Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back To The Old School

Frank Chalk was looking at school mottoes, and I wondered about my old school, Bromsgrove County High School, whose motto was "Abeunt Studia In Mores". Despite the fact that Latin was compulsory for the first two years, everyone from the Head down seemed a bit vague about the exact meaning - "Study Forms Character" was the best guess. It makes Jack a dull boy, that's for sure.

When the old grammar went comprehensive it changed name to North Bromsgrove High School, went downhill faster than Franz Klammer and is now in special measures. The school profile makes for depressing reading.

So I wondered if it had a new motto and what it might be.

"In Pursuit Of Excellence (As It Disappears Round The Corner)"

"Maintaining Mediocrity"

"Exclusions R Us"

To my surprise, the motto is unchanged (it's the .gif at the top left). The school website can't spell 'absence' or 'activities', however. The site looks like it's come from one of those 'web-in-a-box' kits, as it contains lots of drop-down links to unpopulated template pages.

The school magazine seems to have dumbed down a fair bit from the old 'Boar', a few copies of which lurk obscurely in the corners of bookshelves. I'll try and dig them out, but I'm pretty sure Mr David or "Killer" Drury wouldn't have been too impressed with :

• Ant or Dec ?
• Pretty Women or Bridget Jones ?
• Pink or Blue ?
• Romance or Thriller ?
• George Clooney or Kevin Costner ?

The old house system has changed, too. Whatever happened to Appleby, Hibbins and Co ? No longer will the houses be named after Victorian heads with 36 years service. Instead we have Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, though the houses will get new names when the school is completely rebuilt under a PFI initiative. After all, the buildings are all of forty-five years old.

Current favourites for the new names ? Rooney House, Big Brother House, Hard House, In Da House ?

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The links with a school in Gambia are a great idea, and the insights of a Gambian pupil, Abdoulie Drammeh, are spot-on.

The other surprising thing is that the students in the UK have almost more rights than the teachers, which is also very different from my country. There are less sanctions here if a student does not pull his or her weight.There is less pressure for students to learn from their mistakes and correct them.

In my view, there needs to be some rules governing the attitudes of students towards their teachers. I’m not really saying that students’ rights should be abolished, but at least there is a need for some kind of encouragement to make students respect their teachers.

In The Gambia, students are very respectful to their teachers. They do their assignments and they pay attention in class when the teacher is talking.

I think this difference arises because the British are much more developed than The Gambia. This makes the English students feel that they don’t need to work extra hard because they can survive whatever they do. The Gambian students would want to work extra hard to be the best among all the other students to have a chance of getting employment.

You said it, Abdoulie.

The school hasn't run out of good material yet, either.

Harry Hutton reports that "Pippa von Humbolt-Parker (second from left; 19 'A's) plans to spend her gap year in the Congo, teaching Pygmies to bungee jump".

What did you do in your gap year, Head Boy 2004 Andrew Hazell ?

I spent eight months serving with the TA (Territorial Army) in Afghanistan. I am currently reading BA (Hons) War Studies at Wolverhampton University. Recently I have started an officer training course with the TA and am hoping to join the Regular Army as an officer after Uni.

Eight months soldiering in Afghanistan. That's a pretty impressive gap year CV.


Charles Martel said...

slightly OT:

the crack mother story

how its being played in the media right now is that "social services" have "failed" the child.

nobody is asking "what about the father - the hell was he doing?"

in fact, the impression i am getting is that this case is a failure of the state.

in the past , this would have been sorted out by private individuals first and foremost - something called a "family".

now we have bleating about the state not being involved enough. but nobody is asking the simple question - why has the state got the right to be involved in family life?

Anonymous said...

I was extremely priveleged to have gone to one of Britain's few surviving grammar schools, albeit under private control now. This story almost brought a tear to my eye.

Anonymous said...

