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Children’s Laureate Lauren Child Shares Her Education Ups And Downs – And Her Pet Peeve on School Visits

"I had lots of friends but we were all quite fragile creatures"

  • Children’s Laureate Lauren Child Shares Her Education Ups And Downs – And Her Pet Peeve on School Visits

I went to several primary schools. I really liked the first one. It was ordered, but in a nice way. We then moved from our village to a tiny market town, but to me it seemed like an enormous city.

The town school was very chaotic and I really couldn’t stand it, so my parents moved me to another school. It was very creative and bohemian but not very structured in terms of learning. I probably slipped behind, so moved to another village school which I really adored. The headmistress was amazing. She instilled values of supporting other people in the school. It was a very kind environment, as opposed to competitive.

My father taught secondary and my mother taught infants and juniors. I owe them a lot as far as my education goes. I get my love of language from my mother. She’s amazingly bookish and is always reading. We went to the library at least once a week. My love of art comes from my father. He was a brilliant art teacher.

Secondary school was really difficult. There were so many children and it was really quite frightening. The work suddenly gets harder and you also have to negotiate new friendships and how to fit in socially. Are you wearing the right clothes? Are you listening to the right music? Also, everyone’s going into puberty at different times.

When I arrived I was one of those little keen bean children and wanted to do well at everything. I started off working really hard, but at a certain point it all went out the window because all I cared about was what everyone thought of me. There’s just so much going on in a young person’s life at that point that it’s a wonder they can do any work at all.

I had lots of friends but we were all quite fragile creatures, worrying about being exposed as not cool enough. If I’d been more confident being myself I would have had a much better time at school.

I think it must be pretty hard to teach now. There’s so much more pressure on teachers, and children. My mother always says she’s really glad she’s not teaching now. Homework for children under 11 is not a good idea. I really wish that would go away.

I went to a school in Stockport earlier this year. Even though it looked identical to another school in the area that I’d been to, it felt so exciting because they’d been doing these really amazing embroidery projects. When you walked in you got a sense of the personality of the school and pupils. It was there on the walls for you to see – that was really stunning.

When I visit schools I’m always really impressed if the headteacher makes the effort to come and say hello, shake my hand and, even better, sit in on my talk. That says to the pupils, ‘this is valuable’. It is so nice when people say ‘welcome’ when you arrive – rather than just ‘sign in, please’. Those are the school staff that are really aware that you had to travel to get there and that you’re not being paid.

The question that I am asked more than any other is where I get my ideas from. It sounds like a very dull question but actually it’s quite an interesting one because it’s really about what makes you tick. There’s a sort of magic to trying to get into someone else’s mind – because we never quite can – so it’s quite a natural question to ask.

I always say just look around. Ideas are absolutely everywhere. Every day we see and hear amazing things, then one idea leads to another. We all have curious minds and all these opportunities around us. Having creativity in your life is so nurturing. It can help you mentally, and can even lead to a career. TP

Lauren Child is a bestselling children’s writer and artist. She has been awarded an MBE for her work and was recently appointed Children’s Laureate. Her latest book, Charlie and Lola: A Dog With Nice Ears (£12.99, Orchard Books) is on sale at the end of the month.

Main image credit: ©DCimaging

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