Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Dave Berry, television presenter

'It's so horrible to be bullied'
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The Independent Online

I spent most of my time at school talking and entertaining the class. Ten years later, I'm doing practically the same thing - and getting paid, but not getting sent to the headmaster! My first-ever memory of school is of my kindergarten in Charlton, south-east London. I remember turning my balaclava the other way round and pretending to be Spiderman. I couldn't see but I got to the top of the climbing frame - and a boy punched me in the face, perhaps to show me that I wasn't in fact Spiderman.

I used to hand round biscuits at the end of the day, which I liked. Also, in the last hour you had a choice of bikes; everyone wanted the police bike. Happy days! Eating biscuits and riding bikes: I'm still doing that today. But not a BMX: people ride a BMX at 25 and think it's cool!

Then I went to Invicta primary school, still in the Charlton area. This was the start of my showbiz career: I got to be Joseph in the nativity play. My father still has a photograph of me in a blue towelling robe; I was holding the baby Jesus - a doll - by one leg, upside down. Then I went to Sherington junior school, where I was bullied in my final year. The whole class, 4E, turned against me, led by one kid who had watched too much Karate Kid and practised his kung-fu moves on me. It led to me bunking off school and walking round the streets and arcades. I then got my little sister Kate bunking off too.

I do some stuff for Childline now; it's so horrible to be bullied. But you have to take it on the chin. I believe that, for 90 per cent of the kids being bullied, it does make them the man or woman they become. When I went to secondary school, the John Roan comprehensive, I was a very different person. I became a gobshite and I talked a lot, but after I left I heard a rumour that they thought I was still a loveable kid and did nothing really bad.

I took 12 GCSEs. I needed five to get into sixth-form college so I concentrated on the two English GCSEs, music, history and drama; I got five Bs. I also got three Ds and - in maths and German - two Es. I was horrible to the German teacher, Panjit Birk; I thought: "Why is she not teaching me something beautiful, like Spanish?" But on the day of the written German paper, when I came into the classroom, I found her literally on her knees, doing her Asian prayers. I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was praying for me and the class to do well in the exam. My whole body language changed then and I said something like, "I love you, Miss Birk! How wrong I have been."

I went to Crown Woods in Eltham. I picked the same A-levels as the girl I stood next to in the queue - English, photography, sociology and drama. I was kicked out after three months but I went out with Laura for more than a year.

I would love to go to university, sit down next to a professor, and say, "I want to know what you know." Also, I would like to go back to being myself at 15, give myself a slap and tell myself to stop being horrible. I heard that my old head would love me to come back for the GCSE presentation. I'd say to the kids: "Ninety five per cent of you may hate the teachers but they're all right really." Yes, it is a case of do as I say, not as I did.

Email: jonty@jonathansale.com

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