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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part III - Bilborough College 1973 - 1987

A Steep Learning Curve - C G Martin
A Never-to-be-Forgotten Experience - Tyehimba Nosakhere (formerly Wayne Clarke)
Home Economics and ... - Joyce Beilby
Happiness ... a good cook - Edmund Beilby
Follow a Career in Music - Simon Fricker
A Bilborough Choreographical Recollection - Martyn Offord
Part-time Record or Record Part-time? - Ruth Kendrick
Notes from a small (but perfectly formed) Island - Alan Richards
Rise and Fall - Peter Stay


A Steep Learning Curve

C G Martin (Principal, 1975-87)

I arrived at Bilborough in 1975 from being a deputy head (i/c sixth form centre) in a 1700-strong comprehensive school. A few years before I had been privileged to spend a sabbatical term at Cambridge researching sixth-form colleges and was an enthusiast for the new educational model. I inherited a competent and committed Grammar School staff who had been unceremoniously pitchforked into change. It is not surprising that they were less interested in an exciting new system than in the prospect of retaining a job at all. To their great credit they did put mind and effort into making Bilborough a model which Nottinghamshire was proud to show off to visitors from other authorities considering change. The staff compared well with those I had worked with earlier in two very successful Grammar schools in the South. They (not 'we'!) were young; and we were mostly first generation graduates - incidentally all hoping our own children would take degree courses. We were glad to help students climb the ladders we had climbed. By this time they were well-tried ladders for the selective intakes of Grammar Schools. Bilborough had not been intensively selective. When I arrived there was one pupil in the surviving fourth form who had an IQ listing of 100 so possibly less than half the population had been excluded. I had intended to make no change for the first term, so that I could fully absorb the ethos and district, the strengths of staff, the quality and variety of intake, parental aspirations and so on. In the event this proved impossible as sixth-form students resolved to push me into abolishing assemblies for them. (They were patronisingly happy to subject the remaining 4th and 5th forms to this indignity.) With the strong support of deputy Roy Downing - who gave an assembly, for all students, broadly on Plato's theme: "the unexamined life is not worth living" (brilliant, I still have the tape) - we obtained at least student acquiescence, and assemblies became for many a valuable part of the week's programme. I venture to hope that though they regarded me as a freak who thought it was God's world, at least they began to realise it wasn't their's and they should learn to live in it responsibly, co-operatively and thankfully.


The change in curriculum was not so pressured. 16+ numbers increased only slowly in the first years and groups of staff worked imaginatively to produce suitable programmes. Discussion documents from those days still make interesting reading. Peter Head deserves credit, with similarly able and compassionate colleagues who established the 'Foundation Courses' - which subsequently became CPVE, and would now I suppose be NVQs. Education is always so, 'new initiatives', new reports, new acronyms; plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Incidentally the new courses proved popular with those from 'feeder schools', where the taste to try a further year in education was increasing. So the College grew. 70% of students still followed traditional A level courses, but slowly we did become more 'comprehensive' and staff gained new competences. Ancillary staff coped with acres of paper and provided great support. The printing department set up by Norman Kirton became a significant publishing outfit under David Furse. My own introduction to comprehensive education had been in a school combining (rather hastily) two single-sex grammar schools and one mixed secondary modern, so I had close realisation of the strain and pain staff undergo.

I had always been an enthusiast for "General Studies", following Plato again - and having edited a series of textbooks while in a previous Grammar School. Students did not seem unduly upset by the 'unexamined life' and some staff were more interested in 'proper subjects', but, with excellent library service by Jean Gregory, a useful programme did develop to the great enjoyment of many students and staff.


My earlier researches had convinced me that large 16+ institutions had greater opportunity in the liberal arts, so I encouraged the development of music and art departments - both with able and thrusting leadership. Both flourished, with Bilborough orchestra gaining high recognition, and at least one rather maverick art exhibition.

Ins and outs became major industries. With students staying at most three years, career counselling and advice was essential. Alan Richards and his team assisted tutors, and I believe we offered an excellent service to students. At first I tried to see every student whose UCCA form or reference I signed, but later became wise enough to trust the judgement of tutors and team leaders.

At the other end, visits to 11-16 schools and interviewing prospective students took a lot of time, though often very enjoyable and rewarding. Team leaders became very good at this, and together with tutors made the first day or two of the new year a valuable induction system which gave a fairly painless transition between institutions. As I forecast, the 16 year olds flourished in their 'feeder' schools (not having to compete with 6th formers for responsibility and notice), so we had many mature and self-reliant students coming every year.

This helped the student ethos, which was another aspect I was keen to develop. The 70's were the years of 'student militants' and Bilborough students, along with other schools in the area received a duplicated invitation (headed AUX ARMES, ÉTUDIANTS, see Appendix X) to form a 'Schools Action Group' with the slogan "The Class struggle begins in the Classroom", but we led a surprisingly peaceful and co-operative existence. My experience of human nature made me think that committees work best if they have genuine responsibility for money, so students took over responsibility for the tuckshop - which became a lucrative enterprise - and, in the College Council, learnt a lot of community-directing skills. Some student leaders were outstanding - I remember with pleasure Wayne (whom we were advised not to take!) who became our first black student president and commanded great respect from fellow students, and incidentally passed A level Philosophy!


