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.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices