Alumni

Let’s keep in touch!

As a Beacon Academy student you will always be a special part of our history. By keeping in touch as part of our Beacon Academy Alumni network you could be an important part of our future too.

We love hearing from former students and often invite our alumni to return to Beacon to inspire current students with the exciting progress they have made. We also regularly feature alumni profiles in our termly newsletters.

Joining our free network is a great way to keep in touch with the school community, your teachers and your peers. There is no commitment to do anything other than register via Future First, the charity that provides the platform for our network. You can select how you might like to help the Academy when you access the link.

Friends and supporters of Beacon Academy

Our network is no longer exclusively available to Beacon students, past and present. It is now also possible for parents, local employers and supporters of the school to join our network of supporters.

To register, simply complete the short form at https://networks.futurefirst.org.uk/signup/beaconacademy.

There are a number of ways that you could benefit:

  • Promote employability - support Beacon Academy by becoming an integral part of our Careers Advice programme. Share knowledge and experience, become a mentor, or provide work experience opportunities.
  • Stay connected – stay up to date with the latest news, views, events, and stay in touch with your peers.
  • Networking – expand your professional network and introduce those who could provide a valuable service to Beacon.
  • Fundraising - support events by volunteering, providing contacts, or donating.
  • Boost your CV - volunteer, develop valuable skills such as public speaking, network for careers advice or work experience, keep in touch and stay involved.

You can also stay in touch with us through our Facebook and Twitter pages, or by signing up to receive our newsletter.

If you have any enquiries or suggestions regarding the network, please contact our Marketing and Communications Officer, Cara Hoper, at c.hoper@beacon-academy.org.

Alumni stories

From artists and filmmakers to scientists, engineers and geologists, Beacon alumni inspire our school community with their achievements and words of advice. Read their stories here:

  • Photo of Simon Munday

    Simon Munday
    Year of leaving: 1998
    Business Owner/Director/Independent Financial Advisor at Prosperity IFA, Crowborough

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon and why?

    PE, I just enjoyed all sport.

    What’s your favourite/most memorable memory of your time as a Beacon student?

    There are too many to choose one, but I had some great teachers, some of whom I still see to this day and some of whom are now clients.

    Do you keep in contact with any of your former classmates?

    I do, and some very frequently, one of my good friends from school is an advisor with Prosperity IFA.

    How would you describe Beacon in three words?

    Reputable, successful, ambitious.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    All sorts of jobs in the first few years after I left but I always knew I wanted to work with money. Since school I have worked for several banks and spent a couple of very enjoyable years working as a stockbroker in Canary Wharf. From there I decided to set up my own company and the rest is history.

    How did you make the decisions that led you to the role that you’re in now?

    I always had an idea that I wanted to work with money, my decisions were then driven by other people’s lack of ambition. When I worked in the banks they told me that they would pay for my exams so that I could better myself and become an advisor, they didn’t so I moved on so that I could achieve my goal.

    How has your Beacon education contributed to your success in your current role?

    I wasn’t the best student at Beacon, I’d always rather be playing football or get distracted by what other people were doing, I was very good at the social side of school. Looking back though, Beacon did teach me great values and that is one of the biggest things that I use today. My job is all about dealing with people, understanding their situation and then advising them properly. How you treat people goes a long way in life.

    What type of skills and/or personality traits are best suited to your role?

    You need to be good with numbers and confident in talking to people and building new relationships. Everything we do is based around our clients and what is in their best interests so you have to be able to listen, analyse and then recommend.

    What is a typical working day like for you currently? And has this been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19?

    I normally go to the gym at 7:00am ish for 40 minutes or so and then help get the kids ready for school, obviously not at the moment, and I am then in the office for 9:00am. The office is in a converted barn at my house so I don’t have far to travel to work, no snow days for me. Other than that my hours are very flexible, sometimes I have to work evenings as we have clients who work in the city and don’t get home until late, but mostly I am done by 5:00pm. I don’t have breaks during the day, I don’t have time. I take about 20 minutes for lunch but that’s it. Not only do I have to look after my clients but I also have to run the business and make sure that all of the other advisors have everything that they need to provide a world class service to their clients. Quite often when my children have gone to bed I will then get my laptop out and work in the evenings whilst the football is on.

    What in your opinion is the best aspect of your work as a Financial Advisor? Are there any unexpected aspects?

    Helping people achieve their life goals, it’s a great feeling. Be it investing someone’s money for them or their pension or helping someone buy their dream home. There are so many plusses to what I do. The money is not bad either!

    What’s your next big goal?

    We recently launched our own investment platform and app for clients and my next big goal is to have £100 million on there. We are currently at about £20 million.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Have a dream and don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t do that”. Many times I have been told that I am silly or it’ll never work and it just drives me on. Don’t get me wrong, I have made mistakes but you need to make some mistakes to learn from them.

  • Photo of Andrew Brady

    Andrew Brady
    Year of leaving: 1994
    Senior Financial Planner at Prosperity IFA Ltd, Crowborough

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon and why?

    Similar to Simon, PE was my favourite subject as I enjoyed all sport. Mr Lang was a bit of a legend and still is by all accounts!

    What’s your favourite/most memorable memory of your time as a Beacon student?

    My most memorable memory during my time at Beacon was having the opportunity to visit Club La Santa in Lanzarote on a school trip where many athletes went to acclimatise as part of their training and probably my first time abroad without my parents.

    Do you keep in contact with any of your former classmates?

    Yes, many of them. Those that have either remained local or through social media. Simon Munday, the founder of Prosperity IFA where I work, was also a close friend during school.

    How would you describe Beacon in three words?

    Respect, success and friendship.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I left Beacon after my GCSEs not knowing exactly what I wanted to do in terms of employment so completed further education at Lewes College before working at my parents’ dry cleaning business. The business was sold and I joined Nationwide in 2000 where my career in Finance began, initially as a cashier before becoming a Financial Adviser. Then in 2012 I joined Prosperity IFA as an Independent Financial Adviser.

    How did you make the decisions that led you to the role that you’re in now?

    In a way I was forced into Finance after the family business was sold, but I always knew that dealing with money was an interest. The exchange of money fascinated me, from investing to borrowing and as it became familiar, understanding how it can impact on individuals was the real attraction to becoming a Financial Adviser. Working at Nationwide Building Society gave me my core values and Prosperity IFA gave me the opportunity to build on my own personal beliefs and aspirations.

    How has your Beacon education contributed to your success in your current role?

    My GCSE results were average to say the least. In all honesty, it wasn’t until later in life that I realised how my behaviour to education would impact on my choices in terms of employment and really understanding the consequences of those behaviours. The biggest contribution that Beacon gave me was to show respect and the huge benefits of socialisation and friendships.

    What type of skills and/or personality traits are best suited to your role?

    There are many skills needed to do our role, but one of the biggest skills is listening. I have always been told that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. This is true when it is important to understand a client’s needs and wants before making a personalised recommendation to match their financial situation. Building strong, long term business relationships is fundamental to your success in the role of a Financial Adviser.

    What is a typical working day like for you currently? And has this been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19?

    A typical day will consist primarily of communicating with clients, either face to face meetings, telephone calls or by email. When we are not in meetings we are researching and analysing products, providers, investment funds and mortgage lenders. Typically my working hours are between 9:00am - 5:00pm Monday to Friday, but it is not unusual to start at 7:00am and finish at 10:00pm if required, so flexibility is important. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 I have been working from my office at home. Fortunately, it has been business as usual for Prosperity IFA and I, and with the development in technology our clients have been unaffected during this period (other than the odd interruption for home-learning).

    What in your opinion is the best aspect of your work as a Financial Advisor? Are there any unexpected aspects?

