My life

The anguish of 13-year-old Holly Jacks’ first days at secondary
school have never left her.

My primary school was very homely and supporting – we wore our
own clothes and the place was quiet and friendly. It only had 40
children. The secondary school I moved to has more than 1,200
pupils. You can imagine how I felt on my first day in this ugly
building surrounded by unfamiliar faces. All my friends from my old
school were going to other schools; I was scared. I cried at night
and begged my parents not to send me.

Re-reading letter and diary entries I wrote at this time I
remember the true anguish I felt. For me it was a struggle for
freedom; I didn’t want to be made to do things I didn’t like doing.
Sometimes during this period I felt I was alone in feeling so
unhappy about school. But I realise now that many find this stage
in life difficult.

Part of the reason I hate school is because it is obligatory. I
couldn’t accept that it was an unavoidable thing that had to be
done. I am very sensitive and was unhappy when others were being
bad, and took all the angry words of the teachers to heart.

More care should be taken with those moving up from primary
schools. The teachers could make more of an effort to make the new
pupils feel at home, to help them with any problems and to keep an
eye out for them. It would be good if there were more clubs, with
ice-breaking games, discussing issues and giving pupils an
opportunity to make suggestions about how to improve the school

The appearance of the school could be improved by redecorating,
maybe some murals and some more plants inside and outside the
school. Teachers should be strict with those who cause problems and
disrupt lessons. One of the main differences between secondary
school and primary, apart from homework, is that in the latter
there is a very strong communal link. This can be brought into the
secondary schools by activities.

When I was 11 I wrote that “Life carries you to your destination
like a train, passing different stops and places before you reach
your journey’s end.” Looking back this seems to hold true. I’ve had
loads of support and love during hard times and when I compare my
problems to those of others, it seems silly to complain. But I
really hope that school can be improved to make it more

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