Abbeydale Grange - The Whole Story

Part 3

Much of the next thirty years is covered be the excellent article in The Guardian that I referred to in the first section "Bias that killed the dream of Equality" published Wednesday 15th September 1999

I have no intention of duplicating his comments as I agree with his analysis and conclusions. What I did disagree with was his supposition that the School was in a healthy state when it became Comprehensive. Superficially if you measure success with passes at O Level and A Level the school was a success. It could hardly fail on that as it had creamed off the best the city had to offer in the 11+ selection process and left the other schools with the less academically gifted. However underlying this "success" were severe structural and social issues that no-one tackled. To say that the staff and school were complacent in the 1960's would be an understatement. In a decade of remarkable changes in the social and cultural life of the country, the School continued to function, oblivious to the changes that were happening in the real world.

They surely must have recognised that the inherent unfairness of the system was bound to be challenged eventually. Even though they did next to nothing all was not lost. If the staff and parents of selected pupils had shown goodwill towards the development of comprehensive education then it would have stood a far better chance of being a success. The goodwill failed to materialise though and into this vacuum came politicians of all persuasions. And once politicians coupled with the prejudices of the white middle classes were let loose, the School did not have a chance to develop. It was lumbered with the baggage of a minor Public School and yet was also expected to take on board the latest in educational thinking.

I went back to the School for the first time in nearly thirty years a couple of years ago just prior to when the Guardian article was written. I said that I would never go near the place again after I left but a natural curiosity and the long passage of time weakened my resolve. I think that the thoughts of George Orwell on the subject of childhood memories sums it up

"And if I went inside ... I think I should only feel what one invariably feels in revisiting any scene of childhood: How small everything has grown, and how terrible is the deterioration in myself!"
-- George Orwell, "Such, Such were the Joys"

And so I went to a Table Top Sale with my friend Jeff Thorne who was an inmate at the same time as myself. My first impression was that the physical surroundings had not changed at all. The school dining rooms and the school hall together with the main foyer were more or less as they were in the 1960's. To be frank the place was tatty and shabby. It looked as though nothing had been done in the time since I left. The smell was not the same though. The school in the 1960's smelt of furniture polish, cabbage and teenage body odours. The smell was slightly the same but was the overpowering one was one of mustiness and benign neglect.

It was blatantly apparent that relatively little or even no money had been spent on the School itself in the intervening period. So what with a combination of social division, middle class prejudice, persistent political interference and non-existent funding it is no wonder that the School has ended in the state it has. Despite the upbeat utterances of those that have an vested interest in furthering this abject state affairs, and believe me, they are many , there are more complex and sinister motives behind the startling decline of the once "prestigious" School.

To review these "motives" you need to read - Abbeydale Grange - The Whole Story Part 4

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