Get involved - Portsmouth High School

Get involved

There are many ways you can get involved in the life of the school and current students love to hear and learn from the experience of alumnae. If you would be interested in coming to the school to talk about your career, or helping out with careers talks then we would love to hear from you.

Please email Lucinda Webb or telephone 023 92 701617

Lucy Foley (Class of 2004)

Lucy Foley

In March 2020 the Sixth Form were thrilled to have one of their favourite authors, Lucy Foley, visit them to talk about her writing challenges and her latest book, The Guest List, which has just hit UK shelves.

Lucy Foley, from the Class of 2004 was visiting the school to judge the prestigious final of the Girls’ Day School Trust public speaking competition. She arrived earlier in the day to spend time with the Sixth Formers.

Lucy left Portsmouth High School and read English at Durham and UCL universities. After graduating and still viewing herself as more of a reader than a writer, she went into publishing, latterly at Hodder & Stoughton as Assistant Editor. Here she realised her dream of becoming a writer:

‘There was something less intimidating about seeing first drafts than the glossy hardback that you pick off the shelf,’ she said. ‘It made me realise that a novel starts as just a Word document. It felt doable.’

Lucy’s career path armed her with all the understanding she needed to become an author and in 2015 her debut novel, The Book of Lost and Found, was published. This work of historical fiction and its two successors, The Invitation and Last Letter from Istanbul have been described as “sweeping, multi-generational epics.” Her first crime novel, The Hunting Party, reached number one in the Sunday Times’ paperback fiction list.

‘I try to have a clear idea of the start and ending before I begin writing a novel,’ she told the Sixth Formers. Publishers look for great characterisation; they want to feel as if characters “are someone they would recognise as they walk through the door”.’

Lucy added that crime fiction requires more careful plotting but to ensure that you “leave room for things that might surprise you”. She even confessed that the killer in The Guest List was originally another character.

PHS English teacher, Mrs Katie Wood, (Class of 1999) added:

‘As someone who has fond memories of Lucy from our schooldays, following her writing career has been an inspiring and thrilling process for me. Having her back with us, sharing her experience and insight so generously, was a wonderful and unique experience for the next generation of budding writers and avid readers at PHS – and we are incredibly grateful for her time and wisdom.’


Anjana Gadgil (Class of 1996)

Teacher speaking in front of school, Private School Portsmouth

We were delighted to welcome back Anjana Gadgil as a judge at the prestigious GDST Chrystall Carter public speaking competition in March 2020.

Anjana, BBC Television Presenter, BBC South Today was joined by Lucy Foley (Class of 2004), best-selling novelist, and Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive of the GDST and an audience of girls, teachers and parents as they took part in the final of the public speaking competition. Students are given a topic relating to societal issues of today and must give a confident argument of their view on that topic. They must also be able to engage with the audience and deal with challenging questions posed to them after their speech.

Anjana Gadgil, Portsmouth High School alumna from the Class of 1996, said:

‘This has been an inspirational afternoon. The girls have tackled complex subjects with so much confidence.’

'Girls Like You' Ellie Webb, Bria Grange, Sophie Stevens, Flo Evans, Daisy Turnbull, Millie Ansell, Connie Cha and Eleanor Wheeler

In a week long initiative in March 2020, the school invited back recently left alumnae to talk to the girls about their, sometimes not straight forward, journey to where they currently are in their careers. In morning assemblies, aptly named ‘Girls Like You’, the senior school heard experiences from alumnae and what they had learned at Portsmouth High School to help them with their choices.

The first morning saw Ellie Webb and Bria Grange from the Class of 2015 talking to the girls. Ellie, Head Girl in 2015 is currently pursuing a career with the British Army. She is due to commission from Sandhurst in April having left school and reading International Relations at Exeter University. She described Sandhurst as ‘Hogwarts with guns’.

‘Use all the skills and opportunities you are given at PHS,’ she said. ‘And be part of something bigger than yourself.’

Bria Grange, Deputy Head Girl from the same year left PHS and went on a gap year before going to Bristol University to read Geography. Bria is currently working for the Met Office in Cyprus as an operational meteorological technician. ‘Enjoy your teaching and being taught. I am having to self-teach my maths now and believe me it is not the same as having the wonderful PHS teachers. I miss them all.’

On Wednesday morning, Sophie Stevens, another Deputy Head Girl from Ellie and Bria’s year told the girls:

‘Fully embrace the life at PHS. It’s okay to say something isn’t for you and make a change. It is never too late to change your path and always believe in yourself.’

Sophie left PHS thinking she wanted to be an actress but her path took her to a career in law. She is now training to be a criminal barrister.

Flo Evans, who left in 2014, went to the University of Bath and read Biology. Flo is now working as Head of Marketing for Acumen in London. ‘Work hard at school because that gives you choices,’ she told the girls.

The next day bought Daisy Turnbull, Deputy Head Girl from the Class of 2016 and Millie Ansell, from the Class of 2019 back to school.

Daisy is a Maritime Archaeologist; ‘If you are offered placements, grab them with both hands as they are invaluable.’

Daisy took up work experience with Portsmouth High School Partners in Education, The Mary Rose Museum during her time at school and whilst at the University of Southampton and spent time with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit. She has worked with MAP on an underwater project in the Black Sea and was part of the team who discovered the oldest, intact medieval vessel discovered. She is currently with Wessex Archaeology.

Millie is a Cultural Affairs Intern at Portsmouth City Council. She started university but found the course was just not for her. Having interned previously with Portsmouth City Council she approached them again and was immediately offered a job;

‘It is not the end of the world if it doesn’t go according to plan,’ she said. ‘Keep all your options open.’

The final day, Friday, saw Connie Cha, Deputy Head Girl from the Class of 2007 return, alongside Eleanor Wheeler, from the Class of 2015.

Connie left PHS and first went to drama school. Several years on and via a non-linear route from setting up her own business, Tax Forward, and working with Deloitte, she is now Head of Finance for Eve Sleep.

‘I enjoy being an accountant as it gives you an insight into the business of businesses,’ she said. ‘No experience is ever wasted.’

Eleanor left PHS in 2015 having loved working behind the scenes at PHS drama productions. Eleanor is now a television camera operator for ITV London.

‘I would never have even got an interview had I not taken all the work experience and unpaid internships that I was offered. Now my days are spent shooting footage for ITV News at 6.00pm; from parakeets in London to red-carpet events in the evenings, via politicians in the middle of the day.’