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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part III - Bilborough College 1973 - 1987

C G Martin - 1975-1987

In September, 1975, senior staff under the direction of F S Redding and R Downing interviewed and allocated courses for 178 lower sixth students of whom a high proportion (65 %) had come from comprehensive schools. A quarto-sized brochure 'Bilborough College Student Information 1975-6' had been issued to schools in the previous academic year. The introduction stated

Bilborough College offers a full range of examination courses, 'A' and 'O' level, as well as a number of non-examination courses. All that is required is for you to wish to come, to know what you are aiming at, and to be willing to work for it, for we shall expect high standards of work at all levels. Your past performance will, of course, be taken into account in advising you on the courses you should take.

For the academically able, we believe that a Sixth Form College is the best place to pursue studies in a number of 'A' levels. We are equally sure that students wishing to spend one or two years extending their education in other ways will find that the College has much to offer.

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Later in the booklet great emphasis was placed on pastoral care, a feature distinguishing sixth-form colleges from further education colleges. New and / or unusual subjects such as commerce, drama and theatre arts, engineering science and government and politics were described and then came an explanation of the timetable (see Appendix M) together with advice on selecting a course. Two pages were given to describing the importance of the arts with reference, under the music section, to no less than eight group activities, including the Bilborough Philharmonic Orchestra (about 30 strong) and two string quartets formed to give advanced pupils higher performing opportunities.

Perhaps three matters were uppermost in Mr Martin's mind when he planned out the agenda for his first year in office - student enrolment, facilities (including staffing) and curriculum development - and he set to work with a will. Being new to the area it was obviously important to make contact with as many people in the education world as possible and to this end Mr Martin visited a number of local comprehensive schools and invited heads of others to working lunches at Bilborough. Other points of contact came via Governors' meetings, parents' evenings and the Bilborough College Society. Over twenty adviser-visits occurred in the course of the year. Discussions were taking place on the provision of a drama studio and a computer link, on improving the language laboratory and science accommodation, and on re-furnishing the domestic science room. Resources were made available for 'new' sixth-formers, and there were many meetings to discuss the most important resource, staffing.

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But staffing for what? In 1969, the Schools Council (including within its membership a certain Dr H J Peake) in conjunction with the Standing Conference on University Entrance published 'Proposals for the Curriculum and Examinations in the Sixth Form', which, had they been implemented as hoped, would have generated the first Qualifying Examinations in summer, 1975, and the first Further Examinations in summer, 1976. Within six weeks of taking office, Mr Martin attended a conference across the city on '16+' examinations. Four months on, a representative of the City and Guilds of London visited to discuss the Institute's Foundation Course and a delegation arrived from Basford Hall to determine the feasibility of Link Courses. Advisers came to see how the Child Welfare Course was developing and just before the end of the summer term, Mr Martin attended a meeting at East Midland Region Examination Board to discuss proposals for the Certificate of Extended Education. The Curriculum Committee had a very full agenda indeed.

Meanwhile, management of the College was achieved via the fortnightly meetings of the Staff Standing Committee influenced, occasionally, by the College Council. Bilborough College Society continued to thrive and the Drama and Music departments combined to produce Orpheus in the Underworld. The Induction Course over three days in June / July attracted over 200 prospective students, and though it is difficult to identify major factors in attracting larger numbers, perhaps the much improved quality of the prospectus was one. The 1976-77 model appeared in A5 format, pinned on the short side and enclosed in a card cover, with all subjects at all levels detailed and colour-coded. The prospectus also contained descriptions of the Foundation Course and of courses in secretarial, typing and office-management skills through links with Basford Hall confirming that Bilborough was taking seriously its claim to be an open-access college.

