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.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Geography Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

    Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style