Hideous uniforms, questionable teachers and everything else that happened at the private school you won’t admit you went to

The age gaps in relationships were seriously questionable


No one ever talks about what happens at private school – because let’s be honest, at uni people spend their lives trying to deny they went. No one will take your passion for grime seriously if they knew that, as opposed to the tough streets of Croydon, you were raised amongst large, leafy grounds in one of the counties surrounding London.

Even though you won’t admit it, you’re still grateful for it – and these are all the things that undoubtedly happened there.

You went to the prep school

Meaning that by the end you have known some of these people for 13 years. 13 years. You either love them or despise them – nothing in between. All the teachers know you, and they remember your tiny days better than you. Nicknames stick forever, especially in the staff common room.

You buy the hideous uniform and it’s three sizes too big for you because it costs an extortionate amount of money

You have to buy the suit, the jumper, the tie, the kilt, the sports kit, the sports bag, the sports tracksuit, the lab coat, the school rucksack – everything. It’s almost like a fashion label, and just as expensive too. Given the massive ornate emblazoned crest on everything, complete with an embroidered latin motto, you can’t even go to M&S and buy an imitation. An afternoon in the school shop, by appointment only, would have cost the same as a holiday.

Cloisters and quads

The first time you come into true social contact with the opposite sex. You meet there after last lesson. There’s always gossip after and you need to debrief with everyone at roll call the next day. Who hugged who, who sats on whose lap? You try to break the uniform rules as much as possible without being told off.

Rebelling against the uniform rules

Your top button was never done up but your tie was tight enough to conceal it. If you’re a girl, your shirt is probably a couple of sizes too small (the ones from BHS worked a charm). In the summer, you wore a colourful bra – it’s OK the male teachers would feel too awkward to tell you off. In the winter you would layer your jumpers and always wear a colourful vest which stuck out underneath your shirt in the winter (ILLEGAL).

You had longer holidays than everyone else

Easter? Starts in March. Back to school in October after a long summer away, with enough time for your family to take their fill of holidays. God forbid you try to take some extra time out of term time for a holiday: “You’ve got the February two week half term to go skiing, Bartlett!”

You also had longer days

School started at 8:20, finished at 4:25. Bizarrely specific times, allowing for 40 minute periods or whatever they wanted to make it. Every minute counted in this training academy.

Roll call

Always by surname. You’d try to say “yes” for your friend who had snuck out to town or was having a lie in. It never worked.

Extra curricular activities were king

“It’s not about your results”, they tell you. When the topic of Duke of Edinburgh comes up at uni, while your friends say they gave up after bronze and only the losers did gold, you have to admit that it was a cardinal sin not to go all the way and eventually meet the man himself in St James’ Palace.

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You were never picked to show people around on Open Day

At first you laughed at the nerds who were – but then you realised you had to sit there in lessons whilst they schmooze and eat bourbons.

The number of food options seemed excessive

You have a dining hall, lined with paintings of former Headmasters and Headmistresses and Governors of the board. There’s a canteen, run by a professional chef, and eight sous-chefs, with four stations. You had two choices, wherever you went: the salad bar, pasta, the main, the desserts.

You will never know again the sheer terror of taking your tray up after lunch

Walking past the upper sixth boys, hoping, praying you won’t drop it. Katie did once, and the whole dining hall cheered. She cried later.

Every girl had a combover at some point

Straightened within an inch of it’s life – bleached blonde if you were one of the cool girls – there was an unwritten rule of hair when you were 14. If you didn’t have a combover, you were’t getting it right.

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 A dinner formal got out of hand

You’re only allowed one glass each with dinner but you and the crew stashed some your sister’s friend got for you. One of you will have been suspended, the hip flask was get tossed in the bin and Lydia threw up everywhere and had to be picked up early by her parents.

Sport was called ‘Games’

And it was on a Wednesday afternoon. Football? Don’t be ridiculous. You’ll become expertly trained in shot put, regardless of how big you are. Either that, or your school was ridiculously competitive and would import in rugby and hockey players “for the season”. You’ll play lacrosse to prepare you for Wednesday afternoons at university. Next week you’re playing The Perse at rugby – they always were dirty, despite your lavish three course hot meals afterwards.

