My education at one of the worst comprehensive schools the world has ever seen is well-known, but how did I survive to become the credible prime-ministerial candidate that you see before you today? Here I share with you my own personal strategies for flourishing in a school located within the mean streets of Roundhay in the 1980s.
1. Stay off the streets! Walking home from school in Roundhay in the 1980s was akin to the Bronx – hazards and dangers everywhere. Wet leaves in the park in Autumn provided a constant slipping hazard, and you couldn’t walk more than 200 yards without being approached by a liberal peddling a petition about nuclear disarmament or selling some home made jam with proceeds going to Ethiopia. Keep your head down and as those kids from Grange Hill would sing: ‘Just Say No’!
2. Make the limited option choices work for you – I have to admit that the absence of a Latin course to pick for O-Level ruined my 1985, but ‘Que Sera Sera’. Just three modern languages to choose from doesn’t necessarily have to be a death knell for your aspirations to go to Oxbridge. Remember, you can always use your private tutor to pick up Mandarin and the classics on the side.
3. Know how to pronounce tricky middle-class words! I was the subject of much ridicule when I foolishly asked for a bowl of ‘Quin-noah’ with my goats cheese salad in the canteen during my first week at school. I was picking out the starchy seed from my schoolbag for weeks afterwards. Kids can be so cruel.
4. Throw yourself into extra-curricular activities. Whilst the limited opportunities available to me at my own school were frustrating, I still got involved in the crumbs that were on offer – an immersive production of Ibsen’s The Doll’s House in year 9, a School Symphony Orchestra trip round the lakes of Switzerland in 6th Form (remember how the school had to book an extra plane seat for my harp!). There was always the Real Tennis court and dilapidated lacrosse pitches we could use too when we were really desperate.
5. Go early to avoid school drop off embarrassments – Our Mercedes Benz 560 Sedan was the source of much mockery at the school gates. ‘Have you seen how slow the acceleration is with the 8-cylinder single-overhead camshaft naturally aspirated engine on that hunk of junk ‘, I heard one pupil laugh. We turned up at 730am every day after that until we thankfully upgraded to a Porsche in 1988. Phew!
Hat-tips Sir Lupus and Lockjaw