To say I’m a little nervous today is an understatement.

You see tonight I’ll be meeting up with 100 of my former school mates for a reunion. It’s not the first time we’ve done it but as we all get older it might be the last.

We’ve already lost some dear colleagues along the way and I’m sure we’ll raise a glass or two tonight to absent friends.

It’s 44 years since I left school and some of us I’m sure haven’t changed much but just in case we’re all having name tags and I’m told, because of the passing of time, they’ll all be in big print!

I can remember going to my first reunion when I was working at a Mercedes Benz franchise. The dealer principal found out and said take the biggest Merc you can find on the forecourt and have some fun. So, four of us turned up in the biggest flashiest car you could imagine! Tonight, I’m much more comfortable in my own skin than back then, so I’ll be rocking up in my daily ride.

The reason for the get together is we’ve all just or are about to pass the 60 mark. We all passed the old the 11 plus exam and we started together at Ipswich’s Northgate Grammar School in 1975.

In those days it was a separate boy’s school and girl’s school with a tall wire fence in between. Teachers used to patrol the fence line at break and lunchtime to make sure there was no contact, which was a bit odd because we were together on the bus both on the way to school and on the way home. We all came from different parts of the town and many of us would catch these special buses to and from school.

I can remember my first morning as if it was yesterday. I was absolutely petrified as all my other friends on the estate had gone to the local comprehensive school and here I was in my blazer heading to a grammar school. I felt like a fish out of water and, if I’m honest, I did for much of my time there.

I wasn’t particularly academic. The subjects I liked I did well in, but I just didn’t know how to make the most of a grammar school education. I didn’t stay on for sixth form and the prospect of going on to university was never an option for me. It was an apprenticeship at 16 for me. For my family me going to Northgate was at the time a big enough achievement.

What it did give me was the ability to talk to people from different backgrounds, it broadened my horizons and showed me that anything is possible. It gave me confidence to go out into the big wide world.

Do I believe in grammar schools now? I’m not sure I do but I do believe that every child whatever their background should have the best possible education. Just because you come from a poor background like I did, I don’t believe you should be disadvantaged by it. Every child should get the best education possible. I believe in social mobility, and I believe your local school should be the best school to go to. The families that struggle to bring up their children need help and support not vilifying. Some youngsters don’t have the best start in life and we should, as a society, do what we can to help them get on in life. In the long run we all benefit.

To do this we need to recruit more great teachers and pay them well. We need to respect our teachers and let them get on with their jobs. By doing this we’re investing in our children and grandchildren’s futures. We need to inspire our children to be the best they can be and value whatever talent they have. It’s going to take time, but we owe it to future generations to make a start now!

Now what to wear tonight, certainly not a blazer and definitely not a tie. Wish me luck!