Orla McMenamin and Tomer Yashiv were voted by staff and pupils as our Head boy and Head girl. They started their new roles September with a speech to the whole school on the first day of term and a speech at Prize-Giving.
Interviewer: How long have you been at Highgate School?
Tomer: I have been at Highgate since Year 3, I joined in the Junior School, which is almost 10 years ago, oh my god!
Orla: 6 years in total at Highgate. I joined in Year 7, left Year 8 and came back in Year 10. I’m much more complicated! I remember in Year 7, on the first day, coming in, I was really short, everyone here was very tall. I forgot my trainers for the first games lesson and bonded with Maddie as she also forgot her trainers, it’s funny, we’re still friends to this day!
Tomer: It’s weird thinking about it now because the Junior School has changed so much since then. Generally, I have such good memories of the Junior School and I remember all the teachers. We would always have stuff on which just made school fun to be in, even though you obviously have lessons. I remember science week every year and having the ‘egg-drop challenge’ from the top of Ingleholm. Across my four years there, Mr James is definitely what made my time in the Junior School really special.
Interviewer: How does it feel to be the Head girl and Head boy?
Tomer: It feels great for many reasons. One, is that you’re generally recognised around school, and it makes you feel a bit like a celeb! But more importantly, having a platform like this means that I can use all the time I’ve spent learning and being a part of the school to be able to change it from the inside. So that feels pretty rewarding in general.
Orla: Also, there are so many different parts of the school I didn’t know about before and now we can really see into it. It’s like if you go to see a play and even though you know there’s all the production happening behind the scenes you never see it first-hand. And now it’s like lifting the curtain. So being in this role really lets us see the inner-workings of Highgate.
Interviewer: What’s the best time you’ve had at school?
Tomer: I think the best time I’ve had at school was the start of Year 12. Even though you’re not the oldest year in the school, you still feel way cooler than everyone, and you get more respect from teachers and the lower years.
Orla: I also really enjoyed Year 12. The school opens up and you have more responsibilities and resources. It was the first time I went to the unknown of the sixth form common room and the upstairs of the library. You also feel less apprehensive about taking opportunities like going to or giving talks in society.
Tomer: Also, free periods are just the best, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to have a six period day (unless you don’t have a choice). And the other side of that is that you’re studying four subjects that you genuinely care about so it makes you so much more motivated to work. I guess the last thing is that the suits and stuff really did it for me because it just makes you feel super cool and important walking around school.
Orla: Although there is more work it is focused in subjects you enjoy, it doesn’t mean you can’t act out the French Revolution in A level history lessons. Another highlight would be the sport tour to Barbados as I heard about since year 7 and finally I had the chance to go. And also there is always something going on if you want to try something new, for me I like getting involved in lots of things and the school is caters things for you to try and do. I didn’t realise until recently that circus skills was on offer as a sport, it just shows that there is always something to try given you have time!
Interviewer: I’m sure your journey up the school hasn’t always been easy… What’s the hardest time you’ve had at school?
Orla: Coming back to Highgate, although I was excited, it was harder than I first expected. It was harder to get back in the swing of the school routine as well as adjusting to starting my GCSE subjects and changes in my friendship groups. Coming back from a Boarding school, it felt strange not being surrounded by people my own age all the time and I took time to adjust to this. But after the first few weeks, I was grateful to be back in an environment I found so comfortable. I guess it just took a while to adapt.
Tomer: The hardest for me was Year 11 for sure. Taking public exams for the first time is pretty tough, the mocks after Christmas and the month-long exam period kind of just wipe you out. But also what was tough for me is that in late April that year Guy (twin brother) was diagnosed with ALL, which is a type of Leukaemia. So staying focused on exams and having that shock to the system was a lot to deal with at once. But, touch wood, everything was fine and I just pushed through and got on with my revision. And I guess in the end I feel like the whole experience has made me a much stronger person overall.
Interviewer: What are you both studying and what are your plans for the future?
Tomer: So, right now I’m studying Maths, History and Philosophy A-levels. All great subjects which I would recommend anyone who’s unsure about choices!
Orla: At the moment, I am taking English, History, Politics and next year I am hoping to study History and Politics at university, hopefully Cambridge.
Tomer: In terms of Uni, I’m applying for Philosophy at Cambridge and Philosophy and Economics at the others. So my future plans are hopefully to go and study one of those courses, but in between I want to take a gap year. Guy and I are planning on spending our year in Tel Aviv in Israel, doing maybe a volunteering programme for a few months, and also living there and soaking up the culture. For me Israel is a second home, because I have both family and friends there, so it’s really just about reconnecting to a big part of my family history and who I am.
Orla: I’m hoping to go to Law, I am very interested in International Disputes and social justice as from going to a school like this, having the privilege of having the upbringing I did, has given me a sense of wanting to give back in some way. At some point in my life I want to be able to write a history book, especially on uncovering the instability of the political situations in places other than the UK.
Interviewer: Why would you recommend Highgate to families looking at potential schools?
Orla: I feel like the school cares about pupils’ experiences of the school. They listen to pupil voice and try their best to bring in changes and adapt to our wants.
Tomer: It’s a caring and receptive environment and lets pupils feel heard which is valuable to everyone.
Interviewer: Thank you, both of you, and I’m sure you’re going to do a brilliant job at being Head boy and Head girl this year!