The Old Girls Reunite
Former Notting Hill and Ealing pupils recall their school days
Former pupils of Notting Hill and Ealing High school have been chatting over the good old days at a 20th anniversary reunion.
Girls from classes dating back as far as 1955 were at the meet-up at the High School in Cleveland Road W13.
Deputy Mayoress Rupa Huq - a former pupil from the class of 1990 - spoke about how the school has made them into the women they are today.
She has written about the reunion in the Tribune - which is printed with her permission below:
Down With Skool?
"Well, you're very brave. I certainly wouldn't have done that," a friend of mine and Labour councillor told me. In the end I escaped relatively unscathed, perhaps even enhanced/enriched by the experience.
So what was this momentous decision that I was being congratulated for acting so courageously in? It was actually attending my old school reunion as the class of 1990 met up in the building where we'd spent so much of our formative life last week. With my school being in Ealing, where I am now Deputy Mayoress, I was attending in my official capacity. With chain and borough crest round my neck I was asked to say a few words from the lectern of the same hall I had taken part sometimes grudgingly in school assemblies in the eighties.
Part of the incentive to attend was a guided tour of the building. I've been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory recently for my six year old's bedtime story and at the start the eponymous hero and whole town are constantly wondering, what goes on behind the gates at Willy Wonkas. I went away for my degree and lived in Manchester and Strasbourg along the way, but have boomeranged back to my hometown unlike others who had made the journey from across London or even in one case all the way from Canada. Although the school is no longer on my daily route as I live on the other side of the borough I do on occasion pass it and with new bits added to the original facade and old bits having been demolished, like Charlie I have wondered what was going on behind the gates.
The closer I get to the building, a weird sensation of being 14 again hits me: a sinking in my stomach mixed with warm feelings for the good old days too. My oration included one bit that was slightly risqué. I quoted Philip Larkin and his well known observation: "They f*** you up your mum and dad," and then the well-worn cliché associated with the same period of the lifecycle: "school days are the happiest of your life".
I told the assembled throng "the truth is probably an amalgamation of both, or at least somewhere equidistant between the two". Not sure how well that went down with the head who had introduced me. Oh yes and at some point in recalling our time at the school I called us "inmates" rather than pupils... oops.
We all know that one's education is a major predictor of lifechances and school is one of the institutional structures that moulds us all. No matter what one says of universities - and I've spent all my post-1990 life in the things from Cambridge to Kingston via Manchester and Strasbourg II - they are not attended by all and the three years of a typical degree is dwarfed by the many years you spend at school.
Despite every undergraduate's quest to reinvent themselves, it's school that sets the pattern and I suppose I'm fortunate that the one I went to was more character building than character destroying.
The class of 1990 present were in terms of current occupational status a mixed bag; we had two doctors, a personnel officer at the treasuary, someone who runs an eyebrow shaping business as well stay at home mums amongst the mix. Amongst those who addressed us was the careers teacher scoping out anyone who might want to join their roster of alumnae to speak to current pupils.
This type of exposure is all good. I remember going to one on how to be journalist by John Sergeant, who was in those pre-strictly days to us just an appendage of Mrs Sergeant our head of sixth form. I also remember hearing Phil Portwood, the then Labour candidate in the old Ealing Acton seat, considered to be safe Tory in the pre-new Labour era, coming to do a talk, which helped convince me to join the party.
The redrawn Ealing central seat has just gone Tory again for after Labour representation from 1997. Like me darkening the doorway of my alma mater after 20 years, the constituency seems to have gone full circle.
The trip down memory lane was welcome if a bit disorienting at times. The temporary huts we were taught in have gone and some impressive newbuild has sprung up since I left.
My primary school nearby, which I remember as a slightly tatty affair in the late 70s and early 80s has also become unrecognisable in recent years and metamorphosed into a quasi-spaceship like construction.
Such places were lucky to get in on the action when they did: with Michael Gove's bungling over school building projects and wider cuts there are dark days ahead for the educational sector.
All in all a memorable Saturday in what has been to date my most public engagement of most direct personal relevance since taking office as Deputy Mayoress.
As the head girl of 1990 put it on Facebook alongside the seemingly instantaneously released photos of the event: "Great to see familiar faces and a relief that everyone was still similar (or nicer) than I remember."
As well as being a healer then time is also has mellow-ing properties.
Roll on 2030 I guess.
NHEHS Sixth Form Centre will be one of the buildings featured in this year's 'Open House London' this coming Saturday 18 September 2010.
Open House London is an event which includes hundreds of inspiring buildings and is the capital's greatest architectural showcase. The centre will be open from 10am to 1pm (last entry 12.45pm). There's a map of how to find the school here: http://www.nhehs.gdst.net/common_pages/contact_us.htm
September 15, 2010