Freddie Palmer studied at Portland Place School from 2005 — 2009. He currently works as a mechanical project engineer for Phoenix ME in London.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Portland Place?
The sports trip to Barbados we did in Year 11. Our year’s football team was one of the best youth sides I played in as a teen; we went from Year 7 to finishing Year 11 only losing two games. The sports department with Mr Ryder, Mr Bryce, Mr Mcloughlin and Mrs Dunkley had arranged for the football and netball teams to go over to Barbados for two weeks to play fixtures against local schools and national teams. The trip was a major success and a holiday I’ll never forget, and something we still talk about when we meet up.
We played all over the island and went on safaris, rode jet skis and even lazed about on the beaches. The hotel we stayed in had wild monkeys, which would knock on your door in the morning for food — and nick your clothes if they were left out.
Who was your favourite teacher and why?
This is a tough one, but I think my favourite teacher would have to be Mr Ryder. He taught Sports Science as well as PE, but taught us valuable life lessons too. He would always find a way to get you back on course or improve in any sport or lesson. He was very harsh, strict and handled everything in his own manner, but I feel this was his greatest trait. He taught us that a cool head will always prevail. I think this is why we were so successful at football, cricket and athletics. Mr Ryder also taught us important values about respect, hard-work and determination.
How did you end up in the engineering industry?
To be honest, more by luck than judgment. When I was in Year 11 I was unsure what I wanted to do. I had applied to sixth form at Portland Place. I knew I wanted to do something with sports, because sport was my life when I was younger and I played football at a high-level outside of school, for Wolverhampton’s youth team. But I was worried that football would fall through and I wouldn’t have anything to fall back on. I was then offered an Electrical Apprenticeship from Islington Council, the borough where I live. The attraction of earning money took me away from college.
I spoke to Mr Ryder and it was his thought process that ticked the final box for me. He told me that I can always come back to education, but once you have a trade you will never lose it. I was always better at physical activities rather than sitting in a lesson and learning.
I was earning £200 a week as a first-year Electrical Apprentice living like a king at 16, so I do believe I made the right choice!
What's the best part of your job at Phoenix ME?
I don’t sit behind a desk all day. I am out and about, on site for half the day, in meetings and organising design for the rest. I would never be able to complete a job sitting behind a desk looking at a screen all day. Also, I have worked all over London on some of the most prestigious projects of the last nine years including Moorfields Eye Hospital, Blackfriars Station, St Pancras Station, Wellington Hospital, Wembley Stadium, Heathrow Terminal 2B, Morgan Stanley Bank and Bush House at Covent Garden. So my work is always changing, always for a different client and in different part of town.
What career advice do you have for students at Portland Place?
The biggest thing I can say is, when you’re leaving school and you are unsure of what job you want or what you want to do with the rest of your life, do not worry. Parents and teachers may pressure you, but you are 16. Look at what you’re good at and build upon it. The worst thing you can do is wake up every day in a mood because you’re doing nine-to-five in a job you hate.
Also, just because your friends are doing it, doesn’t mean you must too. I was the only leaver in my year to go and get a full-time job rather than go to college or sixth form, and it was as if I was doing something wrong from the things that were said by close friends and even friends’ parents!
If you’re good at it, it makes you happy and it will pay the bills, that’s the perfect job — don’t plan for anything else!
How do you keep in touch with Portland Place?
I haven’t spoken to any of the teachers, but I do see old class mates. I live local to Jimmy Coles, a good friend of mine who I bump into and message. Also, not so long ago I ran into Miles Spooner and Chris Hewitt in a pub, which was a good laugh!