Back in the 1960s, there was a State grammar school called Bromsgrove County High School. It took around one third of the children of the area.
It was run on traditional lines by E.J.S. "Ernie" Kyte, a tall, patrician disciplinarian (and ex-Bomber Command Squadron Leader - a fact of which we children were totally unaware) who wore a gown and mortarboard in Assembly. All the teachers wore academic gowns. So did the prefects. It was an offence for a boy to be seen in the street without his school cap on - until the dizzy heights of the Sixth, when a different tie, college-style scarf and lack of cap proclaimed maturity. Blazers, an overcoat (school mac) for winter. Straw boaters in summer for girls.
All this flummery was, as we all know, meaningless. Why should a uniform make the teaching any better ? Isn't it just a strange coincidence that you can pretty much exactly correlate a school's results inversely with the number of boys wearing their shirts outside their trousers ?
The education was good. After two years pupils were split into Science and Arts forms. Latin was taught to every pupil for the first two years. Latin and Greek were mainstream subjects for Arts students, the big three of Physics, Chemistry and Biology for Science. Most of the Sixth would head for University, some to teacher training, two or three to Oxbridge.
The school had a swimming pool and a huge acreage of playing field - ten or more pitches.
Discipline problems were rare - nearly always related to individual teachers. Even nice kids can sense weakness and children are merciless. (So are other teachers. I can still remember my maths master, the late lamented 'Phil' Davis, rolling his eyes as the hysterical shouting of another teacher at her class came through the wall. She retired soon after on health grounds.) The ultimate sanction of the cane still existed but was rarely applied. The thought of the letter home and the long, dreaded wait outside the Head's study were deterrent enough.
The school went comprehensive in 1970, while I was still there, but my cohort had come up under the old regime and weren't affected. It changed name to North Bromsgrove High School.
Even thirty-plus years back you'd get a few rebels - the kids whose shirts were deliberately not tucked in, tie cut off short or left off - kids who either made an effort to subvert the uniform or who just didn't give a flying one.
If you watch the kids coming out now, the percentage wearing the uniform correctly is about the same as the number of rebels thirty years ago - a few per cent.
More than half of the playing fields were sold off for executive-detached style homes as the native Brummies moved south. The swimming pool was derelict last time I looked.
The school was put into special measures as failing last year and the governors sacked. The headmaster, would you believe it, has been given a job at the local education authority - to share worst practice among other schools ?
By what I'm sure is another strange coincidence, the local public school now takes twice as many pupils as it did back then.
I write all this because my old school, like hundreds of others in special measures, didn't become the main headline on Radio Four news last night.
This school did. I wonder why ? At least, following my mail, they've removed most of the mails claiming incorrectly that Unity Academy is controlled by Peter Vardy.
Of course the reason the BBC, like the rest of the left, loves this story is that the Academies are outside the control of the education establishment. Can't have that, can we. Any number of LEA-controlled comprehensives can fail and the BBC/Guardian won't give a monkeys. But let's make this one headline news, shall we ?
I have little time for the public school educated Charles Clarke, who as Education Secretary worked hard to deny working-class kids the sort of education he got.
But anyone interested in the Academy debate should thank the anonymous adviser who wrote this for him.
From a window on Nine Wells
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