body. I particularly enjoy anatomy and find it the most interesting aspect of the course. One of our modules (IDEALS: Innovation, Development, Enterprise and Leadership, Safety) encourages us to be more reflective of our daily experiences and events that make us feel happy, sad and other emotions. As a result, I have become more self-aware of my feelings. In addition, the rich cultural diversity at university strengthens my connection with many parts of my identity. For example, students from all over the world are proud of who they are, at the same time accepting each other’s differences. Personally, I find it more comforting when I go to the prayer room with my fellow Muslim students instead of going on my own.
Growing up in a war zone, and having experienced medical emergency at first hand, I have realised and understood the vital role of a doctor to society. This is why I love studying medicine at university right now. An experience that RGS is a main contributor to.
The RGS has enabled me to fly!
My RGS bursary allowed me to fully access and experience all the opportunities the RGS has to offer without the financial burden and stress for my mother.
I never felt that my financial background separated me from my peers or hindered me from taking unmissable opportunities giving me the confidence to take these when I could.
I went on many school trips, from Classics to Biology excursions, I was part of the senior prefect team and the Classics prefect team, and I also gave back to the community by being a member of the Amnesty International Society.
The academic support I received both from the knowledgeable teachers and the resources available at RGS was absolutely critical, but it was the encouragement of teachers and staff who helped me apply to study Classics at Oxford, where I am today.
Being able to immerse myself in both the academic and extra-curricular activities not only developed my ability as a student, but it also gave me opportunities to connect with people who have varying interests and make truly wonderful friends.
The kindness and immense generosity of the donors whom I have never met are particularly inspiring to me, and I always endeavour to pass on this kindness to others and continue their generosity. I will be forever grateful to all those involved with the RGS Bursary Campaign and for the immeasurable help they have given me.
Without an RGS bursary, it would not have been feasible for me to study at the RGS, and for that, I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to the RGS Bursary Campaign.
It was my dream to become a doctor, and thanks to my bursary, I had the opportunity and support to apply to study medicine at Newcastle University.
The academic environment at RGS was both challenging and stimulating, with teachers being knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They were not only supportive, but very encouraging of my drams and pursuits. For this, a lot of my achievements are attributed to them. I wasn’t discriminated because of being a bursary student, which meant I could study on my own merits and had all of the same opportunities as the rest of my classmates.
I made lifelong friends; expanded my love of languages by learning Latin; joined unique clubs and societies, such as dance, choir and Amnesty International; was involved in school productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, The Tempest and Les Miserables; volunteered for The Bling Society; completed my Duke of Edinburgh awards; and went on invaluable trips such as the China Exchange, World Challenge to Ethiopia, and choir tours. All of this helped me become a mature and well-rounded person, and my love for global health has surely come from my experiences at RGS as well.
The kindness and generosity of individuals and associations who contribute to the RGS bursary campaign is inspirational, and receiving such kindness is humbling. Thank you so much, you really change lives such as mine, and I will be forever grateful to you.
It is lunch time and I’m sat in the lobby of an airport hotel with a paper and a tea. I’ve been sat here since 10am having already done a seven hour shift this morning. I’m from Gateshead; after my parents’ divorce, where my father left and never came back, my sister and I were raised in a single parent family. My mum did an excellent job of hiding us from any financial difficulties she might have had. Her parents, my beloved grandparents, until they both died helped us all physically and financially as much as they could despite their terminal illnesses.
I even lived with my grandparents for a few years and they were a fantastic inspiration to me. My mum raised me with a, ‘you can do anything you want as long as you pay for it’ attitude. Hence, from leaving school age, my younger sister and I grew up working alongside, studying and saving wherever possible. My dream was to be an airline pilot. As a five-year-old, I had a look in the flight deck and realised at that age that was all I wanted to do.
Next I find myself, at 16 with a great dream, lots of ambition, a part-time job and no way of knowing how to fund my dream. I learn quickly the cost of an Air Transport Pilot’s Licence is similar to the cost of a mortgage in the UK. Living in a council house with no chance of being able to apply for an unsecured funding makes that dream impossible.
I worked my socks off, working around school doing two (and often three) jobs at a time, 78 hours a week, every week, for years. I researched everything I could about the industry, applied for every relevant job, every scholarship and made friends that might help me.
At the age of 21, and with financial help from The General Electric Foundation, I paid for my own Private Pilot’s Licence and paid to keep it up-to-date; as much as it nearly killed me. I also paid to learn how to fly aerobatics with a world champion and to compete nationally. My grandparents and mum had taught me the only way I might make it was to persevere, no matter what. So, in addition to ‘the normal’, I volunteered at airfields, flew unusual aircraft, got in contact with aircraft owners and taught myself everything there was to know about general aviation.
Three years ago at the age of 26, I was chosen by my current employer, to be sponsored through a full Air Transport Pilot Licence. This morning for work, I reported in at 3.20am to fly a British Aerospace 22-tonne, turbo-propeller ATP to Jersey and Guernsey, to deliver the morning post. The view was fantastic, the captain was most helpful, and I really was sat in a cruise at 18,000 feet over London pinching myself and thinking, ‘This is the best job’.
