KING EDWARD VII SCHOOL, SHEFFIELD

SPEECH DAY

NOVEMBER 27th, 1951

This is the report given by Mr N L Clapton, Headmaster, at the Speech Day of 1951 (source: carbon copy of typed notes)

HEADMASTER'S REPORT            1951.

Mr. Chairman, My Lord Mayor, Master Cutler, Admiral Sir Denis Boyd, Ladies and Gentlemen …

The Annual Speech Day had originally been dated as October 23rd, but owing to the proximity of the General Election it was decided to postpone it. I should like to thank our guest of honour, Admiral Sir Denis Boyd, very much for accommodating himself to our new date. We appreciate his coming very much, as he is a very busy man and has a full programme.

I am afraid the holding of Speech Day in the Autumn Term is a break with long established custom here, and feelings are, of course, mixed on the change. However, it seems more appropriate, to me at any rate, to be able to speak of a school year in its entirety; that is not possible when Speech Day is held before the end of the School Year. In order to preserve the continuity of the School Honours, the booklet contains the results of the 1950 Higher School Certificate and School Certificate and others which had not been published.

It is not a particularly easy act to follow such a public figure as my predecessor; in personality, method, energy and outlook Dr. Barton had for long been an outstanding figure in the world of education. We are not quite, but almost completely, different in most respects. However, I do not think that need cause any undue alarm; my sense of duty is as strong or stronger than most people’s, even if it may manifest itself in different ways. Coming to a complex organism like King Edward's during a School Year placed me at a disadvantage. I felt it was best not to press for changes except where these were obviously needed; such were few and unimportant, so that there are no changes to report on for the year 1950 - 51. First impressions are not always wise; they can be dangerous, and I found as the year went on the full force of this. Much of the system has been in being for a considerable time and things oft repeated become established customs, which are jealously regarded by those who benefit from them. A long founded system of order and nomenclature does inevitably make for a certain ease of procedure, and one can fully understand the natural antipathy which greets any proposal for variation. There has been and still is a very strong loyalty to the School among its members, and a keen sense of the School’s importance and record. I hope we can maintain this loyalty to the full. The number of boys who passed through the old Junior School is rapidly diminishing, and though I may be wrong, I feel that much of this strong sense of loyalty was due to them. I noticed that some who left at the end at last year had been at the School eleven or twelve years in all. That period does most definitely give a boy a strong attachment to his school and this regard does make itself felt.

We live in a rapidly changing world to-day and we must accustom ourselves to changes, while still holding fast to our traditions, but not necessarily our customs. One or two changes have been effected this year, but the effect has yet to be tested, and the proper place for discussion is in next year's report. The life of a large School manifests itself in many shapes, and in this report reference must essentially be made to them all. Comparison with other years is difficult for me, so I must content myself with merely being factual, at the risk of boring you. The Governors have their regular reports, parents who read the Magazine see all recorded therein; the boys know it all anyhow.

Referring first to examination results, we had an excellent year for Awards at the older universities. Four out of the seven Hastings Scholarships given came our way, a splendid performance, and three boys were given prizes for meritorious work in the examination. All three later obtained Open Awards. I think that evidence disposes of sneers as to the standard expected in the Hastings Scholarship Examination which I have heard. We were glad to see MacBeth’s Award for Classics at New College; our Head Prefect for the major part of last year he was most able boy with outstanding personal qualities. We congratulate all these winners of Scholarships for their combined performance in these days of intensified competition, but much as we would like to, it is hardly possible to maintain such a crop annually.

We again won the Earnshaw Scholarship through Fair's efforts in Mathematics, but in the Akroyd Examination last year we were not successful, our candidates being placed third and sixth.

This was the first year of the new examination system, superseding the old School Certificate and. Higher School Certificate and our feelings are very mixed as to the benefits conferred on us by it. One factor emerges, the difficulty of attempting to make comparisons, in fact the impossibility of it. Out of what would have been the normal School Certificate entry, 60 boys were unable to enter owing to the age restriction, All others who had reached the School Certificate level ware presented at 0 Level, and in addition a number of boys who were too young in the preceding year and had begun specializing took a few subjects, while odd boys in Sixth entered for subjects in order to improve their standing for university entry. The entry was therefore entirely miscellaneous and I imagine this will continue. Since the old system of all boys of the required standard presenting themselves for examination in a wide field of subjects did not obtain, one cannot compare results. There is no formula for passing now; this is in itself a good thing, but one can scarcely call it a subject examination since a boy who is eventually taking a subject at Advanced Level is not likely to take that at Ordinary Level. Entries therefore on the whole at 0 Level cut out the best performers and leave those who are leaving School and therefore taking as much as possible with others who are taking subjects for University entry which they are not going to specialise in, and weaker boys who may possibly have to be held back before specializing. Percentages of passes are therefore meaningless, since the whole range of boys has not been presented for the examination. Reviewing the results at 0 Level one can say they were generally satisfactory.

