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Portrait of a College
Part VI - Bilborough College 1987 - 2000
Memories of Bilborough extracted from correspondence
from J R Yarnell
A Life-Enhancing Experience - John Kendrick
An Era of Continuous Change - G H Brown
European Links - David Martin
A Risk Worth Taking - Magnus Poole
Memories of Bilborough
extracted from correspondence from J R Yarnell (Physics, 1964-96)
In 1964 I joined the staff at Bilborough as second in a department of
three. It was then a very successful grammar school. The pupils wore school uniform and
the place ran like a piece of well-oiled clockwork. I remember an occasion during notices
following the (usual) morning religious assembly when Dr Peake the headmaster spent
several minutes reiterating the rule that pupils should keep to the left hand side of the
corridors when moving about between lessons. And like the many other rules which regulated
the lives of its 700 or so pupils, this rule seemed to be obeyed pretty conscientiously.
The school was highly rated by parents and academic standards were high.
The Physics department, when I arrived, was in the capable hands of
Bill Bristow who had organised the teaching in a pattern which persisted until the advent
of the Sixth Form College. Each subject area was visited in the teaching programme during
each year. This meant that most topics had been met 4 or 5 times by the time of O-level;
thus the foundations had been solidly laid and carefully built upon, giving a final
structure which was sound and well founded - a firm basis upon which to base A-level work.
Practical work was traditional and led, both at O and A-level, to a
practical exam. This was a major logistical exercise. The equipment requirements were
communicated beforehand to the head of the Physics department. Implementation usually
required the ordering of new equipment and/or the construction of customised apparatus by
him and the technician. All of this had to be done under a cloak of secrecy, in the minute
prep rooms which used to be the only space available to the technicians. When the great
day eventually arrived, the weather was usually hot, especially if bunsen burners were to
be used, and the poor pupils, under great pressure, had to manipulate Heath Robinson
equipment or unfamiliar circuitry with sweaty hands and stressed minds. Later this gave
way to the continuous assessment of practical work, which was certainly preferred by the
majority of students; but it greatly increased the workload of the staff who had to mark
the many pages of report which nearly all students produced. Indeed, in the latter years,
there never seemed any time when there was not an assessed practical either impending or
ready to mark.
My own promotion to the post of Head of Physics, which I occupied from
1966 to my departure in 1996, throws some light on the differences between procedures then
and now. I was in the middle of a lesson in what was then the downstairs Physics
laboratory (P1) when the headmaster, Ivor Williams, appeared outside the door and beckoned
me to come outside. During the course of the conversation which ensued it became clear
that he was offering me the post, a considerable promotion for a 28 year old assistant
teacher. Taken aback, I accepted the offer and was left with the distinct impression that
I had done him a favour! No mention of interviews, shortlisting or appointing committees,
never mind Equal Opportunities!
In 1978 it was decided to upgrade the short Associate Studies course
which Alan Twaite had started and offer Electronics right up to O-level. This involved an
enormous amount of work for me personally and every Saturday and most of Sunday became
booked for the process of developing and documenting a practical course. Although
traumatic at the time, it not only widened the choice for students, it also enabled me,
professionally, to cross a threshold from which I had previously held back. This was to
prove invaluable in the years which followed as Physics teaching used more and more
electronically based equipment. Talk of electronic equipment, of course, became
inseparable from the use of computers. The BBC model appeared in the early eighties,
albeit only one machine initially, and proved itself to be extraordinarily versatile in
science, especially for data logging, in situations where manual recording of data was not
possible, usually in cases where the process was too fast, but occasionally also where it
was too slow and took place over 24 hours, say. A number of other microprocessor-based
data-logging devices also gradually found their way into the department and widened the
scope of practical work.
