Victoria Barnett

“I am very grateful and thankful for the opportunities getting a bursary gave me 30 years ago and I believe those opportunities are still important in today’s world, especially for women.”

“My earliest memory of Blackheath High is just wanting to fit in, hoping I would fit in. I actually did my first year of senior school at a state school and I was really unhappy there and spoke to my parents about it and they managed to get me an interview to Blackheath High. I was just so concerned about whether I would fit in with the girls and it was fine, and I just wanted to make the best of it and hoped that I wouldn’t struggle with the new curriculum.

I remember my form teacher the most fondly, Miss Roberts, who also taught biology. I think for everybody there is one teacher that stands out for you and for me it was her. She just really understood me and I felt she would always keep an eye out for me, so much so that I wish that I could reconnect with her now and thank her for what I felt that she did for me. I wasn’t a teacher’s pet or anything but I just felt that she understood me more than other teachers and I appreciated it.

My family background was very average working class. My Dad was a London taxi driver and my Mum worked in hospitality. I had a brother who was 18 months older than me, who attended the state school that I left to join Blackheath. My parents initially, to be honest, paid for my tuition fees and then very quickly realised it was something that they couldn’t continue so then I applied for a bursary. They were delighted that I could stay at the school because I was obviously very happy there at that point. I was the first person in my family to attend a private school and it was a big deal, my parents clearly never had had that kind of background.

I’ve given a great deal of thought to what my time at Blackheath taught me. Remember that this is back in the 80s where things were different than they are today for girls. But even then we were taught that we really could aim for anything and I felt that there was an expectation that we would all go out into the world and become something. I really believed that was true and I never doubted whether I was good enough or qualified enough, I just believed I was capable enough and I believe the school definitely taught me that.

Following school, I managed to get a job in investment banking back in the ’90’s. This was an amazing achievement at the time as there were very few females in the banking industry. As an example, I worked on a dealing floor with approximately 200 men and only three women, of which I was one! I think my time at Blackheath gave me confidence to go into any situation to meet new people and be able to find some common ground. I definitely feel that my school encouraged us to develop our personalities and whilst being academic was important, it really wasn’t the only thing that was focused on. We were very much encouraged to get involved with the local community, meet different people from all backgrounds and I feel this enabled us, as pupils, for want of a better word ‘all-rounders’, so that’s how I feel school shaped me.

I admit I’m not too familiar with the GDST today, but I imagine the same values are still being taught now – enthusiasm, energy and imagination. These are all valuable attributes to take with you when you leave school. I remember very clearly being told that it is okay to question things when you go out into the world, to not just accept things, to ask why and get involved. I am a big supporter of bursaries and I still think they’re very important because it gives a child, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend a GDST school, an opportunity to enhance their personal and academic development. I feel with me, if I hadn’t have gone to Blackheath High and if I’d stayed at the state school I wouldn’t have achieved what I did achieve. We all have hopes and dreams and I just feel I was able fulfil them and take a different path in life and to me it’s just so important. I am very grateful and thankful for the opportunities getting a bursary gave me 30 years ago and I believe those opportunities are still important in today’s world, especially for women”.

Victoria Barnett
Former investment banker
Alumna, Blackheath High School
Class of 1989

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