Speaking of Wayne brings me to one of the great privileges of my time at Bilborough. I had learnt long before from Cowper that:

souls have no discriminating hue, alike important in their Maker's view;
that none are free from error since the Fall, and love divine has paid one price for all.

but this was my first experience of living and working in a multi-ethnic community and I found it immensely rewarding and instructive. I still have a vivid memory of an able Muslim student who tore into a General Studies group of typically cheerful, godless, white students and upbraided them for their unbelief. We were fortunate that our early experience included a group of East African refugee Sikhs who were model students both in work and courtesy. I remember them with respect, and believe staff and students established a good, integrated, multi-racial community. This was largely due to the devotion of group tutors, some of whom went dramatically beyond the call of duty in dealing with students' problems. Sadly the research said students mostly split into ethnic groups on leaving.


Bilborough was for me a constant stimulus to thought, from lively and often provocatively thoughtful staff, all sorts of provocative students, and a multitude of meetings with advisers and such like together with an in-tray full of reports and recommendations. As a member of both the Secondary Heads Association and National Association of Headteachers I had the benefit of wide experience both with secondary and primary heads, and the cogent criticism of colleagues who were trying to maintain a course in a sea of change and conflicting reports. I might summarise my learning by quoting one such report, the Hargreaves Report (ILEA 1984). This distinguished four 'achievement levels' and assessment techniques:

  1. academic - the ability to express oneself, to memorise and organise factual material;
  2. the capacity to apply knowledge rather than memorise knowledge itself;
  3. ersonal and social skills, communication, self-reliance;
  4. motivation and commitment, the willingness to accept failure without destructive consequences; the readiness to persevere; the self-confidence to learn in spite of the difficulty of the task.

GCSE and A level assess the first well.
NVQ and some GCSE try to test the second.
The third gets a mention in some references but we haven't found out how to assess it.
The fourth gets a little mention in some references, and virtually no attempt at calibration, yet I warm to it because it is the way God deals with me.


Fourteen years on from Hargreaves it seems league tables still have not learnt how to move beyond the first and second. Instead of giving first importance to those achievements we can assess, we should be devising ways of assessing what is really important. I believe we made some progress towards this ideal at Bilborough.

Friendships and deep respect for dedicated colleagues live on. So does much of the thinking that made life at Bilborough so demanding and so rewarding. Some of the things that have happened since would have made life easier. I should have loved the freedom of LMS, and greater autonomy. I think I would have found ways through, or round, the paperwork. It is nice to be reminded of those (unadaptable) buildings and the (sometimes adaptable) inhabitants. God bless Bilborough and all who sail in her.


A Never-to-be-Forgotten Experience

Tyehimba Nosakhere (formerly Wayne Clarke) (1983-86)

From out of the Wilderness
Attending Bilborough College was without doubt one of the most significant events in my life. For me Bilborough College represents a time of transformation in which many positive aspects of my personality and character, that had previously been suppressed, were gently touched and then teased into development, causing the gradual soothing and stilling of the abrasive remnants of adolescent rebellion which had thus far generally categorised my statutory education. I look back, therefore, with an acute sense of irony because Bilborough was not my first choice of college. I had chosen Beeston, because it had an environment which included mature students in which I thought I might better settle down to study. Mysteriously my application for Beeston College was not received by them in time although it had been completed and submitted to my school for processing. I was consumed by anger and disgust, convinced that Glaisdale's five year plot to socially and academically assassinate me had finally succeeded. I cursed with indignation as I begrudgingly accepted that Bilborough was my only chance of further education, but the hurt was deep, and I advanced on Bilborough for my interview, burning wrath in my heart and a murky mischief in mind. I strode into the office on a long term mission of self-destruction and collided with a force to be reckoned with, Charles Martin, Principal of Bilborough College and my eventual mentor.

A Sanctuary Perhaps?
What took place in that particular ten minutes was nothing special apart from having my attention drawn to the big red 'C' on my file which marked me as conditional and meant that I would be reviewed in the coming October and February. There was no show-down, no histrionics, just a clear and calm message that the future was in my hands and if I intended to ruin it I could politely go and do that elsewhere. I left the office confused, bewildered and excited about my prospects, unbeknown to me at the time that Mr Martin had already quashed the concept behind my planned offensive on Bilborough by subtly suggesting self-determination. The last thing I was expecting at that time was to be given the opportunity to accept responsibility for myself, it was new, it was a relief and somewhere deep inside the pain that had fuelled many rebellions past began slowly to subside.


