In our latest edition of The Old Oakhamian Magazine, we caught up with OO and Director of Admissions Anna Steiger to discuss her return to the School.
Stepping back onto Chapel Close some 24 years after leaving, OO Anna Steiger (née Hickinbotham) (‘97) has made a very welcome return to our campus as Director of Admissions. As one of five siblings having attended the School, Anna’s fond memories of life at Oakham run deep and her new role will see her welcoming pupils just like herself to the Oakham family. We caught up with Anna to discuss her past, present, and future with Oakham School.
The lessons I learnt at Oakham have stayed, and will stay, with me for life. My connection with the School has made me who I am today. Learning to never give up and to keep trying when things get tough is something that I’ve really learnt to value in my years since leaving the School. Perseverance and hard work are at the core of Oakham and they are encouraged from the moment you join. The work ethic that it’s OK to fail and try again is something that I want to now pass onto my own children.
There’s always a buzz of something happening at the School and that’s still very true today. I always felt very involved in the Oakham community and was very drawn to the family feel you get when you walk through the gates. The School hasn’t changed much since my time here; it has still got the same great atmosphere and it’s fantastic being back. Many OOs have a huge affection for Oakham and a number of pupils I went to School with now have children of their own here. I think people have very positive experiences of life at the School which resonate with them long after they leave.
Oakham’s versatility ensures it’s a home for all; no matter what your interests may be. My four sisters and I all went to the School and whilst we all had very different interests and aspirations, Oakham catered for each of us individually and allowed us to succeed in our own interests. The same will be said for my three children; Bella (9), Thomas (6) and Mathilda (22-months-old) when they come to the School because whilst I know each of them will begin to carve their own pathways as they grow up, they can come here and experience all of the amazing opportunities I had growing up.
My shy personality didn’t last long when I arrived at the School. Initially quite a reserved young girl when I joined, the sociable opportunities I had at Oakham were outstanding and really helped to bring me out of my shell. We were always able to mix with other pupils inside and outside of the classroom and you always felt like you belonged. A lot of the time we’d be socialising in an academic manner as I remember going to my friend’s house for a Medieval banquet as part of the History Society which was so much fun.
The thing about Oakham is, you know the teachers aren’t just here for a job; they’re a big part of the School. They care about their pupils greatly and you know that to them this isn’t just another job, as they really absorb the School atmosphere and provide a sense of fun and genuine happiness. My History teacher Mr Temkin was always a firm favourite for me and my friends because he used to buy us treats from Stricklands Bakery on a Saturday morning before one of his lessons.
Pictured above: Ancaster House photo in 1990-1991 academic year. Anna is in the second row from the top, second from right
Some of my fondest memories include my time in Chapel, playing lacrosse and participating in athletics and the lifelong friendships I made, which I still cherish today. Singing in Chapel and during Congo are some of my favourite memories and it has been lovely to witness recent Congo events and know the tradition is still as thriving as ever. I was also very into sport and loved doing athletics throughout my time at Oakham. I used to volunteer to help the Lower School with running their events as part of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. I loved lacrosse too, but the friendships I made through sport, classes, my Houses and from being in the School environment were significant.
Monty the School python was always a lot of fun in our classes and it’s not something you’d see in today’s lessons. It seems funny to remember this now, but Monty was the School python and used to slither around the Biology classroom during our lessons. It really felt like he was our School pet, and everyone knew him well – with a lot of pupils even giving him regular cuddles!
Oakham isn’t just for the pupils; the parents love their involvement in the School. Whilst Oakham was a fantastic place for me and the other pupils, many of our parents had, and some still have, great connections with the School. My mum is part of the Choral Society and comes back to the School to sing in Chapel. Our School Chaplain, Rev Darrall is also the one who christened me and prepared me for my Confirmation. Later on, he officiated my wedding ceremony, just showing how deep our connections to the School run.
Independent Schools have always been in my life and I’m proud to be where I am today. After I left school, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I took a gap year where I went to Sydney and ended up working for a boarding school out there. Then after my Geography degree at Manchester University, I worked in Media Sales for Hobsons. It was here that I ended up working on the Hobsons Guide to UK Boarding Schools (now known as Metropolis) and became its publisher.
Life is co-educational. Having worked for Queenswood, an all girls’ school and Bedford, an all-boys’ school, it has been fascinating coming to a co-educational school. Oakham does co-education very well and it has a great balance of everything. There are good equal opportunities for everyone, and the School is truly 50/50 rather than it being an afterthought. Oakham is known for being a leader in its field and we’re not afraid to challenge ourselves.
We want Oakham School to represent an inclusive community which nurtures happy and aspirational children. With many different entry points available to join the School, our complex and diverse admissions process is unique. We provide an education for boys and girls who are local, national, and international, with a breadth of subjects and co-curricular activities. We treat pupils as individuals and recognise that our 50/50 split of day and boarding pupils and our 50/50 split of girls and boys is a key dynamic of Oakham. Above all, I believe we’re defined by our all-round opportunities; our role at Oakham is to encourage children to try new things so that they can discover where their strengths and passions lie.
Find out more about Admissions at Oakham School.