Success Stories Archive - Reed Business School

Robert Lay, another ICAEW prize winner!

Fantastic news from one of our final year ICAEW students, Robert Lay, who recently was a prize winner with the ICAEW awards. Here we catch up with him.

“I am a trainee and apprentice at Whitley Stimpson Ltd in the Banbury office. I’m involved in a variety of accountancy and tax work, where I put all my studies into practice.

I was truly delighted to receive this award, which is for the joint sixth highest average scores across all the certificate papers in 2022. There were six certificate level exams, three of which I studied independently before attending Reed to study for the three remaining.

I have been very impressed by the tutors’ knowledge and expertise, and their ability to discuss and explain topics from different perspectives, when I have struggled to understand them initially. The administrative, catering and maintenance staff at Reed are also highly commendable, they are dedicated to facilitating the best learning environment possible.

My apprenticeship learning coach from Reed has really helped me to build my confidence in the workplace and guided me carefully through the preparations for the end point assessment requirements.”

“For Robert to be named an ICAEW prize winner is an amazing achievement. We are very proud of the hard work and dedication Robert puts into his studies and delighted this has been rewarded with such outstanding exam success. We are privileged to have him as part of our team and wish him every success in his future career and development with us.”

Ian Parker, Director at Whitley Stimpson

Lily Gammon L7 Apprentice and ICAEW award winner for the 3rd time!

We are very proud of one of recently qualified students, Lily Gammon, who has just been awarded the Deloitte prize with the International Annual Orders of Merit with ICAEW 2022 for being the second highest achieving student globally. Lily works as a senior with PKF Francis Clark in Plymouth. Well done Lily!

Oliver Soans L4&L7 Apprentice

A Double Winner!

Reed Business School is proud to announce that Oliver won two prizes at the latest ICAEW Annual International Order of Merit awards. Firstly the Simon Morris Memorial prize for the Highest Non-Graduate Student and the Northcott prize being fourth overall. He said ‘They were both very unexpected.’

Being a student at Reed Business School

I have adapted well to remote learning but I’m looking forward to coming back to Reed Business School and resume my studies face-to-face as this suits my learning better’. Oliver enjoys the interaction with other students and the tutor, but mostly misses the food at Reed! Reed Business School has really helped with small class sizes, face-to- face learning and being a residential setting all mean he can focus. The skills and Behaviours are an enjoyable part of the apprenticeship and he feels these relate to his everyday working life.


His tips for success (especially remote learning) is to be prepared, have everything you need to hand so you are not distracted trying to find things once you have started. He also sets aside an hour every night for revision, and finds this structure soon becomes a normal part of the day. He emphasised the importance of good notes and lots of question practice!


Oliver praised his employer H L Barnes in Stratford upon Avon ‘They have been very supportive in particular offering new experiences to consolidate my learning and being flexible with my study needs’.

Interested in being an starting your apprenticeship training with us?

Click here Apprenticeships – Reed Business School

Lily Gammon L7 Apprentice Prize Winner Again!

Lily is a Winner Again!

Lily was thrilled to receive a bottle of champagne from Sir Alec Reed for the Arthur Swinson prize with the latest ICAEW Annual International Order of Merit awards. She said ‘The prize was a complete surprise’ when she opened the email ‘but fantastic to be a prize winner for the second time’ (Lily won the Knox prize in Tax Compliance). There will be an awards ceremony in April this year that she hopes to attend.


Lily went on to say that lockdown learning has suited her as she found the live Teams lessons easy to follow and it means she can stay at home. Her tips for learning are to plan well in advance and go over questions as much as you can.


Being a level 7 apprentice, her employer is an integral part of her learning, she added ‘My employer PKF-Francis Clark in Plymouth are very supportive.  I can approach other staff with a topic I’m struggling with, as there is always there who has done it before!’. She finds the the Skills and Behaviours a useful part of the apprenticeship and a valuable part of the course.

And Finally …

Lily has her finals in July and we look forward to hearing about her next success story.

Interested in being an starting your apprenticeship training with us?

