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April 09, 2021

“We give thanks as a nation and a kingdom for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh”; almost none of us will have the good fortune to have led a life worthy of eliciting such words from a sitting Prime Minister on the occasion of our death. An unusual communal sadness will - I suspect - be gripping the nation as I type upon the death of a man whom many will regard as one of mankind’s greatest public servants. Befitting perhaps of this turbulent epoch from which we finally find ourselves emerging, that Prince Philip should leave us after what might easily be remembered as the second “annus horribilis” of his wife’s not inconsiderable reign. Is it too much to hope that his greatest act in life will be the leaving of it, and that a nation united briefly in mourning his mesmeric loss, might be given that final necessary push to wrench us phoenix like out of the ashes of burnt bat.

As we reflect on a great life greatly lived, we will look back to before we knew ‘furlough’ was a real word. All of us have experienced seismic shifts in how we live and work in recent months and nothing, nowhere nor no-one has escaped scrutiny, least of all UK independent schools. British public schools in particular are scrutinised almost without cessation and rightly so; COVID restrictions thrust them once more into the spotlight over fees discounts, re-opening discussions of their abolition. In recent weeks another sprawling scandal and impending investigation awaits a great many number of schools, state and private alike. Despite such challenges, our public schools, more than ever before, are striving for excellence. Not only in their curricular and co- curricular provision, but excellence in their internal social structure, excellence in living, in behaviour, pastoral excellence and anon. Much good has come from this period despite the hurt and trauma that has inevitably been its bedfellow. Much more good clearly needs to follow. As we view our public schools from yet another distressing perspective, we are reminded too, of the best of what they do and do often, we’re reminded about it more obviously than you might realise.

Prince Philip leaves in his wake an impressive real life example of what I think our public schools’ purpose really is, at least what it ought to be, what it can be. Educated at the unique Gordonstoun, a school infamous for wearing its values unabashedly on its sleeve with startling results for many who pass through it; Philip took the profound impact his ‘outdoor’ experience had on him as the making of him in what must have been, certainly at times, a traumatic childhood. The depth of the profundity led him to create the formidable Duke of Edinburgh Award, specifically with the intention of bringing such an educational experience to vast swathes of young people previously excluded by the circumstances of their birth. An award that will outlast us all and is widely undertaken by aspirational students across the globe from all walks of life. An extreme but precise lifelong demonstration of what a public school education can deliver at its best, an individual who is brought to understand the great privilege of privilege and the accompanying sense of earnest responsibility that should always be riding shotgun. A realisation that should see vast numbers of public school leavers depart their school better people, with a sense of enthusiasm about undertaking pursuits not only to better themselves but to contribute in any way, however minor, to the betterment of us all.

The optimists amongst us may well see this current and upcoming ‘woke’ generation as the start of something special, a shift towards more people with influence, privilege and power using them for positive change. Regardless of each of our personal opinion of Phil the Greek, few will contest that his commitment to public life will stand for time immemorial probable to be eternally unsurpassed by any future consort. Needless to say if your wife, let alone Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II says of you “our country owes him a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know” you can sleep soundly. Such words conjure up the image of a man who had the privilege of a transformative education, an education that taught him how to contribute, how to repay that privilege back to those unable to have such luck. If that was all there was to say about the contribution His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Greece and Denmark has made to his adopted nation it would still be a towering achievement in of itself. Thank you for educating us all to find excellence in existence.

Efharisto Sir, you were the master of your fate.

By William Petty, Director, Bonas MacFarlane

March 22, 2021

University presents the perfect opportunity to explore interests, shape futures and land a job of interest. For many, it is the perfect way to decide the age-old question of “what do I want to do?” However, for medical school, it is often indicated this decision needs cementing years before the application process begins. Whilst there remains a debate on this topic, I strongly believe that one does not need to be a doctor from infancy to study medicine. I made the decision comparatively late, in the first year of my IB qualification (A-level equivalent). Now six years on, I am studying medicine at Imperial College London with an academic scholarship. I have been an international tutor for six years and am a dual business owner. But I’m still unsure of what medicine holds for me in the future. 

What exactly does one need to decide? In this blog I aim to provide a brief overview of my opinions, cultivated from my years working as a medical school consultant for students applying to countless universities across the UK.

Why medicine? If you cannot answer this, you cannot pass a university interview. Do you need to know the answer to this before your interview? No. Do you need to carefully workshop an answer that sells your interest, even if these reasons do not convince you? Yes. The specifics of the interview technique are too elaborate to include here. However, the fundamental point is that you should have some interest in science. Studying medicine requires lots of content and lots of exams, and this requires hard work. You will not finish a medicine degree without at least a small interest in science.

Contrary to what one might find on forums, one does not need to live, eat, breathe and sleep science and the image of being a doctor. Often those posting on such sites, be those parents or prospective students, will not make the best doctors. I avoided such websites like the plague; fear-mongering and Chinese whispers bring limited benefit. At the end of the day if you can communicate with people, work well in a team, understand your weaknesses and have a slight interest in science, you will be a better doctor than any walking textbook. Whilst many of those characteristics may seem daunting, they are developed during a medical degree. The only one that cannot be learnt is an interest in science. So, bringing it together, if you like science and can face hard work when necessary, medicine is right for you. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

What is medicine? Medicine is not hard. Medicine is tough. You will hear nerdy, tricky, depressing and impossible scattered about the internet, but those testimonies will mostly result from a lack of organisation. To this date, the work for my degrees has been easier than my IB diploma. However, medicine has required a lot more work. If you are organised, studying medicine is a shift in your lifestyle, not your mental stability. I have tutored over 1,000h alongside my 3¾ years of university, whilst participating in club committees and running several external projects. I attribute this solely to my organisation. I like to keep my plate overflowing. If the aim is solely to study medicine, one can initially achieve this with minimal organisation. The skill will be learnt throughout the degree.

