OUR ALUMNI FAMILY
We encourage students to keep in touch with us after they have moved on to pastures new. It is a delight to catch up with them to find out what wonderful things they have been doing since they left.
We are thrilled to have an ever-increasing number of past students joining our alumni. They have fond memories of their days at Northallerton School & Sixth Form College and like to keep in touch. Many kindly offer to come in to talk to our students about their lives and careers, or even share their expertise by occasionally getting involved in the classroom too. Students find listening to former Northallerton School & Sixth Form College students sharing their experiences very inspirational and these visits have had a very positive effect on the motivation of students across the whole school.
If you were a student at Northallerton School & Sixth Form College formerly Northallerton College and would like to be part of our school alumni group and inspire our young people, please telephone: 01609 773340 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org We would love to hear from you.
‘Since leaving Northallerton College (as it was called!) in 2007, my career has evolved gradually. Upon finishing my GCSEs I decided to pursue my interest in sport. This led me to Darlington College, where I completed a BTEC National Certificate in Sport, Development, Coaching and Fitness. I particularly enjoyed learning about human physiology and the mechanisms that work to keep us alive and functioning. This in turn steered me to the University of Sunderland where I undertook a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Sport and Exercise Sciences. I enjoyed my time studying in Sunderland greatly. During the summer holidays, I travelled to the USA to work at an outdoor education centre and children’s summer camp. Working in the US was a fantastic experience! I made some great friends, had a brilliant time travelling, and enjoyed working with the children. This encouraged me to seek work experience in schools. I volunteered in a primary and secondary school before securing a job as a teaching assistant. I subsequently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and qualified as a primary school teacher. Whilst I enjoyed teaching and gained many valuable experiences, I was keen to pursue my scientific interests. This took me to King’s College London where I studied Human and Applied Physiology and earned a Master of Science (MSc) degree.
Which brings us to today… I currently work at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. I am part of a research team using cutting-edge techniques to investigate mechanisms of kidney disease. I hope to earn a doctoral degree (PhD) in the next couple of years and continue onto a career in biomedical research. Whilst pursuing the career path which I have outlined above, I have worked in a supermarket, restaurant, warehouse, factory and shop. Each of these jobs provided valuable experiences of their own and allowed me to save money to pursue my hobbies and interests.’
‘I left Northallerton College in 2002 with A-Levels in art, biology and physics. I went on to do a BTEC Art Foundation course at York College. It was an essential qualification to get into university to study a Fine Art (BA) degree at Nottingham Trent.
The three years I spent studying Fine Art in Nottingham were brilliant. This was a really important step on my career path because it taught me some key skills. I also met some talented creative people along the way and made some life-long friends. At Uni, I did lots of extracurricular activities, one of which was learning how to video edit. This inspired me to make videos and started my love of story-telling using video.
After graduating, I volunteered to work on some independent film projects in Nottingham and was soon helping out on the edit side of things. I was mentored by a local film editor who gave me further insight into professional editing and advice on how to begin my career in television.
My next step was to move to London and become a runner for a post-production company. Here I saw productions like 'X-Factor' and 'Britains Got Talent' get made in the edit suites. It was really exciting to be in this environment and meet the professionals (and some celebrities) actually making these shows. I successfully applied for a job as a Junior Editor and spent 18 months learning hands-on how to edit professionally. After this, I started to pick up freelance work and was accepted by an agent who specialises in entertainment programmes. Since then, I've worked on many popular shows such as 'Celebs Go Dating', 'Tattoo Fixers' and most recently 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.' I really enjoy my job because it uses my creativity in a technical way to tell a good story. Seeing shows I've edited being broadcast on TV is always rewarding.’
‘I attended Northallerton College from 1988-1992 completing my GCSEs and A Levels. I didn’t quite make the grade to study at my first choice of university and whilst initially disappointed, it enabled me to reconsider the available options and I was accepted for a BSc degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Sunderland; a course which combined the two subjects I enjoyed, biology and geography, along with a breadth of other topics.
Between the second and third year of my degree, I took a year out to take part in an expedition to Lake Baikal, Siberia with the First Battalion The Green Howards. Advertised in the local press, the regiment were looking for civilians to join the small team of military personnel to assist a group of Russian Scientists complete a survey of the Nerpa Seal, an endemic species to Lake Baikal. The lake is frozen to a metre thick from November-May and we would be riding along its length on quad bikes to complete the survey.