    It is an absolute honour and privilege to look after our clients’ hard earned money and the enjoyment of investing their money to achieve greater returns is the pinnacle of what we do. This coupled with providing security for their family through important insurances and having the ability to help with their goals and aspirations in terms of buying their new home, there aren’t many better feelings than that. The only unexpected aspect of being a Financial Adviser is when you lose a client. Having lost clients through death, it is only then that you realise you had built a great relationship and it feels like losing a member of your family.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I have a personal goal of retiring at 50; this would see me achieving the great feat my father-in-law achieved, but then I am a realist! I personally look after around £15m of clients’ money and maybe at reaching £30m, I might consider winding down, but all the time I enjoy what I do, I can see myself working until I am physically and mentally unable to.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    I could give many pieces of advice, but the biggest piece of advice I would give is to “focus on what you can control, and don’t waste energy on the things you cannot.” One thing I have come to realise over the years of working with many people is how differently people react to change or how they choose to respond to change. Those who effectively embrace change, focus their time and energy on things they have control over, instead of wasting their time and energy on things they do not. For example, students cannot control their GCSE grades but they can control the level of effort and study they put into them.

  • Photo of Lucy Buck

    Lucy Buck
    Year of leaving: 1995
    Founder of Child's i Foundation

    An interview with Lucy Buck, former Beacon student and founder of Child’s i Foundation

    Beacon Academy Sixth Form students and staff were delighted to welcome former student and founder of Child’s i Foundation, Lucy Buck, back to Beacon in December 2019 for an inspirational talk for students preparing to visit The Gambia to distribute funds to support the local communities.

    Twenty five years on from her first visit to The Gambia with Beacon Sixth Form in 1994, Lucy described how this first experience inspired her to volunteer in an orphanage in Uganda, and eventually led her to leave a career in TV Production to found Child’s i Foundation, an organisation working with the Ugandan Government to ensure children grow up in safe and loving families, not orphanages.

    “Visiting The Gambia with Beacon was such an incredible experience. I had a ten year stint working with Endemol in London, producing reality TV shows including Big Brother, Love Island and Hell’s Kitchen, but I always knew that I wanted to do something in Africa.”

    As a result of her experience working in between jobs as a volunteer in an orphanage in Uganda, Lucy came to understand some of the complexities and unintended consequences of giving aid, and is keen to share these lessons with Beacon Sixth Form students. “Globally, over 80% of children in orphanages have families. So even though I had good intentions, by volunteering in the orphanage, I was inadvertently creating a market for that situation.” explains Lucy.

    By founding Child’s i Foundation, Lucy wanted to ensure that children in Uganda could grow up in loving homes, either reunited with their own families or matched with loving, Ugandan adoptive or foster families. Child’s i Foundation states, “Orphanages make orphans out of children. Every day, families in crisis or poverty are forced to give up their children in the hope of a better life. Decades of research prove what we know in our hearts: a family is the best place for a child to grow up.”

    Lucy is a strong advocate of the power of collaboration, and is proud of the positive impact that Beacon has made in helping communities in The Gambia move towards self-sufficiency over the past twenty eight years;

    “The ways in which Beacon supports communities in The Gambia has become so much more professional. The impact that the school has made is transformative.”

    “To be able to really help the people in Uganda, it’s critical to listen and understand the reasons why. I volunteered in an orphanage but never asked the question why the children were placed there. I assumed all the children were orphans. Working directly with communities we came to understand that the reason why children were placed in orphanages was because families were led to believe it’s a better option for children as they get an education and medical care. What they didn’t understand was the importance of belonging and attachment and the dangers children faced being placed in orphanages. UNICEF estimates over 60% of children suffer abuse in orphanages and the UN calls orphanages the worst possible place for children”

    After eleven years of running the organisation, Lucy handed over Child’s i Foundation in September. “The real mark of success,” says Lucy, “is that I am now no longer needed. We have a brilliant team of eighty people in Uganda, and a great team here in the UK led by a Ugandan. The project works alongside the government of Uganda and we are demonstrating how to reform districts to eliminate the need for orphanages to scale across the country.”

    Having recently relocated back to the area, Lucy is taking a short break and would like to use her experience of communications, leadership and fundraising to support projects closer to home. “I studied Politics and Sociology at the University of Reading and I have always had an interest in education and social care, especially for the elderly, who I think are the most vulnerable group here in the UK.”

    During her time at Beacon Sixth Form, Lucy was often involved in advocating on behalf of the youth for better services in Crowborough.

    “I used to be the one who would organise the redecoration of the Common Room and I helped to organise the school’s first ever leaver’s party at Barnsgate Manor. My heroes at Sixth Form were Mr Hughes and Mr Barrett - they were such inspirational teachers, I had the best education here.”

    Lucy now enjoys supporting her friends’ children as they progress through Beacon Academy and would love to go back to The Gambia with Beacon Sixth Form in the future. “Last year I went to a fundraising event for my friend’s son who was going to The Gambia. I am so proud of Beacon and the school’s amazing progress in recent years. There is a real sense of pride and respect amongst students and within the community too.”

    “My advice for students now would be to have an audacious goal and every single day, make an incremental step towards it. Never, ever give up.”

  • Photo of Alison Bradshaw

    Alison Bradshaw
    Year of leaving: 2003
    Syrian Refugee Resettlement Officer at Hastings Borough Council

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon and why?

    Psychology – it was fascinating to understand how people as individuals and a society can be influenced, why people break rules, and who makes the rules in the first place.

    What’s your favourite/most memorable memory of your time as a Beacon student?

    GCSE results day, I was so nervous about my grades, and it seemed like the most important day in my life at that point. I also loved the trips to Gambia delivering aid to communities who needed it.

    Do you keep in contact with any of your former classmates?

    Yes, some of my best friends, including Clare Symons.

    How would you describe Beacon in three words?

    A stepping stone.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I’ve completed a BA and MA degree in Social Anthropology, have lived abroad in Argentina as an English teacher and cellist, and now work supporting refugees in the South East.

    How did you make the decisions that led you to the role that you’re in now?

    I just followed my interests. I used to find it really hard to imagine what kind of work I would want to do, but following my passions and interests took me to where I am today.

    How has your Beacon education contributed to your success in your current role?

    It was the building blocks of my education, and set me up for further education. It taught me that attitude is as important as your grades, if not more important.

    What is a typical working day like for you currently (including the basics; your hours, breaks, your surroundings etc)? And has this been affected by the pandemic?

    I am currently working from home, but a normal week is Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm (with quite a few exceptions). I am the first person refugee families in the UK meet at the airport, and I am involved in supporting them to settle and establish their lives in the UK. I prepare their new home, make their beds, do their weekly shop and prepare a welcome meal for them. I am in charge of managing all of their housing, health, financial, educational, employment and integration needs. It is the most rewarding thing to be able to help a family get back on their feet again after enduring war and fleeing their native home.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To gain a qualification so I am able to give immigration advice to those who need it.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Don’t worry if you don’t have a particular career in mind. Follow your interests and passions and this will lead you to where you need to be.

  • Photo of Niall Kiely

    Niall Kiely
    Year of leaving: 2015
    Working as an actor and for a children's acting training company

    Niall Kiely left Beacon Sixth Form in 2015 to study Drama at St Mary’s University, Twickenham London. Since graduating, Niall has been working as an actor and also for a children’s acting training company between acting jobs. In 2019, Niall was cast as one of the lead roles in Shuttlecock, a playful, genre-crossing short film exploring modern masculinity in the setting of a charity badminton tournament. Shuttlecock, directed by Tommy Gilliard, was selected for the Short Film Award at the 2020 BFI London Film Festival. This year, audiences took the place of the festival’s official jury, voting in four categories: Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Short Film and Best XR / Immersive Art.

    On Sunday 18th October 2020, Shuttlecock was announced as the winner of the BFI LFF Best Short Film Award. We were delighted to catch up with Niall and hear about his journey from the stage in Beeches Main Hall to the best of British filmmaking. Read his interview below.

    “Have faith in yourself and find what makes you unique. There are a lot of people who want to be in the industry, and everyone is special in their own way but find what makes you different and be proud of it.”

    An interview with Niall Kiely

    Did you have a favourite subject/subjects at Beacon? Why?

    Non surprisingly Drama was my favourite subject, but I also really enjoyed English and History. In terms of English, I’ve always been a huge bookworm and the chance to read and examine stories was something I looked forward to, especially if we then went on to creating our own stories. History fascinated me because of learning about other people’s lives in different time periods and Drama was my favourite because it gave me the chance to do what I felt I was passionate about and what I began to believe I was good at.