Click here Apprenticeships – Reed Business School

Lily Gammon L7 Apprentice

Celebrating student success – Lily Gammon

This month we caught up with Lily Gammon, a Senior at PKF Francis Clark, who is currently completing her ACA qualification with us as a Level 7 Apprentice, and who recently achieved first place and the Knox Prize in her Tax Compliance exam.

Humble beginnings

Like many people when they come towards the end of their A-Levels, Lily didn’t have a clear direction of the path she wanted to follow.

“I knew university wasn’t for me, as I’m a home girl at heart, but when I finished college I wanted to continue learning while working at the same time.”

Lily chose to stay close to her hometown of Plymouth, and explored options related to her interests and skills. Always enjoying and excelling at Maths, Lily joined local firm PKF Francis Clark as a trainee accounts assistant, and enrolled on a local college course to begin her AAT. She enjoyed the balance of spending one day a week studying, while being able to apply her learning to real world situations at work during the other four days of the week.

Starting her ACA

After completing her 3-year AAT qualification, Lily took a break from studying, which allowed her to consider her options again. Then realising the study bug was still alive and well, she joined some of her colleagues from across PKF Francis Clark’s offices in undertaking her ACA qualification as a Level 7 Apprentice with Reed Business School in 2019.

Lily really enjoyed her trips to our school while working through her certificate level papers, taking advantage of everything our idyllic setting has to offer.

“Going to the manor was great to get away from other distractions and just focus on studying, and I loved being cooked for every day as well!”

Classroom vs online learning

While Lily valued the classroom environment and the structure and pacing of the lessons, she’s also enjoying our online classes, and is clearly excelling in them too.

“Being in a classroom allows tutors to respond to student questions, and give further explanations where we need them, but the quality of learning online is still excellent, and the tutors have adapted really well.”

Secrets to success While

Lily was surprised to do so well in her recent paper, she puts her success down to her hard work and preparation.

“I’m someone who likes to be prepared with my revision, and I hate leaving things to the last minute.”

Lily admits she’ll attend our revision sessions having already done a lot of work herself, so she can be ready and armed with questions about things she’d like some extra support with. And when it comes to practice papers, her approach is just as thorough and well-planned.

“I’ll make use of every practice paper I can, starting with individual questions 2-3 weeks before the exam, working up to full papers in timed conditions, to make sure I’m as prepared as possible.”

Lily will mark her own papers using the guidance and mark scheme provided, but be quite harsh on herself to keep her motivated to do better.

“I just want to do the best that I can do.”

She’ll average about 20 hours per week of study time, across evenings and weekends, and believes that hard work and preparation is more important than being naturally clever.

Lily also believes being able to apply her studies to what she does at work is an excellent way to help embed her knowledge.

“I do quite a lot of tax in my current role, and it’s interesting to learn more intricate details on the job, to take my understanding that one step further – I have quite a few moments where I think ‘Oh that’s why we do it that way,’ or ‘that’s what that means.’”

Advice for others

Lily believes everyone has their own style of learning, and advises students to follow what works best for them.

“I’m quite an independent studier, and love starting early to get ahead, then just getting into my books to figure things out. But it’s good to have a network of people to call on when you get stuck on something.”

She also advises taking a pragmatic approach to time management, carefully balancing work, study and home life.

“In some ways covid has made things a bit easier to focus on studying, as I go out a lot less, so have more time at home to revise and do practice papers, but I make sure I give myself breaks, and if I want to take a night off sometimes, I do. Because I plan in advance and start early, I take a bit of pressure off myself by the time the exam comes around.”

However, Lily advises against underestimating how hard the training really is.

“It’s a lot of work and a big commitment. You need to be willing to put in the hours if you’re going to get anything out of it.”

What’s next for Lily?

All being well, Lily has about 18 months left with us to become fully qualified, at which point she’ll definitely take a break. At the moment she works in her firm’s client services team, with quite a varied role that she enjoys.

“I don’t see myself specialising in one area at the moment, I just want to get through my exams and then see where we are.”

Lily, we wish you all the best and we look forward to welcoming you back to the manor soon!

William Fowler

Nurturing Student Success

This week we caught up with William Fowler, a newly qualified accountant at Whitley Stimpson. William completed his professional ACA qualification with us, and placed in the top 10 in ICAEW’s 2020 Annual Order of merit, for consistently high top marks across his exams.