It was with great sadness, and for my sins, a significant quantity of anger, that I read “Back To The Old School”. As a present student of North Bromsgrove High School it saddens me to see such an ill thought out, under-researched and frankly impenitent article. I have achieved academically well and flourished as a person with the support of a school dedicated to helping its students prepare for life and attain highly. I am not, of course, arguing that North has not had its problems over previous years, these have been well documented in the media and the school makes no effort to hide them, but for Laben to argue that the ‘old grammar…went downhill faster than Franz Klammer’ is really quite contrived.
After going comprehensive North experienced many successful decades, only recently falling into troubles in a some-what controversial fashion, arguably through no fault of the school itself. However, it has overcome such troubles and is out of special measures. In fact, it is engaging with its students in an extremely effective manner, challenging them to learn and get involved in school life and it saddens me greatly that Laben managed to miss this point in such a drastic fashion.
For those who attended a grammar school, and, by definition, were the brightest, it is quite easy to claim the school magazine has been ‘dumbed down a fair bit’. But when one truly considers the cohort of students attending a modern comprehensive, it becomes painfully obvious that it is necessary to disappoint “Killer” Drury and move towards a magazine that will appeal to students of all intellectual capabilities and backgrounds, as is the purpose of a comprehensive.
In fact, it also becomes painfully clear that house names such as Appleby and Hibbins have no meaning to students of my generation, and that more associative names should be sought. The current names, which are, admittedly, quite uninventive, will of course be replaced when the school gains its new specialism and moves into its much needed modern accommodation. I suspect the students will choose the names. I also suspect you never got the chance. So will they need to be indoctrinated into liking archaic house names? Or will they get involved because they’ve had their say and understand the values of the houses they are in? I suspect it will be the latter.
I also have a strange feeling that the houses will not be called rooney house, big brother house or anything of the sort. I am extremely confident that the intelligence quotient of North’s students is far higher than this. It appears they are also more adapt at exploring an ulterior point of view. Perhaps this is the true victory of comprehensive schools: that students get along no matter what their academic ability, rather than adopting a nonchalant, indifferent attitude to anything differing from good old fashioned values.
I suggest Laban discusses North with its students, reviews its recent history and stops posting hideously under-researched articles. Maybe he could even visit the school: attempting to found an accurate opinion on the last fourty years of its history from a website and a newsletter is surely a little ambitious?

Andy Hazel said...

Laban, I'll be more than happy to explain to you the nature of North Bromsgrove High School - anytime, anyplace. Alas, I fear someone who has made such ignorant and biased remarks would fail to appreciate what I would say though.

It saddens me to see the products of the supposed superior 'old grammar system'. You may have studied Latin et al, but you obviously missed the lessons in manners and common sense.

I'm extremely proud of both my time at NBHS as Head Boy and my time serving with the infantry in Afghanistan.

Andrew Hazell.

Laban said...

anonymous - I'm sorry you were offended, and pleased that you care enough for your school to come to its defence.

It's true that "downhill faster than Franz Klammer" would have meant special measures by 1980, not 2000. My love of a good phrase may have overcome chronology. But in mitigation you must remember that to one of my advanced years (I left in the early 70s) time just seems to fly by.

I fear that the sentence "In fact, it is engaging with its students in an extremely effective manner, challenging them to learn and get involved in school life" reinforces my point. No one at my school attempted to "engage with the students in an extremely effective manner" with the exception of one or two incidents best lost im the mists of time - they simply taught us. Neither were we "challenged to learn". The learning was just there for us to take. Those who didn't take (with greater or lesser enthusiasm), were a small minority. Don't get the idea the place was perfect though - but what places are ?

Andy - and anon - I'll respond more fully when I have more time.

spadamchrist said...

It's an odd experience going round your old school and observing that the building, which had something of a pre-fabricated feel in the 70s, is exactly the same. There has been the odd add-on, but the classrooms in which my love of words was ignited are the same. The most striking differences are in the energy of the headteacher and the fact that he has employed a full-time gardener, so the boys are surrounded by the civilising influence of extravagant flora.

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Anonymous said...

Did Trudy Styler really go to North Bromsgrove High School in the seventies? I mean........................really? Anybody actually sit next in class to her?

Anonymous said...

Should be sixties if she was born in 1954.

caroleann said...

Yes more like 66.
According to the WWW she was taught by Clifford T Ward who was a teacher at NB . This is clearly nonsense as he didn't begin working there until 1972 when TS would have been 18. She'd already left home at 17 for London...……………..allegedly.
Come on somebody. Anybody.
Did YOU know TS at NB school ?