Rachel Flanders - photoRachel Flanders (1999-2010)

I joined Bolton School in 1999, when I went into the Junior School in Year 6.  I continued into the Senior School, where I found my strengths in Maths and Science.  After my GCSEs I got a taste for adventure when reading James Cracknell and Ben Fogle’s book about rowing across the Atlantic.  Instead of returning for my A Levels, I decided to take a gap year and in December 2007 I found myself in La Gomera getting ready to set off across the Atlantic in a small boat with three other women.  For 74 days we rowed in pairs for two hours and then rested for two hours; we did this for 24 hours a day.  Bolton School gave me a lot of support and I remember taking a bag full of letters from my School friends to open while out at sea.  On 14th February 2008 we arrived into English Harbour, Antigua, exhausted, hungry and unclean – but my efforts had earned me a World Record for the youngest person to row an ocean.

Once I had got my land legs back I returned to Bolton School the following September to start my A Levels in the three Sciences and Maths.  During my time at Bolton School and out in the Atlantic I found a passion in Engineering and practical problem solving.  I therefore studied Engineering at Durham University and graduated in 2014 with an MEng in Mechanical Engineering.  Last year I joined BAE Systems on the Graduate Development Framework and work in Barrow-in-Furness on Nuclear Submarines for the Royal Navy.

I have decided to move away from engineering for now and work within the Operations and Manufacturing Function, although some of my engineering skills do come into use!  As part of the Graduate Scheme I move around the function for two years and have so far had a massive range of experiences, managing a Submarine Unit during production and all the trades working on it, working on the design of the Trident replacement, working on manufacturing efficiency projects, working directly for and shadowing the Operations Director and I am currently working in the Operations Strategy Team.  The variety of work I am involved in extends to my home life, as I now live with my partner on his dairy farm in Western Cumbria.  So, after a hard day working in the Submarines business, I go home to help milk 250 cows and feed calves!  Unfortunately farming was not a skill I ever learnt at School; however, my ability to tackle any challenge head on is credit to my time at Bolton School.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

I was a pupil at Bolton School, as was my brother Richard.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

I think the best memory from my time at Bolton School is singing Jerusalem in assembly – it was the one song where everyone stood up and gave it their all!

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at School?

Mrs McCann, my Physics Teacher, terrified me when I was in Year Seven, but as I went through the School I developed a lot of respect for her and thoroughly enjoyed her lessons when she taught me Physics in the Sixth Form.

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

During my time at Bolton School I was supported throughout and allowed to be myself in a safe and caring environment.  I believe that my experience at School has been paramount to what I have achieved.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Do something you are passion about, interested in and enjoy!  Make sure you choose a career which suits you.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?

I think that everyone should be given the opportunity to have the Bolton School experience, as in my opinion, it is second to none.