Camilla Swift

School portraits | 10 March 2016

  Sir William Borlase   Parents fight tooth and claw to make sure that their house is in the right catchment area to get into Buckinghamshire’s excellent state schools. Many of the former grammar schools — including this one, RGS High Wycombe and Wycombe High School — are now Academies, but they are no less

Ladies be good

I wonder if Cheltenham Ladies’ College is still like that,’ I thought, as I interviewed a succession of 1950s old girls recently. Their memories left me reeling, and I felt relieved not to have been a sensitive girl sent to Cheltenham from an outpost of the empire, condemned to spend seven years being hissed at

It’s not child’s play

Aldous Huxley observed that ‘Where music is concerned, infant prodigies are almost the rule. In the world of literature, on the other hand, they remain the rarest exceptions.’ This, he believed, was because good literature could not be written without experience of the outside world, while music was the art least connected with reality. ‘Like

School drinking is the best kind

Last December it was reported that Ampleforth and Rugby schools both have new on-site bars, where pupils are allowed to drink in moderation. ‘We are trying to create somewhere where [the pupils] can let their hair down but we’re all on call,’ said David Lambon, the school’s first lay headmaster. ‘It’s a fine balance with

Looking up an old friend

As far as I know, there’s no word in the English language for feeling both terrified and smug at the same time. That’s how I felt when I gave a recent talk to my old school, Westminster, from the pulpit in Westminster Abbey. The talk was about how guilty I felt at taking the Westminster

The master Builder who made me

Michael Schützer-Weissmann was the greatest teacher I ever had. When I was 17, I got into trouble at Sherborne, my school in Dorset, after a friend and I each drank a bottle of whisky. I felt splendid, but my friend had to be stomach-pumped. For that the headmaster, Robert Macnaghten, caned me. It was amazing

When the slop had to stop

A spirited debate is under way at the Year One lunch table. This class of five-year-old Hackney epicures are discussing the merits of olives. ‘Olives are too disgusting and greeny,’ says Marley, prodding at the offending olive. ‘Olives are too yucky,’ joins in Eduardo, who is carefully hiding them under his knife. But Asar, a

Is a degree worth the debt?

You’ll never get into a good university if you carry on like this.’ A haunting threat from school days past, but since the coalition trebled university tuition fees in 2010, the question is — do you really want to? The decision to increase fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year was met with anger

The Force is still with me

My initial reaction on learning that my secondary school had compulsory CCF — Combined Cadet Force — on Wednesday afternoons was one of horror. As an ‘army brat’, the child of an officer, I was mortified to be following in my father’s footsteps and completing assault courses and weighted swims every single week. However, my view

Is there still a place for single-sex schools?

NO I am pretty sure my all-girl school turned me into a delinquent. All right, I might not have peed in phone boxes, graffiti’d on trains or spent time in a state penitentiary. But for all of this, I definitely think a strain of delinquency was bred into me by single–sex education. Just outside a

The joy of grammar

A virulent epidemic has in recent years spread across our island nation. I speak not of bird flu, Ebola or the plague, but of grammatophobia: the irrational fear of grammar, its necessity and its teaching in our schools. This has proven both highly contagious and severe in its consequences. The symptoms have never been more

Queue for boarding

Those whose only experience of packing school trunks is via Mallory Towers, Kingscote or Hogwarts may be relaxed about the rise in boarding-school fees. But with annual fees at some of our best-known boarding schools approaching £40,000, traditional boarding families which don’t include a hedge-fund manager, prime minster or Kazakhstani oligarch may well be casting

Blazers of glory

Most mornings on the way to work I pass students flowing out of Fulham Broadway tube station en route to the London Oratory School. They are an assorted bunch. Some seem more confident than others. One or two of the boys look immaculate, while others have clearly stirred their cornflakes with their ties. Some of

Can a school share out its success?

They have enviable results in the classroom and on the sports field. They command substantial fees and send large numbers of pupils to top universities. So why have leading private schools found it such heavy going transferring their success when sponsoring state schools? It seemed the ideal solution to help break down the great barrier

Blackboard jungle

The world of education is a complex one. There are so many options – public schools, academies, state schools; single-sex ones and co-educational ones – that it’s no wonder people get bogged down. This supplement, kindly sponsored by Investec Wealth & Investment, aims to make things at least a little clearer. When people raise the