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Portrait of a College
Part VI - Bilborough College 1987 - 2000
Bilborough from January, 1969 - Julia Brailsford
Drama & Theatre At Bilborough - Gilly Archer
The trick is not to stop the sliding but ... - Jim Harmes
Reflections on Bilborough College - Peter Jones
Liaisons - Sue Phillips
Pastoral Care - Dorothy Mountford
From the Chair - Alan Hawksworth
The Spirit Lives On - Martin Slattery
Bilborough from January, 1969
Julia Brailsford (Chemistry, 1969 - present)
It was thirty years ago, in January, 1969, that I first joined the
staff at Bilborough. The headmaster, Ivor Williams, met me in the Nurseryman pub in
Beeston and took me along to the interview. The school had achieved academic soundness
under the rule of the legendary Dr Peake; its tradition for even-handed fairness and
friendliness could perhaps be attributed to Mr Williams. He coped manfully with difficult
times (this was the era of the flower children) and resorted to the grand piano in times
Bilborough was a grammar school, although Nottinghamshire had an
enlightened and generous policy towards the eleven-plus, which meant that the intake was
relatively broad based. After working in London in my first job it was a huge change.
These pupils were friendly, easy going and frequently a little lazy. Since this was the
Sixties, most of the older ones who chose Chemistry were boys. Actually, on reflection,
apart from the gender balance, little has changed. In those days we kept the same people
in our tutor groups throughout their school careers, which I think helped us to cope the
better with adolescent crises. Long hair was a major issue, passionately argued over; poor
Ivor ended up in the national press over this, though no one could have been more anxious
to be fair and to see the students' point of view.
As a young teacher I had a very enjoyable time. The pupils were
enthusiastic and eager to impress and my colleagues were sociable. There were a number of
teachers around my own age, many of whom have proved to be life long friends. Among the
senior staff, Roy Downing, Head of History, was forthright but kind. He would regale me
with stories of misdeeds when young (exploding inkwells using carbide) and pungent
reflections on present day youth. Academic gowns were worn at assembly, and even lessons
by some staff. A list of people I remember with affection could never be complete. We were
vastly entertained by the English Department (not much changes!), Brian Binding and Mick
Saunders are names to conjure up memories, John and Ruth Kendrick were ever hospitable,
Marion England and Cynthia Allsop, good companions. The Head of Maths, Sid Redding, was a
staff room legend. In Religious Education, David Day was funny and a pleasure to know.
We all took part in extra curricular activities; I expect that too
helped to create the Bilborough atmosphere. I joined the choir. I remember singing the
Fauré Requiem in St Leonard's Church, Wollaton, and taking part in a mean Trial by Jury
at the school. For a while I went along on Geography field trips at Easter. These were led
by David Singleton (who, unhappily, died soon after leaving the school) and Bill Sharrod,
very different people but both great enthusiasts and able to inspire. These trips started
me off on a life long interest in Geology and Physical Geography and introduced me to some
wonderful country. In North Yorkshire I was nearly annihilated by the trek up
Ingleborough, but saw a red squirrel on the way and the Ribble Head viaduct from the top.
In Dorset, in glorious weather, we were introduced to the wonderful and seemingly endless
cliff scenery; Chantal Mabit (now Corvoisier), the French assistante came too and
Then, of course, there was Chemistry. Fortunately there have always
been students who could understand how exciting and relevant it is to much of our lives
though the new syllabuses give modern students a much greater chance of success. The
Robinson - Brailsford combination lasted for over twenty years and as head of department
Mike was always absolutely fair in all his dealings, methodical to the last and with a
passion for puzzle solving which delighted and bemused generations of his students. We've
taken groups all over; to refineries and breweries, to soap works and endless
laboratories. Nothing could beat the sight of the Blast Furnace being tapped a few feet
away from us at Stanton Ironworks. Terrifying - definitely not to be repeated - but
unforgettable! We've coaxed and encouraged people to pass A-levels, get the grades they
need and go on well beyond that to great academic achievements and successful careers at
the highest level. To set someone on the right path for a career that suits them has been
the purpose of my working life and an immensely rewarding one.
Finally, the young. We only know people for two years, mostly, but they
are very significant years. It's good when we can keep in touch. Some large families
'lasted' for years, which helps; others write when they have taken up Science teaching
themselves. Recently there have been delightful encounters with ex-students whose children
are entering Bilborough and from time to time proud parents or younger siblings give us
news of weddings or babies or job changes. There are lots of people I'd love to hear from;
in a way my job is like reading a novel with half the pages missing - I like hearing about
the next few chapters! It's truly fascinating to work with the young; they make my life
more enjoyable every day, even now.
And I bet most of my colleagues would say the same.
Drama & Theatre At Bilborough
Gilly Archer (Theatre Studies, 1971 - present)
When I arrived at Bilborough Grammar School in September, 1971, I
encountered a strong tradition of drama, in which it has been my pleasure to be involved
to this day.
There was a senior school production in November, a middle school
production in the spring and a lower school 'drama festival' in the summer. In 1971 the
November production was Miller's The Crucible, directed by Mick Saunders. This was
an amazingly authentic production, involving, as was always the case then, a large number
of pupils and staff. Team effort is one of the best things I remember about Bilborough
Charles Stone (Head of Art) created the set using reclaimed church
beams hung above the stage. The lighting was operated from the side of the stage using six
wall-length dimmer bars, which took two hands and all one's body strength to slide up and
down, emitting sparks as they went. (How quickly technology has moved in this field!)
I trawled the antique shops on the Mansfield Road for authentic props.
A writing desk I borrowed and which the shop kindly declined to take back, is still in our
props cupboard. Somewhere in there, too, is the little puritan 'poppet' I made for the
scene where Goody Proctor is arrested.
In 1972, Brian Binding (Head of English) staged Brecht's The
Caucasian Chalk Circle with specially commissioned percussion. I remember putting
fresh cheese inside the papier mache one used for the first scene, so that the actors
could eat some, and warming jugs of water to pour over Grusha's husband in his tin bath.
My directing debut was Noel Coward's Hay Fever with set designed
in art nouveau style by Toby Jackson (Head of Art). We did this production on a
shoe-string and the best bit about it was that students created costumes, stage managed
and helped direct.
While Bilborough was developing as a sixth-form college, I directed The
Mikado. This production boasted meticulously researched kimonos by our librarian, Jean
Gregory. (Some are still extant in our Wardrobe.) The unruly chorus included many of the
male staff. Bill Bristow, a staunch fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, saw the show and was
horrified that I had not wanted to follow the D'Oyly Carte moves that he knew off by
In 1975, Drama & Theatre Arts AO-level was introduced into the
Bilborough syllabus - I had 2 candidates. This course gained in popularity during the next
5 years, but we kept the productions open to everyone - still a real strength in my
Despite the changing nature of the institution, our theatrical work
continued to develop. An experimentation with street theatre (outside the relatively new
Broadmarsh Centre) became an annual event in the form of children's theatre, devised and
performed by students at local primary schools. We have presented magic puddings, talking
horses and rumbling volcanoes to thousands of excited (sometimes terrified) 5-7 year olds.