A couple of stories. During the sixties Saturday sport was still
regarded as an integral part of school life and staff were expected to turn up to take
responsibility for teams at home or away. Thus, there was an occasion when I had
volunteered to help host the visit by the Boys High School for their fixture with our
First XI. This was the school's prime fixture of the season and it was vital that
everything went smoothly. Sandwiches had been prepared and set out in what was then part
of the canteen area (now part of the lower library) and the door locked. The school at
that time employed as caretaker a certain Harry Beadsworth. Harry was notorious for his
shortness of temper and teaching staff trying to rehearse a play, for example, would get a
verbal lashing if they over-ran their time limit by a minute or two. On the afternoon in
question, the key to the canteen was for some reason unobtainable, so there was the
prospect of being unable to provide a tea for our High School visitors - an unthinkable
prospect. So I examined the windows of the room for any means of entry and noticed that
one of the upper ones was cracked. This would obviously at some stage need to be replaced,
so I found a broom handle, smashed the window and was able to climb in. The teams were
thus able to come and partake of the tea, but I had serious forebodings as to the reaction
from Harry Beadsworth. When the end of the afternoon arrived and Harry came to lock up, he
looked at the damage, listened to my explanation and for the only time in my experience,
was totally lost for words! The crime of wilfully breaking a window was so heinous
that it was completely off his scale. I never had any problems with Harry after that!
The other incident concerned a cross-country team who were scheduled to
compete against a leading school in Coventry. The sports master, Peter Hutchinson, had
stressed to me the vital importance of this fixture and had telephoned the coach company,
Rosetta, to emphasise the necessity of sending a reliable vehicle so that we arrived in
Coventry in good time. The coach duly arrived to collect us on the Saturday morning but it
later lost power and failed completely on the M1. We waited on the hard shoulder for what
must have been about an hour for assistance, which eventually came in the shape of a
reserve coach. This took us to the next service area where I telephoned the Coventry
school. By then their team had given up and gone home. So we stayed about 45 minutes at
the service area to allow the youngsters to play the games machines before we also set off
for home. So ended our most important cross-country fixture!!
A Life-Enhancing Experience
John Kendrick (Modern Languages, 1969-1994)
When the Chairman of the Governors told me in May, 1969, that I had
been successful in my application for the post of Head of Modern Languages at Bilborough
Grammar School, I never realised how my life was going to be dominated by Bilborough for
the next 25 years. Twenty-five years! It sounds like a life-sentence, yet those
action-packed, sometimes exhausting, but never boring years, when viewed now from the
relative calm of retirement, take on all the warm glow of halcyon days.
As a Francophile, teaching French and about France was always something
I enjoyed; fascinated by the intricacies of the grammar, delighting in acquiring and using
vocabulary and happy in the refinements of pronunciation and intonation, the hours of
marking and preparation seemed a small price to pay for the opportunity to be using the
language every day in a useful capacity. Besides, there was always fun to be had. Do many
former pupils and students, I wonder, recall pronunciation drills with 'tongue-twisters',
or 'uphill' and 'downhill' accents, performed with suitable actions, as a relief from the
more gruelling grammar grind? Before the supply of younger pupils dried up there were the
silly games such as 'Chaos', despite its name a tightly-controlled but hectic activity,
which was always most enjoyable when apparently edging towards a free-for-all! It was
fortunate that we were safely away from the main building in the wooden hut next to the
Teaching sixth-formers always offered the extra academic challenge
which lifted the intellectual content of the day. I now remember literature classes that
sometimes brought students to love the books so much that they wanted to buy them to keep
at the end of the course, and the new A-level syllabus that encouraged 'total immersion' -
nothing but French in the classroom. By the end of the first term the students were so
grooved in to the language that they would actually reply in French if I spoke in English.
I wouldn't have thought it possible, but the proof was there and very gratifying too.
Throughout the years there were always other activities alongside the
teaching that helped to forge the spirit of Bilborough and established a different and
stronger relationship between the teacher and the taught. Involvement with the
cross-country teams in the 1970s meant regular training sessions and Saturday fixtures,
against local schools and further afield to Oxford, Birmingham, Coventry or Manchester.
