I begged my mother to let me become a boarder at Barnardiston Hall Prep School. Most of my friends boarded and it seemed like so much fun in the dorms. The headmaster was ex-army and there were quite a few military children there, so it was important that the school was a home from home for them. It was quite strict, though. We had uniform inspections before breakfast and room inspections daily. It was perfect training for the army.
My boarding school was small and I loved the way the teachers looked after us, but it was later on in my education that two teachers in particular stood out.
I loved science and it was my A-level biology teacher, Mrs Eastwood, who I recall most fondly. I found her classes fun and engaging – and she really nurtured me to become independent.
I went to a school reunion a few years ago where I bumped into Mrs Eastwood. She hadn’t forgotten my end-of-school prank where I’d fly posted a list of funny quotes from the teachers around the school. Apparently, this has now become legend there. It’s nice to know that I left some kind of legacy.
But the teacher who shaped me the most was my ballet teacher, Miss Jackman. She was the one who instilled confidence in me. She taught me from the age of 8 up until university and really cared about her students. Her dance school was like a second home to me.
I’ve also recently got back in touch with Miss Jackman and can proudly report that her school, Hazelwood Dance Studios, is still going strong.
I was pretty rubbish at sport back then, but I loved dancing: ballet, tap and modern. And I remember loving crafts. We did embroidery, calligraphy and clay modelling when I was very young and that sort of creativity and dexterity has helped no end with the baking and decorating I do now.
When you board from an early age, you learn to get on with things by yourself and you mature much faster.
My prep school really nurtured us academically and helped me do all the work necessary to get into my top choice of secondary school. When I got there at the age of 11 and was surrounded by so many intelligent girls, I loved it.
They created an environment where great things were expected of us. Nothing was off the table career-wise and it was clear that the school aimed to produce a number of pioneering women.
Life skills and selfies
As for baking, I vaguely recall making scones at prep school. I think it is critical to establish a strong connection with food in children. Baking is ideal for kids because the process is fun, a bit messy and involves fewer hot pans.
A passion and interest in food from an early age is almost always carried through into adulthood. I truly believe in the importance of being able to cook – even at a basic level, it is an essential life skill that everyone should be taught.
Of course, life has changed a fair bit since winning Bake Off. It is strange getting used to people recognising you, but I love it when they come up and chat. People just love the show so much, so it’s a wonderful feeling when a kid walks away smiling after taking a selfie.
I’m getting stuck into things as much as I can – and I’m still learning, too. I’m doing stages – short unpaid internships – in Michelin-starred restaurants to give me invaluable experience. It’s a busy time, but I’m loving every minute.
Sophie Faldo was speaking to Suzanne Baum