Marriage of Grammar & Secondary Modern School.

By A .L. Jones, Head Master of Chipping Campden School, reported in EJ of Sept.1965.

Copyright EJ; transcribed by Tess Taylor.

The new comprehensive school at Chipping Campden which will be  formally opened on Sept.30th by Sir Patrick Linstead, F.R.S., has been built & equipped at a cost approaching £300,000.  It offers education to boys & girls who would in the past have either attended Chipping Campden Grammar School or Moreton-in-Marsh Secondary Modern School.

Every Gloucestershire pupil of secondary school age in the old Grammar School catchment area, stretching from Bledington to Mickleton, and from Todenham to Willersey, is eligible for admission, and in addition there are pupils with selective schools in South Warwickshire, with which the Grammar School had long and valued connections. Numbers at the outset are just under 800, with a full time teaching staff of over 40.

The new buildings have been erected on the GS. site & incorporate the 1927 building. There are many very handsome features that contrast sharply with memories of lessons in the old A.T.C. or Huts 1 & 2 at Campden or the wooden sprawl at Moreton. For example the west block comprises seven laboratories, four of them full sized for main school work, and three smaller but still generous for sixth formers.

There is a fine assembly hall, with a large,fully-equipped stage. The north block includes two spacious libraries, & excellent rooms for music, art, history & geography.

An unusual feature of the physical education accomodation is that instead of the second gymnasium to which the school was entitled there has been built a large sports hall in which it is planned to play a variety of indoor & outdoor games, & which will be a splendid amenity in wet weather. (The swimming pool for which parents are now collecting money, will be sited next to the sports hall.)

The 1927 rooms remain in use as classrooms except that the old chemical laboratory is now a needlework room. The east block includes a good range of workshops and practical rooms. At a late stage another room was added & is being equipped as a closed-circuit television room, & a teacher has been appointed whose main concern will be experimental work.It is expected that the two kitchens will serve about 750 meals a day, these will be eaten in the assembly & old dining halls.

The schoool retains the advantage of having its playing fields on the site. The old fields have been extended, & land between the school & Aston Rd, in addition to an area for rural science, will be levelled to provide a further hockey pitch. (The Gilbert Ashe-made mountain will then disappear!)

On the school site, but divorced from the main building, a ‘terrapin’ prefabricated building has been reserved for youth club use, & the newly appointed club leader will spend half his time as a member of the school staff.

The first public mention of the idea of joining the two secondary schools was in September, 1958, & came ironically, at a public meeting called at Moreton ostensibly to hear where the long awaited new modern school was to be built.

In the months that followed, there was much opposition to the proposal. Some were understandably bitter that the new building, so long fought for, might now never be built. There were strong personal loyalties involved. Some clearly feared that in  a ‘bilateral’ school the interests of non-academic children would be neglected, and that the varied original work done at Moreton, to which a recent EJ article paid tribute, would be lost. Others wished to defend the Grammar School.

Even after the governing bodies of the two schools had finally accepted the Local Education Authority’s proposal, those still in opposition petitioned the Minister for a public enquiry. This petition the Minister rejected.

These events are recalled now not to revive controversy, but to emphasise how opinion has developed since. Though some still certainly think the comprehensive approach wrong in principle, and perhaps more wonder if it will work in practice, there is no doubt about the active goodwill and support of most people in the district whose lives are affected.

Why has this change occured? In part it is because many of those who first led the opposition generously turned to support the scheme once the Minister had refused a public enquiry. Secondly, the passage of time has elapsed: the seven lean, frustrating years of waiting since 1958 have at least made the idea of one secondary school more understood and therefore more acceptable; one can now talk of ‘comprehensive’ and not ‘bilateral’, and appeal to ideas of unity; comprehensive schools elsewhere clearly work. Thirdly, the Campden decision was demonstrably not a party political decision: Gloucestershire local government is not run on strict party lines; it would no doubt be an exaggeration to think of the two governing bodies concerned as aggresively left wing; the Minister in office was a member of a Conservative government, and thinkers in all political parties have frequently supported the comprehensive solution for thinly populated rural areas. Finally, people came to see that this is a district in which the advantages of a single, fairly large secondary school might operate strongly, and the drawbacks be largely overcome.

Why go comprehensive? Since I have the exciting privilege of working in this new school, I have no wish to be impersonal about this; on the other hand those who see no snags in the comprehensive solution seem to me as foolish as those who see nothing but snags. It is a question of gains & losses.

It is not difficult to put up a case that the comprehensive school can foster unity, offer genuine equality of opportunity and give a framework in which the problems of selection at 11-plus or later, can largely be overcome. On the other hand, one can also argue that the comprehensive school may exacerbate social problems (what people talk of vaguely as ‘lowering standards’), hold back the able child, or conversely, impose a rat-race on less able, & fail to give proper scope & encouragement to some sections of student community whose members will differ so widely in abilities & attitudes.

My own opinion is that in this part of Gloucestershire the positive & negative reasons for adopting the comprehensive approach make a formidable list, and that the decision taken is a great step forward.

In this district despite some bickerings about who keeps the fire engine and the ambulance, and who pays rates to support what public hall, there is a strong sense of community, and if the young can without harm be united instead of split into two as before it is surely clear gain to families and villages to unite them.

It is not a question of using the Grammar School and the Modern School to form other schools, but of marrying them. Though in some ways a good smallish school always ought to do better than a biggish school, the numbers we have – 800 – are not frightening. For the Local Authority, trying to provide a good secondary education in this scattered, thinly populated area, one school instead of two must be a positive, attractive economy, and recent experience suggests that staff recruitment should certainly be helped.

What do we hope to achieve at Campden? Before deciding our organisation we had a good look at other similar schools, and were in particular impressed with what we saw in Bristol. Our aim is that so far as work is concerned, no pupil should have a poorer opportunity than he would have enjoyed in a separate grammar or modern school, and that most, by virtue of better staffing and accomodation and more flexible organisation, will have a decidedly better chance.

Our purpose will be to encourage everybody to make the best of himself: this may mean, as for last winter’s head girl at Campden, a place at Oxford. or, for a slow learner at the other extreme, the courage to turn from the comic strip to the letterpress of a daily newspaper. Since we are humans dealing with humans we shall no doubt often fail. In particular, there may be pupils who in the past would have been given a selective place at Campden and who, by deternined idleness will contrive to move even more slowly in the comprehensive than in the grammar school, for flexibility works both ways. On the other hand, we shall be disconcerted if there is any significant falling away in scholastic standards; indeed we expect a slight improvement at sixth-form level and a greater improvement elsewhere.

To pupils who do not aim at public examinations, & who have normally left school at 15, we can offer facilities & a variety of courses quite impossible at Moreton. To those (perhaps 60% of each age group) who can profitably aim at a public examination (G.C.E or C.S.E. or a combination of two) we can offer such a range of subject choice that after the third year, each pupil will have in fact his own time-table. This flexibility should particularly help those who previously at Campden have found G.C.E. Ordinary level beyond them, and those who at Moreton have developed late.

Experience at Campden in a two -form entry grammar school taking nearly 40% of an age group has given us a healthy scepticism about 11-plus; in the new school therefore, we intend to go a long way towards ‘unstreaming’ the first year and putting all forms on a common course, and then by ‘setting’ in later years to ensure every pupil is encouraged to work at his best pace.

Socially, our aims are to strengthen a sense of unity, to encourage boys and girls of widely different abilities and backgrounds to realise that they have much of value to learn from and give to each other (as they do in their village primary schools) and to see that every pupil is known and treated as an individual in this large school. To do this we are relying on a form system in the junior school and on a house organisation, with mixed ability groups under house tutors, in years 3,4 and 5.

One difficulty in the comprehensive school is to give scope to the kind of boy or girl who at 15 or 16 would be a responsible prefect in a modern school. There seems no complete answer to this, but at Campden we shall do what we can by having many prefects’ duties carried out by fifth-formers instead of by sixth-formers as in the past. We shall try to give the sixth a more distinct, separate status than formerly, and we have some of the desirable accomodation to do it. But at the same time we shall extend a past Campden practice and attach every sixth-former to a form or tutor group in the main school to assist the form teacher or house tutor.

These of course are aims, not yet achievements! The organisation is simply a machine, and has to be worked. There is nothing original in ours; we have merely picked others’ brains and tried to work through to the solution that best suited our conditions. In the next year or so we shall be learning hard, and may have modifications to make.

We have often felt, and especially at Campden in the opast two years, despite the consideration shown by Messrs. Gilbert-Ash, that it would have been easier – less wearing for us trying to compete with builders’ noise and mud at Campden, and less emotionally disturbing for those in a dying school at Moreton – had the new school been built somewhere else, eg. Draycott. Yet we shall have failed if within a very few years we have not made capital out of the obvious continuity of development at Campden. For legally and constitutionally the new school is the old 15th century Fereby foundation; there is the same governing body with the same powers and endowments. The governors have changed the name because the new school will be neither ‘grammar’ only nor ‘modern’ only, but we hope to continue what was best in the life of both schools. One can have a more than antiquarian attachment to the past, and it is well to remember what tremendous changes have come to small country grammar schools in this century alone. It may surely be argued that for Campden School 1965 will be a development of the Acts of 1902 and 1944, and the present change less radical than on previous occasion. It is a question of how best to use the gifts of many yesterdays to meet the opportunity of today

As local newspapers, even good ones, think that they thrive on controversy, Evsham Journal readers are likely to know that the new school has a cycle shelter and will have some staff houses. The clamour about these buildings underlines the peculiar difficulties facing the County Architect once it was decided to build at Campden rather than elsewhere. He had not only to design a school of given type and size that could be built for the sum allocated by the Ministry, but had also to put up a building that would live in Campden and satisfy the neighbourhood and the planning authority.

The decision to make the 1927 building an integral part of the whole increased his difficulty. It is unlikely that working elsewhere and given a free hand he would have spent any part of his resources on reconstructed stone or steeply pitched roofs, and it is tempting to argue, particularly if one is a schoolmaster, that a school is a functional building that even in Campden cannot and should not be built in ‘traditional Cotswold’ unless extra money is available.

In the event, despite this nagging ‘consumption of the purse’ that has given him one problem after another, the architect has contrived a building that from a teaching point of view has a great many handsome features, and that looks well from close and long range. In particular, although no other building in Campden, not even the church, is on anything like the same scale, the school merges with extraordinary success into the general plan of this small and beautiful town. One reflects wryly that the cycle shelter, which is the only aspect of the new building to provoke public criticism, was erected in its expensive style instead of the usual steel frame and asbestos sheets in a special effort to meet the special local situation.

One senses that despite the fuss and the headlines there is in the district a strong undercurrent of feeling that though we have in the area great natural and man-made beauty to respect and preserve, these are issues where the present cannot and need not be scarificed to the past, and where reasonable man will seek a compromise. The staff housing is a case in point.

No institution will be more influential in the life of the area than the new school, whether it works well or ill, and there was realisation among those most intimately connected with the school -governors, staff, parents – that in Campden it would be very difficult over the years to attract staff of quality, particularly young teachers taking an early post in their careers, unless something could be done to ease the housing situation. This led to the decision to form a housing association, and after several years of frustrating delay, the accomodation (ten houses and two flats) is now about to be built on the east side of the Aston Rd. This scheme has been much misrepresented. The houses will not dominate the road and in any case have been attractively designed by local architects of high repute. Since they are not subsidised, but must be let at economic rents, it was reluctantly decided not to build them in real stone. But then who, even in Campden, does now build in stone except speculative builders and well-breeched citizens? There will be no charge on public money: even the land has been bought from the County Council at full market value. At first, no doubt, since rents must be high, several or even most of these houses may have to be let to tenants who are not teachers, but this will right itself over the years. To appreciate that this venture is perhaps unique of its kind one has merely to ask who in this country, other than local housing authorities, now builds houses to let. The scheme is a wonderful gesture of hard-headed vision, and should in generations to come be of inestimable value in enabling Chipping Campden School to play its full part in the life of the community.

 

 

This page was added on 23/03/2015.

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