A Firm Friend
I enrolled at Bilborough College in September, 1983, and began courses in A-level English, A-level Philosophy and O-level Biology together with O-level Mathematics as a retake. I was still very excited about my prospects and I suppose to a certain extent I think I had my head in the clouds, dreaming about all the swotting I would gladly do and the brilliant results I would get. I didn't know it at the time, but I was in desperate need of being brought down to earth because life just isn't that easy. Yet again fate seemed to be on my side as I met another person who was to play a role of major significance in terms of my self-development. Mr Robinson was my tutor group teacher and I thought him very strange because he rode to college on a push-bike. If I remember rightly he also taught chemistry and perhaps his deeper understanding of 'matter' is what gave him the capacity to convert my fantasies about working hard into real graft. This again was not something which he achieved in a day but resulted from consistent care and repeated reminders about my work from the moment I arrived in relative obscurity, throughout the notoriety gained from becoming president and up unto the day I left to continue my studies in Lancashire.

The Presidential Campaign
I made friends at Bilborough, in my tutor group, my A-level English class and especially in the common room which was often the hub of activity and most definitely the most cosmopolitan of the college's many meeting places. It was from this great variety of friendships that the idea of my running for student president was born, but there was also significant encouragement from the respective tutors who taught me and, again, this adult support that had been sadly lacking prior to Bilborough transformed my 'it's all a bit of a joke' attitude to the presidency to something much more serious and focused, and I accepted nomination. I don't really remember doing a great deal of canvassing for the election. I think this was mainly because there seemed to be so many of my friends who were doing the canvassing for me and also because I was nowhere as confident of what I was doing as they were. All in all, I look back and think, regardless of the outcome of the election, the encouragement and support I received from both students and staff changed me in that I began to realise that people, many different people, saw something in me that they believed was good. From that moment on there was aching need to make something positive out of the support that was so forthcoming; internally I made the commitment to do my utmost to gain the position of president and do the job to the best of my ability. My election speech before the assembled students and staff was my most nervous, and yet it was in this particular address that I discovered by accident a technique in oratory that became the footstool and trade mark for all my future speeches. I had been up all night putting together what I thought was a masterpiece of a speech, but when I actually got in front of my audience I was so nervous my written sheet may as well have been blank, and so with the aid of well honed mental gymnastics I did what I have always done since, I simply told the truth, albeit knitted together with a gratuitous helping of wit and charm. Sometimes in life, although you expect nothing, you really, really hope for something and end up reeling in amazement when you get more than you could ever possibly have imagined. That is the best description I can give to the response I got to my speech both in terms of audience reaction at the time it was delivered and the victory that resulted from the ballot box.


Making A Positive Difference
Although I never lost my easy going character I took the job of student President very seriously. I never forgot the trust and support which others had invested in me or the opportunity that I now had to seriously influence the improvement of the college. My term of Presidency, I think, would merit a small book, which one day I hope I have time to write, but for now I would say that there was a variety of activities which categorised the generic nature of how I went about the job. I remember so many things, coming into college with other volunteers throughout the holidays to paint the entrance hall, an assembly on racial discrimination, in which I recited Dr Martin Luther King's famous speech 'I had a dream' word for word, an assembly in which I used 'Mr Bin', a litter bin, in an attempt to persuade students to clean up the entrance hall. I remember talking to parents at an open evening about a number of issues including course priorities, lack of achievement, absenteeism and college romances. I remember performing poetry 'Black Christmas' and spontaneously combusting as Krook in Bleak House, one of Miss Archer's brilliant drama productions. I also recall college council and executive meetings because it must be remembered that the student office was made up of a number of elected officers, including Vice-President, Social Convenor, Secretary and Treasurer. Together along with the tutors and the wider student populace we were a team that got things done in a way that helped everybody. If I look at my presidency I would say it was significant for three reasons. Firstly, the level of responsibility involved in the role caused substantial advancement in my personal development. Secondly, the support and co-operation I received from both staff and students throughout my term of office enabled many goals to be achieved and an overall feeling of belonging to pervade the college. Thirdly, my success in being re-elected was a clear indication to me that my particular style, attitude and commitment to getting things done was widely accepted by all at Bilborough.


Lest We Forget
Of course, whilst all this was going on I still had studies which a certain trusty tutor wasn't about to let me forget. I had failed my Mathematics O-level in the early retake but managed to pass it at the second attempt, and I was so happy and relieved that I ceremoniously built a pyre in my backyard and kissed my old maths books goodbye for ever as I tossed them on to the fire. Getting maths was a milestone in itself; I took an extra course, A-level Communications knowing now that I was well on the way to taking my education further than Bilborough especially as I also gained a pass in my Biology O-level at the same time. I took great pleasure in my A-level studies in English Literature, all the tutors, Mr Offord, Dr Jacob, Miss Butterworth, being exceptional teachers, although their styles were quite different. In A-level Philosophy I was of course in my element, and I can only describe Mr Martin's lessons as akin to surfing the Internet such was the availability of high level information made simple by what I consider to be a wizard of a tutor and a true seeker of human understanding; I am not ashamed to say that I modelled much of myself on what I learned from him about philosophy and subsequently about life. My passionate love for philosophy was borne out in my exam result, a grade B, which I was very proud of. Unfortunately I did not do as well in English Literature or Communication Studies for which I received an E and an O-level result respectively. I was not alarmed as my place at Lancashire Polytechnic, on the Applied Social Studies BA Hons, was almost certainly secure.