    Did you take part in Performing Arts events at Beacon?

    Yes, when I was in Year 7, I was one of the Fagan’s Boys in that year’s school musical, Oliver!, and then in Year 10 I was Lumière in Beauty and the Beast!

    Did you study at Beacon Sixth Form? If so, what did you study?

    At Beacon Sixth Form I studied Drama, English Literature, Psychology and History.

    When you were at school, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do and how has this changed or developed since leaving Beacon?

    I knew that I wanted to be an actor pretty early on at my time at school. Before that I wanted to be an author, but I believe it’s because I’ve always wanted to tell stories, in one way or another. I could be quite shy, so I think it was only when I did Beauty and the Beast that people suddenly realised that this was what I genuinely wanted to do.

    Is there a particular area that interests you (for example film, TV, theatre)?

    I’m open to doing all! I’ve had more experience with theatre but recently have begun to be more interested in film, although I do find it really weird to watch my performance back on the screen.

    How did you make the decision to study Drama at university?

    It felt like the next step in my journey and that it would teach me the methods that I needed to know to develop as an actor.

    How did your studies and training help you to develop as an actor and prepare you for working in the industry?

    It really encouraged me to have courage in my convictions, who I am as a person and what I can offer as an actor. A lot of time was spent learning different acting methods and I found it was about finding what worked for me. Also really learning that there is worth in every character and every story, you can actually give some of your best performances with smaller roles!

    Can you tell us about the process and experience of working on Shuttlecock?

    I’d actually never played badminton before working on Shuttlecock, so it was a bit of a learning curve! I tried to practice a week before shooting, however rather ridiculously I managed to sprain my wrist. Thankfully it healed really quickly, and I was good to go. I travelled down to Exeter from my home in London after spending time making sure I knew the script back to front, had done research on badminton etc and had constructed this character in my head from conversations with the director. As an actor I believe it’s important to put a lot of work in beforehand so that when you’re doing the work you don’t necessarily have to ‘think’ about what you’re doing as the character, it’ll just come naturally. We had some early mornings, but the cast and crew were really lovely, which helped, and I made some lifelong friends which is wonderful. We shot over three days, so it was all done very quickly but everything felt really relaxed and fun, which is very important on set, especially when you may be doing more intimate/intense scenes on your first day with someone you’ve just met! I was super pleased my debut professional film was such a positive experience and am blown away that not only was it selected to be at BFI London Film Festival but that we won the Best Short Film award!

    What is your next big goal?

    I’d love to do a feature film next or have the chance to do a play at any of my favourite theatres. I’m eager to keep on growing and developing as a performer.

    What advice would you give to a current student with ambitions of working as an actor (or other role) in the film industry?

    Have faith in yourself and find what makes you unique. There are a lot of people who want to be in the industry, and everyone is special in their own way but find what makes you different and be proud of it. People will respond to that, appreciate it and want to work with you.

  • Photo of Teresa Parker

    Teresa Parker
    Year of leaving: 1986
    ASDAN coordinator and regional practitioner for Taaleem schools, Dubai, UAE

    Favourite subject at Beacon?

    I didn’t have a favourite subject as such at school. I found Geography and History fascinating.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I took childcare at O Level and this led me on to train as a nursery nurse. I worked as a nanny, nursery school assistant, learning assistant and started my job at Dubai British School seven years ago as a 1:1 support teacher.

    Before moving to Dubai I worked in many countries around the world as a nanny and most surprising worked at the British Embassy in Moscow, Russia as part of their consular department.

    Do you keep in touch with any of your former classmates?

    I keep in touch with many of my friends from my time at Beacon - Facebook is so easy and means we all keep up with each other’s news which is lovely when you live a long way away from home.

    How would you describe Beacon in three words?

    Friendship, fun, work.

    Can you tell us more about your current role?

    Dubai British School introduced ASDAN as an alternative curriculum three years ago. Since then it has expanded to all thirteen Taaleem schools. We have IB, American and British schools under our umbrella company. I am also the Regional ASDAN representative here in the UAE helping to support sixty plus schools delivering ASDAN to their students.

    What is a typical working day like for you currently? And has this been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19?

    A typical working day starts for me at 7:00am. I’ll be in my classroom waiting for my first student of the day to arrive at 7:15am. All intervention classes run before 7:40am which is the official start to the school day. DBS is a through school and I work with both primary and secondary students. My break times depend on which year group I am working with. We have one mid-morning break of 15 minutes and lunch break of 40 minutes. School finished at 3:15pm and after school clubs run for an hour daily after school.

    This has changed dramatically since Covid-19 hit. All our classes have been live and online daily. Lessons have been cut from an hour to 45 minutes so that staff and students can have a break away from the screens. We are hoping to be back in school for all lessons at the end of August.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    I would advise them to work hard and keep learning, it is never too late or the wrong time to learn new skills. Travel with an open mind as the world is your oyster with surprising opportunities around every corner.

  • Photo of Charlotte R

    Charlotte R
    Year of leaving: 2016
    Haematology-Oncology Hospital Sales Specialist at Ashfield Healthcare

    Favourite subject at Beacon?

    Chemistry or Biology (I ended up studying Biochemistry!) because I found the chemistry underlying the biological systems of the human body absolutely fascinating, and enjoyed the challenge that these subjects posed.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I studied for a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Nottingham from 2016-2019. During my time at University I competed in middle-distance running, representing the University of Nottingham in the 3000m, 2000m steeplechase and cross country, and was the Cross-Country Captain, as well as completing two dissertations focusing on Ebola and as specific antibiotic-resistance mechanism called a ‘multi-drug pump.’ Following my graduation in July 2019, I began work as a Haematology-Oncology Hospital Sales Specialist at Ashfield Healthcare, which involves working with the Haematology and Oncology Healthcare Professionals at hospitals across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and part of London.

    Did you always have an interest in medical science?

    No, not specifically. I knew whilst studying for my GCSEs that I liked science, especially biology and chemistry, but it wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered a particular interest in disease pathology. I chose to study a specific course at university (Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine), but this had a very broad first year which allowed me to sample different areas of biology, chemistry, neuroscience and biomedicine before specialising in my second and third years.

    How did you make the decisions that led you to the role you are in now? How did your education at Beacon Academy contribute to your success in my current role?

    The first big decision I made was choosing my A Levels, and I chose to study subjects I enjoyed - Biology, Chemistry, History, Maths and BTEC Music (remember that this was during the old A Level exam system!). This kept my options reasonably broad, as I had a mix of Science and Art subjects. When choosing a university course, I again decided to study what I enjoyed most, which was a mix of Biology and Chemistry, at a university where I thought the course looked the most interesting (the University of Nottingham). This is where A Level choices are important because some university courses require specific A Levels - for example I needed Chemistry and at least one other Science subject. During my three years there I studied a whole range of different subjects within Biochemistry and Biomedicine, and knew that a BSc kept my job options pretty open! During my third year, I started looking for a job and made a lot of use of the Career Services at university to help me. I thought about what I wanted most from a job, which was that it used the science I had learnt at university. I gave my CV to a graduate recruitment company and was really lucky to be contacted for interview by Ashfield Healthcare - and it all went from there!

    What does a typical work day look like?

    My work days really vary which is something I love about my job. It really depends on whether I have meetings booked with my customers in hospitals or not. On a day with a meeting, I will drive to the hospital with plenty of time in advance of the meeting. I cover all the hospitals in Sussex, Kent, Surrey and part of London so sometimes the drive can be quite a way! Once I’m at the hospital, I’ll have my meeting with my customer, speak to their colleagues and perhaps visit other nearby hospitals to speak to customers and book future appointments. Meetings vary from nurse training sessions, to group meetings with the haematology team (doctors, consultants, pharmacists and nurse specialists) to 1:1 meetings with lead consultants. Once I’ve driven home (I work from home rather than an office) I fill in all the admin that goes with each meeting, and throughout the day I respond to emails and deal with the other projects I’m involved with, such as the LiveWell team which runs initiatives that aim to look after the physical and mental health of employees in ‘field based roles’ like mine. There are lots of other projects I’m involved in too, and a typical work day is hard to pin down! However, I generally work around 37.5 hours per week (the same to a 9-5 job) but often not within the ‘standard 9-5‘ hours.

