My best teacher

25th June 2004 at 01:00
In lessons I would stare through the window at the sports pitches and want to be out there running around

Miss Froggatt, my headmistress at the Granville school in Sevenoaks, Kent, looked rather like Margaret Thatcher. She was very elegant, and beautifully groomed; she wore pearls and ear-rings and dressed in tailored suits. Her features were soft and feminine but she had a regal air about her and when she entered the room all the girls had to curtsey. It was a happy school and I enjoyed my time there. Like everyone else, I was in love with Miss Froggatt.

She wanted us all to be young ladies, and we were taught to have good deportment and to sit up straight. We were also encouraged to perform and to speak in front of an audience. I was a shy child and shook like a leaf when I had to recite in front of parents, but it was good training and came in useful when I went on to a career in broadcasting many years later.

Miss Froggatt was keen on drama, staged plays and pantomimes, and every girl in the school had to take part. I remember her sitting in her director's chair at the back of the school hall dictating the proceedings on stage. I was cast as Fat King Melon, Boadicea and a squirrel. The costumes, made by parents, were amazing. Miss Froggatt also liked to instigate school traditions. For instance, at Christmas the cook would come out with an enormous bowl, which was passed round, so every girl took a hand in stirring the Christmas pudding. Every spring there was a flower festival and we all came to lessons wearing a coronet made from fresh flowers.

It was a sporty school too, which suited me. I'd started playing tennis when I was nine and won the school tennis cup. I also loved rounders and running races, hurdles, long jump and high jump. There was a fantastically well-equipped gym and I won quite a few badges, and became sports captain and, eventually, head girl.

I was never very interested in the academic side of school. In lessons I would stare through the window at the sports pitches and want to be out there running around.

By the time I was 12, I was in the British junior tennis team and my parents chose my next school because it had a flexible attitude to taking time off for competitions and practice. I went to West Heath in Sevenoaks, where the headmistress, Ruth Rudge, was a good friend of Miss Froggatt. I arrived at the school just as Princess Diana had left, but everyone was talking about her and her sister, Sarah, another old girl, who had also dated Prince Charles.

Going from the cosy atmosphere of the Granville to West Heath was a shock, but great fun. West Heath was like St Trinian's; the girls were so naughty and cheeky. Being a day girl and sporty, I didn't really fit in with these elegant young ladies with triple-barrelled names who stood around the hockey pitch with their arms folded insisting: "We don't run." They used to give poor Miss Frizer, the games mistress, heart palpitations. They just weren't interested in sport and she couldn't cope. Whenever a new member of staff arrived, the girls would give false names so the teacher didn't know who was who. They flicked rubber bands and dressed in high heels, mini-skirts and suspenders - whatever they could get away with.

My memories of my years at West Heath are a bit of a blur because I spent my afternoons catching a train to go off to Queen's Club to practise. I remember the maths teacher, though, who was known as Mr Miller, the Ginger Gorilla. Rumour had it that he took angry pills because he had such a fierce temper. I took a couple of O-levels early and left at 15 to concentrate on my tennis, and the same year became the youngest Briton to play at Wimbledon for 100 years.

Sports commentator and ex- tennis player Annabel Croft was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1966 Born in London

1971-73 Attends Farringtons school, Chislehurst, Kent

1973-79 Granville school, Sevenoaks

1978 British under-12s tennis champion

1979-82 West Heath school, Sevenoaks

1980 Wins under-14s tennis championship

1981 Wins under-16s tennis championship

1984 Becomes Wimbledon junior champion

1987 Retires from international tennis

1988 Appears on Channel 4's Treasure Hunt

1993 onwards Works as sports reporter for BBC, GMTV, Sky News and Eurosport

2003 Appears in remake of BBC's sports competition Superstars

June-July 2004 Commentates on Wimbledon for BBC's Radio Five Live and BBC television

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