Sixth Form students speak candidly to School body about overcoming obstacles

At a special Whole School Assembly in March, four Sixth Form students spoke candidly about how they have overcome problems during their time at Reading Blue Coat. These are their speeches:

Ronnie

I have been a student here since Year 7 and I honestly haven’t really had many significant hurdles in my time here. So, when I was asked to speak at this assembly, I wasn’t really sure what I could say. But when Mr Morton approached me, we discussed some ideas, one of which was diversity. I know a couple of boys have had a difficult time because of their colour or faith but I’m hopeful that this is a really rare occurrence at Blue Coat. Luckily, I have never really been treated differently because of my colour, and whenever I have, it has been by a bit of banter by my friends in good faith, with my nicknames being the Meatball and the Currymuncher. However, the one time where it has been in a negative way was during a rugby game when I was in Year 10, when an opponent made some choice remarks about my race. At that point, although I shouldn’t have to, I wanted to let it go and just move on, but my teammates were having none of it. Personally, I think the best feeling in sport is when your teammates are by your side and backing you up, no matter how much nonsense they are mouthing off, and that’s exactly what they did. Suffice to say, they were extra enthusiastic when tackling that opponent from that point on. In fact, if I remember rightly he was substituted off, probably for his own safety. The point is, I could have felt very isolated at that point when that opponent said what he did, but instead, the sense of community and team spirit instilled in all of us meant that I felt the complete opposite and it is something I believe is symbolic of Blue Coat as a whole and means that it is possible to overcome any hurdle you could face.

Another potential hurdle that didn’t cause me much bother was my recent university application. I have wanted to be a doctor for years and thought that I would apply for the best courses in the country, one of which is at Oxford University. I had scored well on the medical school entrance tests and thought my interview went pretty well, but I was a little disappointed when I didn’t receive an offer from them. I had entered the process knowing that it was very challenging and competitive and this had thankfully prepared me for the rejection. I luckily have offers to study Medicine at Imperial, Kings and UCL, which are also great unis, so I’m not dwelling on what I haven’t been offered – instead I’m looking forward to starting my training this summer. That’d be my top tip – don’t dwell on setbacks, just look forward to the next challenge.

Henry

I started at Blue Coat in 2012 and I’ve been here for seven years. When I was younger, I didn’t always find it easy to concentrate in class. A result of this was I got quite a few slips, particularly in Year 8. Slips have since been replaced with minus points, but they meant the same – I wasn’t focused and I was disrupting my learning and possibly that of the boys around me. It not only limited my learning but being in trouble all the time was also demotivating.

Over the last few years I have improved upon my weakest areas. In particular, two things have helped:

The first was becoming head of section in the RAF, which improved my organisational skills, focus, acceptance of responsibility and, in particular, my confidence and leadership skills tenfold. Without these skills I wouldn’t have been able to stand up this morning. Therefore, I urge anyone who has a lack of confidence to find an activity that they enjoy and which challenges them. Working on your weak points now will make you a more well rounded person by the time you leave school. You will need that independence and self reliance in future if you go to university or into the working environment.

The second way I improved my academics has been through finding something to work towards. My goal is to go Essex University to study accountancy and, longer term, I want to become a professional accountant. When I visited the university, I immediately knew I wanted to go there. This has given me a renewed drive to work harder now, so that I can have more career options later on. Therefore, my second piece of advice is to find an attainable goal to work towards and start working for it right away.

In summary, everyone in here can achieve their aspirations. You can only do this by finding something that will motivate you. No matter how hard your teachers work for you to succeed, ultimately we are all responsible for making the effort ourselves to meet our goals. If you want your goals to be met, you need to do it yourself.

Jess

Starting at a new school is always a challenge but I was lucky that it went fairly well for me. I was at an all-girls school for my GCSEs but knew that I wanted a change of scenery for my A Levels. I came to Blue Coat on the Sixth Form Open Evening and instantly fell in love with the surroundings. I also came to watch that year’s production of Grease and knew that I wanted to be involved in future musicals like it. I liked the fact that Blue Coat emphasised achievements in all aspects of school life instead of solely focusing on how well students were doing academically.

