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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part III - Bilborough College 1973 - 1987

The Bristow Interregnum 2/1973 - 8/1975

In September, 1973, there was no first-form entry to Bilborough; the transition from grammar school to sixth-form college was underway. Though the nature of the change was prompted by Circular 10/65 Organisation of Secondary Education, the timing has its origins in the late fifties when the City authorities introduced 'bilateral schools'. In the Annual Report, 1957, we may read as follows.


During the year the Committee decided upon a bold experiment in the Secondary Modern Schools. The Committee have for some time been conscious of the fact that despite the establishment of two new Grammar Schools, the number of Grammar School places - about 14% of the total places in the City - is low compared with most other Authorities in the country. This has resulted in the general standard of both Grammar and Secondary Modern Schools being well above average, but only a few small groups in a few Secondary Modern Schools have stayed beyond the compulsory school leaving age to undertake advanced work.

In tackling this problem the Committee faced alternatives. Were they to build more Grammar Schools - a policy which could obviously not be implemented for some years - or were they to try to adapt the existing schools to meet the problem forthwith? The Committee decided on the latter policy. Eleven Secondary Modern Schools were selected for the introduction of special five-year courses, with either a Grammar or a Technical bias, leading to General Certificate of Education in perhaps five subjects. Parents of children in the 11+ age group were invited to apply for places in these schools on the understanding that the children would stay for the full five-year course. The results were encouraging, almost 1,300 applications being received. After careful analysis, taking into account the parents' wishes, the children's performance in the Annual Selection Examination and reports from Primary Head Teachers, the Committee decided that between 550 and 600 children could suitably be admitted to five-year courses. (The schools selected for this experiment are listed in Appendix J.)

The Committee also decided that wherever possible the remaining children who had sought five-year courses should have them. Those living in the normal catchment areas of the Bilateral school were to be formed - provided numbers and ability permitted - into a 'shadow' stream of the Grammar / Technical stream proper. The others were to attend a normal Secondary School. The Heads of all Secondary Schools have been given every encouragement and freedom by the Committee to arrange five-year courses for these children, leading to General Certificate of Education in perhaps one or two subjects.


In the General Review the following year, the Committee had this to say.

It was a period of considerable development. The second stage of the alteration in the age of transfer from junior to secondary schools has taken place, and, with the opening of the bilateral schools, the Committee were enabled to provide five-year courses leading to General Certificate of Education for nearly thirty per cent. of the children entering secondary schools instead of the eleven per cent. of some former years. It is of special note that, as reference to the report of the Secondary Education Sub-Committee shows, about sixty per cent. of the boys and girls of the City are attending schools with organised courses leading to General Certificate of Education in a number of subjects. It is true that in the early stages of their careers some of these children, in the bilateral schools, are planning to leave at fifteen, but every boy and girl has the chance, on merit, to transfer to a five-year course. The doors of opportunity are now open.

In these measures the Education Committee are pleased by the backing given by parents. Increasing numbers of children are remaining at school beyond the age of fifteen, and in the results of the summer examination for the General Certificate of Education in the year now under review, there was a thirty per cent. increase in the number of passes obtained at Ordinary Level. It now remains for that interest and that progress to be reflected in the growth of the sixth forms of the grammar schools.

In this connection, an interesting development is the growing co-operation between the head teachers of the bilateral schools and those of the grammar schools to ensure ease of transfer of pupils to the sixth forms of the grammar schools, and between the heads of all the secondary schools and the junior schools with the aim of co-ordinating the work of the junior schools and that of the bottom forms of the secondary schools, including grammar schools.


The 'co-operation' mentioned here manifested itself on the Bilborough site in a number of ways. In each of Bilborough's first three years, Bilborough contributed the equivalent of one member of staff to William Sharp to teach music, modern languages and the sciences, as detailed in Appendix K, and there was also some association on the cultural level via the orchestra. Through the early years of the sixties, more than 700 pupils per year were being admitted at 11+ to selective streams in bilateral schools.

Against this backdrop came Circular 10/65, the first two paragraphs of which read as follows.