In retrospect, I have found medical school exactly as I expected; lots of science to learn and weeks in a hospital putting it all into practice. No-one, no matter how keen, likes waking up at 7am to travel one hour across London to shadow a senior doctor who assumes your medical knowledge would be trumped by an ape with a crayon. However, if you enjoy what you are learning, you will stick with it. It all comes back to the initial interest, albeit the reasons for which do not matter!

What is essential? Although I believe that no-one should be put off medical school, there are a few select things you must do before applying for the degree. If you do not do them, you might as well not try. Studying Chemistry is a must (there are a few unique exceptions to this rule). Biology and Maths are often unquoted essentials. You need to achieve high grades; this remains the sole barrier for applying to medicine. If your grades are not sufficient, the rest of this advice is irrelevant.

Choosing sixth form subjects is an obvious first on this list; second should be work experience. Not only will this provide an invaluable insight into your compatibility for medicine, but it is also fundamental to a successful application. Hospital or GP exposure may be considered "cool" - but it is not necessary. This being said, I recommend that you contact hospitals and ask if they will give you a few days of work shadowing. After this comes volunteering in a medical context; I helped in the day centre for a care home for one week each summer. It is what you learn from the experience, not the length. The next essential is sport or music, ideally up to a respectable level. Positions of responsibility such as team captain, tutor or society position can substitute here. However, treat such titles as books - no matter how impressive the title is, if the content is rubbish you won’t read much further, and neither will your interviewer. A well-refined personal statement is paramount, as is a respectable admissions test score. Get coaching for both of these as they carry more weight than your entire educational profile to date; it will cost a fraction of the total cost of that too! If you are successful enough to receive an offer for an interview you are down to circa 50% odds of receiving a place. Even brief interview coaching can significantly raise this percentage. My advice on sourcing tuition is amplified here.

I have intentionally avoided discussing university choice, the application process, course structure, admissions tests, interview preparation, pay (or lack thereof) and ultimately career choice - but these do remain important queries to be addressed once the decision to study medicine is made. 

So, in conclusion, is medicine the right career path for me? The short answer is yes. Remember, 'medicine' is not synonymous with 'doctor', and there is a whole world outside the emergency room. My opinion remains that although the degree will shape you as an individual, medicine is what you make of it.

Words by Oliver Kidd

University Consultant for Medicine and IB Tutor

March 19, 2021

Before my children were born, I was always telling myself that when the right time came, I wanted them to receive their education in the UK. It is clear to me now that one cannot know what the ‘right’ age is without experiencing the feeling of motherhood a little bit. As I always say, you’ve got to live and learn a little!

Having said that, there were some things that helped me make decisions regarding my children’s education. 

Firstly, I remember being a student in Turkey and complaining that the education system was wholly dependent on memorisation. All anyone was concerned with at the end of the day was the grade you received. And in order to get a good grade, one had to learn to be a memory bank! This did not sit right with me. It was imperative to me that my children received a more well-rounded education. So, I promised myself that my children would continue their education in the UK.

Perhaps what most attracted me to the UK in particular was the ‘narrowing’ education system. This means that around the ages of 14-15, the number of subjects students take decreases over the years. By the time the student is 16, they have the option to choose 3 to 4 subjects. In this way, the student has the freedom to shape their education to fit their specific interests and talents! Indeed, this stems from the fact that the UK education system recognises that not every student can be good at everything. Where one student has particular strengths in numerical work, another student is good with words. 

Another focal point for me was the accepting and inclusive educational environment in the UK. It is important to me, as I’m sure it is important to any parent, that my children be free to share their ideas comfortably, in order to grow up to be confident, creative and independent young adults.

Furthermore, in this increasingly globalised world we live in, it is very important for students to have good command of one foreign language at least. English is one of the most widely used languages in the world so it seemed to me a real strength that my children would be able to speak English fluently and eloquently. Due to this, and to the reasons I mentioned above (and many more!) I was incredibly confident that the UK was the right choice for me and my children.

As I highly approve of the UK education system, I help other international families and students transfer to British schools and universities. I have been closely monitoring their journey from the day they stepped into the British education system, and I have witnessed how happy and successful they have become.

I asked some of my students why they chose the UK:

Having studied in a country where the education system is as fair as it can be, I have learned how to specialise and improve on the subject that I find interesting. Studying in an international school has a huge impact on the process of developing my unique international perspective. Besides my academic development, I also spend time on extracurricular activities that help me to develop my character and learn how to socialise with other people. Therefore, it is a fantastic opportunity for me to be a student in the UK for my future goals.  
Lancing College student - 3 years in British education.

I have been studying in the British education system for more than three years and I absolutely love it. I learned how to use my time efficiently and had a freedom to choose what to study. I am good with numbers and the system gave me a chance to study what I like.  
Bedales student - 4 years in British education.

I just started my A Levels at a British school.  I have chosen Business, Economics and Art.  For the first couple of months, I struggled a bit. But my teachers were very supportive and there was so much help for me to do better. I can see that my grades are going up and I am getting more confident each day. I strongly believe that being a student in the UK is a fantastic opportunity to achieve my future goals. 
Hurtwood House student.

I had quite a hard time choosing whether to study in the UK or US for university. I am glad I have chosen the UK as I have a chance to study and specialize only in Psychology , which is my passion. 
Queen Mary, University of London student.

Blog by Nihan Alyanak

Director for Turkish Families at Bonas MacFarlane

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