Finding his feet

William has always been a numbers man, studying Maths at Warwick university, and is no stranger to hard work, grafting his way through various hospitality jobs during the holidays as well. Glad to move on from pot-washing after graduation, he briefly considered software development as a career option, but thought his analytical skills might be put to better use in accountancy.

“The first accountancy firm I applied to rejected me on the grounds that they didn’t think I was suited to accountancy, but the second one disagreed and offered me a job.”

After joining Whitley Stimpson as a trainee accountant, William began his formal training in July 2017. He started off with the basics – like tax returns and manual accounts preparation, but as he progressed with Reed Business School, his skillset, client base and technicality of his work began to soar.

Covering the basics

William admits that he found his early days at the manor somewhat “brain-frazzling”, as he got to grips with bookkeeping.

“It was a lot to take in, but once you get that knowledge, you have a really good basis for your career.”

He really enjoyed the experience of his regular stays at the school. In particular, William responded to the structure of the lessons, combining learning with practice paper questions, having in-depth discussions with tutors, and always being able to ask for clarification on anything.

“It was a really worthwhile experience, and I’d recommend making use of the tutors and their knowledge as much as possible.”

Time Management

“Some advice I was given by someone a year ahead of me on the course was to aim to complete half an hour to one hour of revision each night, then as much as possible at the weekend, so that’s what I tried to do as much as I could.”

This perhaps sums up William’s methodical and thorough approach to his studying, which is what he credits to his continually high marks throughout his qualification. He was meticulous in making his own notes, and then practicing every question and paper possible in the run-up to exams.

“You only get to do these things once, so you want to do them properly and not have to worry about redoing them.”

William admits there were times he found everything quite stressful, but was very thankful to his partner for her support, as well as his colleagues and extended networks for their guidance in how best to approach his studying. Being able to completely focus on his studies while at the school was also really beneficial for him.

Aiming high

Perhaps another driver for William’s success, was a competitive rivalry he had with another student going through the same process.

“We had a friendly and light-hearted rivalry, and it was good to work with someone who also wanted to do well, to bounce off in terms of revision and work ethic etc.”

William’s hard work saw him triumph over his rival in most exams, but he does admit he struggled slightly more on the non-technical papers.

Technical vs non-technical

Most students will have a preference for either the technical or non-technical papers, and for William, he liked the certainty of knowing the relevant rules and information, and being able to apply the correct part to specific situations.

William’s passion for correctness was also evident in his approach to practice papers and questions, where he would follow the marking guidelines, make specific notes of the points he missed, and revise these areas specifically twice a week.

For the case study and strategic business management units, William found that learning to identify what the question was asking for, and how to get easy marks, was the most challenging aspect.

“In the non-technical papers, the numbers don’t matter as much as what you say around them – so exam practice and technique are really important. That’s what the tutors at Reed Business School are really good for, you can trust them to get you through the exam.”

Combining work and study

Often cited as one of the biggest challenges to completing a professional finance qualification, William found the structure of the course, and his own ability to manage his time very beneficial. Being able to combine what he’d learned with his job also helped him be better at both.

“The first accounting exam is good to get under your belt. After that, other things started clicking into place. I found the audit side of the course quite high level to begin with, and it took slightly longer to fit with what I was doing at work, but when I was able to combine the two, I felt much more confident going into the exam.”

Advice for others

William states that he was personally very rigid with his revision, and wouldn’t let anything get in its way, which he believes is the attitude you have to have if you want to do well. He admits it’s not much fun at times, which is why your networks and support bubble are so important.

“Do as many questions as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask the tutors any questions you have. They always make the time to go through any queries, and are always just a phone call or email away. Trust their knowledge, and use them as much as you can.”

What’s next?

William is now fully qualified, and assessing his options for the future. He’s been lucky to be exposed to quite a few areas within the profession so far, but particularly enjoys working with clients.

“My director looks after quite a few trusts, and I enjoy managing and overseeing tax returns and operations for them. I might look to specialise in that area in the future, but I’d like to take a break from studying for now!”

William also has half an eye on becoming a director one day, but only if he can manage the work-life balance, which is now even more important for him as he’s due to get married soon. But whatever happens, getting qualified means many more options are now open to him, and we wish him all the best.