The Weaning
I left Bilborough College in June, 1986, with the mixed feeling of being proud of my achievements but sad leaving behind all those who were significant in helping me gain them. I had already seen many of my friends go because I had stayed an extra year, and my second term of Presidency had terminated in the February leaving me feeling a little bit like a very respectable spare part. I still had many friends though and many of them were staff, so when I did finally walk through those entrance hall doors that I had helped to paint for the last time I felt that I would be sincerely missed; the feeling was mutual.

The Legacy
When I look back over the years I feel I owe Bilborough College, the students and the staff, a huge amount for the opportunity that was given to me, to be me without having to fight for the right to be myself. Apart from the invaluable support that I have received from my mother and family, nothing can compare with the way in which the trust, caring and support from those at Bilborough College positively prepared me for the rest of adult life. I only have good thoughts of Bilborough and they will never be forgotten.


Home Economics and ...

Joyce Beilby (Home Economics, 2/1966-86)

In 1966 Celia Gill, soon to become Mrs Celia Towndrow and later Celia McInnes, needed a part-time teacher in the Home Economics department at Bilborough Grammar School. I was offered the appointment but was very reluctant to accept (can't believe it now!) because, at that time, as well as having a husband, two daughters, a semi-invalid mother and two elderly parents-in-law to care for, there was, also, our 2½ years old son, Edmund. However, I went to see Celia (we became firm friends that very first day) and the well-loved and highly respected headmaster, Mr Ivor Williams. "What about Edmund?" said I. "Oh, he can go to the nursery for teachers' children at Middleton School." "What if he is not very well?" "Well, can't he come with you?" said dear Mr Williams. That altered the situation; I accepted the offer and never regretted my decision.

Within three weeks of joining the Staff I found myself helping Celia with the catering for the Annual Speech Day at the Albert Hall - hectic but fun. That set the tone for our work together ... A- and O-level courses were interspersed with General Studies; helping Celia make new curtains for the hall (what a mammoth task that was!); creating costumes for the annual 'production'; catering for social events, parents' evenings, concerts, Governors' meetings and so on and so on!! Never a dull moment, especially being a part-time teacher following, or trying to follow, a six-day timetable.


When we became a Sixth Form College, Mr Charles Martin, our new principal, suggested that we should introduce a new examination course into the department and that was how the Child Care and Human Development course came into being. It proved to be a highly successful and popular course especially as, by this time, Bilborough had become renowned for its unofficial crèche. Any child of any member of staff who was not quite well enough for school or had an extra day of holiday made his or her way up to the HE department providing welcome real live 'teaching aids' for the Child Care students!

By this time, and after several staff changes, Celia had two little girls, Judith and Susan (who also 'grew up' at Bilborough) and we had exchanged roles, Celia coming back to Bilborough as a part-time teacher whilst I took over full time after Pat Payne's serious accident. When Celia eventually re-married and went to live in Yorkshire, Ann Tribble became a valuable and well-respected member of the department and we are still close friends.

In September, 1979, Edmund came up to Bilborough from Bluecoat to study for his A-levels accompanied by a number of his friends - music, science and art students included. Most of the boys decided to do the 'Bed-sit Cookery' course in General Studies and a great time was had by all. I still see and hear about some of the 'lads'; they have all been successful in their various careers and are still capable of producing an edible spaghetti Bolognese! Many of you will remember Simon Fricker and that wonderful production of 'Salad Days'. Last Autumn, my husband and I had a few days holiday in the Isle of Wight and went to visit Simon's parents. We heard about his career as a Musical Director and that, like Edmund, he is a good cook!


It is always a joy to meet former students who are following useful careers and many are happily married, too, with their own children. A few years ago, at a Bluecoat service, a young lady named Jane introduced herself as a former student who now has her own catering business, employing several other people. "All thanks to two years at Bilborough" said Jane. I was thrilled.

Of course, it wasn't all honey. We had our disappointing results as well as our good ones; sad personal events as well as happy ones but support was forthcoming and we had many more laughs than tears.

1986 brought retirement for me, after twenty years as 'Mrs B' at Bilborough, with a host of memories and many good friends.


Happiness ... a good cook

Edmund Beilby (1979-81)

It was inevitable really that I would wind up doing my A-levels at Bilborough, after all the place had always seemed like a second home. Anytime I was sick as a child I would be bundled up in warm clothing and ensconced away at the back of the Home Economics room where my Mother could keep an eye on me and I could smell the (usually) wonderful aroma of cooking going on round the corner.