    Like many others, my work day has been affected by the current situation with COVID-19. I’m not able to go into hospitals at the moment, so I am speaking to doctors remotely and working on my training and development from home.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Don’t worry if you don’t know what job you want to do - study what you enjoy, do what works for you and most of all work hard and the job will follow.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To pass my ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) exams to ensure I can continue to work within the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Photo of Rosie Harvey

    Rosie Harvey
    Year of leaving: 2018
    Paralegal Apprentice at Cripps LLP and BPP Law School University

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    My favourite subject was Psychology at A-Level. I think it is fascinating to gain a greater understanding of people and why people behave the way they do. Personally, I think this is one of the most transferrable subjects to apply to all job roles and help communicate better with all types of people.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    After finishing my A-Levels, I went straight into working for Cripps Pemberton Greenish as a Paralegal Apprentice on their apprenticeship programme. I’m doing a Level 3 Paralegal Course and a Level 4 Certificate of Higher Education in Legal Services, achieving this through BPP Law School. I’ve met so many new friends and colleagues and attended a variety of different events for the firm. Myself and the other apprentices have helped organise many events for the firm and it’s fantastic to be given so many opportunities to build confidence in a legal profession. The scheme has allowed me to grow in so many ways and the support from the firm has been fantastic.

    With results coming in December 2020, I am nearing the end of my apprenticeship journey. So far I have completed modules in the English Legal System, Client Care, Land Law, Legal Research and Residential Conveyancing. In just eighteen months, I have grown into my role, achieved personal and professional goals and have received a lot of positive feedback along the way. I now manage some of my own files, assist with some of the biggest projects we are running and I am hoping to start my solicitor apprenticeship in January.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    My one piece of advice to current students is to always do something that you enjoy – I believe that if you enjoy what you do, you will succeed in it no matter what it is. If you are passionate and committed in a subject, there are endless possibilities.

    The main thing that the apprenticeship has taught me is to be open to anything and to give your best in whatever task you are given. This can be from the mundane to the extraordinary but they are both just as important when working in law. Don’t be afraid to try things and get them wrong. You are not expected to know everything at the age of 18 so don’t try! Be open to constructive criticism and learn from the advice you receive. The apprenticeship hasn’t been easy at times and it requires hard work but use the support network around you. Speak to the other apprentices, ask your line manager questions and don’t be afraid to seek guidance from a supervisor. A key element of Cripps PG is teamwork and this includes you!

    What’s your next big goal?

    My next big goal is to qualify as a Paralegal and continue to succeed in my job role. Cripps are also entering for the next Tough Mudder Challenge which I would like to take part in.

  • Photo of Elena Rogers

    Elena Rogers
    Year of leaving: 2019
    Paralegal Apprentice at Cripps LLP and BPP Law School University

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    I enjoyed studying Sociology at GCSE and then continuing into A-Level. I particularly enjoyed it at A-Level as it linked well with my other subjects Philosophy and Criminology and gave me an overall broader outlook on society. It is a great subject to learn as it has taught me so many skills including how to structure a good argument, which comes in use when studying law.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Since leaving Beacon I have gone onto start a modern apprenticeship in Law. I work at a local Law firm, Cripps Pemberton Greenish. At the end of my two year apprenticeship I will achieve a Level 3 Paralegal course and a Level 4 certificate of Higher Education in Legal Services, a fully qualified paralegal. There are numerous opportunities for career progression including to further my studies with CILEx. It is a great start into my legal profession.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    To keep focused on the future. Whilst I was studying at Sixth Form I sometimes felt confused about what I wanted out of my time there and what my next steps would be. Applying for university can be a stressful time for all and I think the excitement can sometimes get lost. For me, as the time got closer to accepting a choice of university it became more daunting. I decided to keep my options open by applying for a modern apprenticeship. Once I made this choice, finishing my A-Levels become a lot easier as I had a goal and a plan for the future. I believe this changed my attitude towards studying and as a result I was able to get the grades I needed to start my Paralegal Apprenticeship and continue in my studies.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To complete the Paralegal Apprenticeship and continue to keep my options open for the future in my legal career. I would also like to become more involved with the firm’s charity work as they make such a difference and there are so many different opportunities to get involved with.

  • Photo of Katie Watson

    Katie Watson
    Year of leaving: 2016
    Registered Nurse at University Hospital Southampton

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Psychology because I enjoyed learning about how people and work. I liked reading around my subject and finding out about interesting studies linked to what I was learning. It is where I began self-directed learning for the first time which aided me in my University Degree.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I went to the University of Southampton to train as an Adult Nurse! I recently finished my course and will be staying in Southampton to work.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Power through these few years, I know how hard it is but it will pay off in the long run.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Starting my Newly Qualified role and settling into adult life!

    “During Year 11 I had three neurosurgeries and without the amazing support of the staff at Beacon, I would not have been able to sit my GCSE exams with my peers. They stayed in constant contact with me and supported my siblings, who were also at Beacon, through the difficult year. My A Level years at the Sixth Form were challenging as I startedYear 12 only three weeks after my last surgery. Again, the staff made every effort to ease me back into school life and helped me recover and study. I had constant support from my teachers who helped me to shape my learning around my recovery. I cannot thank Beacon enough for the amazing work they do and how much my years with them shaped me as a nurse. They taught me that health comes first but there is nothing to hold you back if you are motivated and willing to work hard for what you want!”

  • Photo of Emma N Bennett

    Emma N Bennett
    Year of leaving: 2011
    PhD Research Student at School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Growing up I had always loved science and the outdoors. Until I started my A Levels I had always wanted to be a Vet. However, when I started studying Geology everything changed and I suddenly found that I wanted to be a geologist! Not only did we get to go on fieldtrips, it was a subject that used so many different scientific disciplines including geography, physics and biology which I had always enjoyed. I doubt I would have loved Geology as much had it not been for my amazing and inspirational teachers Mr Arthur, Mr Callard and Mr Vickers. I still find it amazing that by studying the processes occurring on our planet today we can better understand how the Earth has evolved over billions of years.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Since leaving Beacon I have completed my MESci (Hons.) in Geology at Cardiff University and am currently studying towards my PhD in Volcanology and Petrology at Cardiff University. During my PhD I have had some amazing experiences and have met people that will be friends for life. I have been part of international science projects and visited many countries around the world including the USA, Canada, Oman, Japan and New Zealand. I have hiked up volcanoes whilst being stalked by bears in Alaska, worked on drill sites that were invaded by rogue goats and camels in Oman and spent a month in the Japanese sea on a scientific research vessel where luckily, I got over my seasickness quite quickly! It has truly been an amazing few years!

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Don’t study what your friends are studying or what your parents want you to do, find the one thing that YOU love and keep doing it. The more you enjoy what you are doing the better you will be at it.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Despite being a volcanologist, I have never seen a volcanic eruption in the flesh! Because of this, my next big goal is to travel to Hawaii. The volcanoes in Hawaii are some of the most active on our planet, so hopefully I will have a good chance of observing an eruption first hand.

  • Photo of Andrew J Martin

    Andrew J Martin
    Year of leaving: 2010
    PhD Research Student at School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    My favourite subject at Beacon was Geology. I studied Geology at A Level and fell in love with the subject. I’d always liked physical geography and nature so Geology was a great choice. The thing that made the geology course for me was the amazing staff. Mr Arthur, Mr Callard and Mr Vickers provided a constant source of inspiration. Geology provided a good mix of all the different sciences and some cool field trips. I’ve never looked at a rock in the same way since.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Since leaving Beacon Sixth Form I have completed my BSc (Hons.) in Geology at the University of Brighton, an MSc in Mining Geology at Camborne School of Mines and i’m studying towards my PhD in Economic Geology at Cardiff University. In September 2019 I will be moving to St. John’s in Canada to start a research position looking at mineral deposits that form on the seafloor. Last year i joined a research expedition that drilled an active volcano on the seafloor off the coast of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean, we didn’t see land for two month! An incredible experience. Throughout the past few years I’ve visited many cool places looking at and talking about rocks including, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Cyprus, Sweden, Finland and France. I can’t wait to visit many more exciting places over the next few years!

