NHEHS Bursaries: Making a Difference – Anna’s Story
Ensuring that talented and academically gifted girls from all backgrounds have access to education at Notting Hill & Ealing High School is integral to the school’s vision and ethos. Our students, staff, current and former parents and alumnae represent all backgrounds and reflect the culture and community of our school. We know bursaries change lives and benefit the whole school community. At NHEHS, we have a long history of providing bursary awards and our bursary pupils have contributed hugely to the diversity and endeavour of the school.
However, each year we turn away many talented applicants, currently we have around 6% of our students on bursary awards but our ambition is to do much more.
In 2023/4 we will be celebrating our 150th anniversary, such an important milestone feels like the right time to extend our bursary programme to anyone with the ability and potential, regardless of background of wealth.
Over the summer we will be sharing some stories from our alumnae and their families showing what a difference a bursary can make. Read below about the life-changing impact a bursary had for Anna and her family:
‘My parents arrived in the UK from what was then Communist Poland in the late 80s, seeking political asylum. They were only able to take a few hundred dollars with them. Initially, life in London was difficult, and they undertook a number of informal odd jobs before setting up their own antique restoration business. Having experienced first-hand the horror of WWII, followed by oppression under communism, our family had always placed great value on education as a gateway (and insurance policy) in life. My parents were very proud to be able to send me to NHEHS, even if this meant cutting back on other family expenses. I started at NHEHS in Year 1 and I was catapulted into a new and exciting world.
Later that same year, my brother was born and very soon after we noticed that he was missing key developmental milestones. It took a few years for him to be diagnosed with autism and a severe learning disability, which would require life-long one to one support. In the meantime, we had all become his carers and my parents had not been able to devote as much time to the family business as before. By the time I was in Year 6, the business was struggling and my parents were running out of financial options to keep paying my school fees. They secretly applied for a bursary to get me through senior school. When the school awarded me a bursary it was a lifeline. My mother burst into tears when she received the letter. Unknown to me, she had been close to having to pull me out of school.
Senior school had a broad mix of students from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds and it was here that I made most of my closest friends, with whom I am still in touch. The school felt very inclusive and no one really cared if you got your school uniform second hand or didn’t have the latest phone.
Academically, NHEHS was the making of me: everyone was encouraged to do their best and we all celebrated each other’s successes. I didn’t really know how to improve our family’s financial situation so I doubled down on studying and helping out at home with my brother. I achieved top grades in all my GCSEs (including receiving several top 5 marks in the country) and A-levels.
I threw myself into the extra-curricular after school activities and most were free – I was a member of two choirs, two orchestras and various sports teams. The school was also very good at finding and advertising various external opportunities thanks to which I was able to speak at the House of Lords, intern at Lehman Brothers and sing Handel’s Messiah with the Bach Choir at the Royal Albert Hall.
When I got to sixth form, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university but I did know that I wanted to apply to Oxford. I fondly remember my form tutor, Mr Petty, who was so encouraging about my application and proud of all of our achievements. I was accepted to study Economics and Management at St Edmund Hall at Oxford University. The course offered phenomenal job prospects for graduates and was famous for being the most competitive undergraduate degree to apply for. Oxford awarded me a bursary and choral scholarship so that I could attend and, once there, I was also awarded an academic scholarship funded by Man Group.
After university I went straight into investment banking at Credit Suisse, where I specialised in mergers and acquisitions with a focus on energy companies. It wasn’t my dream job, but in hindsight it provided good technical training for the future and without it I couldn’t have moved into an advisory position within the energy industry.
I quickly moved to Gazprom’s London office to work in their Mergers and Acquisitions team for a number of years, where I had an incredibly supportive manager. I found it much more satisfying to realize and oversee a smaller number of investment projects for the company in detail from beginning to end. I subsequently moved to their liquefied natural gas (LNG) team where I am one of two LNG Traders in the London office.
I source, structure and execute physical transactions in a fast paced, high pressured and dynamic market environment utilising my fleet of ships and network of national oil companies, commodity traders, oil and gas majors and local industrial clients. In addition to trading standard cargoes, I have delivered a number of firsts for my company and clients including selling the first ever carbon neutral LNG cargo in the Atlantic (to Shell), purchasing Gazprom’s first ever Free on Board (FOB) cargo from the US, and enabling our company’s first delivery of LNG to Asia using the politically sensitive and physically challenging Northern Sea Route (through the Arctic). I am currently on maternity leave having had a beautiful baby girl eight months ago.
My work world is, and always has been, dominated by men. At Oxford 80% of the peers on my course were men, in my first job 90% were men and now I am one of a handful of women in the world doing my job. There is no doubt that NHEHS, where we were taught to learn without limits, gave me the confidence to go into and thrive in this environment.
My success has meant that I can give back and my education at NHEHS, where we organised so many charitable activities, taught me that it is important to do so. My education has given me the confidence to be an advocate for my brother and others like him to ensure that they get the support they need. I was recently able to successfully challenge a local authority decision relating to his care. I am also a Trustee at the Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge (ACE), which translates world-class autism research into excellent evidence-based support, via partnerships, to create a world where autistic people are respected and valued.
The education I received at NHEHS has shaped my life, empowered my career and established my values. I am very grateful to the donors whose generosity meant that I was able to access a life-changing education at NHEHS.’
Anna Lewy (née Piotrowski), Class of 2009Back to news