Nick Bancroft

Student Success Story: Nick Bancroft

This month we caught up with our student Nick Bancroft, Operations and Finance Coordinator at Simon Hegele Logistics and Service, who recently scored the third highest mark in the region for his CIMA case study – Operational level.

Humble beginnings

Like many undergraduate students, Nick didn’t have a clear plan for his career mapped out by the time he left university, and his pathway to his current role at logistics firm Hegele isn’t the most conventional. But with hard work and a commitment to his studies, Nick is now very happy with where his career is taking him.

After completing his Economics and Accounting Degree at Cardiff University, Nick headed out to Disney in Florida and worked as a cast member in the Haunted Mansion, before returning to the UK to work in the nightclub business. After several years of overseeing the opening of new clubs all over the country, Nick began looking for opportunities more relevant to his degree that also involved less travel.

Working his way up

Nick began working for Hegele as an assistant in planning and forecasting for the medical installation side of the business. He learnt on the job how to forecast from week-to-week and for the month ahead, getting involved with invoicing and the legalities of running freight.

Not long after he started at Hegele, Nick began studying towards his CIMA qualification at Reed Business School in order to further develop his career. Nick chose RBS because of our tailored approach to his initial queries and felt we were best-placed to assist him on his journey.

“Reed Business School was in a great location for me, but I also felt they took the time to understand me and my needs and provide a tailored offer, rather than a copy-and-paste reply.”

Studying at Reed Business School

Nick has been impressed with the tuition and support he’s received from Reed Business School from day one.

“I’ve really enjoyed my studies so far, the tutors are excellent and know exactly what they’re doing, and I feel it’s good value for money. I’ve never looked at going somewhere else.”

Nick was also full of praise for the overall management, especially our assistance in booking exams and progressing from one module to the next with relevant materials all lined up.

Achieving results

Nick recalls that for CIMA case study papers there’s a lot more thought involved than for the other exams where you can get away with just knowing the theory. He particularly engaged with the level of critical thinking and application of the theory to a business situation to see how the two would merge together.

In achieving his excellent mark, Nick essentially started from scratch in going through each of his theory modules again to make sure everything was fresh in his mind. Then once the pre-seen materials were released, he tried to make as many connections as he could.

“I brainstormed everything in the pre-seen materials, making notes of anything that could segue into any of the theory, for example martial costing and how this might affect the company.”

Nick completed this process of revision, note-making and preparation before attending any of his classes for the case study paper, which he believes gave him a good head start and a better understanding of the task at hand.

A winning formula

In addition to all his preparatory work, Nick admits there were several other factors that contributed to his success, starting with his tutor’s approach to teaching the module.

“When I started, I was a bit daunted looking at practice questions and then the model answer, as I couldn’t see the link as to why some things were included and not others. But the tutor broke down how it was marked, then I could understand how many opportunities there were to get the marks, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to apply in an exam just from looking at the model answer.”

Nick’s tutor provided a detailed mark sheet back for each practice question attempted – and would explain where marks were scored, and what parts had been missed. Nick believes this feedback was invaluable part of his learning that he couldn’t have got from taking an online course.

Another benefit Nick highlights from taking classes with us is the networking opportunity – having made a friend in one of his fellow students, Emma, he was able to have another sounding board and accountability partner for his studying. Nick admits that his fiancée, Jodie, has also been extremely supportive throughout his study journey so far.

Plan, plan, plan

Nick’s advice to anyone undertaking the CIMA course is to give yourself as much time as possible to complete the work. He puts all the key dates in his diary for each new module, and ensures he has read the book well in advance of the first class in order to be able to use the class time to ask questions and discuss the topics covered.

Nick plans his intensive exam preparation two weeks out from the final class to give him time to let all the information sink in. He then recommends completing practice questions and mock papers in exam conditions in order to get used to pacing.

“Pacing is really important in exams – knowing how much time you have for each question to get the maximum amount of marks. I will normally do mocks 2 or 3 times to get used to the pace, which means that I’ve always been able to manage my time effectively on exam day.”

