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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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;
I am Chief. Executive of State Education pic. The
Chairman of the holding company (at No 10) gives
me three tasks:
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,
exciting tasks. Suppose I come up with this
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
g. I will suggest that they re-train on
Saturdays, unpaid, because it is for their own
h. For all this I suggest. Chairman, that we pay
them 4% less than the average for other workers
and 2% less than inflation.
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.
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.
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.
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 !