My Inbetweeners moment

Moving to a new school is a daunting experience for any student. When I describe the sickness in your stomach that does not go away for weeks, I speak from personal experience. It gnaws away at your insides until you either give in or just accept that you are going to have to ride it out.

Some are lucky enough never to experience that feeling, but for me it was made worse by the fact that I was moving from a private school to a state school up the road. Of course, this was not helped by the corridor cry from sitcom The Inbetweeners ("briefcase wanker") that echoed around my head.

And yet, unlike that programme's central character, Will, I chose to move. Although I have always told my parents that my main motivation for leaving private school was a hatred of the system and how it was run, I had other, more practical reasons, too.

At the time of the move I was 13 (I am now 17) and had set my sights on a life in a professional kitchen, something that was extremely unlikely if I remained at my existing school.

The place had a simple philosophy: that its students should thrive on academic subjects, sport and music. Catering or food technology was out. So I was left with the choice of dropping my childhood dream or moving to a school that offered the course I wanted. I chose the latter.

No one could have prepared me for the different culture and attitudes; in eight years at my previous school, I had never experienced a fight between students, an argument with teachers or even students nipping behind the bike shed for a sneaky cigarette. I was treated to all that on my first day at my new school. The complete change in behaviour left me stumped; I felt as if I had moved to a different country. It scared me and yet I loved every second of it.

But what was perhaps even more surprising was the change in my academic outlook. The constant pressure I had felt to achieve the highest grades had always frustrated me, not least because I was made to feel that I was failing if I got a C.

In my new school I found that the regime and system were completely different; if you wanted to learn, you had the support and teachers would work their absolute hardest for you. This was very different from the pressure cooker I was used to; the expectation was that it was up to you to choose to work.

And it helped that I was suddenly one of the students who did so. From averaging Bs and Cs at my private school, I was taken aback to see my grades shooting upwards to As and A*s. Put simply, just about everything at this new school made sense.

I don't, however, want to be completely one-sided. My private school background certainly had its benefits - for example, I am sure that it helped with my self-belief and assuredness - and my older brother excelled there.

But four years have now passed since I made the switch and whenever someone asks me about it I always give the same answer: "Private school just wasn't for me." Even if I do get massacred for being "posh" or Will from The Inbetweeners.

Matt Rontree-Carey attends Birchwood High School in Bishop's Stortford, south-east England.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you