Next steps

Nick’s study journey has enabled him to take on more responsibility and autonomy at work, with his Executive Director able to rely on him to complete more tasks, and contribute to more areas of the business. And while he still doesn’t have a definite long-term goal, his study plan will see him complete the strategic level in August 2021, when many more doors will be open to him.

Kalina Forbes

Prize Winner – Kalina Forbes

We’re always delighted to share the successes of our students, so this week we caught up with Kalina Forbes, Assistant at PKF Francis Clark, who was recently awarded 100% and the Little prize in her ICAEW Professional paper Business Planning: Taxation. So how did she do it?

From Psychology to Accountancy

As many young people deciding which path to follow at university, Kalina was initially torn between studying Accountancy and Psychology.

“I was interested in going into Accountancy, but even if I had done a degree in it, I would still need to complete the chartered accountancy training at a firm. Instead I chose to study Psychology, which really interested me, and is still useful in my career.”

Alongside her degree, Kalina was able to keep working for an accountancy firm part-time to give her exposure to the industry, and during the summer holidays she’d work as a data matcher, learning more about data management on the job. This commitment to hard work, as well as learning, are two of the key ingredients to Kalina’s successes to date.

Early career

Upon achieving a first class degree in Psychology from Cardiff university (no mean feat in itself), Kalina took a job in the finance department of Wiltshire council to get more practical experience of working in finance. Then after applying for the graduate accountancy programme, she was offered a place at PKF Francis Clark to start the following September.

Within weeks of starting her new job, Kalina was already taking her first ACA exams, and that’s when her journey with Reed Business School began. After two years, she’s now completed all of her certificate and professional level papers, and looks forward to completing her advanced papers over the next year.

“I knew it was going to be three years of working while studying, but I was prepared for it, and organised my time to get the most benefit from my studying as I could.”

Studying with RBS

Kalina started with her certificate papers in Law, Accountancy and Assurance. And while many might then choose to complete the remaining certificate papers before moving on to the professional level, at Reed Business School we do things a little differently, which we think makes the learning process more effective.

After Kalina’s cohort had completed their certificate level papers in Accountancy and Assurance, they then moved straight on to studying for their corresponding professional level papers – Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Audit and Assurance. Kalina says “I like the way the course is structured, as it allows you to build on the information you have just learnt, rather that leaving it a year before revisiting that topic in more detail.”

Time Management and Organisation

“Personally I like to start studying early, to save me stress further down the line.” This is one of Kalina’s main philosophies when it comes to her studying, and she likes to be very organised about it. Having completed the first part of each new module at our school, she’ll go home and make sure she properly understands it, before coming back for the second stint – that way, she can really focus on the new information. And the same goes for when she comes back for the revision course.

“I like to go to the revision week having already revised, so that I am prepared to attempt practice papers and ask questions. The earlier you start revising, the more time you have to digest the information.”

That being said, Kalina is very clear that this method of starting early is what works best for her – we’re very aware that many of you out there thrive under the pressure of a last minute cram. However, we always recommend giving yourself as much time as possible to make sure you fully understand the content of each paper.

Biggest challenge

Kalina says that when starting a new module, the biggest challenge is dealing with the quantity of new information. “After the first phase of learning at Reed Business School, I personally have to go away and really work at it myself, and I have to be organised.”

Being a big believer in balance, Kalina’s process is to structure her own learning, giving herself goals and treats for achieving them. “If I have structure, then I can give myself time to go to the gym, or go out with friends once I’ve completed a certain amount of work. And keeping those things in your life is really important for managing your mental health and looking after yourself.”

Kalina believes you have to have self-discipline and determination in order to succeed. “At the end of the day you’re working towards something that’s going to help your own career. So you might as well do everything that you can now in order to get where you want to be.”

The best bits about studying with Reed Business School

Kalina was full of praise for RBS and her journey with us so far. She admits that our tutors are excellent, singling out her tax tutor in particular. “She was always up to date with the latest changes, and is a real expert in her area. She was able to explain why certain rules exist, the history of the rules, and use case studies to make the learning more interesting.”

As well as our well-situated accommodation and overall organisation, Kalina also really values the fitness classes we now offer. “Having that designated time for exercise helps balance the week and reduce the stress. Plus the food is really good so you need the fitness classes!”

