An Alternative Education: Margaret Thathcher and Free-Thinking Classes
I don’t think anyone ever looks back on their school days as being ‘picture perfect’.
As with many things in life, it’s almost impossible to look back into the past with crystal clear clarity. In the space of a handful of years after you leave secondary school your life is already spinning wildly out of control. Back in the 80s, the idea that by the age of 16 you were considered to be a ‘grown up’ and ready for the working world was common place. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best time to be leaving the comforting bosom of state education.
The British economy was in a shabby state whilst I was taking my O-Levels. Miners’ strikes permeated the news, Margaret Thatcher was a symbol of the kind of institutionalised oppression that teenagers are so easily riled by and, as a result, we all grew to see her (and her Tory cronies) as figures to mistrust and despise. I wouldn’t describe myself as a militantly liberal person today, but I still hold a semblance of that distrust for politicians to this day, something that I attribute to both the times I lived in as well as the school that I was lucky enough to attend.
The QE Academy was a special place for me and it only grew in my estimation as the years wore on.
My parents had both struggled in school. Their lives in education had been dominated by negative relationships with teachers and students alike, as a result they’d both starting working as soon as they were allowed to. At the age of 14 my Dad took a job in a carpet factory and my Mum scored the relatively cushy position of secretary. When, ten years later, they had me they decided to send me to QE Academy after hearing about the school in the newspaper. Billed as a ‘radical’ institution with ‘dangerous’ new ideas, what caught their eye were how the graduates of this school were being described: ‘head strong’, ‘wilful’ and ‘rebellious’.
Despite both being happy in their positions and content with their lot in life, my parents didn’t want me to inherit their values.
They knew that in order for me to be successful in life and to get the most out of it, I would need the kind of ambition and curiosity that they simply weren’t raised with. Their decision to send me to QE is one that I’ve always been thankful for and I’ve tried to live up to their expectations of me ever since.
Learning at the Quentin Erroll Academy, just a few years after it had opened, was the kind of experience that I believe all children should have. Although I had to travel for 2 hours each day to get to and from the school, I never dreaded it. I’d start the trip from home to school each day alone. The only child in the peculiar black and green stripes of QE on the bus. As I’d make my way to school each day though more of my comrades would start appearing and sit alongside me.