Following 3 months of navigation, first aid and survival training in Germany, we travelled to Siberia to consolidate our training before undertaking the expedition. This was an amazing experience which exposed me to an organisation and provided me with a particular skill set that, unbeknown to me at the time, would have a considerable influence on my future.
Following graduation, I still had no definitive career path in mind, so decided to apply for a PGCE to teach Geography, while gaining experience from working for a year as a classroom assistant and office clerk at a secondary school in Middlesbrough. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the PGCE course, having sampled ‘life in the military’ I felt I wanted to experience more of this lifestyle and decided to apply to join the Royal Air Force.
In 1998 I graduated from RAF College Cranwell as a Royal Air Force Officer and was selected to undertake Air Traffic Control training, but unfortunately didn’t pass the professional training course, so I transferred to the Medical Support Officer Branch. This role required no clinical training but supported the delivery of medical care to military personnel. During my 18 year career I undertook a range of roles from assurance and governance of military medical facilities, training Officer Recruits, liaising with the NHS for the provision of healthcare to military personnel and writing policy and management plans. My RAF career led me to numerous postings throughout the UK, 2 years in Germany, and deployments to the Oman, Iraq and Afghanistan.
By choice I left the RAF in 2016, returned to Northallerton to be near family, and subsequently started a family of my own. Having had a break from work, I now find myself back in my RAF uniform as a Reservist at RAF Leeming.
When I look back at how I came to be where I am today, I didn’t always follow my planned pathway, but the paths I ended up taking led to some exciting destinations. Whilst you might be faced with disappointment, don’t be disheartened and look towards the opportunities that are subsequently on offer.’
John Radcliffe : (1650 – 1 November 1714) was an English physician, academic and politician.
But where did it all start? John Radcliffe was born in Wakefield, in our beautiful Yorkshire. He went to Queen Elizabeth Grammar school as well as our very own Northallerton Grammar School. Later on he graduated from the University of Oxford. He obtained his MD in 1682 and moved to London shortly afterwards. There he enjoyed great popularity and became royal physician to William III and Mary II. He was so well-regarded that a number of landmark buildings in Oxford, including the Radcliffe Camera (in Radcliffe Square), the Radcliffe Infirmary, the Radcliffe Science Library,] Radcliffe Primary Care and the Radcliffe Observatory were named after him. The John Radcliffe Hospital, a large tertiary hospital in Headington, was also named after him.
This year, we have created a house system, where houses are named after a former student. Radcliffe house, couldn’t have Dr John Radcliffe writing about himself for obvious reasons, but if you are interested in finding out more about this Northallerton Grammar School former student, please read one of the following books:
- Hone, Campbell R. (1950) The Life of Dr. John Radcliffe, 1652–1714, Benefactor of the University of Oxford. London: Faber and Faber.
- Guest, Ivor (1991) Dr John Radcliffe and His Trust. London: The Radcliffe Trust, 595 pages ISBN 0-9502482-1-5.
Mrs Winn ( Head of Radcliffe House) and Miss L Robson ( Deputy Head of Radcliffe House)
Professor Emily Rayfield
‘I attended Northallerton School from 1989 to 1993. After taking A-Levels in Art, Biology and Chemistry, I studied for a degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford. After graduating from Oxford after a fun three years, I wasn’t sure what to do. I got a job as a lab technician at University College London (mainly so I could live in London with some of my university friends) where some of my duties involved growing cells from human skin samples.
During my year in London I decided I wanted to return to university to study for a PhD. During my degree, I particularly enjoyed courses on whole animal biology – studying the anatomy, physiology and evolution of animals. After applying to a few universities, I was accepted as a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge I started researching how we can apply physical principles to understand how past animals functioned and that is how I embarked on my career as a palaeontologist. I use a mixture of maths and anatomy to test long-standing often arm-waving theories about fossils and past life. At Cambridge I developed how to use computer software typically used in engineering to test the strength of bridges, cars or hip implants to test the strength of skeletons, living and extinct.
