Neil Thomas was a student at Wolverhampton Grammar School between 1975 and 1980. After leaving School Neil went on to join West Midlands Police as a cadet.
What influenced your parents to send you to the Grammar?
In the 1970’s we had an exam at primary school called the 11 plus, which was the accepted way to gain entrance to WGS in the Wolverhampton catchment area. My elder brother Nigel had joined WGS a couple of years prior to me taking the exam so it was with great relief when I too managed to join the school. For my parents there was no consideration of a ‘Plan B’, which certainly focused my mind at the time.
What was it like and what do you particularly remember about your time here?
My success in the 11 plus examination gave me a false sense of academic security, and I remember coming down to earth with a bump when I was up against my peers who had likewise achieved their rite of passage to the school.
Despite the challenges I enjoyed my time at the school and represented the school at a number of sports during my early years, including football, Fives and badminton, although I later realised I needed to focus more on the academic side of life if I was to achieve a decent career, which is exactly what I did towards the end of my school career.
The strict sense of discipline and adherence to the rules at the time seemed so unnecessary, however in later life I can see that it certainly helped reinforce the values and standards I now possess.
I have always relished a challenge and when the visiting careers advisor told me I would never be accepted in to police due to the high standards and the numbers of candidates that was just the incentive I needed to push myself into what turned out to be a very fulfilling ‘first career’.
The only alternative I considered was working in the automotive industry due to my love of cars.
I have no doubt whatsoever that having WGS on my very limited CV, at the time, was a massive step in the right direction, and it has helped throughout my professional career too.
Are you still in touch with anyone from WGS?
Following their academic careers, WGS students travel the world, and I keep in touch with several friends from my days at the school. When you do leave, there remains a strong connection so rest assured your friends, teachers and alumni will be there for you, as mine have, for years to come.
What have you been doing since leaving School?
Following eighteen months as a police cadet, I joined West Midlands Police as an officer and worked all over the West Midlands area, working my way up the ranks to become a Detective Inspector in charge of a team of sixty investigators.
Despite being not quite as you see it on TV, the police service can be a very exciting, challenging and rewarding occupation and I am proud to have served the communities of the region for thirty years.
When first career came to an end, I joined the private sector and took my investigation and management knowledge into the private sector.
Having always felt I missed out on achieving some of the academic success enjoyed by my school peers, I self-funded a Masters course in Management and Leadership and several other qualifications to ensure I could compete in the market place.
I now work for a company who look after over five thousand prestige cars, including Ferrari’s, Bentley’s and most other high value makes, so after all this time I guess I have finally been able to merge my police career with my on-going love of cars.
What advice would you give to a parent of a child thinking of sending their child to Wolverhampton Grammar School?
Every parent wants to give their children the best start in life and in my opinion the quality of academic and social development at WGS is second to none.
What advice would you give to a current student/someone about to leave the School?
Enjoy your time at the school and although you may sometimes be casually glancing out of the window thinking you could be doing something you enjoy more, consider how delighted you and your family were when you were first accepted into WGS, the feeling of excitement and trepidation when you first sat in ‘Big school’ and gazed up at the imposing stained glass windows and remember you have truly laid the foundations for an exciting and fulfilling life.