The award-winning children’s author and school philosophy teacher Pamela Butchart talks about her schooldays in Dundee, complete with haunted toilets, secret meetings and a vivid imagination that caused trouble

Where did you go to school and when?

As a younger child I went to St Vincent’s Primary, Dundee in the late ’80s and then I went on to St Saviour’s High School, also in Dundee, in the mid ’90s.

What were your schooldays like?

CHAOS. Mostly of my own making!

Did you love school or hate it?

I loved primary school. It was full of fun, friendship, drama, chaos and toilet ghosts!

I found secondary school more difficult. I wore a weird skirt, weird shoes and had pets rats. I didn’t really fit in.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Anything to do with dinosaurs or aliens when I was at primary school. In secondary school, philosophy and morality was my favourite subject.

And your least favourite?

I hated geography. I have a real problem understanding maps and directions and a rubbish memory – a terrible combination!.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

My primary school teachers Mrs Ross and Miss Jones. They were kind and fun (and both a little odd). They are the inspiration for the teachers in my books.

Where was your favourite place at school and what did you do there?

The primary school toilets. We used to have our secret meetings there. Not very hygienic but loads of fun!

What beliefs do you think your time at school instilled in you?

Three things. 1. Hard work, determination and self-belief pays off. 2. Being weird is ok and 3. Kindness is everything.

Pamela Butchart Copy
Pamela Butchart’s recent projects include two new Secret Seven novels – she’s a massive Enid Blyton fan

What was your proudest school moment?

I won a Disney bean bag chair in Primary 4. Everyone applauded and I got to go up on stage and collect it. I felt like Queen of the World that day. And I’d only bought ONE raffle ticket with ten pence I’d found in the playground!

What was the most trouble you got into?

Well…Let’s just say the books I write are all about my time at primary school with titles such as My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat!, The Phantom Lollipop Man and Attack of the Demon Dinner Ladies! I had a wild imagination at school, which got me into a fair bit of trouble. I was sent to the head teacher’s on more than one occasion for causing a school-wide panic!

What was your most vivid memory looking back now?

The Disney bean bag. It really was the business.

Were you ever too cool for school?

HA! Pets rats, weird curly hair and often spotted carrying a metal detector. So…NO.

Who encouraged and influenced you to become a children’s author?

I’d always loved children’s books and never stopped reading them but never thought I could write my own until my cats (with a little help) got me a ‘How to Write for Children’ self-help book for my birthday. I started reading away and it gave me the confidence to make a start. I started writing the next day and haven’t stopped. As a teacher myself, I’m always amazed at what a little bit of support and encouragement can help people achieve. I’m a firm believer in continued learning – it’s never too late. Except for driving – I’m not convinced I’ll ever pass my test.

What’s coming up next for you?

I’ve just written the tenth book in my Izzy series of books aimed at 7 to 10 year olds. The series really took on a life of its own after my book The Spy Who Loved School Dinners (illustrated by Thomas Flintham) won the Blue Peter Best Book Award and My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat! won The Children’s Book Award.  I’m currently writing the eleventh book in the series – I can’t believe it.

Any other projects?

I’ve written two new Enid Blyton Secret Seven novels for Enid Blyton Entertainment. This was an absolute dream come true (especially because I was a massive Enid Blyton fan as a child and got to write them in my own Secret Seven shed in my garden!). I’ve also just published my very first picture book with my publisher Nosy Crow, which I am very excited about. It’s illustrated by one of my absolute favourite illustrators, Kate Hindley, and it’s called Jeremy Worried About the Wind. It’s about a little boy with worries and anxieties. I hope that it will help to open up conversations between parents, carers, teachers and children about their fears and anxieties.

How would you sum up your schooldays in three words?

Drama. Chaos. Fun!

Pamela Butchart’s picture book, Jeremy Worried About the Wind, is published by Nosy Crow; £6.99.

Further reading: Author Robin Stevens on her schooldays at Cheltenham Ladies’ College