Innovation and variety have always been hallmarks of Bilborough's
theatrical activity. Dave Littlewood's brilliant production of The Pirates of Penzance,
complete with chicken wire and papier mache 'rocks', experimented with back projection.
Martin Ford's production of Beckett's Play in 1976 was our first venture into the
absurd. The Tempest followed - in-the-round with student rock band. (This was the
year the rostra and the new fingertip control lighting system arrived.)
Bolt's A Man For All Seasons boasted probably our last solid 3D
set with costumes based on contemporary paintings. (Our Sir Thomas More is now an
Architect.) In Salad Days, the highlight was a fashion house scene, with incredible
flower frock creations by Jean Gregory (whose sister, actress Pat Heywood, had appeared in
the original production). The star of this production is now head of infants at Bramcote
Hills Primary School and has commissioned several of our Children's Theatre pieces.
In 1979, AEB A-level Theatre Studies began - I used to teach it in one
year. Some of the 9 students appeared in our second Noel Coward production of Blithe
Spirit, memorable for its leading man not learning his words. Martyn Offord vowed
never to do another production. Our largest venture was a Radio Nottingham schools'
challenge to mount a production at Nottingham's Theatre Royal. For our theme, The
Edwardians, we created a collage of contrasting scenes featuring cameos such as George
Coombs as Edward VII. I remember vividly the rehearsals taking up the entire hall, stage
and catwalk, which roughly equalled the size of the Theatre Royal stage.
In 1982, West Side Story hit the stage with very contemporary
setting designed by art students and Tony Goodchild's huge orchestra (sited behind the
audience because it was so loud!) We have a video tape copy, somewhat ghostly since
technology was primitive. Lloyd Notice, who played Riff, is now a professional actor,
currently working in TV.
It wasn't just stage productions during this time. For two years
running my tutor group created a Christmas nativity experience for primary school children
at Shipley Park farm. Imagine the bussed-in children's surprise to see 'real' shepherds
encamped upon the Derbyshire hills as they arrived, and to meet a harassed innkeeper
barring a young couple from her inn, only to have a baby born amid the goats and sheep in
the barn. At lunch-times the contemporary productions workshop Instant Lunch proved very
popular - workshop productions such as Synge's Riders to the Sea were a regular
feature in the Drama Studio (now reverted to its original use as student common room). Now
the Acting Workshop fills the Arts Centre on Friday lunch-times.
Especially for 1984 I adapted Dickens' Bleak House for
performance. This took up the whole hall with the audience seated along one side facing
the catwalk. The court scenes were on the stage, scenes in different houses in the catwalk
alcoves, and scenes in Hertfordshire at the opposite end of the hall, near the organ
(which was then housed there). There was a constantly present chorus of the writhing poor
on the floor below the catwalk and much use was made of dry ice smoke to recreate the fog
which permeates the story. A shortened version was staged at Nottingham Playhouse -
another brilliant experience for our students.
During the 1980s Martyn Offord staged The Playboy of the Western
World (brilliantly evocative scenery and music) and The Rape of the Lock
(ambitious choral and mime piece based on the poem). We co-directed Lysistrata
(scripted by Martyn), and Dorothy Mountford and I staged a traverse stage production of
Bond's The Sea, which gained a special mention in the Times Ed., and Hilary Jones
and the CPVE team staged Grease and Hair to much acclaim. Chris Brierley
wrote and staged two innovative dance-music pieces with Hilary Jones, Northern Passage
and Voices from the Labyrinth, and A-level Theatre Studies students performed
Berkoff's Metamorphosis at the newly opened College Street centre for the
The 90s saw us move into our Shakespeare phase - to coincide with the
new National Curriculum requirements for pupils to study Shakespeare. We started with a
black and white production of Measure for Measure - our last production before the
advent of second-hand raked seating. Then came Romeo & Juliet (famous for its
dreadlocked Romeo) and Macbeth (the latter with a grant of £2000 from TVEI, fondly
remembered for its striking chorus scenes and using two actors and two actresses for the
Macbeth couple) for which we shipped in local comprehensive school pupils.
As the staff has become smaller and time more pressing and as more and
more students are bussed in from further and further away, it has become increasingly
difficult to maintain large stage productions. We have mounted summer term activity week
offerings: a five-day Comedy of Errors, a four-day The Tempest and a
three-day Images of King Lear. Rob Colley (Head of Music) and Martyn Offord
co-wrote a rock version of Oedipus Rex (retitled Oedipus Rox) with catchy
tunes, masks and chorus - strains of 'Oh Sphinxy, you're such a minxy' drifted through the
college for months. Students (hooray) directed and staged Gogol's The Nose in 1997.
The advent of Performing Arts AS in 1996 met the growing demand for
more dance-based work. There have been Christmas specials - an original dance piece Where
is the Child? alongside a dramatisation of Keat's The Eve of St Agnes in 1997 -
and last year a Theatre Studies student-devised production of The Bacchae
This year - 1999 - the students are putting on West
Side Story again. They obtained the rights, held auditions and have begun work for a
July performance. When they came to ask me if they could go ahead, my first reaction was
'Oh, we've done that.' But of course, these students were only just born in 1982 - so why
not run it again!
[A 'nearly complete' list of productions from 1957-1999 appears
in Appendix W. Ed]
The trick is not to stop the sliding but to find a graceful way of
Jim Harmes (Geography ... , 1987 - present )
I was asked to express a few thoughts on how the job has changed over
the past twenty years. Whilst the following article is not, perhaps, totally balanced, it
certainly identifies some personal frustrations.
Houghton seemed to be the only body which really valued teachers. Part
of the trouble is that the profession tends to be regarded as a homogeneous entity when
the characteristics of the job - from nursery to FE - can be very different. I feel that
my present job is as rewarding as any I am likely to get and I look back in horror at the
stresses of 17 years in Inner London schools. But Inner London was an authority which
cared and put its money where its mouth was. It also introduced a system of inspection and
support which hasn't been bettered. So it had to go. Frequently teachers in more stressful
institutions are regarded as less competent and less effective simply because they are
unable to compensate for inadequacies of parenthood, peer pressures, media and society
demands, etc. And that is without the progressive withdrawal of funding and support for
the social services so that, increasingly, schools are expected to compensate.