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Two hundred and thirty-five students enrolled into the sixth year and though courses of study had been arranged for the majority of students attending the induction course two months earlier, it still required two days in September to amend some of these or arrange courses for new applicants. Nine students signed on to the Foundation Course. Amidst the routine of receiving advisers and improving liaison with local schools, Mr Martin hosted a working party of eight sixth-form college principals primed with the task of setting up the Association of Principals in Sixth-Form Colleges, in due course to be known by the acronym APVIC. His attendance (over a two year period) was also requested on a Nottinghamshire County course on management. On 9th February, 1977, the penultimate Annual Presentation of Prizes took place in a quiet but formal affair in the library, the award winners being invited to take tea with the Governors. The peak of the Bilborough College Society year was the illustrated lecture given by the celebrated climber, Doug Scott, on his recent experiences on Everest. In the arena of performing arts there were presentations of The Tempest (producer Gilly Archer) and of The Pirates of Penzance (producer David Littlewood). Following a successful audition (by recording) the orchestra competed in July in the National Festival of Music for Youth held in London. Having distinguished themselves in this Festival, the young musicians were invited to contribute to the Schools Prom held in the Royal Albert Hall on Monday, 28th November, 1977. The programme note read as follows

Bilborough College Chamber Orchestra, Nottingham

Director of Music: Tony Goodchild

Pastorale Lars-Erik Larsson

Bilborough College is a sixth-form college situated in Nottingham. There are about 450 students of whom 35 are studying A-level music. The Chamber Orchestra has been in existence for two years, and meets once a week for advanced coaching from Gretl Schmid. In the true tradition of chamber ensembles, this group plays without a conductor, and is directed by the leader. Intensive rehearsal makes this possible, and each member of the Chamber Orchestra is fully self-reliant.

The Pastorale by Lars-Erik Larsson is scored for strings, solo flute, solo clarinet and piano or harp, and was written in 1941. Lars-Erik Larsson was born in Sweden in 1908, and studied at the Stockholm Conservatory and then in Vienna with Alban Berg.

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In September, 1977, Bilborough came of age in the sense that the last of the 'juniors' had either left for direct employment or entered the sixth-form. There were 62 students in the latter group who with 190 from other schools swelled the total to 440 which, even allowing for the 13 on the Foundation Course, exceeded handsomely the 350 predicted by the Authority four years earlier. One week after the newcomers had appeared on the premises, they were called down to the hall and photographed - one by one! Copies of the photographs were required for the student's personal file and for reference collections which were held in the staff-room and the office. A few years on, the system was modified and new students were required to provide the appropriate number of passport photographs themselves. With the loss of the junior school came the peaceful burial of the 7-period day, 5-day week (or 10-day fortnight) timetable, its place being taken by a 4-period day with two long periods either side of morning break and two short periods in the afternoon. This was the first of four changes in eight years, as we shall see.

Student recruitment depended heavily on liaison. Guidelines were set down by the authority outlining 'associated schools' (in effect catchment areas but officially described as 'spheres of influence') in an attempt to enable the three sixth-form colleges to grow at a similar rate, a policy which worked reasonably well in the short term although an analysis published in 1980 indicated that Bilborough had accommodated 38 % of the students going onto Bilborough, High Pavement and Forest Fields. Members of the liaison committee worked very industriously, visiting careers evenings and open evenings at local schools and in guiding staff in preparing for Bilborough's own Open Evening, at this stage held in Spring each year. High recruitment to one department in particular, Music, was achieved on the strength of a spreading reputation. It is perhaps a reflection on the personality of the head of department, A T Goodchild, that the Producer of the Schools Prom, Mr Geoffry Russell-Smith, accepted an invitation to adjudicate the Bilborough Music Competition in March, 1978. Six weeks later, there was a presentation of Mozart's first German operetta Bastien und Bastienne and Horovitz's Horrortorio. In July, the string orchestra competed in Vienna and won 3rd Prize in the Festival of Music for Youth; a presentation was made to Gretl Schmid, peripatetic stringed-instrument teacher, in recognition of the significant contribution she had made at Bilborough over twenty years.

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Visitors came from as far afield as Edinburgh and Croydon to discuss with Mr Martin the role of the sixth-form college in delivering 16-19 education. In May, he hosted a Faith-Culture week during which the students attended illustrated talks on Rastafarianism, Islamic Studies and Jewish Customs. In one particularly hectic week, the Principal attended a three-day conference in Ollerton, subject Multiracial Education, returning to visit an open evening at one feeder school and address the Parents' Society at another, and then on the fourth day, travelled up to Doncaster for a sixth-form conference. Two former staff returned. Terry Newcombe came down from Edinburgh University to talk to students about the opportunities available north of the border and Mr Bristow was invited to distribute the prizes at the very last Speech Day, a simple but dignified ceremony held in the library. Duty had been done.

