I moved from state school to private – this is what I learned from both


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I moved from state school to private – this is what I learned from both

They both rip the shit out of the kid that forgets non-uniform day

In the UK only six point five per cent of school children are privately educated yet 43 per cent of students at Oxford in 2015 were from independent schools. Ask someone who had a private education why this is the case and they’ll generally say it’s because private schools have more resources or better teachers, or that the kids that go there are more focused and willing to learn (bullshit).

My experiences aren’t exactly universal. The state school I went to until Year 10 was pretty average. It had massive classes, mild arson and, while I was there, a 49 per cent chance of getting 5+ A*-C GCSE’s. The private school I went to from 14-18 wasn’t as typical. It was non-selective, averaged around 12 people in a class at GCSE and my sixth form year group (all ten of us) once spent around two months paper machéing a yoga ball for a costume that a year 10 was going to wear in a 20-minute adaptation of Monsters Inc. So not your typical school.

There is plenty out there about experiences of private schools or state schools. But what do you learn from going to both?

How to dodge uniform restrictions

Getting away with having your tie 7cm long is impressive but the level of expertise that’s required in rolling a floor length kilt to above the knee is unparalleled. As is the speed required in rolling it back down when a teacher with a ruler apparates out of thin air.

There are certain lessons you can’t get from state education

Head Student, House Captain, Music Captain, Sports Captain, Peer Mentor: the leadership opportunities at private schools don’t just give you something to put on UCAS.

There are lessons you can’t get from private education

Studying food tech in a school where ingredients for creme brûlée are carried around in woven baskets is a different experience to being in a school with people that can’t afford lunch that day. How much can you really learn in PSHCE lessons about diversity if you’re in a class of 12 white middle-class kids?

You quickly realise that every school has the same urban legends and they’re definitely bullshit

That kid that was swinging on his chair, fell off, cracked his head open and died? Every school has one, regardless of whether or not they’re posh. That year 11 group that put three sheep in a field, labelled them one, two and four and spent the whole day having banter about the imaginary fourth sheep that the school would never find? Didn’t happen.

Hearing the majority of privileged kids talk about state school is just funny

Hugo thinks his school was diverse because they had bursaries. He calls himself a socialist because he speaks to the guy that delivers the Ocado order every week and thinks he’s from the ghetto cos he went to a state primary school. Hugo is a bit of twat.

Hearing the majority of kids from state schools talk about privileged kids is just funny

Just a lot of ‘briefcase wanker’ to be honest. 

Both have their fair share of great teachers and shit ones

My first school had a teacher that spent a lesson making a Caesar salad. Which would have been fine if it was food tech – it’s a shame it was a Geography lesson. It was also full of teachers that had to spend day after day teaching classes of 30+ kids trying to make sure that nobody was using the bunsen burners to set someone on fire.

Jamie Oliver’s Nazi food restrictions didn’t reach private schools

Vending machines galore. 

People treat you differently

In the same way that your immaculately dressed nan is treated differently to a guy in a shell suit, walking around in the two uniforms gets you a vastly different response from people on the street. The neon green polo shirt I was made to wear at my state school, at worst, caused suspicion from the shop assistants at the corner shop who made you leave your bag at the door and only allowed two in at a time.

The kilt and blazer combo of my second school was a different story. Less suspicion from shop assistants, more death glares from people on the bus that assumed I was one step away from joining the Bullingdon club, becoming besties with Rupert Murdoch and running the country. But hey, there’s still time yet. 

You’re spoken to differently

And not just by randoms on the bus and shop assistants. In my state school, the message was ‘if you go to college…’. Every other sentence at my private school started with ‘When you go to university…’. There’s a reason that everyone in my year at private school made it to uni and a shameful percentage of kids at my first school didn’t.

You can spout as much bullshit as you like about private schools having better resources, better teachers, and better students but if you put two kids of equal ability into a room and tell one that they’re going to uni and the other that they might make it to sixth form, you lose the right to be surprised by the statistics.

I’m incredibly grateful for being able to experience both and wouldn’t change my time at state or private school for anything. As our eventual world leader Miley Cyrus once said, I got the best of both worlds.