The annual Bilborough Road Relay had been started by Derek Green, an inspirational
cross-country coach who had made Bilborough one of the best teams in the country. His work
was continued by Pete Hutchinson as the Relay drew a large entry of 20 to 30 teams and a
crowd of supporters to one of the most important fixtures in the racing year. Then there
was the wonderful victory at the public school in Somerset, Millfield, when the Bilborough
team beat all-comers in their cross-country relay. The runners themselves must have
greater memories of those days and I enjoyed making it possible for them to compete.
At other periods other sports became part of my weekly load. There were
afternoons sailing a dinghy on the Trent or canoeing at Holme Pierrepont, or teaching
trampolining in the gym. Weekly cricket practice in the nets at Trent Bridge featured for
some years, and then there was the archery, all these sports being part of General, Common
or Associate Studies, as they were differently called at different times, but all giving
students, and me, a taste of something new.
Playing cricket has always given me great pleasure despite my limited
abilities in the game. Perhaps there was always the feeling that, with practice, I might
bat, bowl or field better next time. Hope springs eternal . . . ! The Bilborough Staff
Team matches were major events in the summer term when the team, often augmented with one
or two students, had enough talented cricketers like Dave Hale, Peter Ford or Peter Jones
to ensure a genuine game played in a friendly spirit of competition, where dropped catches
or first-ball ducks mattered but did not merit bitter recriminations. As the education
authority ceased maintaining grass wickets in many schools, the pitch at Bilborough became
more attractive as a venue and most of our matches in later years were played at home.
Sunny evenings on the top field, good cricket in a friendly atmosphere, all rounded off
with a glass or two at the Broad Oak afterwards. Happy days!
For 15 years or so, the Bilborough College Society was a significant
part of my life. Having been started by David Singleton in the early '70s with the initial
aim of raising enough money to purchase a mini-bus, the association of parents and
teachers then expanded to include students in the Sixth Form College and continued to
raise funds and act as a channel for the goodwill and energy of some very committed
parents. It was always my view that it takes a special kind of maturity in a student to be
able to mix socially with staff and parents, but we managed to hold some very successful
Square Dances and other events, which, together with the Christmas Prize Draw, raised
hundreds of pounds for the benefit of the students. Certainly there was nothing comparable
in any of the other Sixth Form colleges at the time.
Music and stage shows were always important at Bilborough and when
staff were encouraged to join in to support the students some of us managed to squeeze
rehearsals into the short lunchtimes. Singing with the choir under Colin Jones in the
Fauré Requiem or with Tony Goodchild in Handel's Messiah were unforgettable
experiences that brought tremendous pleasure, as did the minor roles in the occasional
Gilbert and Sullivan or Chris Brierley's exciting 'Northern Passage'. Such
rewarding experiences depended totally on the efforts of some very dedicated staff, but
Bilborough always seemed to be very well-provided in that respect.
In the late '80s a huge quantity of over-inflated jargon began to
invade the world of education, contributing in no small way to the sense of unease felt by
some of us as the vital business of teaching began to seem subsidiary to the
administration, evaluation, assessment, recording and all the other buzz-words of the new
area. I do recall, however, the phrase Personal Development and the word Enrichment, both
of which were meant to be applied to a student's experience at the College but which
seemed to apply increasingly to my own days as a teacher. My aim, if I ever thought
consciously about it, was always to give something to the pupils and students I taught,
and I sincerely hope many of them remember me for that, but my own abiding memory is that
my twenty-five years' stay there was a period of great personal development and
enrichment. Whatever I gave to Bilborough was exceeded by what I personally received. It
was a very fulfilling and rewarding time, with the joy of teaching, the absorbing interest
of the extra-curricular activities and the feeling of participating usefully in a joint
enterprise alongside some very gifted and hard-working colleagues. Not a life-sentence
then, but a life-enhancing experience for sure.