The grammar school stream into the sixth-form having dried up, the whole entry of 290 students in September, 1978, came from other schools - associated schools and non-associated schools, private schools and schools across the county boundary - swelling the total in the college to 502. Space was at a premium, and consideration was given to ways of making better use of the premises. In the first of many modifications to the buildings (see Part V), part of the area alongside the science corridor, formerly used by the juniors to hang coats and pe-kit bags, was cleared and carpeted, fitted with soft-drink dispensers and, nick-named the Twilight Zone, used for relaxation purposes. At the same time, the section nearer to the entrance hall was converted into office accommodation for Head of Careers and the Caretakers, the work being undertaken by Community Industries in summer, 1979.

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Curriculum development continued apace, including local and national discussions on proposals for the N- and F-level courses and examinations. Available in the college for the first time were, inter alia, Additional Maths at AO-level, Computer Science at A-level (following on from O-level Computer Studies) and courses leading to examination by the Institute of Linguists. For reference purposes, all the courses offered in the Prospectus 1978-9 are shown in Appendix N. The City architect gave his blessing to the installation of an organ at the rear of the college hall. Music students contributed to the project of reconstructing the instrument which was dedicated by Father McCulloch of All Souls Church, Radford (from where the organ had been transferred) and played by Dr George Guest in the concert which followed the Music Competition in March, 1979. One week later, many of the same music students led by Graham Hall and his jazz group contributed to a sponsored 24-hours 'play-in' in aid of the Iceland trip.

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The Bilborough College Expedition to Myvatn, Iceland, organised by Bob Dossetter and Ros Grum (whose brainchild it was) was made by a party of five staff and sixteen students in three weeks of the summer of 1979 - the participants are listed in Appendix O. Here are two extracts from the 154-page account produced by members of the party on their return.

The expedition had two main objectives:-

1. For our students to be in a situation where they could develop their sense of responsibility, initiative, planning and fellowship, and explore the limits of their character.

2. For our students to investigate and appreciate the environment of the Myvatn Area of North Iceland.

Our primary biological objective is to enable Bilborough College Biology students to experience, investigate and record some aspects of the biology of the Myvatn area of Iceland, thus extending their comprehension and appreciation of ecological science and conservation. The methods employed will include the use of transects, quadrats, random and systematic sampling and the measurement of environmental parameters. Equipment used to measure these physical and chemical factors include pH and soil test kits, humidity meters, oxygen, light, temperature and conductivity probes.

The primary [geological] objective was to enable Geology students to study a type of landscape which is totally different from areas they have studied in Britain. Geological and geomorphological mapping techniques were used and transects drawn up by using abney levels, tape measures, clinometers and prismatic compasses. Rock types were examined in situ and observations recorded by field sketches and photographs.

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A Day from the Expedition Diary - 16th July - by Kate Shaw

This morning we were awoken by the gentle sound of pouring rain and a rendering of some strange howling by Mr D and Mr K. It was most effective. The whole camp burst into angry activity.

After a hurried breakfast we all set out - save for Mrs Grum, Mr Dossetter and Mrs Gotheridge, to trace the source of the lava flow, accompanied all the while by torrential rain and force 98 winds (head on, of course).

Mr Kendrick led the expo. in style with his big black brolly looking somewhat similar to an overgrown mushroom. Lindsey with her infallible size 8 boot discovered by force several amazing lava strata. During the two hour walk, Nick managed to discover the symptoms, suffer the pain and enjoy the sympathy of at least four diseases, the most memorable being rabies, which didn't arouse much sympathy. After battling against unbelievable odds, bad (foul) weather, falling lava, faults etc, etc, Mr Kendrick decided to find us a nice warm dry cave in which to dine, 'It's only round the corner' yelled he, merrily brandishing his jolly-brolly. Two mountains, three moraines and several landslides later we hadn't found it, so we sat down disconsolately upon some ragged rocks and dined in style however wet it may have been. The bread, a little hard from the day before, soon softened under the impact of the rain and a little refreshed but much wetter, we packed up and headed for home. But No!! despite pouring hail and gusty winds, Kenders and a few other less sane members formed a split fraction group and decided to ascend the mountain.*

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Laughing we returned home, and peering over our shoulders, we could see their cagoule-clothed bodies straining up the slag.

