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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part IV - For men may come and men may go ...

The Bilborough Magazine, 1958-73 - Marion England
House System & Sports Day
Annual Presentation of Prizes
Parent Teacher Association / Bilborough College Society

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The Bilborough Magazine, 1958-73

Marion England (History, Latin, ... 1965-97)

Nowadays in education as in most other areas, the buzz word is 'Communication'. Masses of statistics, spread-sheets, league tables and shiny brochures pass from institutions to waste-paper baskets in its name. But from its first academic year in 1958, Bilborough Grammar School had its own unique form of communication, each year eagerly awaited and closely read by pupils, staff, parents, governors, and friends, in the magazine which not only provided full information on academic, sporting and cultural achievements, considerable as these were from the outset, but through the original contributions by staff, pupils and guest writers gave a feeling of the atmosphere of the institution and what it was really like to be a member of the Bilborough community.

The first edition stated its editorial policy - 'We see no point in imitating other school magazines at their worst; we believe that a magazine is meant to be read and enjoyed; and we believe that in a school magazine much of the writing should be done by the boys and girls'. Under the skilled guidance of Robert Protherough (whose later work as Professor of Education at Hull University has disseminated the good practice) the magazine achieved a good mix of information, on events as large as the opening of Nottingham's last purpose-built grammar school by the then leader of the Labour party, Hugh Gaitskell on April 25th, 1958, to as (relatively) small as the theft of the staff-room teaspoons, with reports, reviews, and original contributions in prose, poetry, and, under the guidance of successive Heads of Art, Mr Rowat and Mr Manners, art and design, which greatly added to the attractive and user-friendly format.

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The range of activities which even in its first few years the school undertook is astonishing. Twelve societies, and the first dramatic productions, inter-house sports competitions, sporting victories including pupils being selected for county sides, were already providing good news for the very first edition; over the years all these expanded, and added to it were foreign visits, academic achievements, with the first O-level results (in 1960), A-levels and the first seventh years proceeding to university in 1962, an expanding careers service, and the take-over of the Albert Hall (Nottingham not South Kensington) for the annual Speech Days. Early dreams in 1958 of one day putting on 'Macbeth' came true in 1967 (also successful were productions not even fantasized about . . . of Molière, Shaw, Pinter, Ibsen); the Bilborough Road Relay Race became a fixture in the National cross-country calendar; a steady stream of places, exhibitions and scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge justified the first Headmaster, Dr Peake's, hope that the school would win 'a reputation for hard work, good sportsmanship, and sensible behaviour'.

A big change to the magazine's cover, as to the school as a whole, came in 1967 with the opening of the new 'Sixth-Form block' - the dining room and those rooms beginning with '6' that Mr Leatherland's groups never quite fit into - which meant the old design based on the school plan was no longer accurate, nor with the discontinuation of the House system the cover's alternating house colours. But, now fully run by a student committee (though always with the guiding hand of Miss Skedge and later the two Michaels, Saunders and Higginbottom), the magazine in new larger format went from strength to strength. The development of the school's photography department enabled a wider range of illustrative and decorative material to add to the increasingly relaxed style perhaps typical of the 'sixties' - more jokes, fewer Latin phrases, and the poems rhymed much less frequently! But the record of achievement and the quality of the creative work continued to rise, till, with the reorganization of Nottingham's schools and the establishment of the new phase of Bilborough's life as a sixth-form college in 1973, the grammar school magazine as such bowed out after its highly successful fifteen years.

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Many other 'occasional' publications supplemented the regular magazine - depending on the creativity and tenacity of current pupils / students, we could read 'Verbage', 'Xylst', 'Zilch' or the less felicitously titled but now ubiquitous 'Bilborough Bulletin' at different times over the years. But the regular magazine provided not only the record of a school of which much was hoped and which if anything exceeded expectations. Looking through them consecutively provides a fascinating slant on half a century of social and educational change. Whilst some things change less than one might expect - in his speech at the opening ceremony Mr Gaitskell said that 'The standards of education were not good enough' (now where have we heard that more recently?) and, in 1964, a contribution on 'A Day in Shakespeare's Life' might well today have won an Oscar as the germ of 'Shakespeare in Love'. But could we today get as excited about the appearance of a sixth-form tie? (Would all of the present sixth-form know what to do with a tie?) Would job adverts for the Midland Bank now ask for 'a personable young man' (1964) or suggest you 'Apply now to the highly productive East Midlands Mines' (1971)? Would the Principal of today's multi-cultural Bilborough feel comfortable in advocating at Prize Giving 'the supreme importance of the development of Christian character'?

