I wasn't very good at English and I'd never read poetry until I joined Mr Iggulden's class. I'd always got Ds, but I got an A at GCSE

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Mr Iggulden was my English teacher. My friends and I used to take the mickey whenever we spotted the barbed-wire tattoo round the top of his arm; we told him he looked like a Spice Girl. He was very tall, young - in his 30s - with floppy Hugh Grant hair and little specs. He was trendy compared to the other teachers.

I thought he was fantastic because he taught us in such an interesting way.

Instead of reading books, he'd get us to act them out. Reading Lord of the Flies as a class, then watching it on video, was a lot more fun than reading alone. One day he came into the classroom and said something controversial, quite sexist. A group of confident girls immediately started mouthing off, and the boys chipped in, sparking off a big debate. At end of the lesson we were all startled that we'd been arguing for an hour. Mr Iggulden just said: "Right, you've all got A in your oral examination."

I wasn't very good at English until Mr Iggulden became my teacher. In Years 8 and 9 I'd consistently been getting Ds, but as soon as I started in his classes my grades improved. By Year 11 I was getting As, which is what I got in my GCSE. He really did work up my grades. And he improved my spelling.

We were both outspoken so we sometimes clashed. He usually said I talked too much, but I think he liked the fact that I was willing and enthusiastic. I respected him because he'd let us argue, but always knew where to draw the line. Some of my friends fancied him, though they'd deny it now, of course, but I was too busy having the hots for our geography teacher. I used to walk past his classroom door just to get a glimpse of him.

I'd never read poetry before, but with Mr Iggulden we read loads. My favourite part of the lesson was when he'd pick a random subject and tell us to write a poem about it. I'd end up writing poems for half my friends too. We'd all read them out at the end of the class. I'd always volunteer to read mine. He didn't get much say in the matter; I'd just start reading.

I'd write about past experiences, crushes, things like that. When I was 14 I had a poem published after I entered a youth poetry competition.

I can't recall how it went, but it was about hot and cold. I still write poems. Poetry and painting are my two passions; they're how I express myself. I'd love to get a collection published or put an art exhibition together.

I'd always wanted to work in TV, but Mr Iggulden insisted I get my education first, because there was only a one in a million chance I'd make it. When I got my first job presenting Disney Club at 15 I said to him:

"Ha! I told you I'd do it." He said: "Well done. I respect you for that."

And now he's made it too, as author of the Emperor fiction series in which history and adventure are interwoven to recreate the life of Julius Caesar.

When the time came to leave school, everyone in my class was upset to be leaving his lessons. The feeling was probably mutual; he liked our year.

My parents were fine about me working through my GCSEs. They said to go for whatever I wanted as long as I was happy. So I did. I did one A-level, in art. All my friends went to university, but I couldn't keep it up. TV was too exciting. It still is; I never know what's going to happen from day to day until I get a fax at home telling me.

I hated the limitations of the daily routine and rules of school. I used to sit in class looking out of the window thinking: "I'm wasting my time here." Being with friends and doing art and English were the only things I enjoyed. TV was an escape. I learned so much by getting out there, auditioning and working. I was lucky to get an unusual, more practical kind of education. I was so driven I didn't want a back-up. If it went wrong, I told myself, I'd work in production or something similar.

THE STORY SO FAR

1981 Born near Harrow, London

1994-2000 Attends Haydon school, London borough of Hillingdon

1997 First TV appearance as a presenter of ITV's Disney Club

1998 Co-presenter of GMTV's Diggit

2000 Films two series for CITV: Finger Tips and Pet Swap, an action game show

2001 Joins CBBC science show, Eureka TV

2002 First presenter of BBC1's The Saturday Show. Co-hosts the 30th and final series of Record Breakers

2003 Presents Top Of The Pops Saturday edition. Takes part in BBC's Celebrity Fame Academy

2004 Becomes co-presenter of Top of the Pops with Reggie Yates

Spring 2005 Top of the Pops relaunches.

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