Beatrice Garrett, Head of School at Downside, discusses what it’s like being a student at the school.
Downside has just welcomed Beatrice Garrett, 17, as its new Head of School – and it would be hard to find a more suitable candidate. Beatrice was granted a place at Downside thanks to a means-tested bursary, and was awarded a sports, academic and drama scholarship.
Studying hard for A-levels in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Classical Greek, she intends to study medicine and is looking at Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester universities. At Downside, she is lucky to have opportunities to explore the skills necessary whether through the school’s MedSoc – which arranges virtual work experience, lectures from Doctors Live, plus real-life work at a local surgery via the alumnae network or the NHS hospital in Bath.
Beatrice, one of six siblings, lives close to the school site and says that one of the benefits of Downside is the way boarders and day pupils are well integrated. ‘Everyone mixes – day and boarding pupils,’ she explains, ‘and between years, too. You make deep connections.’ Outside lessons, Beatrice is Chair of the Abingdon Debating Society. Their mock trial team had a notable victory at a national competition in Southampton earlier this year. As a drama scholar she helped out with the junior play – Around the World in 80 Days – and took part in the seniors’ version of Chicago. ‘Singing is my biggest weakness,’ she laughs.
One of the things Beatrice likes most about Downside is its Christian ethos. Although you are not expected to be Catholic – 61 percent are practising Roman Catholics – she says its open-minded views on faith and charity are hugely significant. ‘From the moment you get here, it is clear to see how the Benedictine ethos is at the centre of our community and encourages us all to be kind, and to become involved in acts of service.’
She points out that students are not embarrassed to say that faith is strong to them. ‘People are allowed to be who they want to be here.’