Will Young, the singer who hit the headlines in 2002 by winning the inaugural ‘Pop Idol’ TV talent show attended Horris Hill prep school, Wellington College and d’Overbroeck’s tutorial college. He went on to read politics at the University of Exeter, graduating with a 2:2 Honours.
I remember when I started working at Sony publishing, before I went to Pop Idol, that I got the piss taken out of me for being a public-school boy, and I remember feeling ashamed. There’s definitely that public-school guilt. I’m the posh boy in the office and people are commenting on my loafers, or whatever. I think that if you’re from that background, there’s this notion that you’re privileged and people think you’re up yourself and that everything’s been given to you on a plate.
It was taught in independent schools that you are privileged, but this was also tinged with a hint of snobbery. I remember writing a letter at prep school that read: “I must pass common entrance to take me to public school, otherwise I’ll be going to state school and everyone will be very disappointed.” State school wasn’t an option. It would have been devastating for me. There was a fear of state schools that came perhaps from a sense of feeling better than others. What was instilled in you was the sense that people were more unruly in state schools and not as lucky as we were.
I’m talking about prep schools here, at the age when you didn’t know any different, and I think it did go on in public school as well because we would have fights with the schools in town. That was a regular thing actually. They’ve gone on for years, fights between the private school and local comprehensive.
One benefit [of a state school] would have been not boarding. I’d have liked to have been at home a bit more. I think I would have learnt a bit more about life. There’s a difference between being 16 and hanging out with your friends in the local town and drinking cider, and being 16 having to be in bed on a Saturday night by 10pm and drinking half a bottle of red wine. I think I’d have developed a lot more, and my mind would have been a bit broader if I’d gone to state school.
If I hadn’t been at a boarding school I’d probably have become sexual earlier on, but because I was at a predominantly-boys school, luckily some sense of self-preservation kicked in. I thought to myself: it’s not the time to be announcing you’re gay.
People will probably get the impression that I didn’t like boarding school, but I actually had a great time there. One of the things I was grateful for is that we got to do a lot of activities at school. We had our own sports centre, a massive pool, double gymnasium, two basketball courts and a squash court. Wellington also had very beautiful grounds and buildings. From a very young age I appreciated that.
What was great about private school for me is that we were taught the importance of manners, and that is something that has never left me (hopefully). I am not implying that state schools don’t teach manners but traditional values and basic decency were definitely promoted – and that has been invaluable to me as an adult.