We’re not often sold a convincing vision of our education as children.
Up until the age of 12 I was educated at a state school in central London.
Now, I’m not intent on tarring all schools in London at the time with the same brush, but I would say that this is a experience that is not uncommon – even today.
When I started at school at the age of 5 I was overwhelmed by the journey that was ahead of me. Each day was a mammoth challenge. Five hours of lessons each day, the pressure to constantly stay focused on the lessons was immense, not to mention the task of getting the right answers written down in your books.
Above all else what daunted me was the notion that I would be trapped in this restrictive school system for the next 9 years of my life. I’d seen older kids in uniform, towering over me and I knew that I would have to be as big and smart as them before I could escape.
I started school during the 50s, the end of the Second World War was still fresh in the minds of many of our teachers – my Maths teachers insisted on absolute silence throughout his lessons. His nervous twitches and forced cheerfulness were a constant confusion to me – I was so concerned by this uneven behaviour that my learning was affected, a pattern that began to emerge amongst my other subjects.
By the time I’d left my primary school, my parents recognised that the school system had not had the right impact on me. Steadily declining results combined with a lack of support had left me defeated, all I wanted to do was scrape through the next few years of school and get a job when I turned 14.
In a last ditch attempt to turn me into an educated man my parents uprooted their lives and moved us into the QE Academy’s catchment area. I was suspicious at first. What more would could I learn from this school, especially when I’d failed so much before? They didn’t know what they were getting themselves in for.
The first thing that I was asked to do when I arrived at QE was to demonstrate my knowledge of a range of subjects. Instead of a standardised test though, I was given the opportunity to explain what I knew, with a bit of probing and encouragement I began surprising myself with how much information I’d retained. Before this moment I’d not been instilled with anything like confidence by a teacher before. It was emblematic of what was to come.