Read part one here
After I got back after the summer school had changed. I had a year behind my belt and no longer felt intimidated by the whole experience. As I was in upper sixth we all got moved to The Annex which was separate to the main boarding house linked only by a connecting corridor. I had this lovely room which to this day I call the ‘alcove’ as my bed was literally in an alcove. I was made Head of Girls School House which really involved showing people around on Open Days, meetings once a week with the Head and the chance to sit facing the sixth formers at the annual sixth form assembly every Monday rather than sit with them. We also moved into a new study, this study was underneath the theatre and was much brighter than my last study and I also got to share with my two best mates.
There were new boarders to meet and new decisions to make as next year we were all off to university. At Upper Sixth A- levels started to get harder, I remember thinking at the beginning of lower sixth when I was studying the Great Gatsby in class that there was no way in hell I was going to go to university but in Upper Sixth I realised I wanted a degree. Back then in 2008 the recession was underway, with many people losing their jobs, I didn’t have many skills to enter the job market with, I felt it in a way, I had no choice but to go.
The academic work definitely got harder. I loved the English Lit A-Level but I found Geography relatively easy. I decided to apply to study Geography at university. My school took university very seriously, it was extremely rare to not go to university straight after unless it was a gap year. We wrote our forms, had a staff member go over our personal statements rewrote the statements again and sent the forms off before Christmas. Those that were applying for Oxbridge had an interview with the Deputy Head. It was very hands on, compared to my sister who went to college a few years later and was essentially left to do the whole UCAS application herself.
As I was turning 18 I wanted to go out. I got invited to a few parties but didn’t attend most of them as I had to get permission to stay over night from both my parents and the parents of the friends house where I was staying, it was just too much hassle. I got sick of being penned in at the weekends, I remember one time asking to go up to the newsagents up the street at half six in the evening when it was still light and I got told no as it was too late, I was 17 years old!
Good things I remember was the annual sixth form dance. It’s not a normal disco. Once a week for about eight weeks all the sixth formers had to have ballroom dancing lessons which were given by the deputy. It was embarrassing at the time, but a lovely memory to look back on. I also joined this group called PeaceJam, it’s an international organisation led by Nobel Peace Prize winners with the aim of promoting peace amongst young people. As part of this, our group travelled to Bradford University and met Shirin Ebadi. At lunch, Shirin Ebadi was invited to eat with the students and she happened to sit right opposite me, I couldn’t believe it!
There were more boarding school parties, looking back at the photos the teachers did make a real effort to make our final year special. There was a meal at a restaurant called Tampopo in Leeds and a party in the boarding house where the housemistress gave us all some jewellery she had made herself. I still think I have the earrings somewhere. I remember my friend smashing a light because she was threw an orange at it and then told the deputy head it had fallen down. The same friend also broke into the school swimming pool using a debit card and went for a swim in the middle of the night. She then took one of those hot plates that is powered using tea lights ( I have no idea why the boarding house had one of those!) and made a meal afterwards!
I remember in Biology dissecting a rat. The rat stank of preserving fluid and I have no idea why we did it other than for the ‘experience’ which looking back is completely unnecessarily. This one guy took the intestines of the rat and swung it around his head lasso style. I was nearly peeing myself with laughter. I also remember going to the pub when we all hit 18 every Friday, considering I couldn’t go to the newsagents on my own. I loved the privilege and felt more of a normal 18-year-old. I remember a group of us had gone to the local town for an afternoon in the pub and when we got back the teacher on duty was checking that we hadn’t been drinking. The teacher asked me where I had been and I said Tesco’s!
Upper Sixth did end on a high for me as I only took two ‘proper’ A-levels and General Studies I was looking forward to joining my university course not being the odd one out. The positives I took from my experience was being with like minded people. My friends and fellow students loved their hobbies and wanted to succeed, you really felt that anything was possible. The students were polite in lessons and if I had gone to boarding school in my GCSE years I would have got better results just because the teachers would be able to teach in lessons and not have to sort out the badly behaved all the time. I enjoyed hobbies I never have tried otherwise such as PeaceJam, European Cinema Club and Archery. The negatives I found was I hadn’t worked at all- I couldn’t, I didn’t know it at the time, but that didn’t serve me well when I was job hunting after school as I didn’t have any skills such as cash handling or customer service. I couldn’t drive either.
Would I do boarding school again? Assessing everything I probably wouldn’t have gone again. I think in sixth form if you are really really smart, I mean got all A’s at GCSE smart, then it really is for you. I would have gone to the local sixth form I think and learnt to drive and definitely get a part time job. However, it has given me a unique experience, a good dinner table topic and a go to interesting fact about me!
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