Former La Swap Sixth Form students including Michael Palin’s daughter Rachel and columnist David Aaronovitch give career advice at alumni event

From left: David Aaronovitch, Rachel Palin and Jack Stevens. Picture: Polly Hancock

From left: David Aaronovitch, Rachel Palin and Jack Stevens. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The daughter of Monty Python star Michael Palin and political journalist David Aaronovitch were among former Parliament Hill pupils giving career advice to showcase a new alumni network.

Rachel Palin, a TV producer and director who has worked on MasterChef: The Professionals, and Times columnist Mr Aaronovitch joined two other former students of La Swap Sixth Form in Highgate Road to give teenagers an insight into their career successes.

The event showcased a charity initiative to turn state schools across the country into networking communities, based on a successful model already in place at many private schools.

Rachel Palin, who grew up in Gospel Oak, told the 16 and 17-year-old students: “You have to do what you love otherwise you will just be miserable.

“I started off as a runner making tea, getting no money and doing all the things that no-one else can be bothered to do. It’s thankless but you get to talk to everyone on set.

“If you love it, you can cope with having no money and not being thanked when you get someone a cup of tea.”

Rachel, who left La Swap Sixth Form in 1993, studied history at Oxford University and then worked her way up through the ranks to produce episodes of MasterChef: The Professionals, where chefs instead of amateurs take part in the cooking competition.

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She was one of four alumni invited to Parliament Hill School on Monday (October 14) to talk in detail about their personal career path and their advice for any students who want to follow in their footsteps.

Columnist David Aaronovitch, 59, attended William Ellis School in Highgate Road before it became part of La Swap Sixth Form consortium - which is made up of La Sainte Union, William Ellis, Acland Burghley and Parliament Hill schools.

“To be a writer, you need to know whether you have enough to say and if you can write it in a way that people will want to read it,” he said.

“It is not vastly different from doing essays. You have to organise your thoughts. The problem of not knowing what you want to say does go away though as at university, you get more freedom about what you want to do.”

Barrister Louise O’Callaghan and musician Jack Stevens, who has played on the soundtrack of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, also spoke at the event.

The alumni talk was part of charity Future First’s work to build alumni networks at more than 500 schools in the UK so former students can act as role models, give advice and offer work experience.

Programme director of Future First, Talia Randall, 28, said: “It works in private schools and we want to enable that in state schools because the model has been such a fantastic success.”