PASSED/FAILED: Joan Bakewell

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The Independent Online
Joan Bakewell, broadcaster and writer, presents the BBC1 Sunday evening programme Heart of the Matter.

Shooting stars: I went to St Thomas's, a small church primary school near Stockport, and Miss Thomas was my teacher. You were awarded yellow stars for doing quite well and gold stars for doing very well. When I got a page of gold stars for sums and letters, I knew I was on my way. We sang our tables; I still do it when I want to know five sevens.

First 11-plus: I went to Stockport High School for Girls, first into its juniors, and then took the 11-plus to the main school. In 1945 we were the first to take it, after the 1944 Education Act. I was a swot, but quite naughty as well. It was a cracking education.

Booby prize? At 12 I came third in the short story competition on the children's page of the Stockport Advertiser. Imagine my disgust when the prize came: it was an old-fashioned card with lots of dots for knitting patterns. It was suitable for an eight-year-old, and I threw it away.

Creditable exam results? In my School Certificate I got six distinctions and three credits. Kemsley Press offered to each of the 10 schools in Stockport two travelling scholarships for the best results. I won one, and we all went to Holland and Belgium; it was the first time I'd been abroad - and in the company of boys. I went out with one of the boys for two years afterwards.

A-levels? Then came a major disappointment. I wanted to do a "Higher" in English but I wasn't allowed to because I had only got a credit instead of a distinction. (I think the teacher didn't like me.) Because of that, I couldn't do English in the sixth form, so I couldn't do English at University, so I couldn't become a writer. Instead, I took four subjects: history, geography, French and Latin. I did well.

Cambridge accent: Access to university was now free, and I was the first of my family to go. I took the entrance to Newnham and they said, "Come back in a year." I got in to read economics.

Economical with the economics: After a year, I didn't do too well in Part I. I then changed to history. I remember getting back an essay on which was written, "I cannot mark such rubbish." That pulled me up sharp and did me a power of good.

Hall of fame? I had a tartish part in Point of Departure by Jean Anouilh, Peter Hall's first Cambridge production. Karl [now Professor] Miller wrote in his review, "She plays a tart like the Virgin Mary." I kept on acting, but wasn't very good.

Finals result? I left with a 2.2 in History and joined the BBC as a radio technician. I had to do the studio management training course twice; these days they'd chuck you out.

Glittering prizes? I got the Dimbleby Award from Bafta and the BMA Award for presenting programmes on medical ethics. For five years I was an associate fellow of Newnham College. I didn't teach, but was on the governing boardn