An Era of Continuous Change
G H Brown (Principal, 1988-96)
When I became Principal in September 1988 after a year's interregnum
competently managed by Peter Stay, the Nottingham Sixth Form Colleges had just come to a
satisfactory agreement on the allocation of grades for a new national pay structure for
teachers. Inevitably there were financial implications for the local Education Authority
and financial control was to become a matter of monumental significance in subsequent
In September of each year, schools and colleges pleaded their cause to
Area Education Offices for extra staffing to cope with problems. In 1989 the Government
decided to phase in local management for schools so that finances would be transferred
largely from the LEA to the schools. Frantic meetings were held to organise the fairest
distribution of the County budget; Bilborough and High Pavement Colleges did well by
having viable numbers. Forest Fields Sixth Form College was struggling, partly by its
location, and decided to merge with People's College, with the provision of new buildings
on the Forest Fields site.
In 1992 Bilborough had completed its staffing structure according to
the County formula when Chancellor Kenneth Clarke dropped the bombshell of setting up a
national body, the Further Education Funding Council, which would include Sixth Form
Colleges and all Further Education Colleges. They would be financed nationally and be
independent of Local Authority control. Incorporation, when colleges became independent,
was fixed for 1st April 1993, but a new Governing Body had to be in place by 1st September
1992. The following is a summary of the upheaval caused in every aspect of the life and
work of the College.
The Governing Body
Up to 1992 the structure was determined by the LEA with political appointments.
The Chairman, for a good number of years was Doug Pitt, a Labour Party nominated Governor,
who served faithfully and conscientiously and never once raised any political bias. He was
not blessed with good health, but following a heart by-pass operation, he looked like a
new man, which was very good to see. He continued to take a kindly interest in the College
up to my retirement. He was succeeded by John Wilson, a parent Governor, who took great
personal interest in the well-being of the College. Unfortunately for us, a demanding new
job forced his retirement as Chairman.
The old Governing body were most supportive of the College and to me
personally, but the FEFC brought in a totally new structure which did not allow any County
Council representative, imposed age limits and insisted on at least 50% being business
representatives. Principals were given the task of finding suitable candidates for
Governors, the suggestions being ratified by FEFC legal representatives. I and the College
were most fortunate to end up with a splendid, talented set of Governors, totally
supportive of the College and prepared to take full responsibility for its well-being and
financial health. Alan Hawksworth, at the time Senior Personnel Director on the main board
of Boots, agreed to be Chairman and his professionalism, support and encouragement for me
personally and the College as a whole was tremendous. The Governors were appointed for 4
years and such was their commitment, that a good number, including Alan and the
Vice-chairman, Ros Clarke agreed to stay for a further 4 years from September 1996.
The days of one Governors meeting per term were over, at least 6 a year
were required with Committees to look at particular aspects; finance and property,
curriculum and pastoral and personnel matters. The College was also fortunate in its Clerk
to the Governors. When I started in 1988, Reg Ward was a great servant to all schools and
colleges in the Nottingham area. Martin Edwards proved a worthy successor and agreed to
become the Clerk for the new Governing body, his wisdom and calm approach to difficult
problems proving invaluable.
The Senior Management Team
The nature of Headship changed greatly in the late eighties, as accountability in
all matters took place. A team approach was necessary and then absolutely essential. Soon
after I took over, Dorothy Mountford was appointed Vice-Principal in place of Ruth Betts
who had just retired and she alongside with Peter Stay and Roger Stevens all worked
tirelessly on behalf of the College. Four Senior teachers formed the rest of the Senior
Management Team: Bob Dossetter, Peter Jones, Bill McNaughton and at first Alan Richards,
then Sue Phillips. The College is indebted to the hours of work put in between them to
cope with the range of tasks and changes.
Team meetings became formal in structure and all decisions were minuted
and reviewed to see if action had been taken. The LEA introduced Development Plans and
under the FEFC, College Management Plans had to be carefully worked out with sharing of
proposals across the whole staff. Targets had to be set and all the work of the College
Relationships with LEA, FEFC and Other Bodies
In my time as Principal, the Chairman of the County Council, Fred Riddell, never
visited the College, but the LEA officers gave excellent support. John Fox, Peter Housden,
Rob Valentine, as Directors of Education, were aware of the College's needs and the
College Inspectors, Steve Farnsworth, Trisha Bailey and then Nick Sparks, all gave me and
the College great personal support. On becoming independent the College bought in various
services offered by the LEA, such as personnel services, legal support and grounds
maintenance, and the County appraisal scheme for teaching staff. Relationships between the
Nottingham Sixth Form Colleges strengthened over the years with much joint co-operation
and local heads were always friendly and helpful. Much hard work was done to provide
improved opportunities across the Primary and Secondary sectors.
