I was a beneficiary of the Tanner Scheme in 1972 and I’m an example of exactly the kind of student it was intended to reach. I attended the local grammar school in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Borehamwood was a town built and owned (lock, stock and barrel) by the Greater London Council to house Londoners who couldn’t find housing after the war. Neither of my parents stayed on in school after 14, and this was true of most of my family and neighbours.
I really wanted to go to Oxford to read Chemistry, which was my passion at the time (my nerd roots run deep!), but my school had never been successful in placing a pupil at Oxford or Cambridge. Many of my teachers thought it was pointless to apply, but the headmaster learned of Hertford’s new admission process and suggested it.
I took the second-year sixth exam in December 1971 and was offered a place and an exhibition. Several others from the school later followed me.
My time at Hertford was a period of major personal growth – social class was an issue for me. There were relatively few students with my background at Oxford and at first I had a chip on my shoulder. However, as I made friends with other members of college, I realized that the class issue was in my head, not theirs. I relaxed and became comfortable with myself. Perhaps this is the most powerful thing I learned at Hertford.
Looking back, I would tell any student entering Hertford that what you can do or be is limited only by you and no one else. My life story has been a fairy tale, so far removed from where I started. Hertford has been a large part of that and the Tanner Scheme made it possible.