Memories of Bilborough ... no more school uniform - boy did those cowboy boots and frayed-bottom jeans see some use; Chris Robinson head butting the swing doors into the entrance hall - ouch that must have hurt; Bill McNaughton telling us to stop playing Motorhead's Ace of Spades on the common room juke box when his room was located on the floor directly above; Dungeons and Dragons on Wednesday afternoons for two years, despite the fact that you were supposed to change activities every term; and so many friends, some never seen since, some barely known then but best friends now. Oh, and I learnt to cook in common studies - thanks Mum.


Follow a Career in Music

Simon Fricker (1979-81)

I can't exactly remember why I left the Nottingham Bluecoat Church of England Grammar School to attend Bilborough College. Bluecoat had lost its grammar school status to become a comprehensive and many of the strict discipline and dress code rules had been relaxed by the current head which, even through my schoolboy's eyes, seemed to undermine the whole institution. The move was also precipitated by the choice of subjects that I needed to study concurrently.

I began playing the piano at the age of three and a half and was blessed with perfect pitch and the ability to sit down and instantly play anything that I heard. I used to perform a magic act, had a well equipped home laboratory and I have always adored anything to do with explosives or pyrotechnics. I came to Bilborough to study Chemistry! I should have smelt a rat when I checked into my classroom to find that I was surrounded by music students and in the charge of the Director of Music, Tony Goodchild. I somehow ended up spending lunch-times accompanying the choir, playing the 'cello in string orchestras, rehearsing musical productions and, after hours, representing the College in pre-show recitals at the Theatre Royal. One notable production I was involved with was Salad Days. The 'orchestra' comprised two grand pianos driven by Margaret Watkinson (from the music department) and myself. One lunch-time, rehearsing Salad Days in the wooden hut, Miss Watkinson returned from a Chinese meal and presented me with a couple of spare ribs she had wrapped in a serviette. The drama department was involved in a production at the Theatre Royal. Their entry was called The Edwardians. For some reason I ended up at the piano again (wearing a false moustache!).


I saw Professor Shaw's lecture-demonstration on explosives at Nottingham University. Mike Robinson suggested that I might like to stage my own. I masqueraded as a teacher and went on a special course in Loughborough. Dr John Salthouse (now a dear friend) gave a great lecture and, after an exciting private talk with him, I climbed into my Dad's car with an armful of bottles full of delightful chemicals to enhance my own demonstration. We practised for a few weeks, Jeremy Hull assisted me. I am indebted to MTR for trusting me and letting me go as far as he dared!! Everything went smoothly on the day (except the luminol, which is always temperamental and isn't that stunning anyway!) and most people's ears were ringing as they filed out of C2.

During my time at Bilborough - I nearly got a scholarship to Oxford but did get my LTCL in classical piano - I had a great social life and was taught by some lovely people.

PS Thanks to Hilary Jones, I was able to type this contribution with good speed and accuracy!


A Bilborough Choreographical Recollection

Martyn Offord (English, 1976 - present)

In the year 1979-80, John Gucciardo, PE exchange teacher from Arizona had set Bilborough's sports programme alight with such importations as soft ball, racquet ball, soft tennis, American Football, steer wrestling and doggie lassoing. Whilst trying to manage all of these simultaneously he was informed that into this schedule he would insert membership of the male staff dance troupe.

This august body, of rather disgusting bodies, represented the physical climax for colleagues now shuffling and slippering around their places of work or retirement. Such stalwarts as Rick Dearing, Roger Stevens, Alan Richards, Cyril Jacob, Bill McNaughton and Frank Knowles had all cut their bunions in stunningly pedestrian footwork pyrotechnics such as Greek Dancing, Morris Dancing and Ballet. Incidentally their decayed successors recently presented an explosively zimmered version of 'Riverdance'.

Behind drawn blinds and locked doors they practised. Passwords were uttered, mysterious signals passed, and through this initiation John Gucciardo was thrust innocently, unwarily, into a rehearsal for Cossack Dancing. Jean Gregory had done the fur hats and baggy trousers; hernias, varicose veins and prostate problems had yet to rear their ugly bulges - though there were other ugly bulges to confound the wardrobe mistress.

So John stood there dumbstruck before being ushered through his moves - down on his haunches, somersaults - just as he was told. It was when Peter Ford cartwheeled across the room he was heard to mutter: "Jeeze, and they told us the Brits were inhibited!"


Part-time Record or Record Part-time?

Ruth Kendrick (English, 1969-91)

Time: October, 1989. Place: Robin Hood's Bay. Action: Geography Field Course, Day 'n'.

A student has rock-hopped over the sandy bars to reach a good vantage point for sketching the new sea defences, and now sits absorbed, unaware that the tide here comes in with an insidious sideways trickle, quiet and crablike, filling in the gullies imperceptibly, so that by the time one notices, its a case of paddling for the beach before having to swim or be engulfed - and that really is how the Bilborough Syndrome tended to operate, in my case at least - a sort of creeping up unawares, and before one knew it there was 'just a bit of part-time again, please!'

