Mr Markus Jaigirder has taken up the new post of Chair of Governors, following the retirement of Mr Francis Abbott earlier this year. This week, Year 10 pupils Lucy Mountain and Freya Mills interviewed Markus to find out more about the role.

Freya: So you were a previous student at Emanuel? How did you find the school?

Markus: Yes, I was a pupil between 1975 and 1982. It’s very different to the school I remember. The biggest difference is that the school is now co-ed; when I was there it was all boys and it was also quite an austere place. It’s a much more pleasant environment these days, and there’s a really nice rapport between the students and teachers and amongst the students themselves.

Lucy: What was your most memorable time at Emanuel?

M: I think there were two; definitely the first year, because that is always going to be your most memorable time. You’re the smallest person in the school, everything is new and you feel quite daunted! But then also the last year, because the reverse is true; you’re the biggest in the school, you feel a little bit special because of that and you know it’s your last year and you’ll be off to do exciting things afterwards.

F: You mentioned a few things that have changed since you were a pupil at Emanuel. Are there any other big changes that you’ve noticed in the last 40 years?

M: One rite of passage in my day was walking down the drive, and that’s obviously gone now because students arrive across the bridge. There has been a lot of investment in new buildings; we have the bridge, the Dacre building, a new gym, the new Fiennes Theatre and library. None of those things were where they were, or existed at all, when I was at Emanuel.

L: What’s still the same?

M: We did have a swimming pool. The main building looks the same from the outside, and the Hampden Hall was in existence then. The building that contains the staff common room was there then, and the technical drawing department (which is now known as DT).

F: What was your favourite subject at school?

M: I was a linguist so my favourite subjects were French and German. I had to do English – I didn’t really want to! – I would have liked to do a science subject, but in those days that wasn’t a permissible combination. My bias is towards languages.

L: That subject choice is similar to mine! Were you a member of any clubs and societies at school?

M: A lot of the things I’m interested in weren’t actually considered that important in those days! My hobby is photography, and I’m very envious of you because there’s a new facility for that in the Dacre building (and Photography is on the A level curriculum from 2020!). I also loved creative writing, which I think is something encouraged at Emanuel today that wasn’t when I was at school. I wasn’t really a sporty type, but I did play water polo.

L: After Emanuel, you worked in banking for a while. Did your time at school encourage you to pursue that career path?

M: Not directly as I actually went to study Law after school, and only got into banking by accident. But Emanuel gave me the confidence to feel that I could do whatever I wanted to do. It gave me a very strong sense of identity, what I was good and not good at, and gave me the confidence to go and pursue my interests.

F: What inspired you to join the Board of Governors?

M: There was a reception for benefactors at the school and I’d been donating money to provide funds for bursaries. At that reception, I met a lot of the governors and after that, it was the governors who approached me and asked if I would like to join. I was a bit taken aback – I thought I was a bit young (and thought governors were generally older people, which isn’t the case!) but it turned out the reason they asked me is because all of them are very passionate about helping students to have a wonderful time at Emanuel.

L: How do you feel about being the Chair of Governors?

M: I’m very excited! I’m sure it will involve a lot more work but it’s a wonderful opportunity, particularly as the school is doing so well both financially and academically; in the last public examinations, the results were the best we’ve ever seen at A Level and GCSE. It’s a great time for me to take over as Chair!

L: What are you most looking forward to about the role?

M: As the Chair you get the best seats in the house when it comes to the plays and concerts! So this is definitely a perk of the job.

F: What are your plans for the future of the school?

M: There are a few plans in the pipeline! We have an (almost) new Development Director, Jack Clark, and he’s doing important work raising money for bursaries so that more people can come to the school who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the fees. This is something I feel very strongly about. As pupils at the school yourself, you know that we still have some temporary classrooms we need to address and there’s a lot of building work to be done. An important job for me will be to help Mr Clark come up with the funds so that we can make this possible.

Markus then had a couple of questions for our interviewers:

M: Were there any answers that surprised you?

F: I was quite surprised by how the school’s changed. Obviously we’ve only been here a couple of years but it’s really interesting to see how the parts of the school we take for granted haven’t always been there.

M: What do you particularly enjoy about being a pupil at Emanuel?

F: I really enjoy being a part of the clubs and societies that are available.

L: I enjoy the fact that it’s a very independent school in that you’re not pushed to do anything you don’t want to do; you can choose your own interests.

M: If you were Chair of Governors for one day, what would you change?

L: I would like to go on more eco strikes in a year; you’re only allowed to do one. I would like the opportunity to express my opinion and have my voice heard more, so I would be inclined to change the rule so that I could attend more.

M: I think the reason it’s made that way is possibly so it’s not always the same people going on the marches but to encourage a broader participation.

F: That’s a very interesting thought, and one we hadn’t considered! If I was Chair of Governors for one day, I think a good thing to do (and the school has started to look at this) would be to get more interaction between the year groups. As you might have heard the school has started doing peer mentoring once every week where different year groups meet up, so you can ask sixth formers questions, which I think is an interesting concept.

M: Have you had the opportunity to participate in that yet?

F: Yes, it’s been our year (Year 10), the Year 9s and the Year 11s in groups with a sixth former so we can find out what’s it’s like doing A levels and staying on for sixth form. It’s been very interesting so far.

Thank you to the time Markus, Lucy and Freya gave for taking part in the video-call interview. 

Freya, left, and Lucy, right