Degradation of teachers began long ago. Kenneth Baker didn't exactly
help when he imagined he would make the system more effective by measuring it. From then
on, teachers were not to be trusted to organise their own time; 1265 hours were to be
demanded and five days were taken off holidays for training. There were doubtless fruitful
spin-offs from this but for many staff that was the end of Saturday morning supervision of
sports and other voluntary activities; they thought, 'stuff it, if we're not going to be
valued'. I think that marked a sea change in attitudes and levels of commitment. Neither
do I believe that it is coincidental that many complain of deterioration in the quality of
state school sports.
About this time, the other thing to knock was the quality of teachers.
But the Government was going to do something about this. Yes, sirree, they were going to
make sure that the profession would in the near future become all-graduate. That, of
course, was where there was a bit of money in the coffers. Then it changed. Now the main
qualifications are that you need a bit of interest, can speak a modicum of English and
don't mind learning on the job. Talk about being dictated by economic necessity ...
Then the National Curriculum. Not because it is of intrinsic value to
pupils but because politicians will be able to keep a closer eye on teachers and pretend
that they, the politicians, are doing something useful and measurable. And they can
construct neat and tidy league tables which put nice, middle class schools at the top and
demonstrate that inner city schools - mostly in Labour-controlled boroughs - are
hopelessly inadequate. Concepts of value added were trendy and, of course, to be ignored.
Fortunately they were unable to stifle all of the outcry and modifications and a few
changes of policy have taken place.
CPVE came and went and then we moved into acronymical megadrive. NCVQ,
NVQ, GNVQ, etc, etc - all designed for post-16 but filtering downwards because in
the certificate quagmire there was precious little to inspire low achievers. D34 and D35
have entered the teaching vocabulary as verbs. What sort of communicators have we become?
Then, just as we are beginning to work out what the letters mean they change. One minute
A-levels are the gold standard, then there is to be a parallel and more practical route -
which could have been quite sensible. Then A/S entered and is now clearly on the way out.
Then we hear that GNVQ standards are so low that the scheme may change. Then the whole of
the A-level route may change, and the merry-go-round continues.
The system wasn't satisfactory. So let's try another change. Persuade
industry to cough up for specialist City Technology Colleges, outside the state system, to
provide examples of good practice. But industry wasn't that gullible and the government
ended up pouring millions of desperately-needed pounds into a crackpot scheme which was
bound to fail, short-changing local authority schools in the process. Now all government
talk of CTCs has gone terribly muted. Meanwhile other schools crumble, so how about
off-loading them? Bribe them to opt out. Few were that daft; logic dictated that a
short-term windfall was not likely to last. So instead we get local management of schools
and colleges, an idea which in some ways has its merits. But the price we pay is that the
idea of a regional policy for education goes out of the window. Support centres
have disappeared and the prevailing ethos is now competition, not co-operation. The
prevailing language is management-speak, with marketing challenges (oh how I hate
that word), franchise opportunities (and that one), curricular niches ...
... and Quality Control. Yes, that matters. So we'll inspect. Every
four years. According to Our Criteria. And cheaply. So we advertise for bids. And so it
came to pass. If it is not cheap it shall be efficient. And if it is not efficient it
shall be cheap. A bit more to fret over. The result? Not the improvement of teacher skills
or educational planning by making recommendations and sending in teams of advisers. That
would cost money. No; the outcome shall be a Grade, and that Grade shall be incorporated
into League Tables. Or perhaps not. The market will do the rest. The trouble is,
inspectors don't seem to want the job and the shortfall is such that ideas of four-yearly
cycles seem to be fading fast.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, where more than 95 % of the student population
has gone to comprehensive schools since the early 1960s, there has been significantly less
tinkering. Exam results are higher than in England, as are the perceptions of the quality
of education being received. It's not the system as much as the stability which matters.
And that is something which we certainly don't have. It's driving many out of the
profession and others into an early grave. And that isn't exaggerating the problem. As for
So what has happened since then? Well, a new government has arrived,
chanting the mantra of education, confirming and building on most of the initiatives of
its predecessor. For all education post-16 the pressure is on. The sector is now driven by
market forces; the more 'activity units' we generate the more money we gain. A necessary
evil, I suppose. Evil inasmuch as earning cash can detract from the prime activity of
education, necessary because resources are limited and we need to be accountable.
So what would I like to see happen in the coming few years?
A Chief Inspector appointed who valued people. Inspectors who are given
the resources to do their job properly rather than, as is presently instituted, taking
valuable time off teachers to collect information for them.
A way of removing the ethos of fear. The current inspection system
seems to engender an urge to cover your back at all costs. Something is only done if it is
recorded. Communication thus only really takes place if a memo is involved. It
would be nice if talking came back into fashion.
A week in every year when no paper shall be generated.
A system which supports strugglers and sifts out the idle whilst at the
same time encouraging the bright and quirky. Staff and students alike.
Free and regularised publication of statistics and information but the
dumping of published league tables. A way to be found once more of encouraging
co-operation rather than competition between institutions.
A chance once more for me to retire at 55.
If it is true that the amount of work expands to fill the time
available - and it certainly seems to be - then two essential questions follow. How much
time should we reasonably make available? Which is the important work which must be done?
However we resolve those questions in our own minds we are bound to make somebody unhappy.
We can't win and it was ever thus. We can only strive to stay gracefully slid.
Despite all this, how come I still enjoy teaching? So many lovely
Reflections on Bilborough College
Peter Jones (Director, 1981 - present)
I woke to discover my colleague's tongue in such proximity to my ear
that, had he been conscious, the incident might have caused some embarrassment. I had made
two fundamental errors the previous evening: pitching our tent on a slight incline, and
choosing to lay out my sleeping bag on the lower side. Pinned against the wall of the tent
by a heaving mound of flesh and with little chance of immediate escape I pondered on the
amazing set of events of which this could be seen to be the bizarre culmination. I thought
back to the first evening. The sun dipped low over the Irish Sea bathing the field in a
warm glow as I looked out over all the tents with a strange sense of disbelief. For some
reason we thought we could take 30 young people, unfamiliar with the rigours of
long-distance walking before this year, and cover 193 miles in 9 days over mountain and
moor land, pitching camp at a fresh spot each evening and moving on next day. I could not
understand then how we were going to do it and now that the journey was almost complete I
did not know how it had been done. Anyway, it did not seem important any more. What
mattered was that we had experienced some astoundingly beautiful countryside, overcome
individual physical and psychological barriers we had not even approached previously, and
in doing so we had each shared something of ourselves with others. We had talked together,
laughed together, cried together. For all those privileged to be part of it, it had been a
precious time and it would not be an exaggeration to say that for some it had changed the
whole direction of their life. I turned my head towards the gaping mouth, rhythmically
spluttering like a coastal blow hole ... . yes, altogether a unique experience.
The Coast to Coast Walk was the first of the big summer walks raising
money for charity which now seem to have become an accepted part of the College Calendar.
