I went to the most ordinary state school ever, and I wouldn’t change it for the world
It taught me values no private school could
When you think of an average British state school, you might of think of boys in ties with horrendously wide knots, girls in short tube skirts, watery Pasta Kings served at lunch and that (really, awful) trend of Jane Norman bags in the playground. And that’s exactly what it was.
It was a place where your teenage self could pretend you were a grown up just because you weren’t in year 7 anymore. You probably made your teachers cry, locked them out of their own classrooms and got whole class detentions most lunchtimes. But I wouldn’t change my state school for the world.
I had a much more rounded experience
No day was the same with classmates and friends from all classes, races and religions. This meant we were exposed to a high level of social, political and cultural diversity from an early age, ingraining levels of acceptance and compassion. And it is these values that prepared me for the realities of life beyond GCSE’s and A Levels,because mixing with people from all walks of life at school means that we were encouraged to understand how all fractions of society work. An understanding more difficult to gain in a system by which most of society is excluded.
And when you come to university from a state school, it makes you appreciate your achievements so much more. It was when surrounded by such an amount of privilege at university, that I started to realise just how hard I’d had to work to get myself where I was. Despite the larger class sizes, fewer resources and daily disruptions in class, me and my friends have still managed to do well for ourselves. And it is this we should be most proud of.
We had to work even harder to get into uni
Because if we’re all honest state school students, are not given enough credit for getting into some of the best universities in the country, when many have had to overcome so much disadvantage and adversity. These are elite institutions, which were never really designed for us in the first place, and this is something that is often overlooked.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say we should put ourselves on a pedestal, taking some kind of moral high ground. A choice made by our parents about the type of school we attended does not give us the right to stereotype others, tarring all private children with the same, narrow minded, brush. But what it does do however, is give us the ability to recognise, first-hand, that the British education system is no level playing field.
I might not have been to Val d’Isere but I deserved to go to uni
When you consider private school pupils are twice as likely to attend a university in the Russell Group, it is no surprise that uni can sometimes feel like a world of privilege, wealth and eliteness. But it is not private schools, or the students which attend them, that are the problem. Rather we as a society should look to the Government in making sure that children from less privileged backgrounds are offered more support and fairer opportunities. So that university doesn’t become an elite academy reserved for those with a one way ticket to the Cabinet. Surely everybody deserves an equal chance at higher education?
State school education may not have provided me with the prestige and opportunities that a private school would have given me. My school didn’t have a swimming pool or ski trips to Val D’isere. We went to Butlins instead. But what it did have, was an inclusive ethos about open-mindedness and tolerance, teaching me life lessons I’ll never forget.
So, I probably would have got a couple more A*’s at GCSE if I’d have gone to a ‘better’ school. But sometimes, it’s not just about the grades. It’s about the different kinds of people you meet and the values you can learn from their stories and life experiences.
And in the end, we all ended up in the same place. Only, my parents didn’t pay £70,000 to get me here.