After graduating from Cambridge I hopped back and forth between Oxford and Cambridge on short-term research positions before breaking out of Oxbridge taking a job at the Natural History Museum in London. As much as I enjoyed working in such a famous institution, the job wasn’t permanent, so I was delighted to take up a permanent job at Bristol University in 2005 where I’ve been ever since. Since 2014 I’ve been a Professor of Palaeobiology. My day job involves a mixture of teaching lectures, practical classes and field courses in geology and palaeontology and running my own research group of masters and PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. My group now lead the way in using tools like X-ray scanning of fossils and biomechanical analysis to study fossil animals. Many people ask me if I go on digs, and I have to disappoint them by saying that most of my research is done on a computer. I have been able to travel all over the world looking at fossils in museums and attending conferences – the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and China among other places.
Most recently I’ve served as President of the international Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and I’ve received medals from the Geological Society of London and the Palaeontological Association for my research. One of the highlights of my career was being interviewed by Sir David Attenborough for a TV documentary in 2017. I had met the great man briefly a couple of times before but this time I had lunch with him for an hour and half before the interview - me, Sir David and another researcher - it was quite an experience!
Looking back to my school years, I never imagined I’d be a Professor, even less so a Professor of Palaeobiology. I’ve always followed my interests to see where they take me, and in doing so I’ve had the chance to visit some amazing places, and to discover new things and contribute to our understanding of the past.'
When I was first asked to write something about Sylvester Cowell, I thought about why we honour people of the past. I thought about what makes someone worthy of being in an historical textbook or immortalised by memorial. I also thought about how I could relate to Sylvester Cowell, a man or, more poignantly, a boy, who was born more than a 100 years ago.
As we know so little about this person, perhaps, we should consider what he represents. He represents the ‘everyman’ or ‘every-person’ that often is overlooked in our history books. We are given facts on kings and queens, great empires and terrible atrocities, but we are often not presented with the ‘everyman’ hero. That person who often goes unnoticed in the annals of time, but is no less important.
So, what is a hero? Can we call Sylvester Cowell a hero? By many standards, yes. In antiquity a hero is considered to have overcome great hardship and died in glorious battle. This could be said of Sylvester.
His birth parents were unable to look after him and he spent time in the Northallerton workhouse. He was killed when his ship, the S.S. T.R. Thompson, was torpedoed on Good Friday 1918 with the loss of 33 lives. Tragically, he was only 17 or 18 when he was killed. So, in my opinion, hero is an appropriate title.
However, when we give someone the title of hero this can distance us from the person. I think it’s important to remember he found love and family with Mr & Mrs W Hunton with whom he lived in Brompton while attending Northallerton Grammar School, having won a North Riding County Council Scholarship. He most definitely will have had friends who laughed with him and who cared for him. He may even have had a love interest; someone he may have gone on to raise a family with and the descendants of whom could be sitting right next to you in class. But that was not to be.
So, we remember him now with the name of our House: Cowell. That ‘everyman’ hero, that life that was so full of potential and that person who represents us all. We take the name Cowell in the hope that we live our lives in honour of Sylvester. In doing so we can live the life he could not, we take the opportunities that were not given to him and we make proud the generations who have gone before us with the lives we live today.
‘I was a pupil at Northallerton School all the way through to A-Levels and left to go to university in 2011 with three A Levels in psychology, English literature, English language and an AS level in textiles. I was inspired by one of my A-Level English teachers to go on to study English literature further at Northumbria University. I loved the subject and wanted to take it further and make teaching my career.
At university I loved the course and Northumbria Uni was an incredible environment. I learned so many life skills about independent working and managing my own time and priorities whilst enjoying student life. I was given immense support whilst dealing with a family crisis and that showed me that anything was possible if you want it enough.
After a placement in my third year at a secondary school in Newcastle, I decided that English literature or teaching wasn’t my plan and had to start thinking about what I did want to do when I graduated.
Deciding to take a different route, I went into events coordinating, starting with wedding planning and then ending up at Macmillan Cancer Support in York. After nearly a year on events management I was given the opportunity to start my own business, something that I had never considered and always assumed that that was what business graduates did!
Using what I learned whilst wedding planning and my love of weddings, I created a business plan and Victoria Robson Bridal opened in 2015, a bridal boutique in Northallerton. I threw everything I had into the business and worked long hours, marketing and getting my name out in the world. Using time management skills that I learned whilst at Uni, online courses and help from business advisors I learned to manage my own books, accounts and grow the business to what it is now. The business has been open 4 years this year and we have expanded into two shops and a team of seven.’