Colours

The 1st XI Hockey and 1st XV Rugby teams would saunter around in their “colours” – ties or pins – which designated them as the best sports players in the school. On match days, they could wear their kit to lessons. Everyone else was jealous.

There was always a rogue subject with about four people in the class, like Russian or Ancient Greek – just so the school could be different

It brought in the fee payers, and the kids who wanted to express themselves by doing something a bit different didn’t just have to sit on the benches in the shade.

Gum scraping

The words run a shiver through your body. You got caught chewing gum walking to lessons and the following day, there you would be: on your hands and knees filling an envelope with hardened, old gum you scratch off the floor with a “gum scraper”. Where did they buy such a thing?

Chapel

Yeah, your school had a Reverend. At first, you were sceptical – why did you have to listen to him drone on. But the older you got, the wiser they seemed. Their messages in morning chapel are one of the things you probably do remember from your time there.

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You probably had music lessons at some point

Even though you can’t really sing, or play the violin.

You were probably in the choir or orchestra at some point

See above. They probably offered you a trip to perform in Vienna, you declined.

Boys were referred to by their surname

“Harris, Piggot, Dawson, litter picking duty, all lunchtime this week.”

You’d be made to run in the freezing cold for no apparent reason

Every year there was a “Steeple Chase” or similar running event, where the four people who care about running can have their moment. Meanwhile, the rest of you traipse across the green hills in the freezing cold, getting left behind by your best friend who said “let’s stick together, yeah?”. The people who were “injured” would smugly take up their positions as chaperones. The smile is later wiped off their faces by standing in the cold for four hours. Only the smart people found a big enough bush to hide in after the first lap, and joined the group half way through their second time round.

You were in the CCF

It was either that or community service, and that was for the nerds. You went away on field exercises and slept in a puddle under a sheet propped up with a stick. You never actually fired a gun, but you can polish boots better than anyone.

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First form to sixth form

You never really knew why it went up numerically and then split into “upper” and “lower” sixth, but it was a fact you all accepted.

The age ranges in relationship was seriously questionable

There were loads of couples who hovered dangerously either side of 16. A 13-year-old girl with a boy who was 17? It wasn’t weird then, but you realise it is now.

On a side note – the guy in upper sixth who you fancied when you were in third form is now chubby and slightly balding

You walked past him in Clapham and did an internal laugh, then question why on earth you ever thought he was hot.

The prefects and heads of school would take on teachers’ duties

Like ushering people into chapel and lunch – a genius way of freeing up resources.

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And there was always one who took themselves too seriously

“Someone has taken it upon themselves to switch the names in the year nines’ book bags and it is not funny”. It is.

Parents’ evening

Every year your parents and teachers got together, to bitch about you, while you sat there, in the middle, being grilled like some kind of three way interrogation. They bought into the school philosophy more than you did, any anyway it’s more for their benefit than yours. If you tried hard enough at something, you’d get there with a bit of a push/kick/threat of being pulled out of school.

People’s older siblings went there

And they were likely to be automatically cooler because of it. And they were always called their name by teachers. “Ah, Lucy, you have an older sister – Amelia wasn’t it?” She left four years ago.

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Shirt sleeves order

“But sir it’s the summer and it’s 32 degrees outside. Please give shirt sleeves order.” These three words next to each other don’t look like they make any sense, and they don’t exactly roll off the tongue either. But when the Deputy Head finally gave the go ahead for boys to walk around with no blazers, and girls to abandon their jumpers, it was music to your ears.

You had a school hymn

If it wasn’t Jerusalem, it was in Latin. It was written by the founder, it was mainly about boys, obviously, it mentioned God about five times and had no relevance but it sounded fucking regal.

Which you sang at your ridiculously grand Leavers’ Service

At each end of year service the entire school would scream a particular hymn as loudly as they can. The choir probably performed a descant, and there was probably a big drums and a brass section.