The Prescotian Webzine

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George Bernard Shaw said that every man over forty is a scoundrel. If that be true then there is an immense amount of roguery here this evening, balanced only by wisdom which as you know is in most cultures personified as female. As for those under forty, I an delighted to see you, both the wise and the rogues.

Inevitably, when education is mentioned today it is a serious and worrying business but remembering the Antique Restorer's Guide "the application of alcohol removes the surface veneer" I will proceed.

I remember last year hearing Geoffrey Dixon's account of bis first visit to PGS when he anticipated the noble brick of an ancient foundation only to find the chicken farm. More recently the building has acquired the name R.A.F. Prescot. I recall my first visit in 1977, buckets collecting the rain as it flooded through the roof, children everywhere, walk resplendent with trophies but. above all, a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I hardly knew all the buildings before the disastrous fires of 1977-78. I will always remember three sixth formers standing silent and motionless looking at the sad remains "Memories, Sir." Even after such a short time there was something about that building which had shaped my life - how much more, yours? A few rooms remain but they are no longer classrooms.

Although the change from grammar to comprehensive has been proceeding for 45 years there is soil a reluctance to accept that the change has had any benefits. I shall not develop this theme but this change in Prescot is comparable to that which took place in PGS at the turn of the century. For those who dare to say in front of the ladies "But they let girls in as well" - this was but a return to the Prescotian tradition of the 18th century.

When I arrived I found that the staff had been encouraged to embrace the comprehensive ideal too intimately. They were reasonable to argument, listened to the experience of one who had worked in a large comprehensive and they were very concerned to retain what was good from the grammar school days while responding to the wider opportunities of a broader intake. So much depends upon the staff - they give continuity. Most were thoughtful and prepared to deal with the constant interruptions to our plans. Some of those staff are still with us - pupils think, of them as relics from WW1.

I am sorry that we have lost some of the eccentrics who are always remembered on occasions such as this reunion. This summer we lost another link with the past, Des Roberts, who was developing endearing eccentricities.

The school is fortunate in retaining the Endowment Fund and the 400th Anniversary Fund to which many of you contributed. They enable us to offer a more appropriate and imaginative curriculum. Never has this been more import- ant than now as the national curriculum begins to bite.

On 12th. October we hold the Founder's Day Service at the Parish Church. We treasure this remembrance of our founders and benefactors and it reminds the pupils of their heritage. Furthermore, the history of the School is incorporated into our Year One programme.

One of our constant problems is falling rolls but the decrease of the Upper School of PGS to 12 in the 19th century puts our decrease from 1300 in 1977 to 670 in 1985 into perspective. However, this September we have admitted 211 into Year One (forecast 104) and 40 into other years; an overall increase of 19% of the school population. The split site problem remains though less severe than in 1920 prior to the completion of the St. Helens Road building. Again we are going through a period of change when some of the reforms should carry a health warning. Largely untested, they may have unexpected side effects. Market forces, the enterprise economy, quality control management are all being embedded into our schools regardless of their appropriateness. The government insists on these things but gives inadequate support.

Heads. Deputies, Heads of Departments must all have a mission -the latest buzzword, flavour of the month. Recently the President of the Secondary Heads Association said;

"Suppose I am Chief. Executive of State Education pic. The Chairman of the holding company (at No 10) gives me three tasks:

1 Improve the quality of the end product
2 Make it competitive in the world market
3 In order to achieve these, recruit and retain the best professional workforce,

Splendid, exciting tasks. Suppose I come up with this answer

a. I'll re-organise all the factories in the company and require all the workers to out in more, hours and learn new skills.
b. I will also set up a few other independent factories, give them a better financial base and let them compete with State Education plc
c. I'll give all the workers new goals and make them learn new manuals.
d. I'll introduce new monitoring techniques for the product -which the workers learn and apply, plus new, quality control.
e. I'll take away the workers' negotiating rights, impose pay settlements and conditions of employment without negotiation.
f. I'll introduce unskilled workers to do the same job as the skilled. I'll even get the skilled ones to teach them, unpaid, in their spare time.
g. I will suggest that they re-train on Saturdays, unpaid, because it is for their own benefit.
h. For all this I suggest. Chairman, that we pay them 4% less than the average for other workers and 2% less than inflation.

If market forces were operating would get the sack for suggesting such a management plan.

We have had to learn to work under 1260 hours of "directed time". We are expected to manage a National Curriculum of ten subjects plus RE for all up to the age of 16. There is compulsory collective worship. The byzantine rules on charging for school activities are a positive discouragement to all out-of-school activities. We can no longer insist that parents provide their children with pens, pencils etc. for use in the classroom.

Some good aspects are hidden within most of these and the encouragement to schools to promote themselves has been very beneficial to Prescot School. We are fortunate that we are able to advertise that we have the best GCSE exam results in Knowsley.

In the meantime, the vast majority of our pupils are "great". I sometimes wish they would work harder, that they had a longer attention span and had more parental support. However, their concern for others is demonstrated by their raising more than 1,000 for charities for the last five years. Five pupils were awarded prizes in the national competition organised by the Mathematical Association. We have a swimmer of national standard, a team of boys and girls were top in the Knowsley league in swimming, cross-country and athletics. Musicians present will be pleased to know that the school's instrumentalists are crucial to the success of the Borough Orchestra.

We have desperate financial problems not because we are in charge of our own financial affairs but because the base budget is too low. Please try to imagine having to manage on an annual capitation sum 28 for all class-room and teaching resources including books. A fairy godmother would be most welcome !


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