Peter Jenkins writes from Spain
Between the Vestibule and the Main Hall – 2007
I was looking through the BBC News website this morning when I saw a link saying ‘See how your secondary school is doing’ (Postcode DA14 5AA). I clicked the link and thought, “I wonder how Kemnal is keeping up the tradition of CVTHS?” Searching through the results for Bromley Borough I eventually found it but, OMG, there it was almost at the bottom of the tables in secondary success, sixth form success, and absenteeism, together with an Ofsted ranking of ‘Requires improvement’! What have they done to our school?
Mick Abbott’s Video tour of the School in 2012
Paul Meddemmen Writes:
You can only reap what you sow and we were fortunate enough to be passing through the system shortly before the “progressive” thinkers got hold of our education system. In our time apart from our technical education we also had instilled in us the fundamental principles of how to live and behave in a good society. Not only were we blessed with, in the main, dedicated and highly competent masters they also formed the framework of a strict but mostly fair environment. I have continued to hold these values all my life and together with my wife (Buller’s Wood) like to think we have successfully passed them on to our children despite the education system rather than because of it. We had moved to North Wales but were fortunate enough to be near a good school that taught, in part, in English, and where the main qualification requirements of a teacher were not just that they could speak Welsh! The secondary school my children attended, in the late 90s, had been a technical school and was fully equipped with workshops which we were shown around on a preview day. However, it transpired that these workshops had no place in the curriculum. At the time I was disappointed but now realise with the total loss of our manufacturing capability this was probably a good thing.
We found it very necessary to supplement their school education with almost nightly tuition at home and coaching in public and dress behaviour. My children, now in their 30s, are very hard working and very successful in their chosen careers and both have said to me how much they now valued the coaching they received at home and how it prepared them for their further education and life. I now see these values, Cray Valley values, being instilled in my grandchild.
I am very proud of my children and I attribute this in no small way to the excellent education and values I received from the teachers at Cray Valley, and my wife at Buller’s Wood, within the education system at that time.
I attended Hurst Road primary school before Cray Valley, and my final 4th-year teacher, Miss Usherwood, was ‘old school’ strict but fair. She started the year by quoting a phrase I have always remembered: “Work hard, play hard, but never mix the two.”
My teacher’s legacy lives on.
It was a different world then.
Paul Meddemmen – 26th January 2018
Neil Gent Replies:
I would guess like the majority of members of this site I can associate myself with a great deal of what you say, but I would make some positive current day observations about education.
Let me start by saying that I live in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which with regard to State education has long been one of the best boroughs in the UK in which to live, in fact it was one reason for us moving there in 1978.
I have two daughters and the borough has a girls’ school, which has recently become co-ed just for the 6th form.
I make the above points because they are obviously relevant to my experience as a parental consumer of State education, and both my wife and I and our daughters were broadly satisfied with the education they received in the borough. At the time my daughters completed their GCSEs there were no 6th forms in borough schools, the borough had a 6th form college and there were 2 more 6th form colleges in neighbouring boroughs. Experience with the colleges was not as good as with the schools. Schools in the borough are now Academies and in the past two years, all have opened 6th forms, which are thriving.
And now to the meat of this post. Anybody who has read my occasional posts on here knows I am engaged with a charity called “Young Enterprise”, I act as a volunteer advisor with 6th form teams who in a single Academic year set up a business, trade and then wind the business up – the complete cycle in about 10 months, it requires individual imagination and creativity as well as strong teamwork; it develops confidence, speaking skills, responsibility and so on and so forth. As a result, I am in a State School once a week working with 2 teachers and one other advisor, one school a year. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and have supported one of the best private girls’ day schools in the country, a “recovery” State school in a relatively tough area whose performance has been turned around over the past 5 or 6 years, and currently in an OFSTED outstanding rated State secondary school.
The private school was very interesting, the girls were charming and polite almost to a fault, they were also exceedingly bright; they were not always highly motivated.
The school I characterised as “turn around”, located in one of my neighbouring boroughs, has a really good and motivated teaching staff who are highly engaged with the kids in both curricular and extra-curricular activity, any of us who knew “Joe” Kingsland would recognise some of the same characteristics in the Head at this school. The teacher who leads the Young Enterprise activity is absolutely terrific. His dedication to education, and in particular State education, knows no bounds. He knows how to encourage, chide, praise and criticise in equal measure, he can be great fun and also daunting, he is both respected and liked by kids and colleagues alike. He has been a Country level sportsman and is also a devout Muslim. Any of us would be proud to be parents of any of the kids – of just about every ethnicity and religion that exists – they frequently come from quite tough backgrounds but they are ambitious for themselves and keen to achieve, last year saw the first to gain a place at Oxford, to read Physics.
My current school tells a similar story, apart from the fact that it has never in its history been a poor performing school. The teacher I work with here moved from a City job into teaching 4 years ago, he is an economist who teaches maths and business studies – he is highly dedicated and will do just about anything for the kids. Working with him is a lot of fun, in part because he is a self-confessed “bit of a leftie” and I most certainly am not, we tease each other and get along together very, very well.
So, I started by associating myself with most of your comments, I too mourn what was done to my old school, I too have seen some of the awful side effects of some of the half-baked educational theories which have descended on us over the years, the focus of my own main gripe being about the teaching of English over the past thirty years or so. But, in spite of all of this, my personal observations are that there are still great kids out there being (now) well taught by some great and dedicated teachers in some very good schools. That there is still is a huge distance to travel before the national average is up to anything close to what we experienced is beyond doubt, but from what I see on a weekly basis we are going in the right direction.
Neil Gent – 27 January 2018