Freemen's bursaries: Zayan's story

“My old school was very different. There were a lot of people that did try, but there were a lot of people who maybe didn’t get the help that they could have because there were so many kids. Everyone achieved their maximum potential at this school.”

Zayan grew up in Walthamstow, east London. A girl in the year above him at his secondary school was the first to find a place at an independent school through the charity Royal National Children’s Springboard Foundation. Zayan was one of five picked from the following year’s cohort to go to different schools. Zayan came to Freemen’s.

“Coming here I thought everyone would be upper class, but they weren’t snobbish or rude. Everyone was genuinely very nice to me. Everyone was my friend,” says Zayan.

He was surprised on his first visit by the wild deer running across the park and how peaceful Ashtead was compared to London.

“I remember the first thing that I noticed that was a bit odd was after the first form time, everyone was saying thank you to the teacher. I found it a bit weird, I thought they were being sarcastic, but it is quite nice,” he smiles. Zayan felt welcomed by the whole Freemen’scommunity when he arrived, which made it easy for him to settle in, with teachers offering help and extra resources if he needed them.

One of the biggest changes for him came on the sports field. “I never played rugby before I came here and they taught me how to play. All the boys were giving me tips on how to play and I’m still friends with all of them now. Some boys from Freemen’s are in London and I meet up with them every two to three weeks. I think [they are] friends I will keep for life.”

He was also able to build on his previous passions, while he was at the school. “I started [boxing] in nursery or reception, but I never took it seriously, it was more of a fun thing. When I came to Freemen’s, I started taking it seriously and got my licence. I trained in the gym at Freemen’s for my first bout. They are good facilities; a heavy punchbag which is what you need and enough space to skip and shadow box, weights as well for strength conditioning.”

He won his most recent bout and many of his Freemen’s friends were there to see his triumph. Zayan feels Freemen’s was good preparation for university.   “I was going to do economics and as I was going over the syllabus again, I thought is this something that I will really enjoy? I looked at other courses and looked at maths and thought I will probably enjoy this a bit more. My maths teachers made it sound like a fun thing to do and they really enjoyed the subject themselves.”  

He is studying maths at Queen Mary University and hopes to go into something data science related or to pursue a masters in the same field. He is still friends with many of the other students who came to Freemen’s on bursaries and they meet up regularly.

He offers the following advice to anyone joining Freemen’s in the future: “I’d definitely say it is what you make it. If you mope about, sit in your room and don’t get involved in anything, you’re going to hate it. Get involved, join clubs and get involved with people in the year group. Remember keep an open mind. It will be very different to how your secondary was but put yourself out there and you will have a lot of fun."

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