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    If you told me back in 2010 when I left Beacon that nearly a decade later that I’d still be studying i would have laughed out loud! If you find something you really love then pursue it. If you work hard towards a goal you believe in you will achieve it. At the same time remember that academia isn’t everything, its important to enjoy what you do. I believe a job shouldn’t just be a job but something you truly have a passion for. Luckily for me that job is being a Geologist.

    What’s your next big goal?

    My next big goal is to dive in the Alvin submarine. Alvin, a resident of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the USA regularly visits the bottom of the ocean at water depths of over 2000m. I’d love to go to the bottom of the Atlantic or Pacific ocean and visit an actively forming mineral deposit - a ‘black smoker’ vent. It’d also be amazing to see some of the funky looking fish that live in those deep waters too.

  • Photo of James Cooper

    James Cooper
    Year of leaving: 2003
    Health and Wellbeing Coach / Founder of Smilinggg

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    I really enjoyed English. I loved writing short stories and how it provided an opportunity for ones imagination to run wild. I think it was during my time at Beacon that I fully recognised how storytelling can be such a powerful tool to share and inspire others.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    It’s been quite the journey since leaving Beacon. I attended a local college before achieved a 2:1 BA Honours Degree in Marketing at Leeds Metropolitan University. I entered the big wide world by getting a job in an office but quickly realised it wasn’t quite for me, qualified as a personal trainer and established JC Fitness Experience, a specialist at home personal training business before badly breaking my left leg playing football. I since refer to this injury as my ‘lucky break’. It was the beginning of a five-year journey of self-discovery in South East Asia, culminating with the birth of Smilinggg and its simple daily practice.

    Between January 2013 and June 2017, I spent eighteen months as a primary school teacher in Phuket, Thailand before basing myself in Hoi An, Vietnam as a health and wellness coach.

    Since Smilinggg’s initial formation on Sunday 17th May 2015, I have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and promote The Smilinggg Daily Practice and its benefits whilst looking at ways to serve the Smilinggg mission statement: To build healthier and happier lives, one step and one smile at a time.

    I’m enthusiastic and passionate about advocating greater understanding and openness of mental health. I have channelled this through public speaking and in addition becoming an endurance fundraising athlete for Mind: The Mental Health Charity and Samaritans. At the time of writing, Smilinggg has raised over £10,000 for the two charities with my most recent challenge completing 4 Iron Triathlons in 4 Days for Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018.

    My return to England in June 2017 is with the intention to continue to build on from the work I began in Asia. I have a dream that Smilinggg will continue to grow and develop, benefiting schools, workplaces, households, communities and charities across the UK and beyond, supporting millions of people to live healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives. That’s The Smilinggg Way.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Here’s a valuable question to ask yourself, a question that I always return to when I’m feeling a little lost or confused… What makes your heart sing? I began asking this question in 2009 after an extended period of feeling deeply unfulfilled in my job after university and have been asking it ever since. It’s one question I wish I had thought to ask many years earlier.

    When you can combine what you love with a meaningful goal, I think that’s all the ingredients for a life well lived.

    Don’t stress if you’re not sure what makes your heart sing. It’ll likely require many experiences, trying out new things, stepping out of your comfort zone, because before you know it’s your favourite thing it’s something you may have never tried before.

    Stay loyal to the ultimate smart device you’ll ever own, and no I don’t mean your iPhone… but instead your heart.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I don’t have any ultra endurance goals lined up. It’s likely my attention will instead be turning to Smilinggg and its continued growth over the coming months. I’ll be visiting India at the end of September to begin my 200-hour meditation teacher-training course. Meditation has been a tool that has helped me a great deal since I began meditating in 2014. To be able to teach meditation to others is a gift that I’m extremely excited about sharing and will provide another string to the Smilinggg bow as I continue to explore ways to help others improve their health and happiness.

  • Photo of Anna Wild

    Anna Wild
    Year of leaving: 2013
    Civil Engineer at Laing O'Rourke

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Maths and Physics. I have always enjoyed puzzles and problem solving. As a Civil Engineer in the construction industry, my career is extremely dynamic and skills required to solve problems are fundamental. It’s also important to be inquisitive and have a desire to understand how things work; something that students who study science naturally have. I really enjoyed having flexibility and being treated like an adult at Sixth Form. I found A-Levels a huge step up from GCSEs and a bit of a shock, however the teaching and support was brilliant and hard work always pays off.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I joined Laing O’Rourke working on their Cadet Programme (now called School and College Leave Programme). This was a five year course and consisted of a day release degree at London South Bank University once a week and then for the other four days in the week I was working on construction projects in London and the South East. I have recently graduated with a First Class Hons Civil Engineering Degree and am working at Brighton Hospital redevelopment project.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    If you work hard, you will be rewarded. Take every opportunity, keep your options open and don’t overstress about exams.

    What would you recommend to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route and what experience do you consider to be necessary?

    I highly recommend contacting companies to see whether it is possible to arrange work experience. Generally, a company offering high level apprenticeships will be interested to see whether you can study and hold down a part time job at the same time so any work experience is extremely valuable! Attend career talks as this will give you a good understanding of the feel for the company and what they can offer. Finally, approach everyone as if it’s a job interview; smile and do your best to make a good impression. If you get a contact, follow it up by making contact that person and express your interest in following this path.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I will hopefully be going for chartership with the Institute of Civil Engineers over the next year or so.

  • Photo of Tim Burton

    Tim Burton
    Year of leaving: 2014
    Mix Technician at Pinewood Studios

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Media Studies, it gave a fantastic insight into the film industry, along with a foundation of knowledge of production of a film, from filming, through to editing.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Since leaving Beacon I studied Sound Design at Ravensbourne, London, graduating with a 2:1. I began working as a Sound Editor at Pinewood Studios whilst finishing my degree. I developed myself within the company to a promotion to “Mix Technician”. Under this role I have worked on a variety of high profile films, including Johnny English Strikes Again, Birdbox, Roma, as well as computer games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider and currently The Division 2.

    “Roma” was an interesting time in my career, it was the second film I worked on as Mix Technician. The soundtrack was incredible, we mixed it for ten weeks, due to the outstanding detail laid in by the sound editors, Skip Lievsay and Craig Henighan (re-recording mixers) were able to move the audience into the world of 1970s Mexico. We used Dolby Atmos, a spatial audio system, giving the ability to place a sound anywhere in a 3D environment, this helped to immerse the audience into the film. My role, with the other mix technicians, was to patch multiple channels of audio and object (audio panning) data, whilst looking after the day to day operation of the mix theatre, assisting the re-recording mixers in any way possible.

    The image below features Tim (top row, third from left), with director Alfonso Cuarón and the crew of multi-Academy Award nominated and BAFTA winning film, Roma.

    Tim Burton   Roma for web
    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    I would advise current students to set out their goals, and create that as their prime focus, find the university course you want to study, look at the requirements and aim to get to the next level. When at university, set your goals, one big and two small. Tackle the small goals and set new ones, whether that’s getting through the module at university, or even saving for a holiday with your friends. Have that big goal career driven, find the company you want to work for, and call them, get work experience with them or do a job placement, they may hire you once your course has finished! Keep a good work/life balance, but ultimately, you can only go through education once, so don’t waste it. Best of luck!

    What’s your next big goal?

    Whilst working as a Mix Technician I aim to develop my skills as a re-recording mixer to work on multiple high budget features.