But whilst much has changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes perhaps not, the magazine, many of whose earlier contributors now have had, or have, children at the college, is not only a record of a successful educational community but shows the roots from which the present Bilborough grew, flourishes and will, if allowed, continue to do so in the changing circumstances of the new millennium.

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For the record, the full text of the editorial in Magazine No 1 read as follows.

Now the school's first year is over. The building is deserted as I write this, the silence unbroken by the feet of 3c charging down the staircase, the gramophone booming from the music room, the small boys squealing as they duck under cold showers. Nobody is producing a five-course dinner in the Domestic Science room, running a four minute mile through knee-high grass on the top field or rehearsing Hamlet on the stage. They have even stopped making tea in the staff-room. One year; and the building has already acquired a history of its own. Do you remember how the tomato juice got on the blackboard in this room? and who held the record for going up and down those wall-bars? and who got locked in this store-room? Yes, the buildings have got their history all right.

The first year is over, and ''firsts'' always have a fascination for us. We blaze our trail by them: the first day at school, the first long trousers, the first girl-friend, the first pay-packet, the first grey hair . . . This has been a whole year of first experiences; a new school and a new staff; new work and new games; new friends to know; new societies to join; new traditions to make. Some of these things you will find recorded in these pages, and if others are omitted it is only because you didn't write about them for us. For here is another ''first'': our first school magazine. Though some things about it may be a little unusual, it will soon become as familiar as the buildings, the faces and the subjects that were ''new'' a year ago. Before that happens we are seizing this once-and-only chance of saying what our feelings are about school magazines (and this one in particular).

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''But they never have stories in school magazines'', said one girl when we asked her to write one. ''But they always have house notes'', said a rather older voice when we suggested leaving them out. Our ideas on the subject are few and simple. We see no point in imitating other school magazines at their worst; we believe that a magazine is meant to be read and enjoyed; and we believe that in a school magazine much of the writing should be done by the boys and girls. When it goes home to Mum unopened; when a boy only looks to see how often his name appears in print; when two-thirds of the printed matter consists of lists of names and results - then it is time for the magazine to fold up.

We could have said that as this school is a new one, we would wait until it had grown before publishing children's work. This seems to miss the point, though. If nothing is worth printing at the ages of 11, 12 and 13, it is unlikely to appear magically at 15 and 16. We have been encouraged by the large numbers of boys and girls, drawn from every form in the school, who have submitted work for this magazine, and thank them for all the efforts they have made. Some you will read in these pages, and we hope that you will enjoy their work. We do not believe that we are printing masterpieces, but we do believe that constant writing for publication is one of the surest ways to success. The athletes in our school have their matches, the actors their public performances, the scholars their examinations, and you may read here of what they have done. Principally, though, the school magazine is a training ground where our poets, story-tellers and artists show us what they can do.

And now, on to the second year. R.P.

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There follow (a little tongue in cheek) two extracts illustrating the quality of the creative writing, the first being excerpts (accurately quoted!) from examination papers, the second displaying the very high standard consistently achieved over the years.

  • If I lived in the Pyramid Age I would be very old now.
  • An isosceles triangle has five sides.
  • Stonehenge is the place were the people who worshipped women made there sacrifices.
  • The language is plain. There are no smilies or metrophicals.
  • When Napolean invaded Egypt he found the Rosetta Stone. On it the Egyptian hieroglyphics were written in Greek.
  • A quadrilateral is an angle with four straight sides.
  • The feminine of fier is fierce.
  • Parliament bribed Charles by not letting him have any money until he agreed to whatever he wanted.
  • A chord is a line which measures the same distance in each part from a fixed point.
  • Some of the coins were not worth what they really should have been because the hedges had been clipped.
  • Homer was a great writer and he wrote the Iliad for the archaeologist Dr Schliemann.
  • Henry attacked English clergy and finds them £100,000.

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ELIZABETHAN FOG 1564

'Six o'clock on a cold night and all's well.'

It was November and bitterly cold. My hands were numb and my cheeks clung tight to their bones. Already the fog was thick, and the houses closed in on me, their latticed windows yellow in the candlelight, just a faint blur against the dark oak beams. It was hard to avoid the gutter in the middle of the road. My hair hung damply in tendrils about my cheeks, and my heavily brocaded dress hung limp and straight even over the whale-boning.