During the evening assembly we learned of Mrs Grum and Mr D's exciting adventure in a warm pool, how they lounged luxuriously 'sans apparel' much to the amusement of a small group of Norwegian tourists, who saw sights they didn't expect.

Tomorrow we have a hard day doing transects and visiting warm pools. Now we are all settling down for the night to cries of 'shut up, Dinsdale' and 'look out for the Vikings'. A last remark as Nick disappears into his tent!

Zip 'Good Night, Cruel World!'

[*We found the lava cave (and an Arctic Saxifrage) 5 minutes after leaving the deserters. Such is life. JMK]

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By now, the routine was established and in each of the following eight years the College Calendar appeared in more or less the same form - which is more than can be said for the building, as we shall see. With the Liaison Committee continuing to do sterling work and with two Open Evenings each year, student numbers rose and hovered around the 600 mark with full-time equivalent staffing of about 50 - see Appendix L. One problem which took a long time to resolve related to clerical assistance. In the latter days of the grammar school the 'turnover' of students was of the order of 100 per year, but as the student numbers neared 600 in the developing college, this figure rose to 300-350, and generated a great deal more paperwork. There was a constant battle for more administrative assistance. The County Management Service conducted a review of ancillary staffing in 1977 but delayed publishing their Report until 1986! In 1978 came the first exchange with teachers from Canada and America when Toby Jackson (Art) participated in an arrangement with Hugh O'Connell for one year. This was followed by Vic Delstanche (PE, John Gucciardo, 1979), Martyn Offord (English, Doug Agar, 1980), Sue Phillips (English, Helen Fogg, 1982) and Peter Ford (Economics, Don Ivey, 1985). Over three weeks in July-August, 1980, 22 students accompanied by Peter Ford and Sue Phillips undertook an 'American Tour' playing football and tennis fixtures in Los Angeles (arranged by Hugh O'Connell) and Arizona (arranged by John Gucciardo).

Mr Martin continued his attendance at the 16-19 Working Party meetings held in County Hall on a monthly basis, and in autumn, 1984, entered into discussions with management at Basford Hall concerning a consortium to introduce the newly devised Certificate in Pre-Vocational Education. Such a course was to take the place of the Foundation Course which at that time comprised three elements: City and Guilds Foundation Course in Distribution, Child Care and Office Skills. In September, 1985, Peter Stay, now titled Director of CPVE, welcomed 54 students on to the new course. In the next major change in curriculum, GCE and CSE were merged to GCSE and, by way of preparation, two Training Days were arranged, the first in February and the second four months later. The new syllabuses were introduced in September, 1987.

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In July, 1987, 12 months after the retirement of Sid Redding (a founder member of staff) and Joyce Beilby (after 20 years association) came the retirement of Charles Martin in whose honour a farewell party was held in St John's College, Bramcote. At similar functions in previous years, Mr Martin always had un bon mot for the retiree, amusingly but sincerely expressed, and on this occasion the favour was returned. After the serious orations of the evening there came a bit of gentle fun in the form of one member of the careers department reporting to another on an interview he had just completed with Mr Martin, the scene punctuated with overhead projections showing Mr Martin's photographed face superimposed on line drawings of a man variously dressed as a bishop, a beach balloon salesman, etc. The details appear in Appendix P. Such comic presentations became a feature of many staff retirement functions in the ensuing years.

A small '30 Years of Bilborough' exhibition was held at the end of 1987, coinciding with Roy Downing's retirement and Rosie Barnes (née Allen), Member of Parliament for Greenwich, came to say farewell and took the opportunity, when addressing assembly, to tell a few anecdotes about her experiences as a pupil at Bilborough in the first years of the Grammar School. The third Vice-Principal, Ruth Betts, also a founder member, retired two terms later. The three, Sid, Roy and Ruth, starting at Bilborough together and leaving within a two year period, had between them given over 90 years of service to the establishment.

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Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

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