Grovian Stories | Woodhouse Grove School

Dr Aaron Soane

Left The Grove in 2015

Aaron kindly came into school recently to host a Q&A session for current Grovians considering a career in medicine. Here are his responses to some of the questions asked:

Why did you choose this course?

I enjoyed science at school and I always enjoyed interacting with people. I wanted a job that would allow me to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

I feel privileged to be able to look after people when they are at their most vulnerable. Being able to assess, diagnose and treat patients’ illnesses is really rewarding. From prescribing pain relief to performing procedures, you never stop learning new skills or improving existing ones.

What did you learn from the Grove which is benefitting you now?

Confidence in my own abilities; teachers and boarding staff always encouraged me to improve and try new things, both in and out of the classroom. The social skills I developed at school have helped carry me through all aspects of my life; from making friends at uni to working with senior consultants.


James Whitcombe

Rugby Player

As soon as James arrived at The Grove, he made his presence felt on the rugby pitch. He has also played for Skipton and then Bradford & Bingley before achieving his current position playing prop for Leicester Tigers Academy.

James was capped for the England U18 in South Africa  where he played a 3 test series.

James currently plays prop for Leicester Tigers. He has has some rather large rugby boots to fill; his great grandfather, Frank Whitcombe, is described as among the greatest Welsh rugby league forwards and his father, Martin, reached first-team status at Leicester Tigers, making 68 appearances in the 1980s.

Martin said: “We can’t thank Keith Jones, Roger Howard, Adrian Sweeney and the rest of the staff at Woodhouse Grove enough for their support.”

James was asked what  three things he would want if he was stranded on a desert island. His answer: my phone, some food and…a rugby ball.


Tom Bould

Squadron Leader

Tom joined Woodhouse Grove in Brontë House in 1988 and left The Grove in 2000. He is married to Danielle – also an Old Grovian – and they have two children, Sebastian and Eleanor.

After leaving The Grove, Tom studied Aerospace Engineering at Manchester University and completed his elementary flight training as a member of Manchester and Salford University Air Squadron. In 2005, he joined the Royal Air Force, where he was streamed to operate fast-jets. He flew the Typhoon – the RAF’s multi-role combat aircraft – and during his front line tour had several deployments to the Falkland Islands as well as exercises in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

Tom was accepted as a member of the Red Arrows display team in 2015. He has recently been promoted to Squadron Leader and selected to be Red 1. As Red 1, he is primarily responsible for all aspects of the display, from running the training programme and creating and choreographing a new 20-minute aerobatic show, to leading the nine-aircraft.

“The education I received from The Grove was more than just about academic success. It gave me the self belief to challenge myself and the resilience required to achieve my ambitions. My time at The Grove and the all round education gave me the tools I needed to be part of a high performance team; including the confidence and humility to lead it.”

Becky Ives

Reporter & Presenter

Becky works in Sports Broadcasting as a TV Presenter, working for various companies such as BT Sport and Premier League across a range of sports – but with the main focus on football.

Following The Grove, Becky studied for 2 years at the University of Teesside, before a further 3 years at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. After this, some serious hustle, networking and making the most of opportunities got her to where she is today!

 “Sport has always been my passion and I feel lucky that The Grove gave me the opportunity to try a wide range of sports that aren’t always easily accessible to all. School Ski Trips, international mountaineering expeditions and D of E courses gave me a wealth of experience and taught me a lot about commitment and determination!

I also regularly played sport at school to a high level and so gained an understanding of how competitive sport works. I was 1st team netball Captain and also Captain of the Swimming Team and learnt some invaluable lessons about leadership, communication and teamwork – which I still utilise today.

Woodhouse Grove gave me the foundations to turn my passion into a job. I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days with top level athletes, pundits and fellow broadcasters talking about Sport…all of which started at The Grove.” 

Emma Humphreys

Law - Principal Associate

Emma left the Grove in 2006 and took a Gap year before starting her degree in Law (with Criminology) at the University of Manchester. During this time she lived and worked in Bangkok, where she enjoyed playing in the Bangkok Netball League and joined an amateur dramatic company – two loves instilled during her time at The Grove. She also travelled widely during her holidays.

Emma graduated in 2010 and started a two year training contract to become a solicitor a year later, after first completing her post-grad qualification, the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Once qualified, she moved to Eversheds Sutherland in 2013, specialising in employment law, labour and business immigration. She has been fortunate enough to be involved in a number of high profile and reported cases for household names.

Emma now works in London as a Principal Associate – with aspirations of partnership!

“I am so thankful to the Grove for all it has given me.  It goes without saying that the excellent education I received stood me in good stead at university and my career. I look back with such fondness at my A-level classes in particular and how engaging, interesting and fun they were.  That was predominantly down to the teachers – who are clearly passionate about their subjects and their students. However, the Grove it is much more than this.  It is not just a school that teaches students how to pass exams, but also develops well-rounded individuals who learn the importance of working as a team, treating people with dignity and respect and recognising that we all have something to offer. The opportunities I received have instilled a desire in me to do my best and be the best I can – whether in the exam room, on the netball court, on stage, personally or professionally.  The Grove taught me how to tackle challenges and sze opportunities with same enthusiasm and has given me life-long friendships which I will treasure forever.”

Andrew Smith

Lord Mayor of Westminster

After leaving The Grove Andrew studied at the University of St Andrew’s, followed by a Masters at the University of Aberystwyth.  After graduation he started working for the Conservative Research Department, alongside another Old Grovian and A level history classmate Mathew Gulick, now a leading QC.

After a spell working for a member of the then Conservative Shadow Cabinet in Parliament, Andrew then moved into public affairs consultancy and now works for the international PR firm Weber Shandwick as a Senior Vice-President and the Head of their Public Affairs practice in London, advising a range of multinational businesses on their relationships with policymakers and regulators.  Andrew also served as Councillor in the City of Westminster for 13 years, serving as a member of the council’s cabinet and, between 2021 and 2022, Lord Mayor of the City.

I owe a lot to Woodhouse Grove. As a dyslexic it gave me the support I needed to succeed academically, but probably, most importantly, it helped to foster and direct my thirst for knowledge.  I was lucky to have some inspiring teachers in history and religious studies and through studying history to grow my interest in politics and public service.  Over the years, I have also appreciated the moral grounding that both study and worship at The Grove Instilled in me.  

Dr Kulwant Johal

Managing Director

After leaving Woodhouse Grove, Kulwant studied Polymer Chemistry at Lancaster University and graduated with a 2.1 in 1992. He then completed his PhD at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in Polymer Science and Technology at the Universities of Bradford, Leeds and Durham sponsored by the Chemical giant, ICI.

Kulwant then changed career and trained as a Chartered Accountant with Price Waterhouse and BKR Haines Watts. In 2000, he joined the family businesses and has worked with Samsung and Panasonic in the retail business, eventually settling on Property Development with Piccadilly Properties Ltd which specialises in transforming Industrial Heritage and Grade II listed buildings.

The Grove was life changing for me and instilled in me a sense of self and helped me fulfil the aspirations that my parents had for me when they sent me as the first Johal back in 1984. 

The Grove has always had great teachers, Mrs Morris and Mr Driver encouraged and inspired me that anything was possible. The moral compass, resilience and knowledge I gained, along with the problem solving skills have stood me well in my career.

These life skills are what the Grove excels in, with a combination of hard work and fun!