I knew quite a few girls from my old school when I arrived, so I didn’t find starting at the school as daunting as some of the other new students. It still took a while to find my feet, though, and for Blue Coat to really feel as though it was my school. I was lucky that I quickly found my friendship group and I started to get involved in House Drama and the school production, which helped me settle in.

One of the early induction events that was put on was the girls’ tea party where Mrs Berry was introduced to us. She said that if we had access arrangements during our GCSEs then we should go to see her. I have really clicky wrists, so I used to be sat near the back so that I didn’t annoy too many people in the exam. I went to see Mrs Berry about this, and it started my contact with her.

Later that term we sat our November assessments and I did awfully. I really struggled to start the revision process because I felt so overwhelmed and when I did manage to study, nothing seemed to stick in my head. This had been a recurring problem for me throughout my school life and had at times caused my mental health to suffer. Mrs Berry was the first person to mention the possibility that I might have ADHD and both she and Mrs Smith were really helpful and supportive when explaining this to me. Mrs Smith told me about herself and her daughter having similar difficulties which I really appreciated as I felt more normal and less alone.

We received the official diagnosis on January 2nd last year which was a momentous day for me and my family. It was such a relief to discover that what had been holding me back had a name and that there were loads of people like me. Suddenly there was a reason for why I’m so easily distracted, why I talk excessively, why I’m unorganised and messy and for why I seem to be completely incapable of doing my homework on time.

Performing as the lead in the school production a month later gave my confidence a huge boost – it was the first time I felt properly good at something and it was nice to be recognised for this. But then I started medication for my ADHD. My first medication made me really anxious – my heart rate became unusually fast and irregular and I would get really nervous whenever anyone else was upset. So, I tried another medication, but I kept waking up at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep, leaving me tired, unfocused and back to square one.

I came off medication just before my June exams. I’d been seeing the school counsellor throughout Year 12 and she helped me feel less defeated after I once again achieved very poor grades. I even found myself repeatedly scratching my hand in one exam until it bled, due to the fact that I was so anxious.

I’ve recently started a new medication which has really improved my concentration and attention span and, with the help of Mrs Smith, Mrs Berry and the rest of my teachers, my performance this year has been substantially better. My homework grades as well as my Commitment to Learning scores have improved and I’m looking forward to finishing my A Levels so I can start thinking about applying to university.

If I had some advice for you it would be that other people’s judgements about who you are aren’t necessarily the truth. There are many measures of your worth and capabilities in life. Finally, look after your mental well being and remember only you define who you are.

Tom

Most things in my life have gone as well as you could think. I’ve got great parents, great friends, (shoutout the boys) and got away with getting good grades. However, mid-way through Year 11, I started to develop a lot of anxiety. It went away after Year 11 exams but came back at the start of this year. It got to the point where it was quite debilitating and I’ve always been quite confident and extroverted, I like to think, but for some reason I had this crippling worry taking over me most the time – and lost a lot of my confidence.

I thought I’d stay like this until school was finished. But I started to do everything and anything under the sun to improve my mental health. I started to change my routine each day, finding what worked. For me, maintaining my work and mental health was the hardest balance to achieve so I concentrated on my well being and slowly started to work harder. At first, I didn’t think I would be where I am today but slowly all my changes had an impact, so that – when I look back on the autumn term – I’m almost shocked at how much better I feel.

The best changes I made were to my diet, and because I now try to do some form of exercise every day. Creating short-term and long-term goals was also helpful. One way I did this was through keeping up with my vintage reselling business and it really gave me something to work towards. (Shoutuout to concretejungleuk. If you’ve got Depop and like clothes, go check it out. I’m currently broke so you’d be helping me out.)

Anyway, just do something positive and it can be a step forward. Don’t think it has to be school-based, but speaking to a teacher as your first port of call can be great.

I did this talk not because Mr Morton came up to me and asked me – I mean, he did, but that’s beside the point – I did it because I feel like mental health is still a taboo subject and I wanted to show everyone that it’s not an uncommon thing to go through, and, if anything, I’m only on the up and up now. You may struggle now or in the future but if you keep going with a positive routine and persevere, you will 100 percent wake up down the line feeling a lot better and wondering how you were ever in that place.

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