  • Photo of Carl Leppard

    Carl Leppard
    Year of leaving: 2002
    Butcher and Founder of C L Leppard, Traditional Family Butchers

    What was your favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    My favourite subject was PE. I was a fairly active child and liked all sports, especially football, rugby and volleyball. I took part in school sports teams and played with the Beacon Rugby Academy at Sixth Form where I studied BTEC Sport with Mr Pass.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I have always had an interest in food and the food industry and started training as a butcher at the age of 14 with my godfather. When I was 18 I set up my own catering company which became really successful, offering outside catering and hog roasts for large events like weddings and birthday parties, and then bought my godfather’s business at the age of 20. This grew into a large wholesale business, and I went on to open my first shop, Leppard Butchers, in Mayfield in 2009. I opened Heals Farmshop in Five Ashes in 2015, and then took on Pomfrets in Heathfield in 2016.

    It’s great to finally bring the business to Crowborough. Our family has always been associated with the town, especially through the rugby and football clubs. It’s taken ten years but we’re finally here and the response and support from the community has been amazing - I have just had to buy two shipping containers to store meat.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    I think my main piece of advice would be to stay focused and work hard to achieve your goals, whether you’re academic, or you want to follow a different route. I wasn’t a particularly academic student, but once I started learning the trade, I knew that I found something that I loved doing, and made it work. I have failed a few times along the way, but you have to just get up and get on. I have twenty-odd employees now, many of them are my family. We all have the same attitude.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To get the company turnover to £4.5 million and then retire!

  • Photo of Anna Coutts (nee Marriott)

    Anna Coutts (nee Marriott)
    Year of leaving: 1996
    Group Head of HR – Strategic Projects at Hotelplan Ltd

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    History; because you can learn so much about the world and understand where we are now because of what happened in the past.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?
    • Studied for a MA Joint Honours in English Literature & History at University of Glasgow.
    • Lived and worked in Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Austria, Italy and France in the travel sector as an Area Manager/Operations Manager.
    • Followed a career path in HR & Talent Acquisition since 2010.
    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Be true to yourself and ensure you enjoy what you are doing.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To achieve HR Director by 45.

  • Photo of Matthew Burton

    Matthew Burton
    Year of leaving: 2010
    Royal Navy Warfare Officer

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Economics. The subject interested me greatly, but beyond that, it helped me learn to analyse and critically assess current affairs.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I studied Business Management at the University of Surrey and graduated with First Class Honours. Part of my course had me working with Xerox in corporate management, which although interesting at times, didn’t really prove much of a challenge. I decided on leaving university to join the Royal Navy as an Officer, and after a year and a half training at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, I joined the fleet in a role in which I have a great deal of responsibility at an early point in my career, and which allows me to travel the world. No two days are ever the same!

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    The only things to regret are the things you don’t do - take every opportunity that presents itself, and above all, have fun doing it!

    What’s your next big goal?

    I hope to qualify as a Principal Warfare Officer, meaning I will be making tactical decisions when fighting the ship, and be heading up a department of up to forty individuals.

  • Photo of Hope Marshall (née  Brown)

    Hope Marshall (née Brown)
    Year of leaving: 2007
    Director at Support Local

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    I had a few! I loved Religious Studies as found it really interesting and had a great teacher. I also loved Media Studies and Art.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I went on to study my A Levels at college and received two As in Art. I then went on to the University of Greenwich and received a 2:1 in Business and Marketing. After this I worked in the Legal Department of a finance company before going on maternity leave. After having my son, I realised what it meant to be truly happy and decided I couldn’t leave him to go back to doing something I didn’t love, so I started my own business when he was six months old. I am now the Managing Director of Support Local Magazine which has a readership of ten thousand across Kent and is stocked in nearly thirty towns from Canterbury over to Orpington down to Tunbridge Wells and everywhere in between.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    I think there is a lot of pressure at this age to know what you want to do with you life, if you’ve found something you love and you know where you’re headed, that’s great, but if you don’t (and I didn’t), then don’t worry about it just yet. Pick subjects you enjoy and the rest will fall into place. Don’t worry if you pick the wrong one or need to change direction, I’ve done this many a time, failure is all part of success and how you handle that (picking yourself back up and trying again) is far more important than never making a mistake to begin with. The key to being successful in my opinion is loving what you do and working really hard to get where you want to be.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I am working towards an ABC accreditation of a regional magazine which is exciting. I successfully placed in the finals of Muddy Stiletto Awards as Best Newcomer and The Times Business Awards as Young Business of the Year, which is fantastic. So my goal for next year is to win them! I’m also now looking at scaling the magazine to be stocked in even more towns and hoping to double our readership by this time next year.

  • Photo of Max Waters

    Max Waters
    Year of leaving: 2012
    Doctoral student, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    I had three favourite subjects at Beacon: music, history and chemistry. The one thing all three have in common is that I liked the teachers. My history teacher for pretty much my entire time at Beacon was Mr Milne, and he is extremely knowledgeable. He was able to make the parallels between the past and the present very obvious, making it easy to take an interest as what we were learning became very relevant to today’s politics.

    My music teacher, Mr Wholey was extremely encouraging. I formed a band with some friends of mine, and we enjoyed some small success locally and in London. He was very keen for students to take advantage of the great music facilities that Beacon had, particularly the recording studio and practice rooms. I can say that, without a doubt, his commitment to providing opportunities for students to be able to perform regularly and make use of facilities enabled us to be able to get good enough to make some money through our music.

    I enjoyed chemistry so much that I ended up doing it at university three times (BSc, MSc, and now Dr. Sc.), I always thought that the science department had some good teachers whilst I was there - I really enjoyed being taught by Ms. Lewis in Biology (though I have close to zero interest in the subject, unfortunately). I always had a strong interest in chemistry, though it was what I had learnt at A Level that steered me towards what I have ended up doing today. Learning thermodynamics and kinetics with Mr Robertson and Mr Everitt, as well as the fundamentals of spectroscopy through doing flame tests, really resonated with me. It was a new way of understanding the world through maths and electrostatic interactions. And I found that very exciting.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    The main overarching bullet points would be:

    • BSc in chemistry at the University of Leeds
    • MSc in physical chemistry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark
    • Started my Dr. Sc. at ETH Zürich, Switzerland

    My current project is entitled, “attosecond science in the water window”. Essentially, studying the fundamental interactions between light and matter. An attosecond is 1*10-18 seconds, which is the timescale at which we can see how electrons move around a chemical system. The aim of the project is two-fold:

    1. Improve attosecond science so it can be put to use to study chemistry and biology (the techniques have the potential to be very powerful diagnostic tools - especially for medicine)
    2. Take advantage of the way light interacts with matter to steer chemical reactions by controlling how electrons and nuclei move.

    I’ve also done some pretty exciting things in between. Whilst studying at Leeds I was involved with getting an LGBT club night off the ground, which has grown from a tiny thing with only twenty people attending to something that now gets excellent reviews in national media.

    I lived in Germany for some time working as an analytical chemist for a French engineering company, where my job was to analyse samples from power plants (gas, oil, and geothermal mainly) and try to decipher what was wrong with them. That was very fun, a lot like being a chemical detective.

    I had a brief stint as an organic chemist, where I designed a biodegradable dye in an attempt to reduce pollution from dyeworks in rivers. That project was something of a failure, unfortunately, but it was still fun and interesting.

    I had a project where I wound up in Qatar for a couple of weeks, dismantling a laboratory - then reassembling it in Copenhagen. The biggest challenge was dismantling a CT scanner that had been ‘homemade’ by some researchers at the Australian National University for looking at rock samples, before being shipped to a Maersk oil research centre in Doha (pretty much exactly the kind of thing you would have in a hospital, where you have an x-ray source that shines x-rays at a sample, which then rotates and moves up and down, so you can reconstruct a 3D image of your sample in much greater detail than you could see with your eye). That was exceptionally challenging, but I had never been to the Middle East so I was quite excited to go.

    I’ve mainly been doing research projects in computational chemistry and spectroscopy. Last year, I was lucky enough to present some work at a conference in Mexico which was an incredible experience.

    What is one piece of advice you would give to current students?

    It’s often hard to recognise when you are in a position of privilege as we can only ever experience life from our own perspective, and sometimes it’s easy to see your own life as completely terrible, which makes it very easy to give up. I ended up having to retake two years of my education for precisely those kinds of reasons, but I have overcome a lot of these obstacles and now I am working in what is likely the best research group in the world for the kind of stuff I do, at a university that is consistently top 10. The way I did that was by changing the way I approached life in two ways:

    • Listen to people who know more than you (something I learned the hard way).
    • Every time you hit a setback try to take a step back and think - “what can I do right now that will help put me in a better position to be where I want to be, this time next year?”.