Mike Robinson, Dossier Keeper in Chief, commented wryly on my record-breaking achievement of leaving Bilborough more times than anyone left anywhere; but that depends on one's perspective. It was much more a series of many happy returns whenever the need arose.

I first visited Bilborough Grammar School, as it was then, in about 1961 in a group from the Manning Grammar School, English Department, invited by Mr Protherough to discuss aims, ways and means of producing school magazines; and whilst the memory of the discussions is hazy, I can visualise and still feel daunted by the now legendary figures of Dr Peake and Mr Protherough. The school itself, of course, was a revelation in all its gleaming modernity. Nearly thirty years later, I was to stand amid the rubble of renovations and extensions to what was becoming a crumbling pile, victim of its flat roofs and its rising population.


Theoretically, I was never more than a part-timer, but effectively, from when my husband, John Kendrick, joined the staff in 1969, those tidal tentacles were already lapping round me. As a staff spouse, one was soon sucked into the round of school functions, educational and social, from helping at jumble sales to augmenting the choir, and eventually being caught up in an eternal, albeit enjoyable, round of concerts, plays, garden fêtes, seasonal parties and of course, the annual French exchange. My own job was in an FE College where I was required simply to go in, take the register, teach and go home; so the Bilborough 'family' soon took precedence. Even at this stage, our children became camp followers at all the main functions - an early preparation for later transferring their allegiance to the Sixth-Form College. Like many staff children, they wanted to become 'Bilbos'.

In 1976, the call came 'to help out for a while'. The school was gradually phasing out the 11-16 element and the Sixth-Form College was emerging. Since everyone had to have some qualification in English, that department was bursting with 16-year-olds who had not yet fulfilled that requirement, as well as with A-level students attracted in by the standard of teaching and by the prospect of 'freedom'. ('Freedom to do what?' was Mr Martin's acerbic question.)

The first reaction of one whose experience had been confined to single-sex grammar schools and adult evening classes was one of terror; but having been assured by the enthusiastic Gill Elias that 'all they need is love and their confidence restored', I was launched into what proved a very happy period. Having taught for the most part all girls, all white, all selected and suddenly confronted by classes which were mixed in every sense of the word, this could have been a nightmare; but Gill was right; and whatever they learned, I probably learned more! (Where and what are you now, 'Ash' Hussein and your group? Certainly still remembered with affection, believe it or not!)


One of the most difficult aspects was dealing with pupils who must have felt somewhat dispossessed by being the last year of the disappearing grammar school, and as such, destined never to be real seniors. As fifth-formers with no juniors below them, they remained themselves, in effect, the juniors. As a staff, we recognised this, but it was still a delicate task to keep up their morale so that they felt part of a new era rather than the tail end of the old one. Despite our efforts, I am sure some fell short of their potential.

Meanwhile, early September days in 3.1 - 3.5 felt very much like being in The Tower of Babel as the department seemed to expand and contract from day to day until students had settled into a pattern dictated by how their needs could be accommodated by the timetable. The sheer numbers at that time must have made Martyn Offord feel like calling in the crowd control squad of the Mounted Police.

The atmosphere however was the best of all. There must have been hitches and glitches, but the overall memory is of good leadership, immense mutual support and lasting friendships. I personally never felt like a part-timer, partly because of being 'married in'. This had its disadvantages in that everyone assumed that by osmosis I would always be completely au fait with everything that was going on and more over that I would always know where John was. No doubt the Lowes and Hilary Jones and Chris Brierley understand the problem. Chiefly, however, part-timers were easily integrated because the college had more than its share of colleagues who were as welcoming as they were talented and one never felt an outsider. Then, in the 1980s, as I had less time teaching, our own daughters arrived giving us an extra rôle as Bilborough parents. The fact that so many of the staff never even considered any other establishment for their offspring probably says everything. Our two still maintain their network of Bilborough friends more than ten years after leaving.


So what of all those departures in Robbo's dossier? In the mid 80s it was necessary to prune the part-time and create a new full-time English post, and as there were other things I wanted to do, it seemed therefore the time to leave. How could I have known as I put my mark books on the shelf as precious souvenirs that the era of going on courses was beginning? I lost track of how many times John came home with a message from MCO - 'Can you cover for ... ?' All I know is that like being Queen for a day, I systematically 'became' Dorothy Mountford, Dave Gore, Sue Phillips, Elaine Millard, Martyn Offord, Cyril Jacob, even Martin Watson (German!), JMK (French) and Andy Slosarsky (Geography) as they all trooped off in turn to be developed in the light of educational changes, or sadly, in Cyril's case, to be ill. Round that off with two February trips to Paris and two Geography field courses ('Ruth'll go; she doesn't mind getting cold and wet.') - 'this' as we used to say in the days of continuous cinema programmes, 'is where we came in'.


Notes from a small (but perfectly formed) Island

Alan Richards (Russian and Careers, 1970-90)

Early Days ...

