Alumna Emma’s Withington Return

Emma OthenAlumna Emma Othen (née Jewell, 1991 leaver) has returned to School once again, as she joins Withington as maternity cover teaching Classics on a part-time basis.

After leaving Withington in 1991, Emma gained a Classics degree, MPhil and PGCE at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and has since taught in Coventry, Liverpool and at Stockport Grammar School. We caught up with Emma during her first few weeks at Withington, and spoke with her about the changes at Withington since her time here as a pupil, as well as the things that have happily remained the same.

"The most obvious changes are the uniform and buildings. Nowadays, the Sixth Formers don't have to wear uniform, a privilege only extended to Upper Sixth in their final term under strict conditions (no jeans!) when I was in the school. The Juniors seem to have long ditched the characteristic berets we were required to wear and which seemed to get sat on a lot, and I recall how impractical the traditional school navy gabardine was - I'm sure pupils today are warmer and drier as a result of them no longer being compulsory!

"The School buildings themselves are still very recognisable and familiar, though somehow the walls round the school playing fields don't look as tall as I remember from when we used to have ‘dens' along the back wall among the trees when I was in the Juniors! I joined the school at a time of big changes to the site - The Arts Centre had just been built and really stood out as an innovative and exciting design. Considering it must be 25 years ago, it doesn't seem dated today at all. I wonder if any other Alumnae remember the term we had pegs and shoe racks all along the bottom corridor, while there were no cloakrooms because of the construction work?

"Since I left Withington, almost every corner of the building has been transformed - the Dining Room enlarged, old Sports Hall replaced and transformed into a three storey building of labs and classrooms, a whole new corridor and sixth-form block has sprung up, with homes for subjects which weren't available when I was at school (Politics, Economics, Psychology), the Library has been refurbished and IT facilities improved and extended.

"However, the feel of the school does remain very similar, the mix of girls, the house system (I am in Simon again!), the friendly atmosphere where everyone is known and has a place - things haven't changed very much at all in that respect."

Emma happily reported that her return to School, and the change from pupil to teacher, hasn't felt in any way strange, which she attributes to the years that have passed since she left Withington and to her experiences in three other schools as a teacher. Despite that, there are still several real-life reminders of Emma's time at Withington, and her return has brought a wave of nostalgia along with it:

"The majority of those who taught me have moved on or retired - in fact a few didn't know me but did remember my younger sister (a reversal from our usual experience when we were at school!) The only teachers still left who actually taught me are Ms Holden (from LV to UVI), Mrs Farrell (GCSE Chemistry) and Mrs Lindsay-Dunn (from LIV to UV).

"Being an old girl has helped me feel at home more quickly and helped in a couple of practical ways such as finding my way round. I think also I appreciate how much the facilities have changed and improved, whilst feeling a touch of nostalgia for the old school of my memory! It also reminds me on a daily basis of the person I used to be, as I trot up the same central staircase past the tapestry I remember the school acquiring to mark the centenary in 1990."

We extend a warm welcome to Emma upon her return, and hope she enjoys her second stint at Withington as much as she did her first!
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