It is the Government's declared objective to end selection at eleven plus and to eliminate separatism in secondary education. The Government's policy has been endorsed by the House of Commons in a motion passed on 21st January, 1965:

'That this House, conscious of the need to raise educational standards at all levels, and regretting that the realisation of this objective is impeded by the separation of children into different types of secondary schools, notes with approval the efforts of local education authorities to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines which will preserve all that is valuable in grammar school education for those children who now receive it and make it available to more children; recognises that the method and timing of such re-organisation should vary to meet local needs; and believes that the time is now ripe for a declaration of national policy.'


In the document, the Government envisaged six main forms of comprehensive organisation of which the fifth was 'comprehensive schools with an age range of 11-16 combined with sixth form colleges for pupils over 16'. In discussing this option, the Government opined 'there are few obvious arguments in favour of comprehensive schools with an age range 11 to 16', and three paragraphs later continued

In this country there is so far little experience on which to base final judgements on the merits of sixth form colleges. Nevertheless the Secretary of State believes that the issues have been sufficiently debated to justify a limited number of experiments. Where authorities contemplate the submission of proposals, he hopes that they will consult with his Department at an early stage.

Notwithstanding, in the Annual Report, 1966, we may read

The Education Committee adopted in principle a scheme of comprehensive schools for pupils aged 11-16 years and a comprehensive and co-ordinated scheme of provision for 16-19 year olds on full-time and part-time courses in colleges of advanced secondary education [CASE] and in colleges of further education.


The increasing tension between the local authority and Government department can be sensed in the resolution passed the following year.

In June, 1967, the Committee resolved that the Secretary of State be informed that subject to the approval by the Secretary of State in whole or in part of the scheme submitted to the Department of Education and Science in October, 1966, the Committee resolved to reserve their right to amend the scheme after consultation with the teachers and parents and instruct the Director of Education to inform the Department.

Statements regarding the success of the bilateral school system occurred regularly in the Annual Reports.

These [data] are quite remarkable figures which speak volumes for the success of the bilateral schools (1967). The bilateral schools are in an excellent position to provide for each pupil the most suitable grade of work in each subject (1968). The Secondary Education Sub-Committee have expressed their satisfaction at the results of the grammar schools and at the consolidation over the past few years of the impressive achievement of the bilateral schools (1969).

However, in Annual Report, 1972, we have

In the May elections the control of the City Council changed and the new Committee immediately announced a policy of reorganising the secondary school system on comprehensive lines. The immediate need was to carry out consultations and to formulate proposals. The first meetings with teachers, governors and parents took place in July.


In September, 1972, the City of Nottingham Education Committee published its proposals for 'Comprehensive Education in Nottingham', in which two paragraphs read

1.7 In 1966 the Education Committee proposed a scheme based upon comprehensive schools for 11-16 year old pupils and colleges of advanced secondary education for 16-19 year old students. The dispersal of school buildings still lends itself to such a system. The Committee do not favour a pattern of schools for 11-18 year old students as the scattered premises in the city could not produce an overall system of schools with viable sixth forms. Any such proposals could be staffed only on an inefficient and uneconomic basis.

1.8 The main strategy of the scheme of comprehensive education therefore, will be based upon

(a) schools for pupils aged 11-16,

(b) colleges of advanced secondary education (sixth form colleges) for students aged 16-19.


The document set out the factors taken into account in arriving at these conclusions and also outlined the curriculum, paragraphs 2.1-2.4 dealing with the schools for pupils aged 11-16 and paragraphs 5.1-5.5 with the colleges. Paragraph 5.3 is reproduced here.

5.3 The colleges will be open-access, ie there will be no entry requirements and students from the 11-16 schools may simply transfer at the end of their five-year course. The colleges will have curricula much wider in scope than those at present offered in the grammar school sixth forms and it is intended that they should cater for the following needs:-

(a) 'A' level or equivalent courses. The size of the colleges will allow a wider choice than can normally be offered in grammar school sixth forms.

(b) 'O' level courses. These may be repeated courses or fresh courses in a wide range of subjects.

(c) Courses to meet the syllabus requirements of any new examinations designed for the 16-19 range.

(d) Courses of a bridging nature to equip students to follow vocational courses in Further or Higher Education establishments. Bridging courses for future ONC and OND students are envisaged.

(e) Courses designed especially for girls who intend to work in education, nursing and social services and who are awaiting admission to courses or training at Waverley College or elsewhere.

(f) Courses designed to help young people to equip themselves more properly for adult life. The courses will include preparation for running a home, raising a family, filling leisure time.