The examination at A Level has not changed so much from the old Higher School Certificate Examination. Here the results in most cases were quite good, with the exception of the science subjects. Changes in staff no doubt contributed here, as it is a1ways disconcerting to change masters during the year of the actual examination. There were, however, a number of weak candidates.

There is no doubt that the number of lucrative openings for Science graduates exerts a strong pull towards the Science side, but this is so throughout the country and consequently standards of entry to the Universities are rising. Parents would do well to review their son's performance in Science carefully as compared with that in other subjects before opting for the Science side, The shortage of Science Masters to-day is a most worrying fact; if it continues, we shall be forced to apply a rigorous standard for those who wish to specialize in Science; otherwise it will be quite impossible to cater for all who wish to do so. It would be well for boys of only average attainment who desire to proceed to a University to investigate courses not quite so orthodox as they tend to choose, It is interesting to note that 55 boys who left during or at the end of the last School Year were either proceeding direct to Universities or had definite places offered for after their National Service. The distribution was 18 Oxford, 12 Cambridge, 15 Sheffield, 6 London, 2 Nottingham, 1 Leeds and 1 St. Andrew’s.

On the results of the A Level entry, 6 State scholarships were gained and 26 Education Committee Scholarships.

One feature of the new examination system which is everywhere deplored and to which I add our own protest is the abolition of the standards “Very Good” and “Distinction”. Now there is just "Pass” and “Fail’. It is difficult to find a reason for this, but no doubt the pundits have one. It certainly seems to invite boys to limit effort. If the reason is to avoid differentiation between pupils so that the best shall not be so recognized, it would seem a poor aim. To be strictly logical on such lines, surely we ought not to have competitive Scholarships, and still less prizes. That last thought conjures up a picture of the abolition of Speech Day and consequent reduction of fraying of nerves and patience of many people.

It is, of course, always easy to criticise new things, and this is the first year of the new scheme. No doubt we shall get used to it, and it will probably meet with modifications. It has its good points, and I think if the age limit was made 15.0 instead of 16.0, and the standards of passing were restored, there would not be so much fault to find.

The games and athletics of the School continued in full zest.

The football season was quite a successful one. The First Eleven only lost two matches to other schools in a heavy fixture list. The Second Eleven won all their matches against other schools.

The Cricket Season was quite good for the Second Eleven, Under-15 and Under-14, but not so successful for the First Eleven. The number of drawn matches makes us hope for brighter Cricket.

Standard Sports were not held owing to the bad weather in the Easter term.

The Athletic Sports were held early in the Summer Term, when the trophies were distributed by the Mistress Cutler. There was a large number of entries, necessitating much preliminary elimination. Performances were up to the standard of previous years, though Field Events could be improved.

The School Cross-Country team was placed third in the Northern schools’ Cross-Country Championship run at Manchester in March. Manchester Grammar school was first, Roundhay School, Leeds, second. Both senior and junior teams ran very well during the season.

Swimming in 1951 was a good season. The school team maintained its unbeaten record. 98% of the school could swim at the end of last year, A Life-Saving Class was held, which produced some very good results. The Swimming Sports were keenly contested, but the number of spectators was much smaller than usual. Lady Brown distributed the trophies, and has since given us a fine Cup for another event. We are also indebted to R. B. Bradshaw, last year’s School Swimming Captain, for his gift of a Cup for the Junior Champion Swimmer.

Tennis was introduced as an alternative to cricket for senior boys in the Summer Term, and proved quite popular. We shall hope to introduce improvements after our first experiences; lack of our own courts is, of course, the major difficulty.

I should like to pay a tribute to School Captains of Games and secretaries for the efficient way in which they have carried out their duties. Our sincere and appreciative thanks are due to those Masters who give so freely of their personal time to coaching, refereeing and umpiring; with the number of teams and activities involved, the burden is a heavy one.

