Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Will Hutton, author and former newspaper editor

My teacher was called 'Sexy Nexy'


Will Hutton, 59, was the chief executive of the Work Foundation (formerly the Industrial Society) and is now its executive vice-chairman. He was the economics editor on Newsnight and recently presented two Dispatches programmes on the credit crunch. His third book, The Writing on the Wall, was published in 2007.

The teachers at Bishopton Primary School, Renfrewshire were lovely but the structure of the school was ghastly: the boys' outside toilets stank and things didn't work. There was a terrible thing called "the strap". If someone was naughty, you put your hand out and it was hit three times. My early liberal conscience was stirred: "This is not good!"

I went to my next school, Paisley Grammar, at eight. The Scots boys didn't like the English boys. I was born in Woolwich where my father worked at the Royal Ordnance factory. One English boy, who was rather fat, was chased round the playground by a pack of boys with the aim of beating him up – day in, day out. I like Scotland but there was an underside of Scottish life that was deeply unpleasant, an anti-English, quasi-xenophobia.

The school was terribly traditional and you sat in rows and said your tables by rote. Arithmetic was poorly taught. I sat at the back in a corner and carved my name on the desk.

I left Paisley when we came south and I had two years at Southborough Lane County Primary in Petts Wood, near Bromley, Kent, run by a charismatic headmaster called Mr Godden. He took my mother to one side and said: "Your son is an intelligent boy. He is not in the catchment area for Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar but if he does well in his 11-plus, I will write a letter saying that he is Oxford and Cambridge material."

"Chis and Sid" was a good school and for me it laid the foundations for everything. I met some fantastic teaching staff. Garth Pinkney inspired me about economics; he introduced me to The Economist. When I get to history passages in my writing, I think every time of Jack Burnip and "Nobby Clark", the history teachers, both passionate about the 17th century.

Miss Necks – "Sexy Nexy" – was a good maths teacher. She was rather vain and didn't like to wear glasses. We once attached a fishing line to the board duster and whenever she went for it, we moved it 3ft. This went on for 10 to 15 minutes. We were sent to the headmaster, but it was worth it.

I was 18 months younger than the oldest boys in the fast-track class and generally bottom or near bottom in the class order. My O-levels were Bs, Cs and Ds but I really flourished in the sixth-form. Doing the subjects I loved – geography, history and economics – I often came first. I played rugby in the first team and ran the tennis team.

I got my A-levels and went to Bristol University and got a 2:1 in economics and sociology. The sociology department wanted to give me a first but I hadn't done well enough in Part I economics because I spent my first two years doing zero work. (It was the late Sixties, after all.)

I didn't get interested in journalism until I did an MBA at Insead in Fontainebleau near Paris. As the only English speaker, I was always asked to write the reports of my group projects and the other students, who were Japanese, Belgian, French, Czech and German, said, "You write good English." I said, "Well, I'm English."

Jonathan Story was the professor who introduced me to political economy and insisted I read the classical economists: Ricardo, Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall. So much of economics degrees consists of reading papers by academics on the classic economists, rather than the original texts... Small wonder we're in a financial crisis.

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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game