School Days On This Side Of The Pond

A School Days Comparison

I saw your post Allison about the must haves of school days in the US, and felt compelled to offer a small insight into 80s and 90s school days on this side of the pond.  

Whilst we may have watched and wished our lives were more Degrassi Junior High, many of our school lives weren’t even Grange Hill.  Nor did many of us have an all-consuming and totally cool youth club like Byker Grove where we could rub shoulders with future pop sensations and Saturday night stalwarts like PJ and Duncan AKA. And don’t even get me started on the lack of a Jordan Catelano roaming the halls of our local comprehensive high school.

And, oh to have had a vending machine where you could buy pencils! That just sounds ace. Most of us had to put up with buying a new HB from WHSmith or John Menzies and spend our 10p tuck money on a vending machine Chomp. 

We may not have heard of Trapper Keepers or Lisa Frank per se, but covering textbooks and jotters with anything from wallpaper to posters from Big! gave rise to clipping collages on ring binders and using a compass to graffiti your pencil tin.  All in the name of demonstrating our individuality… Except we all did it! 

And of course, these were the days well before selfies and Facebook… But you could still take a disposable camera into school for some photos of good times, even though you had to wait at least three days to get your film back and find out what the hell you’d taken though! 

But growing up in the UK in the 80s and 90s certainly wasn’t humdrum….here are a few things (in vaguely chronological order) that made those British decades some of the best so far. 

Being a Milk Monitor to distribute the free milk at school

free school milk

My Little Pony Lunchboxes


Celebrating birthdays with a Mr Wimpy party

Learning to read & write with ‘Look & Read’

Look & Read - Wordy
‘Now that’s what I call Music’ compilation tapes & latterly CDs

Now 3

Smash Hits – for music news

Smash Hits

Anything from The Body Shop – particularly the Dewberry Scent

Body Shop Dewberry

Pop Swatch

Pop Swatch

Forever Friends pencil tin

Forever Friends Pencil Tin
Product Placement Pencil Cases (eg Walkers Crisps)

Walkers Crisps Pencil Case
High Street carrier bag (had to be River Island) as your school PE kit bag*

River Island Bag
Head bags – school bag

Head Bag
Funfax – (for the wannabe yuppies amongst us)

Shell suits

Shell Suit
Naf naf

Global hypercolour

Global Hypercolour

Sure, some of your stuff made it over the pond… We kind of got ALF, we loved Dinosaurs, the Cosby show was staple, and we had Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake.  But we also had Bagpuss, Morph and Button Moon. We learned about ‘real life’ through Children’s Ward, Gruey Twoey, Jossy’s Giants and Johnny Briggs.  And of course Blue Peter was still a staple for the wholesome amongst us (some of us even had not one but TWO coveted badges). 

And then Brit Pop happened and suddenly it was cool to be British again! 

*Following a bit of online research on this one via Facebook, I verified that this was indeed a national phenomenon validated from the south coast to the North East counties and many places in between. Weird. And very good marketing on River Island’s behalf!

Whilst potentially more indie-girl than riot grrrrrl,   Pamela is steadily trying to navigate the tricky and emotional rollercoaster that is parenthood.  Three years in, with her little sleep thief of a daughter still largely derailing night times,  her and her husband gradually feel like they’re winning. Sometimes. 

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  1. Lol, I’m laughing while reading, I remember too well covering my school books with wallpaper or posters ha ha, and the milk and smash hits, I could go on and on, what a great post xx ps my shellsuit was almost identical too!!

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