There are very few women flying and I hear fewer ‘northerners’ on the radio, so I know I am in a minority. The other identical company aircraft flying a similar route also had a female colleague who is a captain flying with a male first officer.
Without the RGS bursary scheme, The Ogden Trust, The General Electric Foundation, The West Atlantic Cadet Scheme and the love and support from my mum and sister I wouldn’t be where I am today. These organisations paid my fees and helped me to feel accepted amongst an elite of wealthy young people. They encouraged me to persevere with my aim of being a pilot, regardless of my background or financial situation.
For the first time in my life, I had been awarded huge financial gifts, and only realised after receiving them how much more that meant to me. It was a fantastic feeling to know that there were people other than my family who were rooting for me to do well. They believed in me enough to pay, ask for updates on my progress and understood that even on the hardest days (on the brink of giving up during my A Levels), that there had been, and would be, others in my exact situation – from the highest academically achieving pupil in a state school to the lowest in an independent school (because the gap was so extreme), and that, in itself, was no reason to give up at the first hurdle.
After winning an iPad, I wrote a blog, which made me think about how I could get the job I really wanted. That in turn gave me the last drop of encouragement I needed to continue to be proactive in getting the job.
One day I hope I can give back the money and support to a deserving young person. I continue to volunteer in local schools, helping with careers advice, and to encourage young people, young women and in particular, those from single parent families to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects. I have received excellent feedback from the schools for which I am thrilled to bits.
I just want to share my story with you and inform you that, as long as I am able, I will continue to volunteer as a role model for young women who want to get into high achieving and/or male dominated work places.
Never give up on your dream: it will be worth it!
Some of you will know bits of my story, most will not. In amongst the smorgasboard of negative parenting which my mother displayed while I was aged between six and 15, she did two things of real benefit to my future; applied for me to go to RGS on a bursary, and persuaded me to join the Combined Cadet Force (CCF).
My home life throughout this time was quite turbulent with my mother often a passive witness to her boyfriend’s abusive behaviour towards me. If anyone were to ask English Teacher, Chris Goulding his opinion of me when I was in his form in Year 8 I feel that, “Oik” would be the first word to be used, I regularly wound up in fights with the other boys in my class and I lost count of how many yellow slips I received. In short I was bringing problems from my home life to school with me and I had a chip on my shoulder about the fact that everyone around me seemed to have an easier ride than me with loving and affluent parents who acted in the interests of their children.
At the start of Year 9, my mother persuaded me to join the CCF. I rapidly realised that it was a way for me to avoid spending weekends at home when my mother’s abusive boyfriend would be present. As such, I embraced my time in the CCF with gusto, attending every combat weekend, Self Reliance weekend and summer camp which I was able to (unfortunately money at home was too tight to attend Easter Camp as well). Through this I became friends with many of the people whom I had previously had a chip on my shoulder about as, at the end of the day, when you’re lying down in a ditch at 1.00am in the rain you will accept a chocolate bar from almost anyone. I had a great many adventures with these people throughout my time in CCF, notably David MacFarlane (04-11), Matthew Deakin (04-11), Richard Oliver (03-10), Eliot Dayan (04-11), Sam Bates (01-11), Christopher ‘Tiff’ Heasman (06-11), Jamie Robson (01-11) and Matthew Walton (04-11) as well as various peers from Newcastle Central High School, most notably Lucy Davidson who gave me the courage to speak to Mrs Stewart about what was happening at home which enabled me to end the abuse and move in with my dad.
The other main benefit of my time in CCF was that it sparked a love for the hills and mountains, both those in Northumberland and further afield, along with an interest in radio communications which secured me a pre-university placement with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, however that is another story.
When I arrived at Loughborough University I promptly joined the University Mountaineering Club there and on my first meet we ventured up to Pavey Ark to do a scramble called Jack’s Rake in torrential rain. My only previous knowledge of this crag was David Greenhalgh telling us not to get our navigation wrong on the way past Pavey Ark as “that is climber’s territory and if you find yourself up there you will die”. This all lent a great sense of novelty to the adventure, my boots had puddles in them and I doubt there was a dry stitch on my body despite wearing a full set of waterproofs, but I was hooked!
Since then my passion for this absurd hobby has also taken me all over the UK, Europe and even to Australia and Morocco! Many of these adventures have been facilitated by several mountaineering clubs (notably the Oread Mountaineering Club, The Northumbrian Mountaineering Club and The Climbers’ Club) where I have made some of the best friends I could possibly wish for, learned a huge amount about myself and fed my desire to explore the wild places which our beautiful country, continent and planet have to offer.
Without my bursary I would likely never have joined the CCF, without joining the CCF and doing Duke of Edinburgh Gold award, I would not have been equipped with the basic skills necessary to safely enjoy the mountains in an independent fashion and therefore would not have introduced so many other people to the beauty of the mountains. I know more than most that the mountains can be a threatening and dangerous place, having witnessed 2 horrific accidents, found the results of a third and been rescued by helicopter once, but they are also a refuge from my memories of the horrors I experienced early in my life and I feel that I ought to thank a good number of current and former staff for this priceless gift: Rob O’Hagan, John Camm, Emma Malcolm, Phil Barlow (81-91), Mike Barlow (53-64), David Greenhalgh, Jo Greenhalgh, Ned Rispin and Gareth Dunn.