Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 1, 2010

My memories of ‘back to school’

By Oliver Sheehan
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — It is hard to believe that it has been nine years since I last did the back-to-school thing, and yet those memories (most of them good) are still as clear as day.

I remember catching the bus at 7:05 a.m., knowing that it would be my last year at school.

There I was with my trusty backpack, full to the brim with a new packet of pens, a new packet of pencils, a pencil sharpener, erasers and markers. Of course I was also up to my armpits in books and files and full of anticipation for what the year would bring.

The first hurdle was to avoid all the townies (thugs/gangsters/delinquents) and chavs on the bus. They typically hopped on at their stops, made a lot of noise, threw things at each other and sometimes just threw each other. It was mayhem on that school bus.

The townies and chavs would sit (or just stand) on the top deck of the bus, smoking, playing their music and talking about fights they had been in at the weekend while wearing their ribbed puffer jackets and baseball caps.

Beyond that, school was fairly standard. A few new teachers, a few new soccer players battling it out for a space on the tennis courts and the standard ‘welcome back’ address from the school headmaster telling us he was looking forward to a great year ahead.   

The good thing was that when September rolled around in my senior year, I at least knew what to expect.

In England we start school a bit later than y’all. In fact, school in England only starts late this week (depending on the school), although I should be clear, school in England finishes in late July for a six week vacation, much shorter than y’all’s summer vacations. We don’t have one school system either. Some places have junior schools, middle schools and higher education schools, while others have infant, junior and senior schools. They sound the same except for a few significant factors.

In the first system you would go to a junior school until you were 8 or 9, then middle school until you were 13 or 14, then higher education school until you were 16.

In the second system, you go to infant school till the age of 7, then junior school until the age of 11, and finally we go to senior school until the age of 16 and take our GCSE’s (General certificate of secondary education).

There is also the public school, private school factor. A public school in England is called a comprehensive, while a private school is described as a public school. Don’t ask me why, I don’t understand it either.

We have a choice in England (for now) on when we can leave school. We can either leave at 16 and get a job, or 18 after completing our A-Levels and AS levels, or go to a college to complete courses ready for university.

The one major difference between here and there is that in England, schools have absolutely no say on the local tax rate. That is decided by the town, district and county councils and I can assure you, it costs significantly more over there. Any funding for schools comes directly from central government and it is merely passed on to the schools by local authorities.

Schools here seem to have much more power and influence than they do in England. I’m completely undecided on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing but hey, it seems to work, so who am I to judge?

Anyway, time to fill up and zip up my backpack. I have a bus to catch.


Oliver Sheehan may be reached by e-mail at Want to “Soundoff” on this story? E-mail: