My Schooldays Anita Roddick
Source: The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Date: May 29, 2002

Byline: Leila Farrah

Where did you go to school?

St Catherine's, a convent school, and Littlehampton Junior School, West Sussex, then the local secondary junior school to prepare for the 11-plus. I failed and went to Maud Allan School, which was for working-class girls, then Worthing High.

Did you like school?

My Catholic schools taught storytelling and moral education. Everything was religious education, and what an education I had! It puts chills down me thinking how brilliant it was. School fascinated me because there were charts, visual-aid materials, radio, television. I relished it all. I spent two utterly bloody miserable years at Worthing High School because they "was a posh lot".

Did you get into trouble?

I'd pocket my money, have a free school meal and then buy books. Got caught, got the slipper, so I pleaded poverty and my headmistress summoned my mother to her office to give me more money. Miss Parker sat on a high stool and always had her parrot in the room.

What subjects were you good at?

My brilliant subject was English. I love language and poetry. Also history was phenomenally exciting: Roman Britain and the First World War. To this day, the stuff I learned stayed with me. I remember going home from school every Friday and thinking: "God! How much have I learned - from music to stories, theatre, art, talent competitions, games." There wasn't this conveyor belt shoving everybody through exams.

Did you have a favourite teacher?

My teachers were breathtaking, mysterious people who had no husbands and were passionate about their subjects and related them in a way that wasn't just academic. Not one of them tried to suppress my brio and enthusiasm. My education at this stage was nothing to do with O' levels, but based on reading the social writers such as John Steinbeck and George Orwell.

One teacher was barking mad and told us she had been one of Hitler's mistresses. Miss Eades taught French and art and every day it was thrilling to hear her talk.

Miss Springham wore blue eye-shadow. It was like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

What did you want to do?

I became a person of such enthusiasm that I won a scholarship to the London School of Music and Drama.

University or college?

My headmistress and my mum, a little Italian countrywoman, said I should go into teacher-training because I'd be able to perform all day.

I went to Newton Park in Bath to learn how to teach English and history.

I always say the best things I did as a teacher were in the Body Shop when the company became more educational.

What do you wish you had learned at school?

I regret not learning music.

What is the most important lesson you have learned outside formal education?

Challenge everything. Learn to love libraries. Look at dissenting viewpoints. I believe passionately that travel is a university without walls . The writer Gunther Grass said the job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.

Anita Roddick is an environmental campaigner who started The Body Shop, 25 years ago. It has grown into a cosmetics empire of more than 2,000 stores in 50 countries. In February, Mrs Roddick and her husband, Gordon, stepped down as executive directors.


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