Thursday, September 22, 2011

School Reunion

On Sunday I went to a school reunion, the first in thirty three years. I went to a selective, highly academic girls' school, which in those days was funded under the direct grant system - somewhere between a private and a state school, in that the fees payable were based on income, with about 10-15% having their places fully paid by the government. These days it is a fully fee paying school, still selective and geared to high academic achievement.

About half the members of our year made it to the reunion, and it was fascinating hearing what people had done since they left school. Two things particularly struck us. Firstly, that most of us had changed direction one or more times, with varied careers that often bore little relation to what we set out to do when we left school - careers which included motherhood for the great majority of us, for which our schooling gave us no preparation whatsoever. Secondly, it brought home to us how academically snobbish the school was (and I imagine still is) and how many people had their self esteem severely knocked by being judged as "not university material". I think all of these had subsequently proved the school wrong by acquiring degrees and discovering they were far more capable than the school had given them credit for, but there was clearly far too much pigeonholing of girls by the school's perception of ability (often inaccurate). I think for a number of people the reunion was an opportunity to confront and put to bed some not too happy memories.

Something else I realised was how narrow our social circles tended to be. Only one of my close friends was at the reunion, and I found myself having interesting conversations with people I don't remember ever speaking to in seven years at that school. With hindsight I am surprised I didn't have more contact with people outside my immediate friendship group. I get the impression that Angel and Star have much wider social circles than we did.

Overall the reunion brought back a mixed set of memories and made me glad that Angel and Star are at a very different type of school - one that aims to help its students achieve the very best they can, whatever their ability, rather than one that sets an extremely high bar and then dismisses as failures those who don't reach it.

1 comment:

PixieMum said...

We had a gathering of our class this Summer, seems to happen each time one of our number visits England from Bondi Beach.

Each time it is as if we had returned after the summer holidays, but now without the cliques. Much laughter and friendship. There are some girls who do not wish to stay in touch, that is their choice.

I am fortunate I live in the same area, in fact when I wander to our local High street I can see the houses that replaced the school building in the distance. Also, am likely to meet some one from said school too.