Although completing a recognised long distance walk brought the students a sense of
personal achievement and gave the event some structure, it was the relationships that were
forged and the intense appreciation of the natural world around us which made it
memorable. In creating this balance it seems to me it epitomised all that is best about
Bilborough College, an institution which has managed to work within a framework without
becoming bound by it. In doing so it has enabled staff to maintain the enthusiasm for
learning and for engaging positively with other individuals which makes them not just
first class teachers but good people to be around. It is this homely but invigorating
atmosphere which has meant so much to me and undoubtedly influenced my own approach to
teaching over the years.
Back in the classroom I follow the syllabus and encourage students to
jump through the hoops which will earn them their certificates and enable them to progress
to the next stage of their career. But at the same time there is space to get to know and
work alongside young people, bright enough to appreciate some of the fascination of the
subject and polite enough to laugh at the wearisome jokes. Together we explore a store of
knowledge which never fails to conjure up fresh surprises as another set of students
brings its own understandings, and indeed misunderstandings, to familiar topics. Entering
a classroom to teach Mathematics has always been a bit of an adventure for me, a foray
into the unknown, and not always because I can't remember what it was we were doing last
time. The precision and power of this language of logic and the fascinating visual imagery
associated with it are an endless source of wonder. One has to be grateful to work in a
place where an affective response is neither mocked on the one hand nor set on a scale of
wondrousness on the other.
At Bilborough the recognition that not everything of value is easily
categorised and measured is mirrored in the richness and diversity of College life beyond
the classroom. Apart from the walks, there have been so many special activities which have
served to bring people together and help them identify with the College as a community.
One thinks back to the bus loads of local youngsters escorted around the American
Adventure, the 'Stars in Their Eyes' Concerts, the Fun Sports, and the annual Christmas
Ball. At the same time activities such as the evergreen Children's Theatre taking its
home-grown production around the local junior schools, or the painting of murals for the
QMC Christmas Pantomime, have brought smaller groups of students together in a very
There is a large and increasing pool of sporting and artistic talent
amongst the students, and their performances, whether on the sports field or the stage,
are for me not only a joy to watch but often a strangely moving experience. These are
people I know, students I see regularly around the college doing normal student things
like dropping litter or reviving each other with a spot of mouth-to-mouth. They may not
even be studying a related subject, yet suddenly here they are transformed, displaying
almost unbelievable skills and creativity. The Family Care Concert given in the Great Hall
at Southwell Minster was one such event which sticks in the memory. It is this extra
dimension which makes for a more rounded community and provides a more complete experience
for each of its members.
Yet we have never been allowed to take ourselves too seriously. Despite
the increasing pressures, which threaten to turn us all into memo maniacs, that sense of
fun always seems to bounce back. The ability to laugh at ourselves and take an irreverent
view of the more ridiculous situations we face, sometimes helps us through another day. It
is even a way of celebrating very different personalities in a positive way. Perhaps this
has been seen best at some of the retirement events which have been organised over the
years which have given the opportunity to show our affection for colleagues and affirm
them without seeking to canonise them. Does anyone remember these snippets?
Oh Roy Downing, Oh Roy Downing
We'll miss the dulcet echoes of
Your voice across the exam room,
Announcement of impending doom,
So ditty sing, so ditty sing,
So dit, sodit, so ditty sing,
So dit, sodit, so ditty sing,
So ditty sing to Roy Downing
(sung to the tune of 'The Red Flag' by Martyn Offord)
They were talking about a security grill
To go in the outer reception.
It wasn't so Brenda would come to no ill,
But the visitors needing protection.
Brenda's heart is so big and so full of fun,
It eclipses her mouth to be fair,
Though to make sure you find your way to the one
Fill the other with chocolate eclair.
All of these aspects of life at Bilborough form part of what has made
it such a good place to be for so long. In a world of factory farming there is still a bit
of the free-range farm about us. From the outside, knowing the names of all your chickens
and allowing them space to flap their wings might appear a little quaint, almost romantic,
but the reality is that it can be messy and it's hard work keeping it going.
In fact it is interesting to consider just how it has kept going in
quite the way it has. Personal conviction drawn from professional, humanitarian and
religious values has undoubtedly provided a strong sense of purpose over the years. Of
late this has perhaps been strengthened by survival instincts directing us into our little
niche in the market. Or maybe we just have to admit that it is more fun plodding around in
your wellies, as it were, talking to chickens, than monitoring the inputs and outputs of
battery pullets on a computer screen.
Sue Phillips (Director, Marketing & Curriculum Development, 1978 -
As a small Sixth Form College we have 'liaised' with a number of people
including schools, businesses and other educational institutions. Over the years our
reputation has fluctuated from being 'free and easy', 'liberal and lacking in discipline'
to being an 'institution of academic excellence'.
During this time our liaisons have changed educationally from working
with 'feeder' schools in a 'catchment' area to 'partner' schools in a rather more diverse
area creeping over county boundaries, and some have even been so bold as to say we have
'poached' from neighbouring Colleges. We have been a member of any county or city plan to
link schools together educationally. Many of us remember the TVEI days with affection but
often we found ourselves outsiders in these partnerships as we were not a school and not
an FE College. This lack of identification was often a blessing as we could choose which
groupings were favourable to us. We also remember other links through CPVE, especially
Peter Stay's valiant attempts to transport students from Bilborough to Basford Hall and
back again! Now we have moved into 'Compacts' with local universities and with local
schools and key words like 'Widening Participation' have entered our vocabulary.
We also liaise in a European fashion now and are part of a European
consortium of Colleges with France, Germany and Sweden. To mark the Millennium and the
partnership between the countries a number of students from the partnership will be
attending a camp in Frankfurt-Oder, Germany, in September 2000.
Working with businesses has seen us a part of the TEC's initiative of
Teacher placements. Many staff had enjoyable experiences of working in industry for a week
or more and students benefited from the occasional class visit, perhaps a visiting speaker
or free films from Boots!
After Incorporation another word took over from liaison and that was
marketing! We could no longer have these frivolous liaisons, we had to market ourselves in
a competitive market place. Our unique selling point was the fact that we were small and
friendly, we cared for the individual and we were concerned with academic excellence.
Therefore while everyone else became GNVQ crazy we stayed with our traditional roots and
continued to deliver A levels. Our Newsletters and Prospectuses grew from photocopied
in-house printed sheets of paper to glossy, colourful editions each reinforcing our
achievements. With these came the presentations and career fairs and again bigger and more
professional presentation stands. Although Roger Stevens resented the spending of money on
such extravagances even he submitted to the marketing phenomenon!
Our numbers keep growing and our reputation of 'academic excellence and
care for the individual' remains established at the moment and it appears a number of
people would like to 'liaise' with us!