    I think the second one is most important. In my experience, even when it seems like you have no power over a situation, you can always email or call someone, or search online to see what other options are available to you. Both of those things are free, take very little effort, and put you in a better position than you were in before you did it.

    My big obstacle is my mental health, and some experiences in life that left me in a bad way. This had an effect on the quality of my work at university to the point where I had to retake a year. My grades were not good, and I had pretty much given up hope. There was an awful lot of people telling me that I had set my sights too high. Though, as ever, I ignored them and did what I wanted to do anyway.

    The person who really changed things for me was my supervisor at Leeds. I had an open and frank discussion with him, and he simply told me that the people who get what they want in life are the people who are proactive about getting it. He pointed me in the right direction, told me to email some people who were very encouraging, and just kept telling me to keep at going every time I got knocked down. Perseverance really paid off.

    What’s your next big goal?

    My next big goal is completing my Dr. Sc., though in the immediate future it’s another science project. Currently, there is a lot of excitement over these large-scale instrument facilities called Free Electron Lasers, or FELs. There is a state of the art one at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics in Hamburg, Germany, and currently there is one being built in Villigen at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. The shortest pulse width for these FELs is currently around 100 fs ( 0.000000000001 seconds), which is admittedly quite short - but not fast enough for our experiments. Therefore, the aim is to implement quite a novel idea into the one in Villigen to make the pulse width over 1000 times shorter. Then I want to do some experiments with it. The main advantage for making the pulse width shorter is that it allows you to be able to resolve electronic and nuclear motion on a much faster timescale - this allows us to investigate some very exciting phenomena, which will likely have quite large knock-on effects throughout science and medicine.

  • Photo of Eva Nicholson

    Eva Nicholson
    Year of leaving: 2016
    BA Art and Psychology at Reading University

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Art, because I had freedom and a lot of personal support, good supplies and a comfortable place to spend hours doing work.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I did an Art Foundation course in Brighton Met College for a year doing 3D design and got accepted to study Art and Psychology at Reading University where I am studying for my first year now.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Don’t be afraid to talk to any teacher if you need help or support with a subject, or the future or help in general. The support I had in Sixth Form was extremely helpful and pleasant in guiding me to what I wanted to do once I left Beacon. The teachers always have time for you if you work together with them to make the time.

    What’s your next big goal?

    After my bachelor degree at Reading, I’m hoping to do a masters in Art Therapy at Goldsmiths University.

  • Photo of Darren Obbard

    Darren Obbard
    Year of leaving: 1997
    Lecturer in Evolutionary Genetics, University of Edinburgh

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Physics. Great teachers.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?
    • 1997 Undergrad (Cambridge, B.A. 2.1 NatSci),
    • 2000 Post-Grad (Oxford, PhD Plant Sciences)
    • 2004 Post-Doc (Edinburgh, Evolutionary Biology)
    • 2008 Research Fellow (Edinburgh, Evolutionary Biology)
    • 2017 Lecturer/Reader (Edinburgh, Evolutionary Biology)
    What’s your next big goal?

    To find out if antiviral RNA interference has been repeatedly lost or repeatedly gained across the Metazoa, and whether an interferon-like response predates the origin of vertebrates.

  • Photo of Chloe Watts

    Chloe Watts
    Year of leaving: 2015
    Marketing Executive and soon to be a Full Stack Web Developer at Southern Motor Group

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    During school my favourite subject was Textiles. I loved the creative outlet it gave me to express myself and work with my hands. Textiles gave me a real flair and passion for the finer details in designs.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    My initial plan after leaving Beacon was to go to a University in Cornwall to study Animal Behaviour and Psychology. I got an unconditional offer but unfortunately, due to health reasons, I could not attend. I had suffered with my mobility all throughout my school years and shortly after leaving school I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Part of the condition is chronic dislocations of every joint in my body, which seriously affected my school life and performance in exams as stress caused severe flair-ups in my condition. I thought my disability would inhibit my career trajectory and stop me achieving things I wanted in life, but since leaving school I have pushed through these boundaries and managed to achieve my goals despite my limitations.

    I went straight from school into full time employment as a Sales Administrator at Southern Motor Group. From there I have progressively worked my way up to my current role as Marketing Executive. I am also undertaking a Web Development course and am set to become an accredited Full Stack Web Developer for Southern Motor Group within the next 6 months; single handedly taking over all of our web development and marketing progression for all 3 of our branches.

    I volunteered with Dewolf Dog Training for over 3 years as an assistant dog trainer. It was always my dream to become a dog trainer and this has given me fantastic experience. I now volunteer as a dog trainer and specialise in socialisation at Dogs Trust, and have done so for 6 months now. I am passionate about the role I play in rehabilitating dogs with behavioural issues and giving them a second chance. I feel like I am fulfilling my original goal from before I left Beacon, even though I didn’t manage to go to university. Dog training and behaviour is a true passion of mine and since I couldn’t manage the demands of such a physical job, I decided to volunteer in my spare time.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Enjoy your time at school and make the most of the opportunities you’re given. The best things you achieve will be the ones you worked for and made for yourself. Having a good solid education will get you far in the working world and will give you a great base to build on. However, it is the experiences you create for yourself that will allow you to achieve your highest potential.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I always like to have goals in life, it helps keep me focused and motivated. My next goal is to complete my course and become an accredited Full Stack Web Developer for Southern Motor Group. I also plan to continue volunteering with Dogs Trust and will be undertaking more distance learning courses in Canine First Aid and Canine Behaviour and Aggression.

  • Photo of Dean Brunt

    Dean Brunt
    Year of leaving: 2015
    Software Engineer at Sparx

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Maths and Further Maths. I enjoy the strong problem solving that Maths requires, something that was taught and encouraged well by my teachers.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I’ve (nearly) completed a Physics Degree at the University of Exeter, played significant roles in nationwide projects surrounding Workforce Management for Waitrose and John Lewis and I’m now a software engineer at Sparx. Sparx improves educational outcomes through a blended learning approach, combining traditional teaching methods with innovative technology, the highest quality content and unparalleled levels of support.

    My initial role in the workforce management projects at Waitrose and John Lewis was to provide a heavily computer driven rota system for the whole Waitrose estate to act as an interim tool until the business invested in something more sophisticated. After the initial development, I was also involved in delivering 120 training workshops across the country and managing the tool’s support team. Further to this, after a brief spell in the pan-partnership Google infrastructure team, I was invited to form part of the project team delivering the aforementioned more sophisticated Workforce Management tool. This was a significant eight figure investment for the company and I was involved from every stage of the project from the high level blueprinting process to the lower level steps such as mapping out business processes and designing system integrations.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Take every opportunity you can. It might just help you discover a passion for something you didn’t even realise you had! It wasn’t until I was offered the opportunity to join a significant project within Waitrose that I discovered my love for programming. If I hadn’t taken this opportunity, it’s unlikely I’d be where I am now and wouldn’t have experienced the fantastic journey to get here.

    What’s your next big goal?

    My next big goal, if you can call it that, is to get married to my fiancée Chloe, who I met during my time at Beacon. In terms of a more career focused goal, my current aims are to progress to a senior developer and team lead role in order to facilitate my transition to a more managerial but technologically focused role.

  • Photo of Molly Byford

    Molly Byford
    Year of leaving: 2017
    Studying Liberal Arts at St John's College, Durham

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    History. The department has been outstanding since I joined the school and only got better. In Year 10 I realised it was the subject for me and my teachers did nothing but encourage me all the way up until my A Level exams.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Still currently studying in my first year but have quickly found my place in the college rugby team.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Do the work when it’s set so it doesn’t creep up on you and pursue the subjects that you want to do.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Getting a good grade at the end of second year.

