16 going on 60

Amelia Ross and Tanya Ross (nee Carapetian)’s account of school memories from the 1980s, 2000’s and 2020. Lunch menus have changed as have seating arrangements but the sense of community continues.

I am year 11 at Sibford (that’s fifth year in old money). Almost forty years ago in 1981 so was my mum. So much had changed since she was at Sibford, or has it?

Bus vs Boarding

Mum’s early morning ritual started at 7:30 am, but for me, by this time, I am already on the bus to school. Having woken up as late as I could, I rolled my tartan skirt to make it as shorter, rushed out of the house, Dad speeds through traffic (makeup applied on route – mine not his) and arrived at the bus stop with no time to spare.

My mum was a boarder much like the rest of the pupils in her day, so as you can imagine the girls’ boarding house was a madhouse, rushed and frantic. They were forbidden to wash their hair in the morning and so naturally sneaking a cheeky hair wash became their morning challenge. After dressing into their 70’s A-line skirts, they ran to breakfast. While my mum enjoyed cooked bacon and eggy-bread, I have to sit on the bus for 45 minutes. 

Dangers of Modern Technology

Once registered we both had to attend meeting for worship, a long silence where early morning throat tickles caged in order to prevent an awkward embarrassment. The biggest fear for us millennials is being the foolish one to leave their phone on and having the cheery ringtone of Snapchat ping in your pocket leading to the entire hall locking eyes on you. 

After filing out of meeting, the next few lessons, for the both of us, dragged out until lunch.  In 2020, laptops are commonplace. This always bothers our teachers, as they cannot see our screens. I have gathered many mugshots of me and my friends on my laptop looking like stunned deer as we stare intensely at our teacher making sure they do not look in our direction.

In my Mum’s school years, there was only one computer in the whole school and everyone used chalkboards in the classrooms, now teachers use whiteboards, PowerPoint presentations and digital aids.


Finally, lunchtime would arrive and we rush off to the lunch hall. After choosing our meal, we scavenge for an empty table.

My mum, on the other hand, did not have to do this, she did not get a food option nor did she have to think about where to sit. All 350 students could be seated at the same time. Mum was a vegetarian (very bohemian for 1981) so got “better” food than the standard offering. We, on the other hand, have lots of choice and many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. Not so bohemian to be a vegetarian in 2020!

After lunch, Year 10 upwards have the choice to take a trip down to the local shop, Greens. . If you don’t have a lunchtime club we would hang out in the classrooms. Rowdy and boisterous, half our year at a time will squeeze into one classroom.

Illicit Activities

In the summer sit on the fields and play sports, if we dared play on our phones we risk getting caught; the most “tragic” punishment as we would have to lose it for the rest of the week. For us, this was like getting oxygen taken away from us.  For my Mum, down to the pavilion for a smoke was the plan every lunch. No Greens and no clubs so there was plenty of time to misbehave. Phones and Fags – that’s the big change in illicit activity.

Day Comes to an End

At 4:15 our day comes to an end and I make my weary way to the bus. Getting down there first is vital to “baggsie” a good seat at the back. When I finally make it home at 5:30, food is the only thing on my mind. After that,  homework and then Netflix to end my evening.

My mum had to go back to the boarding house for records (what are they?), top of the pops and cigarettes. Then tea and finish the evening with prep. Prep for my mum was monitored by sixth formers on the prowl. Now, 40 years later, my mum is always on the prowl to monitor my prep!