We were fortunate that the first Chief Executive for the FEFC was a
remarkable man, William (Sir William) Stubbs, who guided the Colleges through all the new
legislation with a clear vision and also wrung out of the Government more money than might
have been expected. Contrary to the beliefs of many large F.E. Colleges he also ensured
that Sixth Form Colleges were not swallowed up and overpowered - indeed he encouraged them
to have a distinctive voice in Post-16 education.
The structures to ensure that the work of Colleges was wholly
accountable were remarkable. Colleges had to appoint internal and external auditors and
they were in turn audited by the FEFC Audit Team Accountants assessing the financial
health at regular intervals. Teams were set up to assess the state of buildings and
resources, and elaborate procedures for budget entitlement were put in place. An
Inspectorate was set up with regular 4-year inspections, the emphasis being on quality in
every part of College life. Policies and procedures on all aspects were required including
charters, mission statements and college plans, and there were directives emerging from
the FEFC virtually every week. By the time I retired four years on, several shelves were
filled with reams of FEFC information and directives.
Ways of working together with local F.E Colleges were explored,
particularly with Basford Hall College, though Broxtowe College put forward in 1995 a
possible merger plan, which the Governors rejected. The Training and Enterprise Councils
set up by the government gave the College opportunities to have a voice in local
development and the Greater Nottingham TEC accepted several bids for funding of projects,
unlike some local areas where Sixth Form Colleges were ignored.
The Association of Principals in Sixth Form Colleges (APVIC) prior to
1993 had been labelled, with some justification, a Gentleman's Club (there being very few
Women Principals at the time). Incorporation under FEFC changed all that and sharpened the
focus greatly. Paramount in the thinking were survival and the necessity to have a
representative voice in the developments. To this end APVIC succeeded in the early years
and then developed into an Association of Principals and Governors. A Sixth Form College
Association was also formed with a paid executive to develop policies and contracts on
behalf of all staff in agreement with the Unions, particularly as school teacher contracts
no longer applied. Principals spent many hours in meeting nationally and regionally to
develop the best policies and strategies.
Financial Control and Organisation
On incorporation the College Management were effectively running a business with
a budget in excess of £2M, the exact amount depending on the number of students enrolled.
Computer systems were imperative and data on students became more and more involved.
Eventually monies were allowed according to the points generated by every student
enrolled, and the time spent on inputting data into the computer was alarming. Peter Stay
and then Bob Dossetter spent many hours to ensure the information was correct. Roger
Stevens took on the role of Finance Manager and between us we drew up Financial
regulations and procedures and Roger did a wonderful job in controlling the income and
expenditure. Freda Burton, though nearing retirement, learned massive amounts of new
procedures with the computer so that we were in a very good financial state in the first
years. All this work was scrutinised rigorously by auditors.
Staffing - Teaching Staff
There were very serious consequences of both LMS and Incorporation for levels of
staffing. Redundancy, a term unheard of in Education, prior to the mid-Eighties suddenly
became a distinct possibility. Bilborough did its best to protect staff throughout the
changes, believing that staff were the most important resource. Shirly Elms, David Bland,
Vic Delstanche and Margaret Tuck all took premature retirement due to ill-health, and
Peter Stay and John Kendrick took advantage of modest incentives to retire early. By 1996
financial cutbacks meant further reductions were necessary and rather than bring in all
these changes and then retire shortly afterwards, I decided it was an appropriate time for
the appointment of a successor, a decision which the Governors graciously but reluctantly
Staffing - Non-teaching Staff
Caretaking Shortly after my arrival I appointed Alan Ward as Head Caretaker
assisted by his son Matthew. Alan was a man of many parts. On appointment I jokingly said
that he would get the job if he could move the massive safe in the Principal's room from
one side to the other. This he accomplished shortly afterwards. He also had the knack of
knowing who could do an emergency job immediately and somehow persuaded a workman to board
up a skylight blown out in the Tower Block in the most horrendous gale just prior to the
start of an Open Evening.
