I hadn't given my old school much thought since I left it 14 years ago. Sure, it's cropped up in conversations about The Evils and Virtues of Grammar Schools (I grew up in Kent where grammars still roam the earth) as well as those about Colours I Will Never Wear Again – maroon and light blue, my school's uniform, meaning I could never be a West Ham fan. I have certainly had no burning desire to visit or get in touch with any of my old teachers.
I remember too well being herded into the auditorium during my time there and being forced to listen to old girls telling us about their gap yahs and the wonderful feeling of patronising, sorry, teaching, poor children on the other side of the world, to ever dream of wanting to inflict myself on any current students. And who writes to their old teachers? It's a bit creepy. And rather arrogant. Why on earth would Miss Gibbons remember me among the sea of students? Of course, when you're the Education Secretary, sending a crawly letter to your old school master is all in a day's spin, so Michael Gove's missive last week to his former French teacher is both creepy and arrogant.
More arrogant still, though, is Fiona Phillips, who rocked up to her old comprehensive to launch its rebranding and proceeded to give a speech where she described her alma mater as "a school rampant with hormones and no discipline, no aspiration and no encouragement" (don't hold back, Fi, say what you really think). Why bother turning up to a celebratory event and then pour forth a torrent of 35-year-old spite? Life really is too short.
But recently I changed my mind about a return trip. Not because I wanted to see if it was the same as it is in my ongoing nightmare about trying to find the geography room because I haven't turned up to a class for two years and have an A-level the next day (for the record, I loved geography and never sweated it at the time), or to bore the girls with tales of my career. I went because my little sister is now a pupil, and my benign apathy about the old place was replaced with fierce pride that Lucy had chosen my school – shout out to Invicta Grammar! – rather than anywhere else, to study.
It was actually lovely to go back, but mainly because I was seeing it through her eyes, rather than my own. One thing certainly hasn't changed in the decade and a half since I left: the bloody awful maroon and blue uniforms.Reuse content