What does 'Back to School' make you think of? Is it going into WHSmith at the end of the summer holidays and doing a big stationery haul – picking out your new pencil case, colourful rubbers and pack of gel pens (smelly or glittery, oh the choice!)? Or is it going into Clarks and John Lewis and having your school shoes and uniform fitted for the new term?
Perhaps you felt excited to be going up a school year, meeting your new teacher, being in another classroom and seeing all your friends again. Or, like many, the nerves may have started to set in in the final days of the holiday and the anticipation slowly mounted.
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Whoever you are or wherever you went to school, it's natural to feel a rollercoaster of emotions. We asked some well-known faces to share their back to school memories for our special digital issue, and who better to start with than our very own guest editor, Giovanna Fletcher.
Giovanna Fletcher has guest-edited our Back to School digital issue
"I was always so excited to go back to school. Rightly or wrongly, because in certain schools I didn't have the best experience. But I loved that feeling. I loved the structure that school brings. I loved seeing friends. I'm such a swot so I loved the learning we were going to be doing. So for me, it was always a good time.
"And plus, I think that September, October time is such a nice time of year as well with the weather and everything. So for me, it always felt really good knowing that I was seeing mates and there was a feeling of starting again. And you were going up a school year so that was always really exciting. It felt like you were on to the next step, the next chapter."
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"For me, I loved school. I hated writing essays, I hated spelling, but I loved the environment. I think I was very lucky that school gave me such a positive environment. But I still have those dreams where you wake up in the middle of the night going, 'Which homework have I not done?!'
"Everyone needs a new pencil case, a fresh start, this year now more than ever. When we think of students starting their journey going back into the classroom, it's going to be a very interesting time after an unusual year."
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"I went to nine schools by the time I was 17. We moved house so many times because of my Dad's job so I was moving school every couple of years. I was always a new girl. I was never starting the new school year at the same time as everyone else. So for me, the first day of school was really scary because I was walking in knowing I was going to turn around and everyone think, 'Who's she?'
"So when I actually did start school in September, knowing I was going in at the same time as everyone else, it was exciting. Because you knew you wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb when you walk into a classroom and the teacher introduces you and you have to find a desk and sit down, and it was horrible!
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"I loved the excitement of shopping for pencils, pens and notebooks. I'm still a sucker for a notebook and the smell of it still gets me giddy. I love it! And getting a new school bag and the smell of new shoes and the new school uniform, I found it so exciting.
"And that's stayed with me. For me, the first week of September is my new year. I've kept that on in my adult life. I never make New Year's resolutions on the first of January. I make my resolutions in September. The sky is still a bit clearer and the weather is warm, and you've hopefully had a bit of a break and you feel refreshed. And that's when I set myself little challenges and goals."
"I remember being so nervous when we moved house from the East End of Glasgow to East Kilbride when I was twelve years old, and I had to go to a huge new comprehensive secondary school. I had to get a complete new uniform for Claremont High School, a maroon blazer, grey skirt, white shirt, and maroon and white tie.
"The school was too far to walk to so I had to get the bus, and I remember being very apprehensive about getting off at the right stop, until I realised that everyone on board was a pupil at the school. I sat at the front while everyone chatted and laughed and felt like a real outsider.
"I didn't know a soul for those first few days, and thought I'd never make any new friends as everyone seemed to already know one another and had formed little 'groups'. I was so happy to meet my friend Joyce, we clicked right away, and we remain best friends to this day – forty-eight years later!"
"I was always a bit indifferent when it came to school. I liked the social aspects of it more than the actual academia. There was always an element of excitement to get back and see my friends after the holidays, which would then be closely followed by the dread of being in a classroom for the next six weeks until half-term break. I guess my teachers would have called me a bit of a daydreamer, textbook learning was not my thing but anything creative and interactive I really enjoyed and excelled at. Looking back, it's not too much of a surprise that my career to date has been around the creative industry."
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"I remember being really excited. I used to love the school holidays, but I remember feeling always quite positive about going back to school. I guess, to see your friends. But for me, the stationery was the big draw! We'd always go and do a haul at WHSmith. New pencil case, new highlighters, new pens, whatever. So that was right up my street. Choosing a rubber was as fun as it got back in the 90s. Organising your bag for the new term and going into Clarks for your shoes.
"Six weeks of summer holidays feel like a lifetime when you're little. Going back to school never filled me with any dread, so I guess looking back I must have quite liked it. I don't think every day was a joy, like anything, but on the whole, school was quite a positive experience, especially primary school. It was very warm, very welcoming, we had a great headmaster who was like a surrogate second dad to us all.