A wall loomed high in front of me. I had missed my turning. I dare not think what my mistress would say, I had no leave to be out at that time of night. I drew my cloak round my shoulders, but even that was soaked through.

Something cold and wet touched my hand. It was nearly as big as myself, black, thin, unknown - a dog! Rats scuttled around behind me and water lashed against the road side. I must have wandered near the river!

No direction; no vision; just thick yellow fog everywhere. A shout a few streets away, then silence. I turned again; a buzz of cheery voices and a dim light - The Blue Cock Inn, not far from the palace. High gateways blocked my way.

'Who goes there?'

'Maid in waiting to the Queen.'

'Why so late?'

At last to the door. I stumbled down the steps and inside to be greeted by a book in my face. 'Where have you been all this time, girl? And your mistress waiting ...'

Jennifer Martin, Year 1

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House System & Sports Day

The House system served, essentially, for the organisation of sport, particularly Sports Day. In the Inter-House Competition points were awarded (20, 15, 10, 5) according to the results through the year in the sometimes ten, sometimes eleven sports. Over the nine years through which the competition ran, Welbeck (green) won the All-Rounders Trophy seven times to Rufford's (red) twice, Clumber (light blue) and Annesley (dark blue) sharing 3-2, respectively, five second places between them. Sports Day, an important occasion in the calendar up to 1966, made a re-appearance in the late eighties as Fun Sports Day with wellie-wanging and egg-throwing mingling with less serious events such as the three-legged dash, the egg-and-spoon sprint and the metric mile.

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Annual Presentation of Prizes

High Pavement, Mundella and Manning Grammar Schools all held Speech Days in the Albert Hall and Bilborough followed in these well worn tracks. For three years, this opportunity for the School to celebrate its success in the company of parents and local dignitaries was held in the school hall. In the fourth year, two ceremonies were conducted, one for the seniors and one for the juniors, and for the following twelve years the event took place in the Albert Hall. For these occasions, a couple of hours were taken up in the morning arranging the seating, with prize winners in the front stalls and seniors behind, and juniors in the balcony (smallest in each row nearer to the organ!). A few prize winners demonstrated the routine of mounting the platform and receiving a book and after a few general comments, the pupils were dismissed and the orchestra and choir held a final rehearsal. The afternoon was spent at leisure; the evening performance ran like clockwork (or appeared to do so!). In the usual form, following the National Anthem the Headmaster gave his address, after which the Chairman introduced the Guest Speaker. Then came the presentation of prizes, awarded for both effort and achievement, and a musical finale. The final four ceremonies, in the period of transition from grammar school to sixth-form college, were held in the school. The speakers for the twenty-one occasions are shown in Appendix Q.

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Parent-Teacher Association / Bilborough College Society

First murmurings of a potential Parent-Teacher Association were heard in the staff-room and at Parents' Evenings in Spring, 1970, and a steering committee meeting took place in the school on 14th April, 1970, to discuss a possible constitution for such a society. Those in attendance were

'Mesdames: Gammans, England, Gotheridge. Messrs: Williams, Stratford, Singleton, Sutton, Pound, Lock, Croxford, Skipsey, Gofton, Breckles, Cartlidge. Mr Williams was in the Chair.'

Items 1 and 10 of the proposed constitution (subsequently accepted) were stated as follows.

1. The objectives of the Association shall be to encourage fullest co-operation between the staff and parents; and to engage in activities forwarding the education and welfare of all children attending the school.

10. The funds of the Association will be applied solely for the development of its stated objectives. In the event of the dissolution of the Association the remaining funds shall be devoted to objectives similar to those of the Association.

Items 2-9 dealt with the constitution and workings of the association and were also accepted, some with minor modifications.

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In a letter from Mr Williams, progress to date on the establishment of an association was advertised to Parents who were asked to support the venture and to indicate ways in which they would be willing to contribute to future events. In the AGM called for 6th October, 1970, elections were held for one parent representative from each of the years 1-7. The first committee meeting of the PTA occurred two weeks later and was attended by

'Mrs Squires, Mrs McKeating, Mr Hallett, Mr Croxford, Mr Wright, Mr Cartlidge, Mr Pound, Mr Breckles, Miss Betts, Mrs Gotheridge, Miss England, Mr Davie, Mr Hutchinson and Miss Donaldson. Apologies for absence were received from The Headmaster, Mr Singleton and Mr Sutton.'