Where do we go from here? As luck would have it, we seem to have always
marketed ourselves best by the good old Bilborough phrase 'word of mouth', be that the
mouth of the student, member of staff, parent or governor. Our annual Reunions of staff
and students echo the sense that having experienced Bilborough the memory fondly lingers
on. When asked what it is that makes Bilborough the place it is, the sense of belonging
unfolds but rather like a good mystery no one can fully sum up the experience but the
words they use are always positive. Long may that continue!
Dorothy Mountford (Vice-Principal, 1979 - present)
When the Editor began this compilation last autumn he wrote to me
asking for a piece on 'Pastoral Care'. Nearly a year later I was still suffering writer's
block; even proof reading colleagues' draft contributions failed to inspire me to put on
to paper the 'good ideas' that visited me in the small hours. It was time to analyse my
subconscious and to confront the reason for my reluctance to contribute to this history of
It wasn't long before I came clean and discovered the stopper to be the
terminology of the topic! 'Pastoral Care' like all labels is a useful shorthand but a
dangerous stereotype. Redolent of Bo-Peep the suggestion that students are sheep and
teachers are herders is uncomfortable and unfortunate. In the past in many educational
institutions the role of the pastoral carers has been marginalised to the non-specialist
and to the women. It was the mumsie, tears, tissues and tampax image that grated.
Bilborough as a sixth form college has always done better than that both by its students
and its staff.
Times have changed and support for students is now a clearly identified
part of the college's quality system which is inspected by the FEFC. Student Services in
FE in general is no longer the poor relation, and even if it is the customer care aspect
of the client centred ethic of the new world of incorporation which has generated this, it
should be celebrated as giving dignity to an aspect of education that in the past has been
denigrated and seen as second class by those who valued only the able or like-minded
students in their 'care'.
Not infrequently first-time visitors offer gratuitously their
perception of us as a warm and welcoming place. Call it ethos, atmosphere, what you will,
bottle it and we could create an 'alternative income stream' (ie not rely solely on the
FEFC for cash!) The link with care is not insignificant ... Students are our business and
have been since pre-incorporation times. Staff are educators by profession, they are
concerned with the growth of the whole person. The concept of pastoral care as something
separate, a splinter activity tagged on to the 'proper business' of academic teaching, has
never been on the agenda of any of the principals of the sixth form college.
Charles Martin set the tone. Young people deserved the best in terms of
role models in the shape of their teachers and if investment in staffing was at the
expense of the fabric of the place those of us who have gnashed our teeth at leaking roofs
and bare boards more than reap the benefit of the firm foundations he laid in 'people'
Four of those people were the first division leaders, a management role
that was to be a key if changing function within the college. George Coombs, Bob
Dossetter, Bill McNaughton and Margaret Watkinson, from 1979, made a reality of that early
vision of a caring and supportive environment. They had the oversight of a group of tutors
and students - a liquorice allsorts tutor group system where foundation students doing
basic skills courses met twice daily with their Oxbridge-entrance peers. Thus began, from
very early in the life of the sixth form college, that sense of valuing the individual
which is still a feature as the institution faces the millennium. The student was
important. Charles Martin was the principal who knew the names of the students by the end
of the first week. Though he does pretty well even Peter Jones cannot beat that - he gets
there by the end of the first term!!
Gordon Brown took up the baton. He introduced the 'tick-plus-minus
system', a termly snapshot of how students were performing in their studies, identifying
those deserving commendation and using the minus (later changed to a less judgemental
query) to help students who were under-performing by investigating why there was a 'cause
for concern'. Gordon's view was that whatever was standing in the way of learning needed
to be addressed. Peter Stay was the VP pastoral care never resorting to sheep dog tactics,
but together with Roger Stevens who, despite his remit as finance VP (one he kept to very
tightly) provided a professional support to students par excellence. This period of
the college's history saw an expansion of divisions to eight, then a reduction to six.
Many staff gained valuable experience from the opportunity to manage a division. The role
demanded a multiplicity of skills: interpersonal, diplomatic, administrative and survival!
What Charles Martin and Gordon Brown, Peter Stay and Roger Stevens
share with the 'new' principal, Martin Slattery, is that quality of care which has
informed their vision for Bilborough. Their commitment to young people extended and
extends beyond league tables and performance indicators. The deep vein of committed
concern for students by so many staff has been sustained by these men leading by example -
not something found in every school and college, not something with which every principal
is comfortable nor of which they are necessarily capable. With the fresh eye of an
objective newcomer Martin quickly noted the concept of Bilborough as a family. One may
presume that as a sociologist he has no cosy nostalgic notion of that term. There has been
a sense of tough love about two phases of reorganisation - a painful reality for those
undergoing it and equally so for those having to make difficult but necessary changes.
Although the old order changed giving place to new, the division
remained. Although the new style division leader managed budgets, staff and timetables,
the ancien régime lived on. Gilly Archer and Jeff Lowe, incumbents of reorganised
curriculum divisions have both been old style division leaders, as have Karen Lowe, Di
Sulley and Julia Brailsford senior tutors in the restructured plan whose role closely
resembles the old division leader! Together with the senior curriculum leader, a brand new
role and title, they support students as learners, and so the song goes on ... !
Martin Slattery has taken the elements of Bilborough, recreating a
robust and rigorous structure to support that ethos which has come down strongly through
the years and which as its latest principal he seeks to cherish and retain.
During the introductory session of the newly established academic
board, staff representatives and governors put themselves in context with comments such as
"my children came here . . " or "come here . . " or "will come
here ..." In his turn Martin expressed the wish that his children had come here! A
moving affirmation of his staff and their approach to students.
So, pastoral care or guidance and support or support for students,
whatever, remains an integral part of Bilborough. Some students may fall through the net,
but few fail to respond to the time and support staff give to them. Some staff may feel
uncomfortable with the learner culture, but the college is about the whole person, about
both teaching and learning. Socrates sums up, albeit in archaic and uninclusive language,
the philosophy Bilborough seems to practise instinctively: 'I shall only ask him, and not
teach him, and he shall share the enquiry with me ...'
The journey we are privileged to share with our students encourages the
development of the whole person, ensures that the individual is never allowed to be
overshadowed by a sense of failure. Staff show as much delight in the achievement of a
border line student as in that of someone gaining the grades for Oxbridge.
Bilborough has been fortunate in its governors who have appointed
principals with principle, who in turn have supported the staff who fought the constraints
of the academic straight jacket, without compromising academic excellence, resisting both
the pitfalls of sentimentality and the strictures of superiority, who saw care for the
individual as an integral part of the learning process and nurtured that rare plant which
today still flourishes as the quality of professional relationships and rapport which is
part of the 'family values' of Bilborough College.