Turning to School Societies and other activities, we had quite an active year. The International Discussion Group went on its normal, lively way; this is a body which shuns publicity of any kind. The Modern Language Society provided a varied and interesting programme. Scientific lectures, papers and visits interested members of the Scientific Society. The Student Christian Movement had regular meetings. The Chess Club survived, though its membership was small. The Scouts had a very successful year; four boys obtained the King’s Scout Badge, and three were selected to attend the Scout Jamboree in Austria. Our thanks are due to the troop Parents’ Committee for their interest and help in raising money to buy equipment.

The Dramatic Society gave us some most enjoyable evenings in the production of “The Playboy of the Western World”. When we consider the difficulties which have to be overcome for any production on this stage and in this hall, both of which seem to present every possible inconvenience, I feel we must rate their work end enthusiasm very high.

The Choir and Orchestra flourished during the year; they gave us a varied programme at the School Concert, some excellent singing at the Carol Service, and a very fine performance of the Oratorio “Samson”. It is greatly regretted that it has not been possible to have items by the Orchestra on the programme for today. Their deployment, however, takes up considerable space and with the organ loft now no longer available as an overflow, our space is more restricted than before. The devotion and keenness of the members is admirable, and I hope our work in this most important field will extend and flourish. Again in these diverse activities we pay our tribute of real thanks to the Masters who take so much interest and make much personal self-sacrifice in running them.

The Annual Armistice Day Service was held, when the Rev. E. M. Turner, Vicar of Eyam and an Old Boy, gave the address.

Two School Chapel Services were held, in the Autumn and Lent terms; owing to the rather poor attendances, these have been discontinued for a time.

The War Memorial Organ was installed just before the Autumn Term 1950 commenced. Professor Victor Murray, President of Cheshunt College, Cambridge, who gave the address at the Commemoration Service, formally dedicated it then. This organ is a very great asset to us and we appreciate its possession highly.

The Final Assembly of the year was made an occasion for parents of boys who were leaving to pay a visit; trophies were distributed by the Chairman of the Governors.

We have formed a link with a German School, an approximate counterpart of ours in Cologne. Correspondence and exchange of literature is proceeding, but we should like to see more exchanges of visits. Of eight offers from Cologne only two were finally accepted. I hope that parents will find it possible to support these exchanges of pupils in future.

The School Library received several gifts of books from boys leaving last year. These were very gratefully accepted. It is a custom in being in many schools, and it would be to the general good if the practice were extended here. A library is always in need of help. In mentioning the Library I must express our most sincere thanks to the Governors of the Sheffield Royal Grammar School Exhibition Fund. They have most generously offered to improve our library facilities here, and this will fulfil a real need of ours. We look forward to the commencement of the necessary changes involved.

Several Masters left us during the year. Dr. Hargreaves Senior Science Master, Mr. A. P. Graham, Biology Master, and Mr. G. Hood, English Master, left at the end of the Autumn Term. Miss Manners, who had returned in a temporary capacity, left us to be married at the end of the Lent Term. Mr. Woodage moved South at the end of the Summer Term; his keenness and patience in athletic coaching will be missed.

That would conclude a rough resumé of the School year here, 1950-51. There are many omissions of detail, but it suffices to show that life in the establishment moved more or less on its usual lines.

The curriculum of the School is completely representative and nothing can be done in the way of addition. There might well be more possible options for combinations of subjects at the Advanced Level. We shall attempt to widen these, but they do depend essentially on our staffing picture. The wider a choice is allowed, the more we attempt to set one subject to produce the maximum efficiency of teaching and progress, the more masters are required. That is one result of the new General Certificate of Education; to cater for it effectively will definitely require more teachers.

In games and school activities there is again little room for addition. We have introduced Rugby for some seniors, which appears to be quite popular. Possibly something more might be done for the middle years in the way of School Societies, but the age group is not a particularly easy one to deal with from the point of view of stability.

Much stress is laid on responsibility, powers of leadership, participation in school affairs, on the multitudinous forms we complete for scholarship candidates and University entrants. In a school with a large Sixth Form it is not easy to provide avenues whereby the bulk of senior boys can take on some responsibility or service, the number of posts available - secretaries of games and societies, prefects and sub-prefects -  is limited. That is one problem which we ought to think on. I have a great deal of admiration for the zeal and efficiency displayed by our boy officials; it would be well to extend the opportunities for others, but it needs some thought.

In conclusion I want to express my hearty thanks to the Chairman of the Governors for the interest he shows in the School and its activities. I owe sincere thanks to many members of the staff, particularly Senior Masters, for the trouble they have taken in giving me information on innumerable points since my arrival, and for help willingly given.