Get the BGS job. Quiet place, not like the Comp. at all, kids not swinging from lights, am amazed that some even hold doors open for staff (so selected entry does have advantages ...) Building seems to leak a lot, looks as though components fell off delivery lorry and were just left lying about. HM bald chap, white moustache, likes jazz and swing.

Start earning my point by monitoring dinner numbers and controlling dinner queues - a big thing at BGS - but easy-peasy as there are no riots, just pupils presenting strange chits marked: Took dinner without ordering / ordered dinner without taking'. They smile weakly as I simulate voice of authority.

Lend HM my recordings of Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Orpheans on 78s but no further salary points result. He does some brilliant impressions of dance band pianists, then promptly retires.

Sit in staff room next to avuncular person with limp who grins broadly and reads out Times crossword clues to anyone who will listen. He is Acting Head (accurate description, since he takes his leading part in G & S opera very seriously indeed). Helping with anagrams however a good move, as am made Head of Careers, and collect a point.

Whispers of economic crisis over oil or something (can't see it affecting us).


BGS now reorganised into a CASE (anyway, a College). Decide to clear sandwiches and apple-cores from display area and weed out all occupational leaflets over a certain age. In main library remove books on job opportunities in coracle-making, manuscript-illumination, etc., but a week later they are back on the shelves. Librarian can't bear to part with anything - try in vain to explain to him the concept of obsolescence.

Pupils enjoy careers interviews, mostly. Those bent on being pilots, marine biologists and foresters more often than not also possess, respectively, poor visual acuity, D grades in science and a deep-seated need for social contact - still, one can't blame them for wanting to fantasise. Ought we to do more in the way of careers education, I ask myself.

Careers Convention deemed a success. Staff and kids get afternoon off, employer reps highly impressed by bold signs to car-park plus tea and buns at half-time.

Some time later ...

New boss arrives (tall, drives a mini, likes doing assemblies) and goes at it hammer and tongs. First off - issues edict to abolish uniforms. Hence trails of ripped cloth strewn over forecourt last day of term. HM now Principal, pupils now students, form-teachers now tutors. Students who say things like: 'me want doctor job' known as the 'New Sixth'.

More talk of economic crises and structural unemployment (whatever that is).


Be that as it may, I carry on placing students with local insurance firms, department stores and banks, otherwise am wielding stapler, drawing pins etc., and rubbing out moustaches on 'Careers for Girls' posters (Equal Opportunities still in murky distance and no chance of occupational literature showing anything other than white faces, of course).

Boss gives me helpers to spread work-load, calls it a 'careers team'. Principle OK - but I see at once that some are keener than others. However, am sending them on courses to show willing, while Senior Teacher scale eases any pain.

Anxieties about employment continuing. Nobody else seems particularly interested, but one teamster (gangling Economist with back problems from falling off mountain) volunteers to help with Employment Preparation Course in Common Studies (not especially catchy titles but we like using old B/W video camera for practice interviews). Business simulations for students quite popular, YOP schemes - not quite so popular. Authorities get a bee in their bonnet about teachers sampling the tough and uncompromising world of industry, so send me to a very relaxed and friendly family brewery for my placement. Fair enough.


A bit later still ...

Incoming Govt is friend of entrepreneurs. Now all the talk is of markets. Unsurprisingly, job situation worsens. Fed up with careers officers coming and going in relays. Need a steady chap, have my eye on one who plays mean game of shove-ha'penny and win my case. Good choice.

Big changes. Premises revamped. Offices and interview rooms being moved to exciting new converted cloakroom area. Boss in his element, spends holiday laying carpet in entrance-hall. Believes in self-help, is obviously self-taught and likes to save a bob or two. Face wreathed in smiles. Enthusiasm infectious, so also find myself laying carpet unevenly in offices and display area. Soon the place smells of adhesive.

The shove-ha'penny player and revised team (gangling rock-climber replaced by smiling, short-skirted Economist - appointment made on strictly professional criteria) suddenly seem to be here, there and everywhere - liaising, inducting, accessing, HE visiting, interviewing, yellow-forming, lifeskilling and starring in Open Evenings.

These days we are spending a lot of time decoding initials. Perhaps they are a substitute for actual jobs. Some sound like slightly damp fireworks - CRAC FIS CRCH - others seem to capture the youth culture - ACE CATS GO JIIG-CAL DISCO - while others contain barely concealed menace - DOG GET IM. The boss enjoys jargon-spotting and we pin examples up and laugh together, but seem to generate plenty ourselves, one way and another.

Meanwhile storage cabinets bulge with handouts - careers videos and computer disks proliferate. (N.B. staff seem a lot keener these days to help out - maybe they are hedging their bets.)


Nearing the end ...

Even white-collar jobs beginning to disappear. Govt telling us to be more like business managers, less like teachers. All right, fine. Funny that students no longer see business as Shangri-la, and are heading off towards communications and the media.

