Phoebe Fogarty was late on her first day at Watson’s, but she’s made up for lost time in the 13 years since, ultimately retiring as our school captain when session 2019/20 concluded at the end of June.
As she tumbled into Miss Kay’s class in the purple area back in 2007, her family hoped that Phoebe would embrace the challenge and opportunity of our school.
That she did, with a clutch of superb exam results, the amazing experiences of the Pipe Band (and all the incredible trips that come with it), and on the hockey field where she made it to the 2nd XI.
Ultimately, Phoebe and Lachlan White’s names are engraved on the walls of the Senior School entrance hall, their place as School Captains recorded for all time.
If you’ve seen our new pupil recruitment campaign for 2021/22, you can’t fail to have noticed that Phoebe is the star attraction. She features throughout and voices the beautiful animation which accompanies the campaign.
We decided (with Phoebe’s permission) to profile our campaign on her experiences. When she spoke at our last Open Morning, in 2019, Phoebe told her own story with passion and dignity.
Her Watson’s experience was so full of joy, success, but no shortage of challenges. Phoebe noted that few young people can make it through school without changes in their lives, often around family dynamics.
When we rehearsed Phoebe’s speech in the days before the event, we were struck by six, extraordinary words to describe the relationship with her school in those difficult moments.
“Watson’s wrapped its arms around me.”
The pandemic meant that we had to make a change to our campaign plans. A real-life film given our pupils were learning remotely was impossible, and so we decided to animate Phoebe’s story. In doing so we created something which she described upon watching the film as, “Watson’s in a nutshell.”
“I was delighted and probably a bit surprised at how accurately I thought it depicted Watson’s,” Phoebe told our Why Watson’s blog, speaking from her home ahead of a move to study at the University of Exeter.
“Animations are fairly different to real-life footage, but to put that across in a minute and a half was shocking - in a good way!
“I was excited as well to see it, and it was a cool thing to do, and it’s a little part I can leave behind. Hopefully, other people will be enticed to have the amazing experience that I had.”
The poise of her voice-over - recorded in a single take - reflected her confidence, but also represented the challenges she has had to overcome. Phoebe has dyslexia, identified in P2.
It hasn’t stopped her one bit. Supported throughout her time at Watson’s by our school’s Additional Support for Learning department.
The department was established back in the 1970s by Dr Catriona Collins; it was way ahead of its time then and has continued to support pupils with inventive ideas and support to ensure that their talent is fulfilled.
Phoebe often talks about the extra-curricular experience at Watson’s, because of the breadth of opportunity, but her academic success is testament to the academic structure available. Exeter is her first choice university and they had set out an arduous standard of excellence to secure a place to read philosophy.
In short, we’re fortunate to have a group of wonderful teachers at our school.
“I don’t think ‘thank you’ goes far enough to thank my teachers on behalf of everybody, especially this year,” Phoebe explained.
“They always go above and beyond, in terms of trying to work out what’s best for you.
“That’s something that’s so special about Watson’s, that you can be in a class of 20 people but you feel like you are being taught individually.
“The school has always found ways to tailor learning to what suits you. Working closely with Support for Learning staff has been incredible. They work out what works for the individual without making you feel isolated. I am very grateful for that and I know a lot of other people are, too.
“In an independent school, people on the outside might think it is a competitive environment, but knowing you are not alone is comforting. I was recognised as dyslexic when I was in Primary 2. The school was right on it, and from the outset were looking at ways to support me. That changed as my dyslexia changed and the school.”
So when you watch our animated film, we ask you to think about the person whose story inspires us. It’s a genuine reflection of what our school is like.
That is not us saying that, that’s our pupils saying it.
Good luck, Phoebe. And thank you.
Our Digital Open Morning takes place on Saturday 3 October - click here to register.
We plan to follow this up by offering individual tours, subject to guidance from the Scottish Government. If you register to join us for our Digital Open Morning, we’ll be in touch later in the summer to offer you the opportunity to book your tour.
The application deadline for 2021/22 is Friday 13 November.