Although it was anticipated that the Headmaster would take the chair, Mr Williams had to withdraw on health grounds and Mr Breckles was elected Chairman. Mrs Gotheridge was elected Vice-Chairman, Miss Donaldson offered to take on the duties of Secretary - an offer which was gratefully accepted - and Mr Wright was elected Treasurer. In the early (of the monthly) meetings discussions ranged around financing the association (rather than fund raising) and identifying ways and means of fulfilling the main aims as agreed in the constitution. The National PTA provided useful advice.

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In the first public event organised by the PTA, Dr E B Ritson, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Addiction Unit at Mapperley Hospital, and Det Insp Pattison of the City Police addressed those assembled - Parents and year 7 students had been invited - on 'Problems Facing Parents of Children Attending Grammar Schools', followed by a question and answer session. The members in attendance at the committee meeting in March, 1971, heard something which was to influence greatly the aims and objectives of the Association when their invited speaker, the Chairman of a local PTA, told them that the main aim of his PTA was to raise funds to assist in the acquisition of equipment for the school and also to provide facilities beyond those for which the local education authority was responsible. The speaker also gave helpful assistance with regard to the organisation of fêtes, some of which was to be put into immediate effect. Indeed, the first fête, opened by Alan Hill of Nottingham Forest Football Club, took place in sunny weather on Saturday, 3rd July, 1971. Perhaps the Treasurer's report in Appendix R will serve to help some readers to recall the events of the day.

In October, 1971, Mr Breckles and Mr Wright were re-elected, Mr Sharrod (successor to Mr Singleton as head of Geography) was elected Secretary and Mrs Payne (née Donaldson) and Mrs Beilby were elected Social Secretaries. The fête the following year was not blessed by the weather but even so the Chairman was still able to confirm just after the event that funds accumulated for the purchase of a minibus totalled £1,500. The 'Austin/Morris 250 JU Plan 2 (15 seater with front facing seats)' was duly delivered four months later, and the gift to the school was acknowledged by Ivor Williams with the words

'. . . I wish to express my extra thanks to you [John Breckles] for guiding the PTA in their efforts to reach this mobile target.'

There were four fêtes in all, the last one, in July, 1974, opened by the Lord Mayor.

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With the transition from school to college, it was felt that the students should be invited to participate in the running of the association which, in October, 1975, became known as the Bilborough College Society. Some three years after making his first appearance on the committee, John Kendrick was elected Secretary, a post he was to hold for 14 years. Charles Martin took a keen interest and attended all the committee meetings in a non-voting capacity. For a number of years, with the co-operation of the Music department, there was held a very successful AGM each September with a Wine and Cheese supper and a concert given by the Music students. This was usually well supported and acted as a recruitment evening for forming the new committee each year. During the course of the year there were fund-raising activities, illustrated lectures, informative talks, visits and social events. In addition to the Prize Draw, there were Jumble Sales, Flea-Market Stalls and Car-Boot Sales; Doug Scott came on two occasions to talk about his experiences on the slopes and pinnacle of Everest and Bernard Beilby talked about Old Nottingham; visits were made to Hurts' Knitting Factory and the caves under the City, to Shire Hall and the Granada Studios in Manchester; there were Barn Dances, Square Dances and St Valentines Dances. In less glamorous events, information was given on Careers, the UCCA/PCAS systems and Student Funding. Over the years, there was a very wide variety of activities, and on one special occasion, Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean, the World Ice Dance Champions, made a personal appearance.

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The Society certainly provided a channel for parents of goodwill and energy to put something into the college. Many, indeed, made a great contribution: Albert Crabtree served on the Governing Body, John Wilson was elected Vice-Chairman and then Chairman of the Governors and Alan Hawksworth was elected first Chairman of the Corporation. The BCS Award scheme was an interesting venture which never got the attention it deserved. Students doing active and unusual projects were invited to apply for a grant, and money was given to a group walking the Pennine Way and then one doing the Lyke Wake Walk. Gradually the idea of service was added to the reward for initiative, and, for example, a grant was given to a student decorating the walls of the Children's Hospital.

The PTA of the grammar school was undoubtedly very successful in achieving its aim of bridging the gap between home and school but in its revised BCS form, when students were associated with the college for only two years, its management became increasingly difficult. Certainly there was nothing comparable in any of the other Nottingham colleges, and even in its final year it was able to purchase First Aid Kits for Sports, provide financial support for Field Trips and the Music Competition, and buy a colour printer for the library and sound equipment for the stage. The Society was wound up in April, 1992, aged 22 years.

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Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

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