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Former Hackney pupils offer their advice to school-leavers

PUBLISHED: 14:17 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:06 09 September 2020

Ayo Adebayo went to Clapton Girls’ Academy and is now a student at Queen Mary University of London. Picture: Submitted by

Ayo Adebayo went to Clapton Girls’ Academy and is now a student at Queen Mary University of London. Picture: Submitted by

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Former students of Hackney secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges have shared their advice to recent school leavers about finding their next steps.

Alex Virlan is a student at the London College of Communications. Picture: Submitted by Alex VirlanAlex Virlan is a student at the London College of Communications. Picture: Submitted by Alex Virlan

Teenagers who have just left Year 11 and 13 had to face dramatically changed circumstances during their GCSEs and A Levels due to the pandemic.

Remote learning became the new normal and instead of sitting exams, grades were calculated by teachers.

READ MORE: Hackney’s London Assembly Member issues warning over ‘unconscious bias’ in 2020’s A Level grading

Jenna Colaco, 20, who attended Our Lady’s Convent High School, is now a third-year undergraduate at Oxford University.

She said: “I believe that the best things students can do for themselves are be honest about what support they need and be brave enough to speak to someone at school about what they need.”

Jenna Colaco is now a third-year undergraduate at Oxford University. Picture: Submitted by Jenna ColacoJenna Colaco is now a third-year undergraduate at Oxford University. Picture: Submitted by Jenna Colaco

The 20-year-old “truly believes” schools will “try their best to adapt”, but has encouraged the pupils to “work with them and tell them what is helpful to you”.

Alex Virlan, a current student at the London College of Communications, was previously a student at Clapton Girls’ Academy.

She said: “This is a time for them to enquire and reach out to people and organisations.

“I think we are currently living in the best time for people to help out by lending a hand either by volunteering or working remotely.

“Actively learning and wanting to keep the momentum going will be what keeps students motivated.”

She stressed the importance of utilising technology and social media to stay connected, adding: “Take care of yourself. There is no rush to where you plan to be.

“When you’re ready to come back knowing this is one of the many rough patches you will encounter in life, it will make you stronger and it will lead you to whatever your hopes and dreams are.

“Stay connected and keep yourself busy with the things you love.”

Ameera Patel, a care-leaver who attended Tayyibah Girls’ School and then Clapton Girls’ Academy, recommended an apprenticeship, where options include saving for university while working towards a qualification and gaining experience in different fields.

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She said: “If you’re like me and the education system is the worst thing for you and you actually enjoy working then apprenticeships are definitely more fulfilling.”

A previous student at Bsix Sixth Form College, Henry Asenso, is now an engineering student at Newcastle University.

On the changing circumstances, he said: “Adapting to unprecedented situations is an important skill to have and it would help in times like this.

“For most students, online teaching will soon become the new normal. It’s an opportunity to stay connected, and learn at your own pace.

“Avoid using it as an excuse to underperform, and use this opportunity to pursue what you wish without holding back.”

Zara Rawat, a former student of Clapton Girls’ Academy, took a two-year gap before starting university this September.

She listed some resources students can use in their job hunting, including diversity recruitment social enterprise Creative Access, Hackney Council, Serious About Youth (SAY), Gen Z careers fair Eric Festival, employability programme Create Jobs, and music and arts projects with Small Green Shoots.

She said: “My advice to those who have just finished their A Levels is to just breathe.

“There is a lot going on around the world, it is definitely overwhelming, so it’s okay to take time and space for ourselves.

“Jumping straight into education might be a preference but slowing down will never hurt you. You might be unsure of what you want to do, but university isn’t the only option you have.”

She recommended alternatives to higher education, including volunteering or travelling.

Ayo Oladeru attended Clapton Girls’ Academy and is now a student at Queen Mary University of London.

She said perseverance is key: “The best thing they can do is to participate in extracurricular activities so that they can stay ahead and on top.

“I also believe it’s important to have a healthy balance of relaxation and a healthy lifestyle which can be achieved by having a daily schedule.

“Having a routine will give you the structure you need during this chaos and provide stability.”

For more information about alternative routes, Hackney Council runs an apprenticeship blog at https://recruitment.hackney.gov.uk/apprenticeships-and-placements/apprenticeship-blog/

READ MORE: Editor’s comment: Whatever your results, life takes many turns


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