Eleanor Peterson’s last day at Castle Hill School was an odd one.
It was odd for many reasons. She was leaving the school she had attended for the past eight years, the last year and a half of which was spent at home during a global pandemic, but it was mainly odd because it was the last day Eleanor was going to spend in the world she knew and was comfortable in.
Eleanor’s friends knew and were somewhat distant for most of the day, as if she was somehow something ‘other’.
Eleanor’s friends were going to St Mildred’s School for girls; the local independent girls school in the town, as Eleanor hoped she would too.
But despite pleading with her parents to let her go, her parents felt that their joint £60K salary could only go so far, and the £20,000 a year spent on Eleanor’s secondary education could be used to make renovations on their 17th century Manor House, even though in reality they could send both their children to Stowe and still have enough money for other things.
So Eleanor was going to Zanzibar, a local comprehensive school with a dodgy reputation, known for getting exceedingly low Ofsted results and never doing anything about it.
Sure, it’s not the best school, but at least it was free.
Eleanor hoped her last day would last forever. But after a somewhat emotional assembly and the last few lessons, it was finally time to leave the school for good.
“Well, see you around,” Eleanor’s friend Jasmine said to her.
“Yeah, see you,” Eleanor said, before getting into her father Dave’s car and going back to Lower Strangling.
“I‘m sure I could have gone,” Eleanor said.
“I’ve already told you several times, it’s too much money,” Dave said.
“How is it?” Eleanor asked.
“Because it costs £4,000,000 to renovate our manor, which money to send you to King’s High could be used for.” Dave said.
“But I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. I’m different from them.” Eleanor said.
“Eleanor Peterson, just because you live in the most desirable house in one of England’s most affluent villages and your parents are a technician at the best technology company in England and one of the best journalists the Guardian’s ever known does not mean you are above state education.” Dave said. “I was state educated, and look were it got me.”
“Your parents were rich, and your brother was the lead bassist in the greatest band of all time,” Eleanor said.
“Yes, but my mother taught me the importance of saving money, no matter how rich you are,” Dave said.
“Anyway, they’d make fun of me if they find out I live in Lower Strangling,” Eleanor said.
“I’m sure they won’t be that judgemental.” Dave said.
“But you know what they say about Zanzibar, and what Ofsted think of them,” Eleanor said.
“They are just opinions from people with superiority complex’s.” Dave said, “sure, it’s not Stowe, but it’s not Gordonstoun either.”
“I guess,” Eleanor said.
Eleanor and Dave were silent for the rest of the journey from central Warwick to Lower Strangling.
“How was your last day of school?” Eleanor’s mother Sarah asked her over dinner that evening.
“It was fine, except my friends now hate me because I’m going to Zanzibar,” Eleanor said.
“Well, that just proves that they’re just a bunch of snobs,” Dave said, “it will be good to make friends with people less privaleged than you.”
“They are not snobs! There’s something odd about Zanzibar! Everyone knows it!” Eleanor said.
“Look, I know you’re upset because you’ve left primary school, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you go there in September.” Sarah said.
“We’ll see about that,” Eleanor said before eating her dinner.
“Now then. Since you’ve both done very well at school this year, and it’s a momentous occasion anyway, we’re going to let you stay up on Sunday to watch England’s first final in a major tournament for 55 years.” Dave said.
“Yes!” Will said.
“It’s gonna come Rome anyway,” Eleanor said.
Dave, Sarah, and Will gasped at Eleanor’s remark.
“Eleanor! Just because you’re in mood about leaving school today does not give you the right to favour Mussolini over Churchill!” Dave shouted.
“Bit much, dear,” Sarah said to Dave calmly.
“Ok, then, Julius Caesar over Boudicca,” Dave said.
“Historically inaccurate but slightly more feminist so ok,” Sarah said.
“Perhaps you should go to bed,” Dave said, “you’ll feel better in the morning.”
“Fine, goodnight.” Eleanor said before going to her room.
“England will prove her wrong,” Dave said, “just you see.”
“Has Eleanor ever been proved wrong?” Sarah asked.
“Well… not yet, but there’s always a first.” Dave said.
“Hmm,” Sarah said.
So Dave, Sarah, and Will continued to eat their meal, whilst Eleanor went to bed, hoping the summer would last an eternity.