Office Staff The demands on the office increased tremendously. Brenda
West and Carol Hitchcock shared responsibility for Reception and student records.
Technicians It became very clear that help was required generally in
College and when Denise Ottewell succeeded as Senior Technician she was able to
co-ordinate a team doing a range of tasks including work with computers. By 1996 it was
very apparent that the salary scales for non-teaching staff needed an urgent review and
reassessment, the demands on all of them being very great. Sixth Form Colleges as a group
were in agreement on this matter.
Librarian Jean Gregory retired after years of distinguished service to
our own library and the schools Library Service both County wide and nationally. It was a
hard act to follow, but Dianne Baldwin settled in well and advanced the use of technology
and the needs of students in her own distinctive way - so the library continued to be a
centre of excellence. Throughout my time the librarians were given excellent support by
teaching and non-teaching staff and by students. It was with confidence that I took
visitors into the Quiet Library knowing it would be quiet, or the technology area where CD
Rom would be explained, or the active learning area where intense discussion about a topic
would often be taking place.
Student and Curriculum Matters
Students continued to come from a range of schools and areas with a variety of
abilities and needs and from differing cultural and religious backgrounds. Peter Stay did
an admirable job heading student pastoral work. Many, many students have cause to be
grateful to him and Dorothy Mountford for their kindly personal care, and the support from
all staff was a hallmark of the college. College was a happy place for almost all
students. Throughout my time the comments made so often by visitors within a few minutes
of arriving were : "There's a lovely atmosphere in the College which we felt as soon
as we came in". Long may it continue!
During the early 1990's a greater proportion were studying A-levels,
principally owing to the demise of CPVE, the unsuitability of its replacement, GNVQ, and
also to the introduction of league tables. This revealed Bilborough to have the best 'A'
level results of any East Midlands College in each successive year and so produced
enquiries from further afield. As results from some of the local feeder schools were not
too encouraging we decided to put on special buses to cope with demand. The first students
who came from areas such as West Hallam, South Normanton and Kimberley publicised the good
nature of the College and so in 1996 it was obvious that the College numbers were going to
expand significantly, particularly with the extra money and drive to produce good
publicity. This was not tangible evidence until September, so the March Inspection report
suggested numbers would need to increase, and they did to almost 800.
There were changes in the subjects offered, particularly at 'A' level.
Home Economics and Geology were dropped through lack of numbers. Business Studies,
Sociology, Psychology, English Language were introduced - all enjoying a good take up.
Modular 'A' levels were found to be popular with the students and produced good results.
English Language and Religious Studies were the first subjects to be examined via Module
Tests, followed by the Sciences.
Various steps were taken to give less able students suitable courses of
study, an initiative with a city centre group called TRAC being one of the most
interesting. The wholehearted commitment of staff was seen in the range of extra subjects
and activities which were offered to give students a good all-round education. All
students were encouraged to develop their computer skills and tutors under the direction
of the Career Guidance team produced references and together with students - individual
Records of Achievement. The latter was started under the national T.V.E.I. project. All
A-level students continued to do General Studies which eventually was offered as an
additional 'A' level. Drama and music flourished as academic and extra-curricular
subjects, the very high standard being due in no small part to the dedicated work of the
teachers concerned. Sport was very well supported with success at County level in various
team games and also individually and at National level in boy's hockey. Religious
festivals were celebrated in interesting ways and we learnt from each other more about
other faiths. Links with Europe widened to Germany, Alsace and Sweden with some exciting
possibilities for the future. One of the most innovative events was the week of activities
at the end of the summer term with a long distance walk for charity being a particular
Buildings and Resources
When I first arrived the students all congregated in the Entrance Hall in a very
contented huddle, though staff and visitors had to pick their way through a sea of legs.
