Alumni Spotlight

Read about some of our former students:

Professor John Saunders

A visit from an ex-student as an ALUMNI with our Careers Advisor Mrs Green

“Thank you for orchestrating my visit to Ash Hill Academy.  I learned a lot and I hope your students benefited a little, too.

 It was wonderful to see how the school has progressed over the years.  The building are smart, clean, well ordered and modern.  In fact better than found in many commercial and public sector organisations.  The students looked smart and bright.  The pupils looked professional.  A far cry from my days at the school and the poor dress code apparent at many schools.

 I am greatly impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of the staff and students.  The students certainly have high aspirations.  I am sure that the well organised careers sessions have great value.  The fact that I received no such help until my postgraduate master’s degree shows how education has improved.

 My hopes are high for all you are doing. Many great will come out of the Hatfield of the far north.”

Michael Margerrison

What years did you attend Ash Hill Academy (or formerly Hatfield High/Hatfield Visual Arts College) ?

My name is Michael Margerrison, I'm 20, and I attended Hatfield Visual Arts College turned Ash Hill Academy from 2009-2014, and I currently have a younger sister in year 9: Holly Evans. I am a Geological Sciences undergraduate at the University of Leeds. 

How did you find school? A favourite memory?

I made some good friends at school and I actually live with one of them now as she (Emily Parker) does the same degree I do; albeit, she is a year ahead of me because I did a foundation year. Although I found school tough, it was a place that pushed me to where I am today and honestly I feel that the option of university should be discussed more at a younger age. 

My favourite memory of school was a trip to London with drama in year 9 to watch War Horse and Wicked. It was my first time to London and it was a like a mini sense of freedom with my friends.

What were your favourite lessons?

My favourite lesson was definitely English with Ms Della Monica. I always have fond memories of being taught by her! Her love of Shakespeare has been ingrained into my being and "on pain of death" will I never forget his birthday: 23/04/1564! I also was a big fan of the sciences and put a lot of my effort into those subjects, and now I'm a science undergraduate! I had fun in drama because it was a place you could relax, be you, and have a bit of fun whilst doing your work. Finally I found geography to really open my eyes to world beyond just Doncaster. We learned about tourism and how it affects local economies and wildlife. We learned about waste management and the water cycle. We also learned about populations across the world and how this affects economies and the ethical issues behind stuff such as China's one child policy. This probably started my interest in the world beyond just watching David Attenborough documentaries!

What do you do now?

I now study Geological Sciences BSc, at the University of Leeds. In Earth Sciences, Leeds is 20th best university in the world and 6th best in the UK (QS World Rankings, 2019). I study how the Earth formed, its processes, and what has happened over time to make the world we see today. The course also covers things such as the Earth's atmosphere, natural disasters, and geochemistry. We have the opportunity to travel to Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Spain. Also at the university we have the opportunity for summer placements, and I went to France for a month last summer to learn French at Universite du Mans. Whilst there we went to Mont Saint Michel, Paris, and Chateau D'Amboise, and Clos Luce (Da Vincis house).

Any advice for our current students?

My advice for current students is to not be afraid to be yourself. Don't sit with the right answer in your head and not say it because you're afraid to speak up. Enjoy your time at school and take everything that is offered to you, because your teachers are there to help you. School isn't just about learning, although it's an important part of it, but it's also about becoming who you are, and learning to be a young adult and to be more independent. I would also say never to let go of your dream. Work everyday towards what you want to do, because you will get there eventually. It may take a little longer than you hoped for, but never give up and some day you will be the person you always want to be.

If you could turn back the clock what would you do differently (if anything) ?

If I could turn back the clock, I would have spoken up more, and asked more questions. I would enjoy the opportunity to be curious and learn from my teachers. They know a lot more than just what they teach! I would have paid a little more attention in the subjects I didn't want to go into. Apparently when you go to college or 6th form, when they enrol you, they take into account your average grade score! Do well in everything or you might not be allowed to do what you want! Most importantly, however, I would probably buy more paninis and chocolate crunch and pizza and pie (I could go on) because we don't get them here like you have them!

Asia-Jorden Alexander-Smith

What years did you attend Ash Hill Academy (or formerly Hatfield High/Hatfield Visual Arts College)? 

2009 - 2014 (I think!)

How did you find school? A favourite memory?

