The Prescotian Webzine

There it is. My name. It’s there alongside others in the entry list for 1948-49. I don’t recall many of the other names. There are three Dereks; Cross, Hewitt and Dangar, who had little in common other than their Christian name. Then there was Mickey Barron who seemed to know all about finger pie many years before the Beatles introduced the term to a wider audience. There’s Brian Stanhope. That name rings a bell. After all this time none of the others has any resonance at all. Nor for that matter does the Prescotian magazine itself from that time. I don’t remember it. However, now that I have seen that old publication on the website I’ve done a little research. The list is headed SALVETE (I’m one of the Lambdas if you want to look it up) and a moment or two on Google tells me that it means Welcome. I wouldn’t have known that at the time. How could I? And so far as I can remember that was the only indication I ever encountered that I really was welcome in PGS.You may have gathered by now that my years there were not what might be described as ‘the happiest days of my life’.

I only have a few vivid memories of my time there. Those are about the nasty things that boys did to frogs on the school playing field and with the frozen cat behind the air-raid shelter, along with the mild bullying to which I was subjected. In the class room I can recall warm compliments from Miss Beresford about an essay I wrote and facetious ones from Mr Dixon because in those days I used to read some science fiction. After four years of loneliness and deteriorating school reports in an environment which in retrospect was clearly not for me I ended up in 5C. Sixth-form of course was a non-starter. It’s not that I mis-behaved during my years there, on the contrary, but I suppose I was a bit of a loner, perhaps even what might be described as a wimp. I had passed the 11-plus and so I was deemed to have had some sort of potential to succeed in a grammar school. The 11-plus was a test of intelligence but I now know that we need more than intelligence to enjoy success. These days there is talk of ‘emotional intelligence’ as well and a degree of motivation can help.

What perhaps stands out in my memory was not something that was there at PGS but something that was absent. There was a total lack of any guidance or support. I cannot recall anyone offering advice or talking to me about my performance. That was even true about sporting performance. I wasn’t at all interested in football but I do remember that I had the makings of being a good runner. That’s just my perception but nobody ‘spotted’ or encouraged me or gave me any feedback whatsoever. I can’t remember the school motto and as it was probably in Latin it wouldn’t have meant much to me at first. However, whatever it was I think it should have been ‘Sink or swim’ because that was what it felt like. For many it was fine, they managed to swim and as a result they were able to succeed in one way or another and they probably enjoyed their time at PGS. Others, like me, simply sank without leaving much trace at the school. Why was that I wonder? Was the fault solely mine or might a different environment have awakened within me a greater desire to learn? As it was the system in those days didn’t acknowledge such things as ‘late developers’ and it was designed to admit only ten percent or less into higher education. The rest who did not make it to grammar school or who did not perform well there were apparently of not much concern.

Fortunately, since then it has increasingly been realised that education shouldn’t be available at just one early stage in one’s life and these days there are opportunities for more mature learners throughout their lives. And in a way my lost years at PGS don’t matter now as I am able to look back on a very successful and rewarding career in Human Resource Management. In addition, I’ve been to the Palace and received my gong from the Queen. I’ve sung, danced and acted my heart out in a variety of amateur musical productions and that latent ability to run quite well was exploited late in life as I have enjoyed over twenty-five wonderful years of fell-running. On the other hand for me my time at PGS was not really what education should be about. Schools have changed a lot since those days and they do try to help, encourage and enthuse more than they did then. But what a waste it was for me and no doubt still for others today.

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