In conclusion: after careful reflection on the above, a last word on
pastoral care, like the term or loath it, care of and for the individual is not a part of
the college ethos - it IS the college ethos!
From the Chair
The following article is based on jottings made during an informal and
relaxed conversation with the current Chairman of Bilborough College Corporation.
Ed: Do you remember your first contact with Bilborough?
AH: Yes, that would be when my elder son, Paul, started at the college in September, 1983.
Barbara and I have two sons, Paul and Richard, both of whom attended Fernwood
Comprehensive School and Bilborough College. I remember, in particular, Paul's interview
with the then Headmaster, Charles Martin, who explained how the College worked and the
standards expected. I'm strongly in favour of letting students know what is expected of
them, as well as telling them what they should expect of the College. Barbara and I
regularly attended Parents' Evenings and it was during the course of one of these that I
came to hear of the Bilborough College Society.
Ed: And one thing led to another ...
AH: That's right. I joined the Society and was in due course elected Treasurer in
succession to Mike Chamberlain. I quickly came to admire the enthusiasm and dedication of
this group of people and I felt that by supporting the Society I was making a worthwhile
contribution to the college and to the welfare of its students. Charles Martin retired in
1987 and because the County Authority was considering restructuring its 16-19 education
provision, no immediate successor was appointed. I well remember a stormy meeting of
Governors and Parents at which an attempt was made to bring pressure to bear on the
Authority, but to no avail. Then the Local Management of Schools (LMS) system was
introduced and soon afterwards I was co-opted onto the Governing Body. I attended my first
Governors' meeting in March, 1989. The financial statement prepared in June that year
showed that the college income was made up of a basic sum, £2,800, plus an allowance of
£68-19 for each of the 589 students, giving the princely total of £42,963-91, excluding
odds and ends for telephone, postage and travel expenses. Today the budget is of the order
of £2.25 million. We soon recognised that under LMS three Governors' meetings per year
would never suffice to deal with the huge increase in business delegated to the college.
We therefore formed sub-committees to deal with Curriculum, Finance and General Purposes,
Personnel and Students, and Sponsorship. At that time, I served on the latter two, hoping
to use for the benefit of the college my experience as Personnel Director of The Boots
Ed: What was your reaction to Kenneth Clarke's proposal in March, 1991,
to create a new post-16 education sector?
AH: I can honestly say that it was not one of shock-horror. On the contrary, I welcomed
the prospect of greater freedom of action for Governors and perhaps benefits for the local
Ed: And then Incorporation itself, 1st April, 1993.
AH: Those two years between Kenneth Clarke's announcement and Incorporation seemed to fly
by. We prepared industriously, having the new Governing Body with four sub-committees
(Employment Policy and Finance, Remuneration, Audit and Strategic Planning) in place by
October, 1992. I was elected Chairman (the first of my four two-year stints) and I think
it fair to say that, as a body, we were optimistic, particularly as excellent working
relationships had been established with Gordon Brown, who, with his hardworking Senior
Management Team, had borne the brunt of the introduction of LMS following his appointment
as Principal in 1988. We felt we had the right blend of skills and expertise available to
meet the anticipated challenges and generally speaking, this has been the case. However,
some of those challenges have perhaps been greater than expected, in particular securing
our financial position. The Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) is responsible for
providing Government funds, which have been progressively reduced, putting us under
increasing pressure to raise funding from other sources.
Ed: Would you like to comment on the FEFC Inspection Report presented
in February, 1996?
AH: I don't wish to sound complacent, but I think, on the whole, we were reasonably
satisfied by the outcome. That said, it is extremely disheartening, for example, to be
held responsible for the poor state of repair of the building, a building which was
erected in 1957 and which was for 36 of the next 39 years the responsibility of the local
education authority. Martin Slattery, Principal Designate, was also present when the
Report was tabled, and I would like to pay tribute to him for the dedication he has shown
over the last three-and-a-half years in responding to the issues raised.
Ed: I gather you are the Governor representative for the Midlands and
Wales on the Sixth Form College Employers' Forum (SFCEF) Council. What does this entail?
AH: There are eight regions, each with a Governor and a Principal representative, with a
permanent Secretariat which is based in London. I'm not sure that 'representative' is the
right word, as it really is not possible for me to maintain contact with all the Colleges
in an area as big as the Midlands and Wales. We meet about once each month on an agenda
which deals with employment matters, including conditions of service. In particular, we
conduct the annual pay negotiations for both teachers and support staff. I find it very
useful to be able to discuss matters of mutual interest at national level and in
particular to take part in meetings with Government and FEFC representatives. As we speak
I think we are making some progress in convincing them of the special value and needs of
sixth-form colleges within the FE sector.
Ed: Are you optimistic about the future?
AH: Yes. There are areas of concern, of course, such as where the responsibility lies for
planning FE provision in any area, in our case the East Midlands. Then there is the
ever-increasing burden placed on governors and staff by Government policies which demand
more but provide reduced resources. However, I spent a day in College recently, meeting
staff and students and taking part in the day's programme. I was very impressed and I
cannot believe that any government would jeopardise such a high quality contribution to
our education system. We are top of the East Midlands league and I feel we can match the
best in the country. We have reviewed all the options to guarantee our future financially
and I am sure that the one we have adopted, strategic partnership with Broxtowe College,
will allow us to maintain the Bilborough character and will prove successful for both
Ed: Finally, I noticed in the minutes that you will not be standing for
re-election as Chairman in Autumn, 2000.
AH: That's right. I have decided to retire from the Corporation then. After 11 years as a
Governor, 7 of them as Chairman, I feel that the time has come for a change, the election
of a new person with fresh ideas. I shall look back fondly on my "Bilborough
years" and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Staff and Governors
with whom I have worked over those years and to wish the College every success in the
The following two paragraphs originally appeared as a postscript to the
concluding article of this history. On the occasion that the Principal addressed the
staff, soon after his appointment and before taking up office, I asked the question - 'Why
did you apply for this post?' I was curious. The new incumbent had come from Basildon
College which, according to the 1996 FEFC Inspection Report, had 5570 enrolments (55 %
aged 25+ years, 18 % 19-24, 26 % 16-18, 1 % under 16), 202 fte staff and an income of
£5.590m (and expenditure of £6.006m). It seemed that the only feature in common to the
two colleges was the initials.