I enjoyed school, being quite an academic child. At the time, I thought it was tough but looking back, my high school experience was one of the best of my life. My favourite memories were lunchtimes sitting on the field with my friends in summer, or doing dodgeball in PE.

What were your favourite lessons?

My favourite lessons were English (I had Ms Della-Monica for all 5 years) and Graphics (with Mrs Cairns from Year 9 - Year 11).

What do you do now?

I'm now a graphic designer. I went to college at John Leggott, did a graphic design apprenticeship afterwards and now am a graphic designer and have been for 3 years.

Any advice for our current students? 

Don't put too much pressure on yourself to feel like you have to go to university. While it's an amazing experience and can definitely be beneficial to certain jobs, doing a hands-on job like design is something that physical experience is definitely more useful for rather than a degree. I went to university after working for 2 years, to study Psychology, and whilst I was doing well and enjoyed the social side, being at university wasn't right for me and I ended up leaving before finishing my first year, and went back to work instead.

If you could turn back the clock what would you do differently (if anything)?

I'm not sure I'd change anything. Both the good and the bad experiences shaped me as a person and helped me progress towards a career in something I always dreamed of doing. My teachers, whether I loved or loathed them (most of them, I loved!) helped and encouraged me to become the adult that I am today. I still look back and think about how Ms Della Monica in particular was an instrumental part of my progression into adulthood.

Stephan Evans

What years did you attend Ash Hill Academy (or formerly Hatfield High/Hatfield Visual Arts College) ?

I attended Hatfield High, then renamed Hatfield Visual Arts College from from 1997 - 2004. I completed both GCSE's and A-Levels there before heading to University. 

How did you find school? A favourite memory?

The teaching staff were pretty amazing from what I remember and really did help the students to flourish and really hone in on their strengths and skills. They were very supportive. 6th Form helped me gain confidence and helped me come out of my shell a lot more.

What were your favourite lessons?

My favourite lessons were Modern Languages. It was one of my strongest subjects and I had a real talent for them. I studied French and German at GCSE but then took French and Spanish at A-Level. I was in a very strange situation where I was the only person in 6th Form that studied Spanish - so I had about 6 hours of 1-1 Spanish tuition which really helped me pick it up very quickly. There were only 4 of us studying French too so the classes were small and therefore we learnt a lot. My main teacher for both French and Spanish was Mr Richard Saunderson - he really was a phenomenal teacher who really knew his stuff and really helped shape my mind and talent.

What do you do now?

I have done a lot since leaving school. I went on to study a BA (Hons) Degree in French and Spanish with Interpreting Studies in Manchester. This allowed me to do lots of travelling across multiple countries and allowed me to meet so many incredible people.

I ended up settling in London after graduating from University and found myself working within medicine. I loved it (and was good at it) so therefore decided to do a Master's Degree in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. This was tough and challenging but I loved it. I then began working for a private medical company - working my way up through the ranks to where I eventually ended up coordinating Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatments for patients suffering from a huge array of different types of cancer from brain cancer, to leukaemia, to then working on treatment protocols for patients living with both cancer and HIV. It is incredibly rewarding.

Any advice for our current students?

Don't think that just because you are studying one subject, you will have to stick to that same subject for the rest of your life. You can change careers at any point you want - it may be difficult at first but you are your own boss and you can make your own decision on how your life turns out. I would encourage you to take chances and never be afraid to take the leap. A lot of you may think that high school is the centre of the universe in terms of having to be popular and this is what matters. High school is a small part of your life journey. It helps shape the course you will take, but you are the driver and you can change direction to any destination you want. 

For those of you feeling out of place and that you do not belong, you do. There is a place for all of you - you just haven't found that place yet - but you will. 

For those of you having difficulties with your sexuality - there is nothing wrong with you and you will come to accept how amazing you are. Never let anyone tell you that there is something wrong with you or that what you feel is wrong - it isn't! 

For those feeling down and sad, never be afraid to speak out and ask for help. Growing up in high school is tough and sometimes we all need a little help to guide us in the right direction. Never suffer in silence. 

If you could turn back the clock what would you do differently (if anything) ?

I am not a big believer in regretting past actions as they have shaped me into the person I am today. The one thing I would change is perhaps my confidence and shyness through school, and the strength to stand up to those that were trying to bring me down. I think this would have made my time in high school more rewarding and enjoyable. Apart from that - nothing. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - these mistakes shape the people we are going to become!