Quick to cotton on

9th January 1998 at 00:00
I still remember my first day at Bishops Woods Infants School. It was sunny and my mum walked to school with me. At the end of that day I sat on the mat and had a story read to me - which surprised me, because I thought school was just a place for hard work. Even now, when I walk into schools and I see the young children getting ready for the end-of-the-day story, I envy them. I feel it's a magical moment that I'll never get back. And I still love early September, partly because it always reminds me of the start of the new school term.

I grew up in Hatfield, a small town in Hertfordshire. My dad worked for British Aerospace there, as an engineer, and my mother is (still?) a nurse. My parents came to Britain from Jamaica and, like a lot of Caribbean parents, they stressed the importance of education. They were very keen for us to work hard and do well.

I went on to Broad Oak Junior School where we had a needlework teacher called Mrs Huntingdon who came in once a week on a Tuesday afternoon to teach us embroidery and patchwork and traditional sewing skills.

She was a classic-looking teacher. She dressed immaculately, in knee-length tweed skirts and twin sets, and she would wear a pearl necklace and highly polished, sensible, lace-up brown shoes. She was meticulous about everything, particularly teaching needlework.

I still do needlework, and I'm sure Mrs Huntingdon's got a lot to do with it. She was so precise about how things were finished and presented, and I'm a bit of a stickler for that now.

When I auditioned for Blue Peter, they asked me if there was anything I was particularly good at, and I said "I'm brilliant at making things". But in my audition that was probably the thing I did worst. You have to make something in about five minutes, and describe what you're doing. But at home, if I pick up a needle or a piece of work, I do it for pleasure and relaxation. I'm monosyllabic, if I speak at all.

I went on to Hatfield School. I would say I was quite average; not a naughty child and not a genius. I chattered a lot, but I worked hard. My grandfather on my mum's side has a saying: whatever you do, whether you're running the country or cleaning the country, you must do that job at least 200 per cent, because you've agreed to do it. Those words have stuck with me.

Mrs Morton taught me English and drama in the fourth year, and she was terrifying. She was strict, but if she saw that you were making an effort she would give you all her attention. You could be a very bright person on your way to Oxford, but if you didn't make an effort she didn't regard you as highly as someone who might be in the D stream but worked hard.

I was off ill for a couple of weeks in the sixth form. She could have sent my work home with my brother, but she came to see me to chat and make sure I was all right.

Even though I was popular at school and happy, I used to feel embarrassed about standing up and reading in class. I would stutter and it would be painful. Two minutes could feel like a century. Because of this, my friends dared me to apply for drama school, even though I already had a place at Manchester University to study English.

I like a dare, so I sent off the form. My drama teacher gave up her Saturday and lots of time after school to work on the audition pieces with me. She gave me lots of encouragement and confidence, and I got the place.

I loved school, and if they had school for 37-year-olds I'd probably still be there. Mrs Morton did an amazing job. I feel pleased that I've done fairly well, just for her.

Diane Louise Jordan was a TV presenter on Blue Peter for six years and on Bright Sparks and Children in Need. Last month she was appointed to the government committee in charge of Princess Diana's memorial. She was talking to Wendy Wallace

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today