Teachwire Logo

Konnie Huq – “I did work experience on The Russ Abbot Show”

Broadcaster and writer Konnie Huq was set for a career in STEM, but then came a 'slightly surreal' work experience placement...

  • Konnie Huq – “I did work experience on The Russ Abbot Show”

I went to Montpelier Primary School in Ealing, then moved to Notting Hill and Ealing High School, an independent girls’ school.

I found it all quite seamless and didn’t really mind the transition. I was the only one from Montpelier to go there, but I was excited about going to ‘big school’. My two older sisters were already there, which perhaps made it less daunting.

I was okay at making friends, being generally outgoing, confident and independent enough to manage. I did take pride in my schoolwork, though, and always loved taking on big projects. The subjects that didn’t speak to me as much were geography and history. I didn’t not like them, but I definitely preferred English, because I’ve always liked writing stories, as well as art and maths. I’d say I was a good enough student, though not outstanding.

You have to remember that my parents moved here from Bangladesh in the 60s with the intention of giving their kids a good education. They came from a country where education was seen a privilege not to be squandered, and had hopes for the three of us to enter into science and STEM-related professions, seeing it as this revered, even glamorous career path.

But then I ended up doing my school work experience at the BBC – we lived in Ealing, with what was then Television Centre just down the road in White City. I was attached to the team producing The Russ Abbot Show, and when they went off to film on location I was left wandering around the building with this pass that let me into all these different studios, which was brilliant. BBC Security definitely isn’t what it was – I look back on it now, and it seems a bit surreal.

My first experience of actually doing telly came when I was in sixth form. After completing enough modules in maths to finish an A Level during my first year, I ended up with lots of free periods. The head of sixth form sorted it so that I could fit early presenting jobs around my studies.

Getting things right

I’ve been back to my old secondary school since to do a book event [in support of her first children’s book, Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World]. The old Victorian building was still there, but it’s seen a lot of development and now has this really modern interior.

The main character in Cookie… is quite scientific, very practical and sees the absurd in everyday life. There’s lots of science in it, and lots about inclusivity and diversity, which makes it sound a bit worthy, but in the end, I just wanted it to be a funny romp – kind of Bridget Jones meets Wimpy Kid. It’s like hidden vegetables in a pasta sauce – all the good stuff is hopefully infiltrating the readers’ brains subliminally.

There needs to be more emphasis on getting things right in those primary years, instilling in kids the value of empathy, altruism and other qualities that can make them into better adults.

I’ve visited quite a few schools through work I’ve been doing with the British Science Association. One of my ‘things’ is getting kids enthused about STEM professions, because there’s currently a real dearth of that in the UK. Kids often don’t get opportunities to really find out about science until they reach secondary school, but the sooner they can get enthused about it, the better.

The things that resonate with you during your primary years will sink to your core – it’s a time when you’re still very much being shaped.

That starts to go away in your secondary years, and by the time most people reach their 20s it’s usually too late to get it back. That’s why I’m supporting BSA’s ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ campaign, which aims to tackle long-held but misplaced assumptions and unconscious biases about what sort of people excel in science.

Konnie Huq is a writer, broadcaster and British Science Week 2020 ambassador. Find out more about the ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ campaign by searching the hashtag #EverydayScientist; Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World is available now (£6.99, Piccadilly Press)

Main image courtesy of Ed Miller

Sign up here for your free Brilliant Teacher Box Set

Reassess assessment in KS3 and KS4 with help from the experts.

Find out more here >