The snack bar operating there relied on food from the canteen being brought down a steep
slope which was icy in winter. The Snack Bar was condemned on Health and Safety grounds
and the LEA decided the buildings were a very bad fire risk. Hence in 1990 fire
precautions work was carried out and as a result we acquired a new Reception Office, a
stage lighting console at the back of the hall and new Snack Bar adjacent to the canteen
in the area which had been General Studies, Music and Drama. Drama moved to the Hall and
we purchased, at a modest price, raked seating from South Nottinghamshire F.E. College.
Under the FEFC an inspection of buildings was to lead to money being
available for improvements, the first money for the worst buildings. We had high hopes,
but no, other colleges had worse problems. We had to produce an accommodation strategy to
justify anything we wanted doing. Eventually in 1995 the front curtain wall of the
building was replaced as the concrete was crumbling. Then we found the original had never
been tied in properly, but it had stood for nearly 40 years! The Geography block was
rebuilt just before the roof flew away and the windows collapsed.
The College with its own funding put catering out to competitive tender
and we installed a modernised canteen counter and new chairs and tables. A specialist
Electronics room was created adjacent to the Physics lab upstairs and the Typing Room
became the Information Technology room. I.T. expanded in all directions with computers
being added at regular intervals. The library was revamped and expanded into the
reprographics area which took over the old snack bar. A fast copier system replaced the
messy offset litho unit with its unpleasant chemical process. All the time we explored the
best ways of coping in a changing world with limited resources; for example the technical
room was changed to another Art room.
Amid all these changes the Staffroom remained the same with an
occasional tidy up which often brought lost treasures to light. On one occasion the
treasure was a carton of Mars bars about 20 years old!
In my time as Principal, the College almost certainly endured far greater changes
than at any other time previously, most of which were from national directives.
Nevertheless the essential nature of the College remained the same. In spite of all the
extra demands on their time, the staff remained dedicated to the needs of the students in
all aspects of College life and the friendly attitude and atmosphere was retained. I was
proud to have belonged to such a College for it catered for the real needs of students,
and I was privileged to have enjoyed the wholehearted support of staff and students.
Nottingham and surrounding areas should be grateful for the special
contribution to Post-16 Education provided by Bilborough College.
David Martin (Computing, 1981-98)
One of my great pleasures over the past few years of teaching at
Bilborough College has been to work as part of the College's European Team as staff and
students have developed a Partnership with Colleges abroad including ones in Germany
(Städtisches Gymnasium I, Frankfurt Oder), France (LEGTP Stanislas, Wissembourg, France)
and Sweden (Magnus Åbergsgymnasiet, Trollättan). As hosts and guests, staff and students
have shared in culturally rich experiences at a deep personal level, which have developed
into long-term friendships.
Our contacts have been wide ranging and have included links with Italy,
Poland, Russia and Slovakia.
A theme of these links has been generous and genuine hospitality on
both sides, through which long-term friendships have developed. Without this involvement
by a wide range of staff and students our Partnerships would have remained a noble action
plan without much life.
I have just returned from our annual Exchange visit to Germany led by
Jo Edwards (German). It was lovely to meet with a member of staff, Elka Dietrich, to
discuss the start of our links with Germany. She had travelled to a 24-nation summer
course in Rutland Hall on the University campus in 1989 and through this had been put in
contact with Peter Stay (Vice Principal). He visited the Frankfurt Oder College in
October, 1990, with two students and started our long association with the college that
has developed through many transitions.