Boss retires and after short interregnum new one arrives (nice Lancashire lad, sings bass line in choir, mostly as written). HE and FE now refuges for young unemployed, so applications pile high on in-trays. So high in fact that preparations are made to rope in tutors as reference writers. Sounds good to me.

Students keep 'borrowing' handbooks on permanent basis, so stuff moved to library, where policed by v. efficient librarian (wise men learn not to make ill-considered remarks on gender in her hearing). But she is willing to let people try out her CD-Roms, and on-line data-bases.

Tory Central Office, perhaps dimly aware of its mortality, sends me its literature and asks me to help recruit party agents. I decide it is definitely time to leave.


Rise and Fall

Peter Stay (German, CPVE ... 1/1980-94)

I came to Bilborough College in January, 1980, as Head of Foundation Studies, which meant I was responsible for courses for those students who were not ready to tackle more academic work at that stage in their career. My previous experience had been in a grammar school and then 12 years in a comprehensive on the other side of the city. At my interview it was made very clear that I would not be teaching my specialist subject, German, as there was already a well established member of staff for that. Within a year, however, that person had decided to leave teaching and I found myself teaching City & Guilds Foundation courses and A-level German, with some C.S.E. and O-level English thrown in! From its earliest days as a Sixth Form College Bilborough had an innovative approach to courses for less academic students which was continued with the introduction of a radical Certificate in Pre-Vocational Education, and this led to my being seconded to the County for a year to help other schools set up similar schemes.

While I was on secondment it was announced that one of the Vice Principals, Sid Redding, was to take early retirement and it was suggested that I might like to apply. It seemed very unlikely to me that I stood much of a chance considering who else might apply from the staff let alone those from outside, but I applied. To my surprise (and the surprise of quite a few others I expect) I was offered the job and I began to realise the difficulty of what I had taken on, or at least I thought I did. In January, 1987, I started as Vice Principal and by Easter of that year Mr Martin had made it clear he would be retiring in the summer and so I would be working for a new boss in September. The Local Authority had other ideas, however. Because of the possible reorganisation of post 16 provision, it was decided to delay the appointment of a new Principal for a term. Obviously one of the three Vice Principals would act as temporary Principal for a term. Both the other VPs had been in post for many years and had vast experience of the way Bilborough operated, but neither Roy Downing, who was to retire at Christmas, nor Ruth Betts wanted to take on the job. They both urged me to do it, promising me their full support and encouragement, which they certainly gave. The Local Authority also offered the help of a local inspector and so I agreed to do the job for a term with a good deal of fear and trepidation. The whole staff was most supportive and to me it felt that we were running the College as a team effort, because I depended so much on the skills and knowledge of so many others.


Before the end of the term we had shown round a group of candidates for the post of Principal and they went off for their formal interviews. There were, of course, mixed feelings about who stood a good chance of getting the job and who would be acceptable to the rest of us. I do not remember ever really thinking that an appointment might not be made, but that is what happened, and so I was asked to carry on for another term, which turned out to be another two terms. I applied as a matter of course for the permanent post, but it was clear I did not have sufficient experience and so Gordon Brown was selected as the next Principal, starting in September, 1988.

My year as Acting Principal was perhaps the most interesting of my whole teaching career. I found I enjoyed leading a team of people who had definite ideas about the future of the college, and I also liked making decisions, although others may have thought I did not do enough of that. It was not a year we could have carried on as before even if we had wished to do that. The Local Authority decided that all schools had to produce a development plan; we did this collaboratively as a staff and I then wrote it up formally for the governors. The Government introduced a new pay structure for teachers during this year, which meant we had to look at the difficult problem of grades and allowances, and issues of working hours. I was loath to put a new system in place before a new person took charge of the college and so produced a draft scheme for a way forward for the consideration of the new man. At Christmas Roy Downing retired, so I had the responsibility of helping to appoint the new Vice Principal, Roger Stevens. He and I were very different people, but we got on well together and complemented each other.


When Gordon Brown came in September, 1988, I resumed my post of Vice Principal. It was not easy, of course, either for me or for the new Principal, but fortunately we were both aware of this and actually got on very well together, becoming personal friends as well as colleagues. To begin with I looked after the general administration of the College and curriculum matters. Later I took charge of student matters when Ruth Betts retired, and eventually I took on the marketing and publicity work. The most difficult thing for me was to go back to looking after one or two aspects of College life; I enjoyed having my finger in many pies. One of the few things I have learned about myself is that I enjoy discussing new ideas and putting forward suggestions, but I am not so good at seeing things through in all their detail. The strength of the management team at Bilborough in my time was that we had both kinds of people - starters and finishers.

After Bilborough was forced to be independent of the Local Authority it became increasingly obvious that we would have to begin making some radical changes to the College budget, and since by far the greatest expense was staff salaries, that was a starting place. When it was decided that voluntary redundancy might be a way of reducing staff costs, I was among the first to volunteer! I had always joked that I would retire at the age of 55. In the event I was 56.


Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

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