Postscript: Finally - and in response to the Editor's persistent question - why did I
take on the position of Principal of Bilborough College 3½ years ago? The answer is very
simple. Beneath all the concerns raised by the FEFC Inspectorate and by various financial
and strategic analyses of the institution, lay a College with a clear commitment to
teaching, learning and most especially students. Its curriculum was sound and its academic
achievements were solid, some of the best in the East Midlands. However it clearly had the
potential to do better - in fact it had to do better if it was to survive as an
independent institution. Change was needed - in some areas quite radical change - but not
to change Bilborough as such, but to strengthen it and to enable it to fulfil its Mission
within post-16 education in Nottingham. The College had - and has - enormous potential and
considerable inner strengths. If I have contributed anything over the past three years it
is to recognise that potential and work on it; to build on the standards and traditions
set by previous Principals and to encourage and enable Bilborough to be its true self - an
attractive, confident, well respected College offering 16-19 year-olds high academic
standards and the full range of Sixth Form opportunities. That is what Nottingham clearly
needs; that is what Bilborough is capable of offering.
Nothing I have done, however, could have been done without support. Whatever people's
initial reservations about the changes proposed, once the need for change was recognised,
support has been extensive and heartfelt. The staff have responded magnificently, and the
Corporation, and in particular the Chairman, Alan Hawksworth, the Vice-Chair, Ros Clark,
and the Clerk to the Corporation, Martin Edwards, have been wonderfully supportive and
extremely encouraging. Special mention must however go to the Senior Management Team (SMT)
of Peter Jones, Bob Dossetter and Sue Phillips; Gilly Archer, Peter Ford, Jeff Lowe and
Martyn Offord - staff who have given a lifetime of service to the College and to its
development. Particular thanks must equally go to Dorothy Mountford. Dorothy more than
most has carried the burden of change, supporting both myself and the staff through the
anguish and, on occasions agonies, that change inevitably brings to both individuals and
to the institution. The support and commitment of SMT has been unswerving and without it
little could have been achieved. Together with the staff - the teaching and the support
staff - they have and are preparing the College for that very "bright" future
David Gore once predicted. The question isn't really why did I take up the challenge, but
how could I turn it down! How could I turn down the opportunity to make a contribution to
a College that had so much to contribute both to its students and to the community of
The Spirit Lives On
Martin Slattery (Principal, 5/1996 - present)
First impressions are all important. As the new Principal appointed to
Bilborough College in May 1996, I had three first impressions, all very different,
all very varied, all very Bilborough.
My first impression was of the building: The bins and bikesheds as you
enter the front of the College, which is ironically at the side; The welcoming wave
from a portly caretaker;
The peace and quiet of the Principal's office and the scenic view beyond.
My second impression was one of immense and intense warmth and welcome,
of purposeful hustle and bustle, a vibrant and lively atmosphere that pervaded the whole
environment: reception, the staffroom, the canteen and the library. The corridors were "alive
with the sound of students" and the Grand Tour by Roger Stevens and
Dorothy Mountford only reinforced the sense of history, tradition and achievement that
pervaded the atmosphere and every nook and cranny that we were allowed into. The sense of
care and concern that underpinned all conversations and even the interviews were equally
on display. The Governors clearly had a special feel for the College and the sort of
personal commitment that can only come through the experiences of your own children. The
sense of community, of care and of family was obvious to all.
My third and final impression was that provided by the 1996 FEFC
Inspection Report. The FEFC Inspectors clearly spelt out the strengths and weaknesses of
the College and provided an agenda for action - in some cases quite urgent action - over
the next four years. The quality of the teaching and learning, pastoral support and the
enrichment programme was clearly described in their commentary and in the grades awarded.
The concerns the inspectors raised about the need for the College to fundamentally review
its organisational structure, its decision making and its lines of accountability if it
was to survive, let alone thrive, in the highly competitive world of FE matched my own
Here was a small Sixth Form College on the outskirts of Nottingham with
a clear and almost Christian commitment to students and to the uniqueness of the
College, satisfied with and rightly proud of its results and achievements but in danger of
being complacent, of being sidelined and even taken over. The shadow of the Local
Education Authority still hung over the organisation. There was a strong distrust, an
almost self-righteous attitude towards the FEFC, the inspectors and any outsiders who
claimed to know better than the staff. If change was to come to Bilborough then it had to
come swiftly and cleanly. Hence my first staff meeting, a week before I took up post.
Hence the first major restructuring; hence the changes that have taken place since. They
have all been designed to show the need for change, not for the sake of change, but to
enable the College to live up to its proud achievements, and the traditions set by Harry
Peake, Charles Martin and Gordon Brown in the hostile and competitive world of
incorporated colleges. These traditions may at times appear old fashioned, even out of
date in the "fast food" world of today, but the values they represent are
as relevant and important now as they are likely to be in the next century.
The changes of the last three years have been demanding and quite
extensive. A two-phase Restructuring Programme has reorganised the College from 26
departments down to three curriculum Divisions. The teaching staff has been reduced from
50 fte in 1995/6 to 40 fte today during a period when the support staff has been almost
doubled. Student numbers have escalated from 635 students in 1995/6 to over 950 today.
Inevitably this has had a significant impact on class sizes and staff workloads.
At the same time A-level results have improved significantly rising
from an 85 % pass rate grades A-E in 1995 to 94 % today, with the top grades A-C at nearly
66 %. And in parallel there has been a major accommodation programme of £150-200,000 pa
over the past 2-3 years on IT and on refurbishing the building; a remodelled Canteen, an
extended and networked IT workshop, a remodelled library and numerous alterations to
existing classrooms. All this at a time when government funding for further education has
been reduced dramatically.
Over the last three years the College has therefore had to provide for
300 more students and invest some £0.5m in a major accommodation programme on the same
budget it had in 1995/6 and with fewer teaching staff. The impact on staff workloads has
been significant and demanding. However, once staff understood the reasons for these
changes then they responded magnificently. Morale has been maintained, results have
improved and students still enjoy the very personal and intense support from staff that
has been the hallmark of the College.
It was this response and this spirit of "fierce" independence
that persuaded the Corporation in November 1998 to reject the offers of merger from New
College Nottingham, and from Broxtowe College nearby. This decision was reached after an
extensive and fundamental review of the College finances and its strategic options carried
out by both the College management and external consultants. The College's financial
forecast showed a deteriorating balance sheet and a serious lack of investment capital
whilst the competitive environment within Nottingham had intensified immensely with the
creation of New College Nottingham (NCN), an amalgamation of Clarendon College, Basford
Hall and latterly High Pavement Sixth Form College and Arnold and Carlton College of FE.
This corporate giant with an annual budget well in excess of £40mnow threatened to engulf
the whole of FE in Nottingham. Bilborough stood at a cross-roads and given its financial
position and the external advice commissioned by the Corporation it should have joined
High Pavement, and become a College within a College, a minor member of NCN.
Instead, persuaded by the staff's "dogged determination" to
remain independent, the Corporation voted in favour of the proposal put forward by College
Management to form a Strategic Partnership with Broxtowe College; a partnership of two
equal and independent institutions rather than a conglomeration of many. It was
with much relief that the College celebrated the New Year of 1999 as the sole remaining
independent Sixth Form College in Nottingham.
