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As my time at Highgate draws to a close, I would describe it as a very bittersweet sensation. I’ve always liked school, so it’s not that I want to get out of here. But in the last couple of months, it feels like everything is drawing to a natural end and it’s the right time to move on.

I joined Highgate in Y7 and despite being the only one from my primary school to come here, I found it quite easy to settle in and make friends. The induction day and PGL (Parents Get Lost) trip helped us to meet people in our class, so on my first day, it didn’t feel too daunting because we’d all met each other a few times. My brother was also at Highgate, four years above me, so I knew a bit about the school and what it was like.

During Y13, my final year, I’ve been Pupil Head of School, which has been a positive experience. It involves a lot of breakfast, as I explain to other pupils considering applying! We have a morning meeting with Head Mr Pettitt every week to discuss any number of things….issues raised by pupils, assemblies or talks that we are going to give, aspects of the school that we would like to develop. During my time as Head of School, we have focused particularly on inclusion and community, making school feel like a second home to all and accommodating everyone. You can make as much of the role as you want.

I’m happy that I did my Black History Month assembly because that was something I wanted to get involved in and it meant a lot to me to promote and educate about. I tried to make it as interesting and relevant as possible. The thing I’m most proud of are the parent events that I’ve taken part in to talk about my bursary experience.

For me as a person, and probably my mum would say this as well, the Head of School role has been so good for my confidence. I’m shy and I get quite anxious and stressed at a lot of things, especially public speaking and meeting new people and new situations. It’s been a bit of exposure therapy I suppose! It’s forced me to go out of my comfort zone a lot but has also made me realise that I can do it.

This year, the Pupil Leadership Team have been working on a legacy campaign, to share our experiences with younger years. I hope that people watching the video will realise that anyone can get involved. Also, the avenues of reaching leadership roles in school are all so different – it’s not just people with strong opinions or have loads of things they want to change that get involved – it can just be that you’re interested in something. I do think you can create meaningful change that’s still small, but then longer term it has a bigger impact.

In recent years, pupil voice has taken on a much bigger role. The pupil walkout that took place when I was in Y11 was a powerful thing, so many people heard about it. I’ll always remember that because of how big it was: two whole year groups coming together to show solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, and to actively discuss these issues in open conversation and meaningfully respond to it as a school. There’s definitely been movement since then, especially for older female pupils, where it’s become more normalised to speak about those things.

We have a Wellbeing, Inclusion and Safeguarding Committee (WISC), a group that acts as a bridge between pupil voice and staff, a facilitator of pupil driven change. Members address issues or gaps at school which are felt by pupil body and suggest new policy that will further help create an inclusive and safe community. For example, last year racial inclusion was brought as the focus. Through discussion it was found that there was a gap that needed to be plugged. WISC raised this and following meetings with several members of staff, new PSE sessions were implemented across all year groups, whole school surveys were done, assemblies were given and new societies such as the South East Asian Society were created.

For my A-Levels, I’m studying Maths, French and Spanish. I’ve always loved languages and plan to do French and Spanish at University. When I started in Y7 I felt a bit out of my depth because lots of other people had already done French in their primary school, whereas I hadn’t. That was a bit scary, but once I got to grips with it, I’ve always really enjoyed it. I’ve been taking piano lessons since Y7, so my piano teacher has seen me grow throughout the school. I’ll always remember the Christmas Chapel services and the whole year trip to Northumbria in Y8, that was really fun!

I’d say that most people here are very hard working and high achieving. Some people can be quite hard on themselves, me included! I know that if I need it, there is always loads of support available and I try to make use of the Wellbeing Practitioners as much as I can! Socially, it’s a friendly place, there’s lots of really lovely people here.

It’s a weird feeling during these final few months of sixth form – like being in between situations. There’s loads of end of school things happening, the year book, leavers video, exams approaching and talking about summer plans. I’m excited for University (Oxford or Manchester, I hope) and to meet new people.

If I was to give some advice to my younger self, it would be to care a bit less about what other people thought. I don’t think I needed to be worried about it.

Tania Duah About the author
Tanya, Pupil Head of School
Tanya has been at Highgate since 2016, having joined Senior School in Y7. An avid attendee of Hispanic Society and French Society, she has a passion for languages. Tanya loves music, reading and reality TV. Despite her awful stage fright, she attained all 8 grades in classical ballet and has performed at Sadler’s Wells.