(g) A wider range of minority time courses for students of all abilities. These will include current affairs, both local and national; craft and design courses; conversation courses in foreign languages, sociology, government studies, music.

(h) Any expansion in the requirements for girls with office skills and secretarial qualifications may be met in one or more of the colleges rather than by an expansion at one of the Colleges of Further Education.

(i) A wider range of leisure activities to meet the recreational needs of the students.


With remarkable prescience, the Committee wrote in paragraph 5.4 ...

it is to be hoped that the Department of Education and Science will ultimately make one set of statutory regulations covering the education of the 16-19 age group.

It was predicted that the approximate numbers arising from current courses at Bilborough CASE over the five 'tapering' years, 1973-1977, would be 652, 542, 477, 420, 350, the last excluding numbers arising from new courses. These were gross underestimates.

The proposal was submitted to the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, who approved it with the modification that two grammar schools, Mundella and Clifton Hall, were to remain. The entry in the Bilborough Log for Monday 2nd July, 1973 reads

Headmasters' meeting, Education Offices 8.45 am first official confirmation of the Ministry acceptance (with modification) of LEA's proposals for reorganisation of secondary education. Education Committee have decided to implement as from beginning of new school year. Bilborough to run down junior school and eventually convert to sixth-form college. No new intake in September. This leaves Bilborough overstaffed by 8.


By this time Bill Bristow had been 'in charge' for five months, during which time he had sanctioned various of the science staff to visit local industries for three days under the 'Teachers in Industry' scheme, experienced his first Speech Day and arranged elections for representatives to the Governing Body. Under the new regulations, there were to be Student, Teacher and Parent representatives, those elected in April, 1973, being Paul Keely and Sylvia Drew, R Downing and M T Robinson, and Mrs Gill, Mr Meese and Mr McKeating. A staff meeting was called to debate the question 'Do we give too much freedom too soon?' with reference to the sixth-formers. The Girls carried off the Junior and Senior Championships and the Boys the Junior Championship at the City Sports in the nearby Harvey Hadden Stadium, during the course of which Bill Bristow, acting head, was sounded out by the Director as to his future intentions. Two months later, he was appointed Headmaster of Bilborough with effect from 1st September for two years duration up to retirement. At the end of June the first sixth-formers' Leavers Dinner was held very successfully at Daybrook House, and one week later, over a two day period, fifth-formers handed in their books, attended lectures on Young Enterprise and Finance, listened to talks from heads of department and to records - G&S - supervised by the Head, and then departed, the once extensive programme of post-examination activities being discontinued. Both the Fête, this year favoured by kind weather, and the Junior Drama Festival took place and with great success.


Bilborough College of Advanced Secondary Education started the Autumn term, 1973, with no first-formers and a sixth-form year of 124 (see Appendix L), and a teaching staff all of whom except the Head were invited to re-apply for posts. It was a very unsettling experience. Officers of the authority made frequent visits to the College for discussions with staff; the Head attended with others of his ilk meetings with the Chief Education Officer and his staff to discuss the development of 16+ education, the role of the sixth-form colleges and, most importantly, staffing. The contents of such meetings were always fully reported to the staff, occasionally, as required, through the medium of extra lunch-time meetings; such 'open government' was very much appreciated by the staff. The dust began to settle a little with the appointment in January, 1974, of F S Redding as Deputy Head 1 (responsible for, inter alia, timetable and curriculum development), R Downing as Deputy Head 2 (pastoral care for the boys and examination administration) and the re-appointment of Miss R M Betts as Senior Mistress (pastoral care and careers guidance for the girls). Next Rev P Head, who had been appointed for the preceding September as head of Religious Instruction, was promoted to Senior Teacher with particular responsibility for non-examination courses and students, and liaison with feeder schools and further education. The profile of Careers was raised by the appointment of A J Richards. Heads of department were appointed in early February and the majority of the remaining staff in late March.


The sense of uncertainty moved from staff to junior pupils when in April there came further re-organisation - this time of Local Government, Nottingham City becoming a district of the new Nottinghamshire authority. Under the policy in the County, most of the secondary education sector was organised on the basis of 11-18 comprehensive schools, and for a few months there were rumours that some juniors at the sixth-form colleges would be moved to other schools. Although these rumours proved unfounded, an unsettling feature for juniors elsewhere occurred in 1975 when under a new national administration, the Education Secretary reversed the decision taken two years earlier and Mundella and Clifton Hall were brought into the scheme.

