Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Anna Stothard, student and writer

'We used to chant "I love myself"'
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The Independent Online

Anna Stothard, 19, was the author of the Teenage Kicks column in The Observer. Her first novel, Isabel and Rocco, was published earlier this year. She is now working on her second. Her father is former Times editor Peter Stothard and her mother is Sally Emerson, the novelist.

Off the wall: My memories of St John's Primary in Islington are like a bad art-house film, all black-and-white with green round the edges. The bully boys used to stand on a wall and jump down to see how many girls they could squash. I don't remember him from that time but my ex-boyfriend used to go to the same school, which was a bad omen!

I remember missing my mum a lot. She used to pack me a lunch because I didn't like the school food; then I would find an excuse to go home and have my lunch at the kitchen table.

Washington square: When I was six we moved to America and I went to Sidwell Friends in Washington. After a year I moved to Somerset Elementary in Chevy Chase village, on the outskirts of Washington. I enjoyed it a lot, although I was wearing flowery, girly dresses, while all the girls there wore their caps on backwards.

We had 15-year-olds, in our class of seven-year-olds; they had been held down at school and were now bussed in from central Washington. It was so PC that I'm scarred for life: we used to sit round in a circle chanting, "I love myself, I'm worth a lot."

I remember learning nothing except about Martin Luther King: project after project. There was lots of freedom: baseball in the street during the long evenings, all my friends nearby. The American dream!

Moving Times: I was nine when my father became editor of The Times and we moved back to England. Compared to America, which was so free, South Hampstead Junior School was quite cramped and frenetic and all my friends lived ages away, like in Chiswick. There was an itchy uniform instead of shorts.

I was chucked out of the choir by the witchy choir mistress for staring out of the window. I had to adapt again. I spoke with a thick American accent and I remember being pushed into the dustbins because no one believed I was English.

Pauline conversion: I moved to St Paul's School for Girls when I was 13. St Paul's was very academic; the teachers were very encouraging and I was amazed at the lengths they went to with a completely hopeless cause! The girls were incredibly motivated. I started my Teenage Kicks column for The Observer when I was doing my GCSEs, which I hated, with such a passion; but I even managed to pass maths, although I was sitting next to a 12-year-old girl who was on the last page when I was still on the first page.

I left at 16. I got fidgety and wanted a change. Moving schools was what I did! Also, the bus ride to St Paul's in Hammersmith was horrendous.

In the pink: Westminster was very much a boys' school which took in girls for, I don't know, aesthetic reasons. I wrote my column for the summer and a bit into my first year but Westminster was not too pleased about it. I wrote my novel Isabel and Rocco while I was at Westminster. It was a beautiful place with some wonderful people. I loved the academic side. The work was more like being at university; you could always dig in and find something you were really interested in. I did art, history of art and English, and an AS in religious studies and philosophy. All the galleries were near and the teacher could say, "Let's go to see some Gothic architecture" – and we'd go into Westminster Abbey.

Me and two friends started a magazine called Pink (pink is the school colour). The school magazine, The Elizabethan, was pretty much for teachers and didn't have a lot of energy. Pink had jokes and articles and a lot of spelling mistakes.

Acute Anglia: I got three As and an AS. I was offered places at Oxford and at East Anglia University. I was so torn because the creative writing course at UEA sounds like heaven but I didn't like East Anglia the place. I thought I'd rather study English literature in a place with bookstores.