Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Pamela Coleman

The efforts of this pop princess who started a playground petition to keep her history teacher all ended in tears.

Mr Trant was like someone's dad: he had a thick moustache and glasses and wore a shirt and tie with a V-necked jumper over the top. We all liked him. He was my form teacher at St Stephen's Primary School in St Margarets, near Twickenham, Middlesex, when I was nine.

He taught everything, but I particularly remember history lessons because he would walk round the classroom singing songs that were popular in the Second World War. He had a rich baritone voice and having a teacher sing to you made you feel special. He also told jokes. His lessons were great. He always had our attention and was a cut above all the other teachers.

Then one day somebody peeked at a letter on his desk that said which teachers would be teaching which forms the next year. When we discovered that he was going to another class, a friend and I started a petition to keep him. We went round the playground in the lunch break collecting signatures but were discovered and sent to the headmaster, who told us that Mr Trant could have lost his job because of us. It was rather confusing at the time but I think we were in more trouble for reading the letter than because of the petition.

Back in the classroom, Mr Trant didn't name us. He just said: "There are two girls here who nearly cost me my job today." I remember crying and great tears falling on to the book I was reading. I have a fear of authority and hated being told off.

I wasn't a naughty child at school but I was a chatterbox and mischievous. My reports were OK, but I wasn't studious. I loved taking part in school plays and enjoyed singing. I suppose I already had a bit of a predisposition towards showing off.

Mum (Janet Ellis) was on Blue Peter from when I was four until eight, which was a pretty big deal among my peers. I appeared on the programme twice. At first it seemed good currency to have a mother on TV and everyone wanted to be my best friend but then some kids turned against me - there was actually an Against Sophie Club at one stage.

Things got better when I moved on to senior school - Godolphin and Latymer, Hammersmith - where I had three brilliant English teachers.

Mrs Babuta, who was Welsh, taught me when I first arrived. English in that first year was cosy, mostly creative writing. I was into Roald Dahl and Tales of the Unexpected and wrote dark short stories about people dying and killing each other.

Mrs Stevens was quite different. She wasn't cosy, she was very articulate with a dry sense of humour and a passion for literature. She treated us like adults and would occasionally share an anecdote about something outside school, which made us feel incredibly grown up.

Miss Shadforth had an amazing way with words. She ran the school magazine, The Dolphin, which I wrote for and edited for a while. I planned to read English at university and was interested in a career in journalism but I started performing and found that was what I really enjoyed.

I didn't keep in touch with any of my teachers. I wouldn't say that my school days were the best of my life, but they set me up for the best days and my five closest friends are all girls I knew at school.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is a pop singer and songwriter. Her hits include Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) and Murder on the Dancefloor. She was talking to Pamela Coleman.

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Pamela Coleman

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