The best schools from books, that, dreadful or wonderful, we can’t help wishing we were at.
In no particular order…
1. Miss Cackles Academy for Witches from The Worst Witch Series by Jill Murphy.
Years before Harry Potter, Mildred Hubble was walking the corridors of Miss Cackles Academy for Witches causing chaos but ultimately saving the day in true story book style. The school was one we all wanted to go to. Draughty corridors, a token terrifying form mistress, plenty of turret and a spattering of cats and broomsticks, Miss Cackles was really really cool.
“Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches stood at the top of a high mountain surrounded by a pine forest. It looked more like a prison than a school, with its gloomy grey walls and turrets. Sometimes you could see the pupils on their broomsticks flitting like bats above the playground wall, but usually the place was half hidden in mist, so that if you glanced up at the mountain you would probably not notice the building was there at all.”
2. Hogwarts from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.
Like an evolved Miss Cackles Academy, Hogwarts is the ultimate school for prospective witches and wizards. It adds features such as moving staircases, talking paintings and plenty of secret passages. Also the Room of Requirement which forms it’s self to the users desires. Pretty handy.
“A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose name are still well-known:
Bold Gryffindor from wild moor,
Fair Ravlenclaw from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin from fen.
They share a wish, a hope, a dream,
They hatched a daring plan,
To educate young sorcerers,
Thus Hogwarts school began.”
3. Lowood Institution from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
This is kind of school that as a child you both hope for a fear. A school for poor and orphaned girls which offers very little comfort. No one who’s read the book will ever forget the young Jane Eyre being forced to stand on a stool in front of the school. But in this place, a few kind teachers and students give Jane the friendship and love she craved.
“I had meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood; to make so many friends, to earn respect, and win affection. Already I had made visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiled approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to let me learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two months longer: and then I was well-received by my fellow-pupils; treated as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by any: now, here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?”
4. Mrs Brisket’s from the Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
Once again appealing to my romantic tortured side, this school was actually a work house. Whenever the inspectors came the children would file into the classrooms and recite lessons. When they’d gone it was back to the laundry, sleeping in shifts with ice cold water to wash in or being locked in the basement as punishment. Cheese was provided for anyone that told on other students and was dolled out in handfuls when the story’s heroines finally escaped.
5. Battle School from Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card.
Based on a rotating spaceship, the Earths brightest and best children are bred and then collected here. They play computer game that assess their mental state and are pitted against one another to find the most brilliant. Rather than houses, battle school cadets are put into armies and in the battleroom they fight each other in zero gravity.
“It’s the teachers, they’re the enemy. They get us to fight each other, to hate each other. The game is everything. Win win win. It amounts to nothing.”
6. Hailsham from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
A lovely idyllic seeming school where students do plenty of art and gardening and the focus is on keeping healthy. The teachers are referred to as Guardians. If you don’t know why it’s all more sinister than this initial description then go read the book!
“Driving around the country now, I still see things that will remind me of Hailsham. I might pass the corner of a misty field, or see part of a large house in the distance as I come down the side of a valley, even a particular arrangement of poplar trees up on a hillside”
7. Crunchem Hall From Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Who isn’t still terrified of Miss Trunchbull to the extent that at the mention of her name you quietly gulp and check your hair isn’t in pigtails? No-one would want to spend the day in the chokey but would you risk Trunchbull’s wroth for some tasty cake or how about tea with the gentle Miss Honey?
“I cannot for the life of me understand why small children take so long to grow up. I think they do it deliberately, just to annoy me.”
8. Jordon College from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
An Oxford College rather than school this is where Lyra and her Daemon scrape together a piece meal education in physics, theology and scrambling about on rooftops. In a world beautifully parallel to our own, Jordon college is a grand and magical place with crusty old scholars, haunted crypts and visiting explorers.
“That’s the duty of the old,” said the Librarian, “to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.”