Our NewVIc Story: Kate and Matthew Neal

Matthew: Kate and I both attended NewVIc from 2010 to 2012.

Kate: That’s where we met actually.

Matthew: Yes, we met on the first day in our first lesson together; Geography.

Kate: I was running late and remember walking in and spotting Matt straight away.

Matthew: I, on the other hand, was completely oblivious to the world. Before NewVIc I was a pretty shy person.

Kate: But I told him a terrible joke and he opened up a bit after that.

Matthew: Our friendship was cemented when we discovered we were in the same lesson after lunch; drama. Drama has always been one of my favourite subjects. It was one of the reasons I picked NewVic. I knew that their theatre department was great and that I would be able to do well there. Drama has always been a real place of freedom for me. It was the one subject which allowed me to explore who I was whilst gaining better empathy for others.

Kate: Yes, drama is about starting with an idea and building and improving it. In drama lessons there is space to take risks and make mistakes, knowing that the teachers would be there to help you improve.

Matthew: After a couple of weeks hanging out together and being in the same lessons, we started dating.

Kate: Which meant that we could help each other…

Matthew: …and distract each other.

Kate: But we both wanted to do well so we didn’t let it get in the way.

Matthew: I was also studying English Literature and Philosophy…

Kate: …whilst I did English Language and Literature and Music Performance. I loved singing and have done from a young age. I wanted to keep improving and learn more about how music is put together. Music Performance was a practical way of doing that. The teachers always pushed me to try different styles which led me to a deep love of jazz. The one to one support they gave me were extremely helpful too. My singing teacher gave me a lot of confidence in myself. It must have worked because I got a distinction star. Despite my love for Music, it was Geography that I chose to do at University.

Matthew: We spent a lot of time looking at different universities. We applied separately but we both got into Staffordshire University. I studied English and Creative Writing. I loved reading from a young age. Although I was never great at the academic side of things, I studied English Literature at NewVIc because of my love of books. My teachers really helped me improve my essay writing skills. They had a real passion for stories, for picking them apart and seeing how and why they worked. We also learnt a lot about critical theory which is a fundamental part of English at university. Their passion for studying books was contagious and opened me up to a whole new layer of reading.

Kate: As I said, I did Geography. Although I had lived in London my whole life I had a real passion for the natural world. In my lessons at NewVIc I had always opted for natural over human geography, a choice not shared by most of the class. This led me to do a lot of supported independent study. My teacher helped me find the right books and resources to tackle a different exam topic. I also spent a lot of time in the library studying. This supported individualised approach really helped me at university, as I already had some of the skills needed to organise and motivate myself to do well. Being diagnosed at NewVic for visual dyslexia and dyspraxia also meant that I could get the help I needed both at college and at university. And it explained why I was never really into reading.

Matt: We both gained firsts at university and wanted to come back to Newham to work. We got married in August in Plaistow and moved into a flat on Barking Road. We got a job with a local charity, Alternatives Trust East London, as part of their Education Department; REALationships. Now we work with young people in schools and colleges delivering Relationship and Sex Education and running drop-in sessions. Newham, and NewVic gave us so much and we really want to give back. Our work with REALationships allows us to work with young people and really make a difference. We were inspired to help young people in Newham by having so many good teachers who were patient when we were slow to learn and who never stopped pushing us to be better. REALationships had been around whilst we were at NewVIc, coming in with stalls, providing helpful relationship advice and a place to ask questions.

Kate: They helped me and Matt in our relationship by answering questions we had and by being non-judgemental. It’s great that we can now be working with them to help other young people get the same support.

Matt: And it’s great to see NewVIc is still full of aspirational students and inspirational teachers.

Kate Neal and Matthew Neal – NewVIc class of 2012.

You can find out more about REALationships and Alternatives East London here:


Previous My NewVIc story posts:

My NewVIc story: Kabir Jagwani

My NewVIc story: Raymond Fernandez.

My NewVIc Story: Amritpal Gill.

My NewVIc story: Nazia Sultana

My NewVIc Story: Supreet Kaur

My NewVIc story: Joseph Toonga

My NewVIc story: Rumana Ali

My NewVIc story: Zakiyah Qureshi

My NewVIc story: Husnain Nasim

My NewVIc story: Airey Grant



About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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