Testimonials – COVID-19 Related

Please send any more alumni messages about their roles/jobs they have during these difficult times to scain@stmaryschesterfield.org.uk



  I left St. Mary’s in 2008 – which worryingly now means I have spent almost as much time outside of school as inside. I’ll try not to dwell on that for too long. I noticed that you are interested in hearing from alumni (past St Mary’s pupils) who have been working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I thought I might share some of my experiences.

 I currently work as a mathematical modeler for Public Health England – a job that I started in September 2019. It’s been quite the first year. All of my work over the last 9 months has focused on helping to monitor, analyse and forecast the Covid-19 pandemic. The work that we do at PHE helps to provide the UK government with the best possible scientific advice, and ultimately helps to guide government policy. 

 The role of a mathematical modeler is to use mathematics and computer programming to simulate how disease might spread through the population. By doing this we hope to understand how the disease can be slowed, and ultimately relieve pressure on the NHS. We work closely with other researchers from a number of fields including medical doctors, epidemiologists (disease specialists), geographers, behavioral scientists and computer scientists – both from the public sector and from universities – whose expertise all help to contribute to the models we put together. 

 I don’t really have any advice that people won’t have already heard. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don’t share handkerchiefs with strangers. That kind of thing. I can, however, reiterate that this advice does come from a solid scientific grounding, and that following it really does make a difference. The work done by our front-line NHS staff (a job which is ten thousand times more difficult than mine) has been nothing short of incredible, and we should be doing everything we can to make their jobs easier!

 The real unsung heroes of this pandemic, however, have been young people. A lot has been made in the media about how this virus doesn’t affect children. I personally think this is nonsense. This pandemic has brought extreme disruption to the social and academic lives of our young people, and it is only through their adaptability and resilience that they have managed to cope. I have no doubt that the teaching staff at St Mary’s will be doing all they can to help guide their students through these difficult times, and that the students will once again begin to thrive as a result. 

 Best wishes, Joe


I left St. Mary’s in 2012 after A-Levels, going on to study at The University of Manchester until I graduated in 2016. I then started my career in the e-commerce beauty industry at Lookfantastic.com, before moving onto my current role as a Senior E-commerce Specialist working at Expedia in the travel industry.

As you can expect, Expedia was hit hard due to COVID-19, where we saw customer volumes drop by up to 99% vs in 2019! This meant that Expedia was making no money, and in fact lost $200m+ dollars within 3 months as customers were seeking refunds, which of course they should get. This meant thousands of job redundancies and furloughs in travel companies such as Expedia and Booking.com, so it has been quite a scary experience! However, I am lucky enough to be able to still work from home without being furloughed or made redundant and my focus is now to help Expedia recover its lost customers who are nervous about travelling.

Two things I have learnt during this pandemic is how difficult it can be to be a parent and a full-time worker (I’m not a parent yet but I can tell as I’m looking after my siblings who are in Year 7 at St. Mary’s), as parents have to work and look after their children who are off school. It isn’t an easy task trying to get them to do homework or something productive! I’ve also learnt that so many people are wanting to travel, and there will be a boom in travel again when the pandemic ends. This goes to show that where there is life, there is travel. So please do stay home, stay safe and stay healthy – and when this all ends, go and experience the World which we have taken for granted!


I left St Mary’s RC High School in the summer of 1998 and strongly believed that I would become a P.E Teacher like the legendary Sandy Ellis & Christine Cowley however my path took a very different turn, one which I have never looked back from.

I fell into a job working at the local tax office where I specialised in VAT for 8 years but in 2012, I was lucky enough to branch out into HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service.  I have worked as a Higher Investigation Officer/Criminal Investigator for the Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) within HM Revenue & Customs for the last 8 years.

My role ordinarily involves tackling Organised Crime Groups who evade paying millions in duty to the Crown every year, from illicit tobacco factories to large scale Alcohol Diversion Fraud, every day is different. It is my job to investigate, catch and prosecute criminals who commit fraudulent offences both in the UK and other parts of the world.

As a Law Enforcement Officer, it gives me a great sense of pride knowing that I contribute to reducing crime across the UK as well as recovering Proceeds of Crime which can be put back into our tax system.

As employees we all have a responsibility to make monthly National Insurance contributions, and at a time like this with Covid19 becoming a National Pandemic, these contributions are vital as they are used to fund services such as our fabulous NHS.

When Covid19 hit the UK HMRC’s Senior Leadership Teams held urgent briefings to establish how they could help the UK residents, and recognised early on the financial implications this would have on thousands of families across the country.

Within a month HMRC had created the ‘Job Retention Scheme’ and this was launched successfully on 20th April 2020.  The ‘Job Retention Scheme’ forms part of a collective national effort to protect people’s jobs and will pay up to 80% of an individual’s salary (capped*).

So, what are we doing now? Well it is true to say that whilst working from home, Criminal Cases are still being processed, albeit at a slower rate. However, the priority is working together to tackle the effects of Covid19.

To date 10,200 employees of HMRC have been drafted in from various departments, including mine, to process claims from the ‘Job Retention Scheme’ in the forthcoming weeks, 6,000 of which will also dedicate/give up their weekends to field calls. Employers can claim through our online service, supported by a virtual assistant, web chat and phone lines.

On the first day of the ‘Job Retention Scheme’ being launched, HMRC had successfully processed 140,000 claims from employers, with a total value of more than £1 billion covering over one million employees.

In addition to the ‘Job Retention Scheme’, a number of my colleagues and I have registered as NHS volunteers. Maybe this is something you could consider. As a community if we can lighten the work of our NHS by volunteering to carry out smaller tasks such as delivering prescriptions etc. I cannot see any reason not to.

