IT was a return to her former school days that she may live to regret.
TV star Fiona Phillips was the guest speaker at the opening of the £16m Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill School in Southampton.
But her remarks about life at its predecessor Millbrook School, which she attended in the 1970s, have provoked a furious reaction in the city.
The 51-year-old said she had left primary school at the “top of the class” and her arrival at Millbrook School had been an “eye-opener”.
She said it was a “school rampant with hormones and no discipline” with no aspiration or encouragement, and told how furniture was thrown around the classes and how a teacher was thrown over bush.
She said the teaching staff did “nothing” to shore up educational standards and values and said the former head Fred Lowry “commanded no respect whatsoever”.
She said she left with one O-level and had been turned into a “vile teenager”.
“I’m proud to say I went to Millbrook School. I’m not proud of the education I had there,”
she said in her speech.
Ms Phillips went on to say she got “angry” when she drove around Millbrook as there had been “hardly any investment in this part of town for nearly half a century”.
During her tirade Ms Phillips also named a city shopkeeper who she compared to Jimmy Savile.
Mayor Derek Burke, a former governor of Millbrook School who was in the audience, accused Ms Phillips of “dramatic licence”.
He said while the school did have its share of problems, “it wasn’t nearly as bad as she painted.”
He said head teachers attending a function at the council yesterday had told him they were “very uncomfortable with her remarks”.
Mr Burke said: “I knew Fred. I was a governor at the tail end of his time at Millbrook.
“He was a good head teacher of the school. I believe he had respect.”
Cllr Burke said his d a u g h t e r s h a d attended Millbrook School and achieved “lots of GCSEs” along with their friends.
One Daily Echo reader who went to Millbrook School at the same time as Ms Phillips said: “I left school with seven O-levels. I went to college and worked for my A-levels and went to university and worked for my degree.
“I know from personal experience that many of my fellow Millbrook pupils did the same – more than the national average for the time.
“There was nothing wrong with the school nor the pupils who worked hard at their education.
“Perhaps if Ms Phillips had not spent so much time throwing furniture and teachers around she may have got more out of her time there.”
Councillor Don Thomas, a pupil at Millbrook School’s predecessor in the 1960s, said: “It’s not appropriate for her to be criticising a former local authority school which did a good job in difficult circumstances.”
He said he had been contacted by one resident who was very angry at Ms Phillips outburst.
“They were upset at Millbrook being badmouthed.
They said it was a good school and proud to go to it.”
The Daily Echo put Ms Phillips’ remarks to Mr Lowry at his home in Ashurst.
The retired head, now 85, was visibly disappointed but declined to comment.
He was head teacher of the school between 1972 and 1988 after moving from St George’s C of E School.
Millbrook was, at the time, one of the largest schools in Southampton with more than 1,200 pupils attending by the mid- ’70s.
Ms Phillips was unavailable for comment.