The College is now enjoying the fruits of that decision. As numbers
continue to grow and results rise, the new funding for further education has provided the
College with a windfall of £189,000 and a budget for 1999/2000 of £2.4m, £300,000 above
that in the previous year. The need for efficiency, the tightness of the budget and the
pressure on staff workloads remain but the future looks more stable and more promising.
The new financial forecast for 1999-2002 shows a small but healthy operating surplus and
the College is still a category A College in terms of its financial health. It is a
leaner - but hopefully not a meaner - organisation, more capable now of withstanding the
changing winds of public funding and government priorities. It has carved out a very clear
niche for itself as a major provider of 16-18 academic education. It has a strong and
healthy intake of students and a growing reputation for academic excellence. The
partnership with Broxtowe College is proving to be mutually beneficial and it is enabling
the College to meet the government's agenda on widening participation and collaboration as
well as that of achievement and quality. More importantly it now has the opportunity to
begin to improve facilities and accommodation across the whole site.
So as the College nears the end of the 20th century it is in
a stronger and healthier position to meet the needs, demands and challenges of the
Millennium. It is very clear and very focused on its role within and contribution to
post-16 education locally. It rests very firmly on its fundamental strengths and it is
very focused on the 16-18 A-level market.
The College has no desire or ambition to grow beyond its
"natural" boundaries. It is proud of and quite defensive of its size, its sense
of community and its ability to provide the personal touch. It is very proud of and
firmly rooted in the Sixth Form College tradition, a tradition based on high academic
achievement, strong pastoral support, a rich and varied Enrichment Programme and a
commitment to the needs and aspirations of 16-18 year olds. It celebrates these
achievements and revives past memories through College Reunions and Leavers photos, rather
than grand ceremonies. It aspires to being a centre of academic excellence within
Nottingham and in the top 50 - or even top 30 - Colleges nationally.
Nottingham needs a strong vibrant and high quality Sixth Form College
to provide and extend choice and to raise standards. With Curriculum 2000 - the
government's latest initiative for broadening the curriculum and extending A-level choices
- the College is in a strong position to access new funding and to grow in size and
As one member of staff succinctly, if sardonically, put it, 'The
future is bright; the future is Bilborough'. Possibly he watches too many
advertisements but the sentiment reflects the vision before the College, a vision written
back in 1997 as part of the College's Strategic Plan, but one that still encapsulates the
College ambitions and aspirations.
The vision offered by the 1997-2000 Strategic Plan is a dynamic
and exciting one. If its full potential is realised then by the Year 2000, Bilborough
College will be a thriving Sixth Form College of 800-1000 full time students undertaking a
wide variety of academic programmes based on A-level and GCSE Courses in preparation for
the National Diploma, HE, FE and Employment. In the evening, at weekends and during
holidays it will provide a range of courses, programmes and facilities for the local
community, for adults, youngsters and employers. Its accommodation will have been
significantly upgraded and remodelled and its campus enhanced by a Sports, Arts and
Community Centre, a Technology and Conference Block and improvements to its grounds,
driveway, car park and security.
At the heart of this vision is the maintenance and enhancement of
Bilborough's reputation as a small, high quality academic institution with a reputation
for outstanding achievement, friendliness and high standards of student support - the
'Family College' with the personal touch and a commitment to supporting the local
Behind this vision lies the staff. They are at the heart of the
College. Their morale, their motivation and their professionalism will ultimately
determine the success of this Plan and the quality of the service we provide.
The great obstacle to Bilborough aspirations, the one thing that is
likely to prevent it realising its full potential, is its accommodation and its building.
Refurbishment alone will not give new life to a tired and outdated
building, designed and built in 1957 for 550 school children and now attempting to house
nearly 1000 16-19 year olds; designed and built as a grammar school for the 1950s not as a
Sixth Form College for the Year 2000. It is sorely lacking in the quality and specialist
facilities needed to support advanced learning. Its corridors and public spaces now groan
with the weight - and size - of student numbers. Bilborough needs a new College to enter
the New Age and developing a new accommodation strategy that incorporates new build with
the redevelopment of the campus will be THE major challenge in the years ahead.
New buildings, new funding, new curricula, new initiatives do not
however explain or embrace the character and the contribution of Bilborough College.
Bilborough is as happy celebrating and commemorating the past as it is in planning for the
future. It is rooted in the Sixth Form tradition and in the academic excellence
represented by the gold standard of the A-level. It is rooted in the traditions of
pastoral care and the development of the individual as a person as much as in scholarship
or sporting achievement. Like that tradition it is enduring and endearing. It has the
inner strength to resist change, and the seductive ability to adapt to it. Its commitment
to maintaining high quality education and to promoting academic performance is well
captured in its Mission Statement.
Bilborough College is a Sixth Form College
dedicated to offering academic excellence in a
supportive environment to serious and
It is more effectively captured however in its students and in the way
they describe the College and what it has added to their memories and experiences of
learning. The letter below from a past student poignantly illustrates the spirit and ethos
of Bilborough College.
"After spending the last two years at Bilborough College, I am writing to take the
opportunity to thank all the staff I came into contact with for making my time there so
enjoyable. Bilborough is, I feel, a very unusual institution, combining as it does,
academic excellence and whole person development. The support I received in all three
subjects, Biology, Chemistry and Maths, was comprehensive and suited to my individual
needs. I feel that every effort was made to challenge and stretch my abilities as
appropriate which fuelled my interest in the subjects. I would also like to note that I
have seen this ethos of support applied not just to me but other students of every
I found that not only was academic support widely available, but also tutorial support,
and this was useful to me especially as I settled in to Bilborough. Throughout the two
years I took advantage of several of the extra curricular activities, such as debating,
the mock trial group, and the 120 mile walk and thoroughly enjoyed them all. Many staff
gave up valuable time and put much effort into making these, and other events, a success.
Without the help and support I received from the College staff, I feel I would not be
looking forward to starting Cambridge University in a month's time. The last two years
have been absolutely invaluable to me, Bilborough being a great change from anything I had
previously met in my education, so thank you again. I hope that Bilborough is able to
maintain such a marvellous learning environment."
Bilborough may not be big, it may not be bold but it has a strength of
character and an inner determination that represents the best in English Education. That
spirit, that commitment endure and sustain the College in fulfilling its mission even into
the next century. The building may change, the curriculum may change, even the staff may
change. Hopefully, however, the Ethos, the spirit of care and concern, of community and
continuity, will not and so enable Bilborough College, its staff and its students, its
governors and its constituents to enjoy and to celebrate learning well into the 21st
century. That is what the past three years, the past 25 years, have been about. That is
what the future holds.
Long may Bilborough College survive; long may it thrive; long may it
continue to provide high quality education for youngsters about to enter the university
18th September, 1999