Education: Passed/Failed Zoe Ball

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The Independent Online
Zoe Ball, 27, presents `The Breakfast Show' on Radio 1 on weekdays and, on Saturday mornings, `Live and Kicking' on BBC1. She started as a `runner' at Granada TV and researcher at BSkyB. After Children's BBC, she worked on Channel 4's `The Big Breakfast'.

Fool's Paradise? I've always loved school, all the way through. I hated the holidays, which went on for too long. Admittedly, I was very haphazard, doing the work at the last minute. I got away with it because of my cheeky grin. All my school reports say, "If Zoe were as enthusiastic about her work as she is about playing the fool ..."

I remember my first day at school - "big" school, Heston Primary in Middlesex. I was so excited by the big building and the big playground and all these children. The others were crying but I was telling my parents, "Go." We moved away to Buckinghamshire and I went to the final year of Farnham Common First School, then over the road to Farnham Common Middle School. My favourite teacher ever was Mr Grandige; he was really inspiring and played us the Beatles. He played us "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and we had to illustrate it; we didn't know what it was actually all about! He is now a head teacher and two years ago I got a letter from him, asking me to open his school fete.

Is Zoe A Catholic? If you passed your 12-plus, which is what they had in Buckinghamshire, you would go to the grammar school. My father [the broadcaster Johnny Ball] was worried that some of the secondary schools weren't very good, which is where I would have to go if I failed. As it was, I did pass - but had already gone to Holy Cross Convent School in Chalfont St Peter. I hated being at an all-girls' [private] school. The convent uniform was oatmeal socks and yellow shirt; the person who designed it must have been colour-blind. And we weren't even a Catholic family!

Culture Clash? I discovered pop music very late. I was always listening to Songs from the Shows and Big Band jazz while everyone else was listening to The Clash and David Bowie. I went to see a Tony Bennett show. This shocked someone at Beaconsfield Young Theatre, where I used to cycle after Sunday lunch and was in three or four productions a year, and he gave me a lot of tapes of the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols. I forced myself to listen to these on my Walkman: "I will like this." Then I really got into it.

A Legend In Her Lunch Break? I used to do "Zoe Ball Productions" in the lunch hour and charge 10p: pantomime and re-enactments of Live Aid. They would seem terrible now but I lived for them. The headmistress was called Sister Kevin, which I thought was very odd, but she was one of my two favourite teachers. The other was my form teacher, Sister Immaculata. And Mrs Smith was fabulous. She taught English and didn't take any messing around. She made everything so exciting; she even made Chaucer exciting when we did The Pardoner's Tale. I hated the biology teacher, who used to say "Zoe Ball, you're a very silly girl", although I did get biology O-level.

Don't Know Much About History? I took 10 O-levels and got seven. I failed history but we'd only done part of the syllabus and I think the only person who passed had had private tuition. I failed French - and Latin, which was disappointing, as I had a great teacher. I didn't do much work on the set book, which was The Odyssey. Wasn't that in Greek? Could it have been The Iliad? Shows how much I remember of the subject ...

Guilded Youth? I escaped the grip of the nuns and went to Amersham College of Art and Technology. I did a City & Guilds in radio and journalism - at which I learnt absolutely nothing - and two A-levels, in English language and English literature. I dropped the English literature, which I've always regretted. Had I known then what I know now, I would have done three A- levels and dropped the City & Guilds. I got two A-levels, again with the absolute minimum of work: two Ds and also the City & Guilds. I was quite impressed with myself! Then I went to the City Poly [in London] to do media with geology - that was a joke! - and computer sciences. I left after four months. The lecturers said, "There's no point in your going to university - go and get a job." If I'd known then what I know now, I'd have done an English degree - anywhere that would have me.

Is That Mr Ball On The Line? My father regretted spending a fortune at the convent, when I mucked about; I could have mucked about free at a grammar school!