"It was just fun and that's what I'm desperately looking for in London for Ted. It's really hard to replicate that feeling, especially in a city in a period of time where we've not been able to go into any of the schools and get a feel for them. Everything has been done online with virtual open days. It's quite anxious for parents embarking on the school journey for the first time, but definitely an exciting chapter."
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"I genuinely loved school and was really happy. I liked knowing what I would be doing every day and the organisation. I loved getting my pencil case ready. I was quite independent – in terms of not worrying when not knowing someone, meeting them for the first time. Something I do remember feeling nervous about – I remember getting my mum to call another [school] mum to find out which uniform, whether my friends would be going in their winter uniform or summer one. I was really worried about turning up in summer, and everyone still wearing their winter uniform.
"Weirdly, that kind of transferred with Lola when she started school, I thought, 'Oh I don't want to send her in something that the other children weren't wearing.' So I got nervous about that. Growing older, when I was 13 when I went to school in Manchester – it was after Rupert's [older brother] accident, it's where my two older brothers went to – it was for me to join them. We used to get the train from Milton Keynes to Manchester on a Sunday, and I would get the 'Sunday Blues' – I felt homesick. But once I was there, I was fine."
"I remember being at home in the summer holidays and seeing 'back to school' adverts and literally crying because I knew that it was getting closer. I didn't love school. In fact, most mornings me and my mum used to have a real battle just to get me on the school bus.
"I am dyslexic and used to feel quite embarrassed a lot of the time when I would get things wrong and usually made me play up in class, but as I got a little older and found my strengths in sport, I really started to understand the value of school and that it wasn't forever so if I just put the work in while I was there I could be doing what I really, really love in a few years, which for me was surfing... school won't last forever even though it feels like it sometimes!"
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"When I was little, I loved going back to school to see all my friends. We never went on holidays overseas when I was a child but spent a lot of time on the Isle of Wight where my grandparents lived. Although I sometimes took a friend along with me, I missed my other friends and couldn't wait to get back!
"In secondary school, I was less keen to rush back as I had friends I'd see outside of school, and there were a few bullies, but I always loved learning. I was quite mature for my age and got on well with my teachers, some of whom remain good friends."
"I was a bit of a nerd at school. I really, really liked school. Afterwards, I didn't do well. I dropped out of university. But I loved school, both primary and secondary. So going back to school always just made me really excited. I loved seeing my friends and even really silly things like the new stationery. But it's kind of like a fresh start. It's like a new year but in September rather than January.
"For me, it was just always excitement for the year ahead and all the possibilities that it could bring. I really thrived at school so there's no anxiety there. So far, it seems like my children are really happy at school which makes me happy, because that's what it should be – fun memories, if possible. So I hope to have the same for them."
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"I absolutely loved school, I was a teacher's pet. I loved it! Halfway through the summer holidays I would be wanting to go back to school. Excited to meet my new teacher and to be back with my friends."
Miranda Rae Mayo
"I loved back to school shopping. Pencil boxes, notebooks, I always wanted Lisa Frank folders but never got them, they were too pricey for our family. I loved the fall time and was usually a great student for the first month or so and then it all just got a little looser. I'd always pull it together by the end of the year though."
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Ola and James Jordan
Ola: "I never used to know what it's called but now I know it's anxiety. This nervous feeling of going back. I never really liked school to be honest with you. I didn't enjoy school. I liked my friends and everything and it was ok, I didn't have any problems or anything, but I always probably had a bit of anxiety going back. It was just the initial thought of going back. I was like, 'Oh no, not again. Not again, I can't wait to be a grown up!'"
James: "I wasn't necessarily a big fan of school. It wasn't like I was, 'Oh I can't wait to get back to school' but I wasn't worried or anxious about going back. I think I preferred primary school to secondary school. When you're at primary school maybe children are nicer and as they get older, they become not as nice, possibly?
"When I went to primary school we used to get taken there by my parents, then when we went to secondary school we always used to get the bus. I do remember the walk home from school because it must have been a three-mile walk. After getting off the bus in the village I used to have to walk about three miles with my sister to get home. The walk was an annoyance to me! When you're young that's the last thing you want to do, to walk home!"
"I just remember going back to school and my mum had insisted that when we bought a brand new blazer that it had to be really big. I felt like I looked like Don Johnson. You know, like he had proper shoulder pads and this massive blazer. Everything on my first day at school drowned me - the skirt, the shoes, the blazer. I don't think I can look back on it that fondly actually. But there is something about getting your new pencils and stationery."
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