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Home > News and Events > Those on the front line

Those on the front line

3 Feb 21

From the President of the Old Woodbridgians

When I first came to Woodbridge, there were lots of new things to deal with.  Not just a school which was totally different from the one I had been cutting my teeth in (ex-secondary modern, nearly 2000 pupils of all abilities, languages department of 14 staff and three assistants…) but there was the challenge of getting to know the area.  Fairly early in September 1985, I was talking after church to someone who said her husband was a doctor at Heathrow.  The following day, a colleague mentioned a pupil whose father worked at Heathrow.  I’m sure you are there already, but I blundered on innocently.  ‘That’s the second person I’ve heard of who works at Heathrow; why live in Suffolk if you work at Heathrow?’  I was genuinely puzzled.  As was the colleague till he twigged that he had said Heath Road but I had heard Heathrow.  I had thought it was called Ipswich Hospital, which it was actually, except by those who live here. 

We have heard a lot over the past months about those who work in the health service, both in hospitals and as GPs or in the community or pharmacies: pressure on staff and resources, elective procedures on hold, families unable to support patients, exhaustion both physical and emotional.  And also of those who train nurses, midwives and doctors as they had to rush the latest cohort straight in to clinical practice last year without drawing breath since their training, which may well have been curtailed because of the urgency inflicted by Covid-19.  What a baptism of fire for them.  As a nation we are grateful for all their work for which applause on a Thursday evening was a token.

I have always been struck by how many Woodbridge School parents over the years were medical professionals.  I suppose it became obvious when some could not attend parents’ evenings because of work patterns.  And of course there are some in every year group who leave the sixth form to proceed to medical training at university.  I have enjoyed meeting many of them as OWs. 

I was humbled by the Cambridge-trained medic who said that he went in to medicine to make a difference, thinking of research and ground-breaking procedures; in reality he is consumed by the anxiety of potentially damaging patients.  More recently I talked to an OW who was excited about taking up a lectureship in midwifery at the University of Suffolk.  Then there is a former tutee who went off to the University of Dundee (my home city, so that was particularly memorable) to study science and when I next met her a couple decades later at an OW dinner, she was a local GP.  The road to your best career isn’t always straight or direct!  And a boy (OK he is now probably in his 40s) who said that he is pretty much a world expert in a really obscure area of heart disease (and he emphasized the ‘really obscure’). And then a girl (she still looks the same!) from my very first GCSE cohort in 1988 who is now a consultant clinical geneticist, which she said was a discipline that didn’t even exist when she chose to study medicine.

Faced with the throes of adolescence and the quest for good exam grades it is easy to forget how important real education is.  Schools help form the future by creating productive and fulfilled members of society.  Now, I know for all of those who have studied medicine, their French lessons weren’t as important as some other subjects but I am glad they stuck with a language and hope that they gained insights and skills that have enriched their lives.  But from the French teacher’s perspective, being a tiny part of their education, turning them in to the people they are today, equipped to do the huge range of skilled and important jobs that they are doing is indeed a rewarding and humbling thought. 

So, a big thank you to the following, whom I have either met as OWs or whom I remember as going on to study something medical.  And as always with thanks, lots will be missed out.  If that is you, I apologise and it is through ignorance or poor memory but certainly not malice.  You could always get in touch on the OWNetwork.co.uk and enlighten me (and others!) as to what you are up to now.

Ursula, Tom, Tim, Simon, Rebecca, Rachel, Phil, Philip, Olivia, Nick, Melita, Mark, Lucy, Louise, Lizzie, Kevin, Karine, John, Hannah, Gwen, Gabriel, Freya, Fiona, Emily, Chris, Charlotte, Ben, Barnaby, Annie, Anna, Amy, Alfie

A couple of the above I know are medics in the armed forces, so they are on not one but two metaphorical ‘front lines’. 

Although the list probably wouldn’t be as long, thanks are also due to all you OWs who are now in the classroom, on the other side of the desk.  Several of them are teaching at Woodbridge.  You are also doing vital work for all of us in more difficult conditions than we could have imagined.  I must start working on that list… (but it would be safer if all you OW teachers let me know!)    

Graeme Bruce

2 February 2021

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