Our students and staff have just returned from an Exchange visit to
France and the staff and students from LEGTP Stanislas are with us for a few days. In
1993, Diane Fletcher (French) accepted an invitation to join in an East Midlands
Partnership scheme with the Alsace Region. This led to a formal twinning with the College,
annual exchange visits and an exchange of staff as Diane Fletcher taught at LEGTP
Stanislas and Nicole Junger taught at Bilborough College for two terms in the 1997-8
With our contacts with Germany and France the scene was now set for a
Partnership of Colleges. Malcolm Swan, a lecturer in Mathematical Education at the
University of Nottingham visited a College in Trollhättan, Sweden in 1994. He sent a copy
of a letter he received to local Colleges. It read 'For some considerable time now
we have been endeavouring to establish a link with a 6th Form College / Technical College
in the UK but with absolutely no success! Perhaps you may be able to help in some way . .
.'. The letter was posted on the staff notice board. Peter Ford and I replied on
the 30th January, 1995, by Fax with a brief message 'Peter Ford, Business Studies.
David Martin, Computing - friend of Malcolm Swan, wish to investigate linking of College
(Sixth Form College) with Magnus . . . ' and within three months, on 1st May,
1995, a party of Swedish staff were flying to us to discuss links. Fruitful meetings in
various tea-shops and pubs in Derbyshire, Nottingham and York cemented our link and we
made a return visit in the October, 1995, half term, by the cheapest route possible. Chris
Brierley, Peter Ford, Hilary Jones and myself were treated to memorable views and
delightful friendships. In a few days after our return we welcomed the first of an annual
exchange of students from Sweden and the tears at their departure made us all realise the
impact of the visit. By November, 1996, a number of visits had taken place between the
different Colleges, and representatives from each of the Colleges met in Nottingham to
discuss a joint Comenius 'Youth Culture' Project. By 1st March, 1997, we had successfully
applied for funding from the European Union to start a joint project on 1st August, 1997.
Our first meeting of Heads and Staff Co-ordinators was held in Sweden in April, 1997, to
plan for the Partnership and Project. The speed of development at times was both exciting
and breathtaking and one that challenged the College's ability to cope with new funding
and strategic plans.
In September, 2000, staff and students from the four Colleges will meet
together for an activities camp in Frankfurt Oder, providing an opportunity to have fun
together and to continue to develop understanding and friendships that will impact
positively on the lives of many.
For me the last few years have been a time for expanding horizons and
wonderful friendships. It has been a privilege to be a part of it.
A Risk Worth Taking
Magnus Poole (1991-93)
I am grateful to Bilborough College for encouraging me in my efforts to
do something very unusual: to combine Arts and Science subjects at A-level. This was a
risk, but in view of the efforts being made nowadays to encourage students to do exactly
what I did, I think it was a risk worth taking, and I enjoyed being a pioneer!
So it was bracing to move from classes in 'Eng Lit' (D H Lawrence's
'the country of my heart' lay right opposite the front gate of Bilborough College, which
inspired me as I was studying The Rainbow) and the short stories of Maupassant (I
even trekked over to Paris to look at the setting of Two Friends at Argenteuil) to
classes in Organic Reactions! I made good friends on both sides of the cultural divide.
But I could not have made these transitions without the encouragement
of one teacher in particular - Dr Robinson. He was patient and supportive and always put
in extra time with me (it goes without saying that I was not a strong candidate!) but the
most important thing was that he did not treat me differently from the straight Science
students. I think he understood why I was doing what I was doing, and the fact that he
himself has been breaking down the 'two cultures' divide by learning Spanish speaks
The confidence that I gained at Bilborough allowed me to repeat the
manuvre when I went to University. I got a place at the University of East Anglia to
read Scandinavian Studies (my mother is Danish) but I still wanted to do some Chemistry at
University level. No-one else had ever done this before at UEA, and when I turned up for
my first tutorial, everyone thought I was just a 'blip' on the computer! But I was
serious, and I took modules in organic and inorganic Chemistry in my third year, and even
got 'A's for my experimental work, though my exam marks were less glorious! I came out at
the end of the course with a 2(i) - mostly Ibsen and Strindberg, but . . . some Chemistry
in there somewhere! If I made history at UEA, it was all due to the broad-minded policies
Since I took my degree, I have been working at the Royal Centre in
Nottingham, so 'Arts' have won out in the end. But I suppose that was pretty predictable.
18th September, 1999