  • Photo of Harry Walters

    Harry Walters
    Year of leaving: 2015
    Actor and filmmaker

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Drama, because it was something I had a strong passion for which lead to me enjoying it the most. I also felt it grew my confidence as a person and as an actor. I studied Drama at Beacon up until Year 10 but I wasn’t very confident. My two teachers at the time, Mrs Smith and Mrs Marshall encouraged me to pick Drama as a GCSE subject & continue building my confidence up. I did and it was the best decision I made while at the school. It grew my confidence and allowed me to work with different people in different environments like I never had done before. Not only that but it gave me a very open mind. I was always grateful for the amazing teaching while I was at Beacon.

    Also my other favourite subject was English. My teacher, Miss Furlong helped me over come my struggles with English and massively improve during Years 10 and 11.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I studied Film Production and Media at college. This lead to me making multiple short films, acting in a Channel 4 Random Acts short film and doing extra work in other programs on ITV and Netflix. Since finishing at college, I made a small production company with friends I met at college and another fellow Beacon student, Neil Perez which has lead us to carrying on making short films, music videos and documentaries opening more doors for the future.

    What one piece of advice would you give current students?

    I would say to follow what you have a real passion for, no matter what it is, the minute you start developing on something you’re passion about you will see better results and you will only become more motivated to carry on.

    What is your next big goal?

    My next big goal is to carry on growing my production company, it’s a very recent thing but we all have the same drive and passion to tell stories through different film media’s and that’s all I want to do. Tell stories that I know people will enjoy and take some form of positivity and entertainment out of them.

  • Photo of Timothy Harris

    Timothy Harris
    Year of leaving: 1987
    Deputy Group Chief Executive & Group Finance Director at Royal London

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Chemistry, because it’s fascinating, and a very good foundation subject for almost whatever you decide to do. I had brilliant science teachers at Beacon. I went on to study chemistry at university.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    From a professional perspective after my undergraduate degree at Durham University, I trained with Price Waterhouse (now PwC) as a Chartered Accountant, and subsequently a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, including a secondment in Bermuda. Subsequently I progressed my career in finance in Insurance at Aviva, and as a Partner at PwC, and completed my MBA at Warwick Business School. After a couple of years as CFO of a private equity backed commercial insurer, in 2014 I joined Royal London, the UK’s largest life insurance, pensions and investments mutual insurance company, with £115bn assets under management.

    From a personal perspective I met my wife, Nikola, at University, we’ve been married for 24 years and have three children, Christopher, Matthew & Rosie. Christopher is studying Modern Languages at Durham University, Matthew & Rosie are at secondary school in Duffield, Derby, close to our family home.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Your brief time at school will have an enormous impact on you and your future life. Make the very most of the opportunities that come your way, enjoy your time at Beacon, and be the very best you can be.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Career wise, to help lead Royal London to maintain its recent success and help serve our policyholders with distinction. From a personal perspective, to support our children through their time at school and university.

  • Photo of Barbara Masser

    Barbara Masser
    Year of leaving: 1989
    Professor of Psychology / Australian Red Cross Blood Services Joint Chair in Donor Research, University of Queensland, Australia

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Economics. Nancy Wall was an amazing teacher. Truly inspirational and passionate about the subject!

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    After a gap year, I went to the University of Kent at Canterbury where I did a BA (Hons) in Industrial Relations (Social Psychology). Here I became fascinated with psychology and applications of it and so after working for a year as a Research Associate in Psychology, I went on to complete a MSc in Social & Applied Psychology and a PhD in Social Psychology. During my PhD I had travelled to Australia and thought it might be a good place to spend a couple of years, so I applied for a job at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales (which is about two hours north of Sydney) before moving up to the University of Queensland to take up a lectureship. At UQ I founded the Applied Social Psychology Lab in the School of Psychology and now spend my time teaching, supervising and working with an array of industry partners to help them apply psychology to solve social problems. The longest collaboration has been with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and I recently became their inaugural joint Chair in Donor Research.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    To work hard, but also remember that what you do or achieve at school does not define who you are or who you will become.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To work out how to more effectively and efficiently recruit and retain voluntary non-remunerated donors who give part of themselves to save the lives of others!

  • Photo of Lauren Brunt

    Lauren Brunt
    Year of leaving: 2012
    Practicing Artist

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Art and Music. Both subjects that are disappearing from many schools curriculums, and are so important to the development of many things within society, business and also personal development.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in 2016 with a BA Hons in Fine Art and recently graduated from Norwich University of the Arts with a Masters in Fine Art.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    To take school in one stride and not think to far ahead as anything may happen like university, an apprenticeship or full time work. The main thing is to know that at some point you will be happy with what you are doing even if the hurdles to get there are hard. I think perseverance is key within any period of your life whether it is straight after GCSEs or A Levels, aim for what you want to succeed in, but take any opportunity that may come your way.

    What’s your next big goal?

    To become a full time professional artist selling hand-printed screen prints and mono prints but to also become a Printmaking Technician at a university or open studio.

  • Photo of Charlie Bidois

    Charlie Bidois
    Year of leaving: 2007
    Small Business Owner/Fashion and Textiles Technician

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    My favourite subject was textiles. I’ve always loved designing and making since I was very young and textiles was my chance to do what I loved.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I have gone on to study fashion and textile design through out college and university, worked in the design departments of Topshop, Tatty Devine and Tallulah & Hope and I now run my own small, independent children’s wear business and work at a local college as a fashion and textiles technician working with FE and HE students.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Focus on what you want to achieve and work hard at achieving those goals. It may seem a million miles away now, but with determination and perseverance you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Working towards expanding my business through selling my collections in independent children’s boutiques across the UK.

  • Photo of Simon Dinsdale

    Simon Dinsdale
    Year of leaving: 1982
    Deputy Head, Crosfields School, Reading

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    Music. It was my passion - and the only thing I was good at! The music teaching team throughout the late 1970s and well into the 1980s was outstanding and inspirational with the department producing a regular stream of musicians who have gone full time into the profession.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    Organ Scholar, Chichester Cathedral; Music Teacher at Beacon School; Director of Music Reigate St. Mary’s; Deputy Head, Crosfields School; sub-organist of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I have played the organ throughout the UK, Germany, Belgium and the USA on BBC Radio, BBC Television and on a number of recordings.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    Enjoy every minute of school and give it your very best shot. It never comes around again in the same way.

    What’s your next big goal?

    I’m very lucky, I have achieved more goals than I could have dreamed of when at school. Now that my children are nearly grown up, I hope to move full-time in due course into my music career.

  • Photo of Mel Dolding

    Mel Dolding
    Year of leaving: 1992
    Teaching Assistant

    Favourite subject at Beacon? Why?

    History - I loved and still do love learning about the past but mainly because I had great history teachers, Mr Hewitt and Mr Hinton.

    What have you done since leaving Beacon?

    I spent six months in South Africa staying with my dad when I left Beacon. I attempted to go to university but it didn’t work out for me so I got a job as an Administrative Assistant then Officer in Tunbridge Wells, before moving to Tunbridge Wells Equitable Friendly Society. There I met my now husband and we had two daughters: Georgie and Molly. Georgie took her GCSEs at Beacon Academy two years ago and passed with As and above. Molly is in Year 10 at the moment. When Molly was little I took over Rotherfield Toddler Group. When she went to preschool, I also got a job there and then moved to Rotherfield Primary School as a midday supervisor before becoming a teaching assistant/INA. I love my job.

    What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

    The thing I always tell my daughters is to enjoy your school life and don’t stress about exams. Everything you do is a step to the next thing. If you do the best you can do for yourself, then you should be happy with yourself. Do not compare yourself to other people. Be honest with yourself and you will succeed. Success isn’t just about getting high grades - it is about being happy with what you are doing with your life.

    What’s your next big goal?

    My main goal is the same as it ever was and that is to be happy and to keep my family safe and happy. I have never been overly ambitious to do well in a career, though I strive to do my best as a TA. I have recently become involved with a community in Uganda, where we sponsor two children to attend the local primary school. I am also now (with a friend) in charge of the sponsorship of children to attend the secondary school out there. So my goal at the moment is to help the children in Nkuringo, Uganda to get the education that everyone deserves to have.