We all need to follow the guidance of staying at home during these testing times. But although it feels like a dark time I am full of hope seeing the country come together to beat Covid 19, and I know we will.


I like many Technicians who work in schools have been using my skills to make PPE. Parkside School where I work now were able to secure some crowd funding to be able to make face shields to help local care homes and doctors surgery’s. We have also designed bands to relieve pressure behind the ears caused by wearing face masks. Finally we have been supporting the ‘Pairs of hearts’ project, making fabric, wool and wooden hearts to give comfort to those who can’t see their families.


I left St Mary’s in 2009, and have tried a few jobs, predominantly in the education sector, however I always had a dream to join the police force, which in September last year became a reality. No two days are ever the same and I go to work with a smile on my face every day. Current times are hard, but as someone out in the community I see the great work people are doing to overcome the current situation. Stay safe and look after each other.’


I work in grant making and we’re funding charities through Covid-19 both with our own and Government monies. Charities do such a massive amount of work within communities, in areas you might not think they’d be working, and support a huge number of different groups. We fund organisations that work in a range of sectors, from early years, isolation, mental health, offending, substance use, homelessness right through to providing physical spaces for people in community centres etc. We generally distribute over half a billion pounds each year, thanks to National Lottery players, which goes to supporting brilliant projects. These are needed now more than ever and its a privilege to be involved, even in a small way.

Message to current students; Communities are fantastic and people working together really helps during this time. You can help with this – your local Council for Voluntary Service can give good pointers. Don’t forget too to look after yourselves and your families (and the amazing NHS) by staying safe and staying in where you can, this won’t last forever.


I left St. Mary’s 6th form after A-levels in 1994. I’m now an air traffic controller working at the London En-Route centre covering the airspace over and immediately around England and Wales. These are concerning times for all of us. At work we’ve seen our traffic levels (and consequently revenue) fall by over 90% and while it’s quite nice to have a break from the usual deluge of aircraft approaching and departing UK airspace this is obviously a concerning situation that could lead to the collapse of many aviation related companies without some kind of government intervention. The vast majority of support staff at my company are now working from home and many are on the government’s furlough scheme which is buying valuable time for all of us. Controllers, like me, along with essential support staff (engineering and others) have to continue working as there are still crucial freight operations and the odd repatriation flight whizzing around at all times of the day and night but it definitely doesn’t feel like a standard shift. Our company has taken amazing steps to ensure our safety as far as practicable with lots more cleaning throughout the day and the supply of antibacterial gels and as much distancing as we can. Unfortunately by the nature of the job we all share keyboards, mice and radar consoles so we’ve cut down the size of the teams working at any one time to the minimum to still ensure a safe operation. Weird times but I’m confident we can all come through this and who knows, maybe it will be the catalyst for looking at alternative ways of working as we move further into the 21st Century. These may not only improve efficiency within the business world but could allow for more environmentally beneficial practices and, dare I say it, less business generated aviation? Stay safe everyone and STAY HOME!


My names Fran, I left Sixth From in 2008, I’m now have a Masters in nursing and work at Kings Mill Hospital in the Emergency department.








I was a pupil at the old St Mary’s at Cross Street, Chesterfield. I’m 63 now no longer working through ill health. I was was a carer for 30 years and wish all the care workers and NHS staff all the best and huge thanks as we get through this crisis together.


My job, as Head of Policy and Campaigning for a charity called the Parent-Infant Foundation, involves thinking about the needs of our youngest children – from pregnancy to age 2. We’ve been really concerned about the impact of the lockdown on babies who are in very vulnerable families. I’ve been coordinating a number of charities working together to raise this issue. You can see a news article about our work here: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-09/babies-may-be-at-greater-risk-as-health-staff-are-redeployed-to-tackle-covid-19/ We’ll be continuing to try and ensure babies’ needs are considered throughout the lockdown and recovery period.
If any of the students want to find out more about my work, they could follow on twitter @salhogg.
Message to current students I hope that the crisis might help you to focus on what really matters to you, to your families and to your communities, and that you might learn things that help guide the important decisions you will make in the years ahead. My career choices were shaped by work experience I did with a local doctor in Staveley. Through that experience I learned how much poverty and disadvantage shaped people’s lives and I’ve been working on issues around poverty and social justice ever since.


I am a key worker, in no way on the front line but I thought it would be worth sharing what my part of the NHS is doing and what my role has been in that. I work for NHS England and NHS Improvement, you often see our CEO, Chief Nurse and Medical Director on the news as they are supporting the PM briefings. We have a leadership role across the whole NHS. We are organising supply lines for PPE, creation of the Nightingale hospitals, bringing back staff to the NHS and launched a health and well being resource for the whole of the NHS workforce. I am the Director of HR and OD Operations and my teams are providing our Incident Coordination Centres with resources and support, we are ensuring our staff are safe and well and provided with the support they need to either come into work or work from home. To say we have been busy is an understatement and yet we have all worked long hours because we know what we are trying to achieve and how important it is for us all. I am sharing this so that your students know how many other roles are critical in the delivery of NHS services.
Message to current students: It’s a great career. We are using analysts, project managers, administrators, finance and HR professionals, policy writers, communications experts and so on, the list is endless.


Message to current students
I would just like to say how important exercise is whilst at home, maybe in the garden doing star jumps/froggy jumps/ice skaters etc just 10 minutes or a bit less, it should give you a mental lift.This should be done every day, and in this nice weather a short walk also.
It is also so important to exercise as it strengthens the immune system so if at risk of being infected it can help to avoid this.