In addition, Kalina really values the network she’s established with her study cohort, in her case made up of some of her fellow PKF Francis Clark colleagues, as well as students from other firms of all sizes. “I usually study with the same group, so I’ve made great friends. The group you study with is a brilliant support network as you’re going through the same process together.”

In short, Kalina’s advice to succeed in your professional studies would be to organise yourself in a way that works for you, use your support network when you need to, and make sure you look after yourself!

Geoff Clarke

Prize Winner 2018: Geoff Clarke

Three times a Winner

An interview with Geoff Clark, Finance Business Partner at REED

Geoff Clark started his professional career in recruitment in Malta, before being offered an internal transfer to join his company’s Finance team in the UK to work on a new project. Identifying this as a potentially lucrative and exciting career prospect, Geoff accepted the offer, and started studying towards his CIMA exams with Reed Business School almost immediately. A little over three years later, Geoff is now the proud recipient of not one, but THREE top 10 rankings globally (including placing joint first twice) in each of his Operational, Management and Strategic case study papers. So how did he do it?

Keys to success

Geoff believes that mindset is an important factor, and he says that by having the dates of the classes and exams in a clear timetable, it means you know when exactly you’ll be doing your work, and when you’ll need to take a break from socialising: “Sometimes you just need to tell yourself that for those three weeks, studying is all you’ll be doing,” so by planning this in advance, and letting friends and loved ones know, he was able to commit himself to his studies completely at the relevant time.

The classroom environment at Reed Business School was also really beneficial to his learning, says Geoff: “Having the discipline of the classroom environment, with someone there to teach you allows you to focus purely on your studies.” He also praises our beautiful and secluded setting in the Cotswolds which enables students not to worry about anything else while they are with us, maximising their learning opportunity.

Combining work and study

Geoff admits that he was quite lucky while he was studying, in that his job allowed him to have exposure to different areas of finance, and put into practice what he was learning – which comes in very handy for the case study papers. He was also able to step back and consider areas such as project management and the company’s wider strategic goals, giving him a broader business view.

Geoff understands that not every student has the opportunity to do this within their current role, however he urges students to “speak to your employer about getting exposure to the different areas of business you want to be involved in and learn about – they’ll probably appreciate the extra help!” We always urge our students to be curious and get a fuller understanding of business in general, in addition to excelling in their accountancy studies, as this knowledge becomes really beneficial the more you progress in your career.

Exam preparation

The case study papers are notoriously challenging and unlike many other exams you may have taken in the past, so Geoff’s key advice here is to attempt several past papers, which he found very beneficial – using his Reed Business School tutor as a resource to mark and give feedback.

Geoff was diligent in his approach to studying the different subjects covered in all five variants of the last two or three sittings, carefully examining the questions asked and looking at the model answers to see how these were structured.

“Start by answering the question”, Geoff recalls as one of the most profound learnings he took from his classes with us, which sounds easier than it might be in reality. He says that many students want to demonstrate all the theory they’ve learnt in their other modules and try to cram this into their answers, but, he continues: “you need to forget that and remember you’re in business and need to answer what’s being asked of you, after that, if you have time, you can add in some of the extra theory that is relevant.”

Advice to other students

We understand that not everyone gets their study sponsored, and perhaps can’t afford to invest as much as they would like to in their learning. As someone that’s now been through the whole CIMA course, Geoff says that “the case study modules are the most valuable to invest in and which are best to be at Reed Business School for – they are the hardest to pass, you get very little time to prepare for them, and it’s difficult to achieve success without valuable tutor feedback.” Indeed, our tutors are fountains of knowledge when it comes to how examiners approach marking these papers and what they look for, which you can’t get from textbooks or online resources.

Finally, Geoff recommends thinking outside the box and looking at the bigger picture to connect the theory with commercial application. “It can all seem quite intangible, but when you get to work on more commercial projects, it really does starts to make sense, if you’re able to make the connections.”

Robert Deare

Prize Winner 2016: Robert Deare

Jenny Winstanley, Reed Business School Tutor, congratulating Robert Deare, from Francis Clark LLP, For achieving joint Third Place and the Fletcher prize in the 2016 Advanced Annual International Orders of Merit.