A different form of life

Crossing the divide between state and private schools can be a challenging time for children.

Last year William Watts, 15, left pounds 2,545-a-term Bedford School to go to Sharnbrook, one of Britain's most successful state comprehensives.

When I left Bedford School I was surprised at the welcome I received at Sharnbrook. The atmosphere seemed warmer, maybe because it was mixed. Sometimes it felt as if Bedford didn't had a soul. When I asked directions I was sent the wrong way, whereas at Sharnbrook, people said, `Yeah, I'll take you' and arranged to meet up even if they didn't know you.

When I went to Bedford I was called by my surname. I found that really impersonal. At first, I didn't realise they were talking to me. So when I went to Sharnbrook I was used to people using my first name only when they knew me or liked me. But they all called me William and that made me feel that they liked me.

If people ask where I've come from, I say Bedford School and they say `Isn't that the public school?' There are a couple of jokes, not directed at me but about the general attitude of snobbery.

People seemed more superficial at Bedford. At Charnbrook, when they don't like your clothes it's because they think you look stupid, whereas at Bedford it would be because they didn't have a designer label. I had a friend on a scholarship whose dad was a bus driver. I was sworn to secrecy because if everyone had known then his life would have been made hell.

We do the same amount of work at Sharnbrook, but time management is better. I didn't get home until six at Bedford. Then I had dinner and did two hours or so of homework. By the time I had a shower it was 11 or 12. I was tired all the time. At Sharnbrook, I get home at four, do the same homework and I'm into bed at nine or ten. I don't go to school on Saturdays. I can go out at weekends. There's more social life.

"The teachers seem older at Bedford. At Sharnbrook they don't have as many Oxbridge degrees, but they seem more interested in the person behind the results.

Bedford's biggest problem is tradition. It won't break the link. I hated Latin - I just sat there chanting all that stuff. And I hated the blazer. It was so uncomfortable. Now I just wear a shirt, tie, school trousers and a jumper if it's cold.

I've been back to pick up a German prize. They said come in smart casuals, so I wore a white T-shirt, plain black leather shoes, black school trousers and a striped short jacket. The vice-headmaster said I might not be able to pick up my prize because I wasn't smartly dressed. He made me feel like a piece of rubbish. That tarnished my good memories.

Still, I'm glad I went there. It gave me the work ethic. Maybe it's because the school is selective, so it makes you work harder. But I think other people will move to Sharnbrook. They lead such a sheltered life at Bedford School. They don't try out things or go out on their own. They never meet a girl. I don't think I would have a girlfriend now if I was still at Bedfordn

Emma Taylor, 12, returned this week for her second year at Princess Helena College, a pounds 3,300-a-term boarding school for girls in Hertfordshire. Daughter of an Army officer, she has attended several state schools.

I had trouble fitting in. I wasn't sleeping. I was crying a bit. I rang up once and told my Mum I didn't like it and I wanted to leave. She said it was hard for them and it couldn't really happen. But in the end I really liked it here. Sometimes I feel sad. Normally I have a little cry and one of my friends like Vicky cheers me up. We just act like nothing has happened.

Boarding school is better for my education. There are only 15 girls in my class, compared with more than 30 in my last school. I can make better friends that I'll keep for a lifetime. The trouble with moving around a lot is that you can end up not learning anything.

At boarding school you get more done, work-wise. It's not the same as doing it at home. You've got all the books and there is always a teacher to help. And we can work together with friends.

At my last school I was at the top of the class and the teachers thought quite a lot of me. When I went to Princess Helena I went right down. I get confused with Latin, so I've given that up. I'm concentrating on my French. The trouble is I've needed glasses, which I got this summer. So I should catch up a bit.

I used to have no homework at state school and now I have loads. It's supposed to be an hour but I end up spending two or more hours every evening. I spend nearly all my spare time on projects in the week and sometimes the weekend as well.

The main thing I miss about Langdown is boys. Year 9 are allowed to go to a disco, but that's not till next year. Some people have boyfriends in other boarding schools who they write to. I've still got a boyfriend, David Yates, from my old school. We haven't dumped each other, but we can't write because we've both moved. I was too slow to get his addressn

Ten tips for school swappers

From state to independent

1 Expect the culture to change from child-centred learning to a desk- bound, teacher-centred, more authoritarian approach, which will suit some children but not others.

2 Be prepared for children feeling alienated at being called by surnames. The building may also be ancient, large and overpowering, at first, for your child.

3 Find ways for your child to meet members of the opposite sex outside school.

4 Be prepared for reaction against strict uniform rules

5 If you are not well-off, make sure your child never feels ashamed of himself or you.

From independent to state

1 Watch out for bullying, especially if your child is well-spoken.

2 If the school is less academically-minded, beware your child doing less homework, being pushed less.

3 If a child leaves because of financial problems, ensure that their self-esteem doesn't suffer, that they don't feel they are getting second- best.

4 Choose a mixed school. The presence of the opposite sex is the chief attraction to children of state schools.

5 Remember that lots of state schools get better results than the independent sector.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future