Throughout the year, the traditional pattern of events was maintained. The PTA functions continued, generally with very good support, at regular intervals; the Bilborough Road Relay, attended by 25 schools, took place; the Junior school presented Puss in Boots (producer Sarah Jennett) and All the King's Men (producer David Hale), and the Seniors presented Noel Coward's Hay Fever (producer Gilly Archer); Speech Day occurred in March with former students Mr Dennis Smith giving the address and his wife, Tanya, presenting the prizes; the Fête was opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman A S Shelton, father of Andrew, at that time a member of 4G.

But change was in the air. A paper was published on 25th September on 6-, 5- and 10-day timetable models and at a meeting of heads of department seven days later, the 10-day option was agreed with slight modifications; in October, the first Open Evening took place, the first step taken by the College to advertise and market itself; two heads of department attended a symposium in Cambridge on AO courses and examinations; heads of department of the feeder schools were invited to meet with their counterparts at College in a first step towards developing links; P W Ford was appointed to introduce A-level Economics; there was a fair sprinkling of visits by advisers to discuss, amongst other things, resources for photography and for drama; the A-block, being surplus to requirements (temporarily) was loaned to William Sharp.


In June, Ruth Betts applied successfully for secondment and it was agreed Marion England and Margaret Gotheridge share the Senior Mistress responsibilities for 1974-75. Finally, elected to the Governing Body were Paul Fessler and Joanna Wilkinson for the Students, R Downing, M T Robinson and J R Yarnell for the Staff and Mr Meese, Mrs Hagues and Mr Hartley for the Parents, all under the Chairmanship of Mr M Cowan, taking over from Mr J T Rhodes - change of government, change of colour.

On the day before the new academic year started, Deputy Heads and Senior Tutors interviewed potential sixth-formers, and by the first period after break the next morning the whole college was on timetable. For the first time, the new sixth-form entrants were counted and 'classified', 53 on three A-level courses, 41 on two A-level courses, 14 on one A-level courses and 17 on O-level courses only. The reputation of the College had already spread, attracting a lad from Cyprus and a young lady from Jamaica.

Various persons from County Hall continued their visitations, to advise on the lay-out of the workshop, to enquire about staffing, to determine the feasibility of a course on Local Government, to discover the re-furnishings required, and, towards the end of the year, the Deputy Director came for a general discussion of the situation, the buildings and the facilities. More worryingly, heads of department were organised into Working Parties, on General Studies, Resources, Prospectus, Admission of and Course Guidance to Entrants, Communications and Curriculum Development. At intervals through the year there were to be seen parties of fifth-formers from the feeder schools, keenly weighing up the pros and cons of continuing their education at Bilborough.


In the first term, there was a double bill of Little Sweep and Trial by Jury (the last public appearance in G&S of the Headmaster). In the second term, Tony Goodchild, appointed full-time at the beginning of the year, invited George Guest of St John's College, Cambridge, to adjudicate the inaugural Music Competition, following which the prize winners gave a concert. The following day, the Annual Presentation of Prizes took place, once again in the intimacy of the college hall. By way of consolation, perhaps, the prize winners were invited to have tea afterwards with the Governors and Staff. In the summer term, the third- and fourth-formers enjoyed their Drama Festival.

The most significant event of the year, however, was the appointment of Mr C G Martin, an external candidate, to the post of Principal. He met the Staff and Governors over tea and stayed on for his first Governors' Meeting. A fortnight later, he was able to spend 3-4 hours in discussion with the retiring headmaster, and on his next visit, he was able to read in the Log

I trust and believe that I have arranged the organisation of next term in such a manner that the routine will continue without supervision if necessary, so that my successor will have time to 'feel' his way in. I wish the College and Mr Martin every success, and having met Mr Martin I have the utmost confidence that I leave it in very capable hands. E W Bristow, retiring Headmaster.

to which Mr Martin replied

I record my appreciation of the help given by Mr Bristow and the excellent way in which arrangements for the beginning of term have been set up. C G Martin, incoming Headmaster.


Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

URL: http://bilboroughgrammar.tripod.com/1957-2000/part_iii_bristow.htm