“I didn’t go to the junior school, but I remember the first induction day we had well. There was a day for just the new pupils with sports, games and a tour of the school, followed by another day when we came in with everybody, including those from the junior school. We had a science lesson and played some team games to get to know each other. Although many came up from the junior school, I think it felt like a new experience for everyone, so there was a sense of belonging from the beginning. Everyone made friends really quickly; you got to know everyone, pupils and teachers, even those that didn’t teach you. It didn’t take me long to settle in at all.
What I remember most fondly about my time at school was the people. Sitting outside chatting at lunch time with my friends, and especially the revue show we had each Christmas with the teachers’ nativity play. It was always really fun to put on, the teachers took all the parts and we used to write the scripts for them.
My Mum is a teaching assistant and my Dad works in IT and we also had my grandparents living with us. Without the bursary award, I think my grandparents would have had to support my parents a lot more; they would have done so happily but the award meant they didn’t need to.
My time at Sydenham taught me the importance of giving things a go and to ‘try everything’. I had some amazing experiences, including entering national competitions like the National Science and Engineering competition and going on interesting trips. Some of the opportunities we had in Sixth Form were really great for preparing me for medical school, many of which were provided by the wider GDST network. I attended courses to prepare for the BioMedical Admissions Test and had interview preparation for Oxbridge – this was all hugely valuable to me.
Being part of the GDST makes me feel I am a member of something bigger; I’ve met other alumnae from GDST schools and sometimes you find you might have even played netball against them at some point in an inter-GDST school event! It makes you feel part of a really valuable network too: I remember when I was in Sixth Form having the chance to get in touch with an alumna who was a doctor which was really useful to me in preparing for the future.
I think bursaries today are invaluable; they give access to a quality education to people from all sorts of backgrounds and it means the financial side of things doesn’t cause concern. Also, receiving a bursary gives the individual a sense of achievement. I think you feel that you’ve earned your place. It’s something to be proud of as well, that you were selected to have one and how it helps towards opening doors in all sorts of ways.
Getting into the school is just your first step on the way to whatever journey you end up taking. Once that door has opened you will find that millions of other ones become accessible, which I think, in today’s climate especially, is needed more and more. The quality of your education is something you will carry with you for ever and ever; it gives you a backbone for everything you do, everything you see and the contacts you will make”.
Dr Aysha Waheed
Foundation Year 1 Doctor at King’s College Hospital NHS Trust
Alumna, Sydenham High School
Class of 2013