[The source for this is a typed document, possibly a carbon copy, which is a challenge to convert to text. The original can be inspected at http://oldedwardians.org.uk/nlc/speechdays/NLC/53NLC.pdf.]
See also the 1953 speechday leaflet.
Mr. Chairman, My Lord Mayor, Master Cutler, Mr. Williams, Ladies and Gentlemen -
May I first extend a hearty welcome to our guest of honour, Mr. E T. Williams, on behalf of the School. We appreciate his coming tonight very much, but we are particularly pleased to welcome an old Edwardian with such a record as his as a Scholar and as a soldier. In the former field, after a brilliant School and University career, he became a Fellow of Balliol College, and later Warden of Rhodes House. As a soldier he served through the North African Campaign as Chief Intelligence Officer to General Montgomery, later in the ‘D’ Day operations in N.W. Europe. His war record is a most impressive one, rewarded by numerous honours.
We are very proud to welcome him, and only regretful that the welcome is not within the School itself, which would be more fitting. However, to do that would be to roughly halve our audience to-night and that would be another matter of regret.
I also present our very cordial welcomes to two other Old Edwardians on the platform, holders of the highest offices in Sheffield - our Lord Mayor and Master Cutler.
My Report deals with the School Year 1952-53, and a report is much easier to give than an address, but liable to become a catalogue. Perhaps you will bear with me if it takes that form, but I think it is advisable to cover all our fields of activity. As such you can tell that life is full and time is full.
On the whole I feel it was a good year from almost every point of view, perhaps not packed with scintillating successes academically or on the games field, but one of solid achievement and quite reasonable satisfaction.
The first important reference would be to the General inspection of the School by Her Majesty's Inspectors, the first since 1933. The experience, new to many of our members, was an interesting and profitable one. Our visitors were very easy to get on with, and I think we made them really welcome. They produced a very comprehensive report, and one with which we could feel very satisfied. Criticisms and helpful suggestions were made, but we were glad to find that most of the shortcomings were matters entirely beyond our control and referred to amenities, buildings, apparatus and books, matters of finance and not policy. It was pleasing to have their blessing on what we were doing and hoped to do.
Some changes were made in curriculum; a wider scheme of options was arranged for boys proceeding to the modern Studies Advanced course, and an attempt to arrange the fourth years according to their future options. The latter was not wholly successful; it is not easy for parents to decide during the third year which side they wish their son to eventually proceed to, and as a result, at the end of the year a number changed their ideas; as their *a' Level subject$ entries had been partially dependent on their futures, these changes sowed problems for the future. This arrangement has not been continued, and the decision for the future Advanced Course work will not be taken until during the fourth year, when it must be decided.
The abolition of the age limit for G.C.E. Entries is a most welcome step and eases organization greatly. Further, there will no longer be the strain on boys in the Advanced Course of carrying 'O' and 'A' subjects together. This, which seemed to be the chief object of the G.C.E., was a very dubious move and in general detrimental.
however, the abolition led to a very swollen entry for 'O' Level examinations last year: we had the boys at the end of their first year in the Advanced Course, who had been caught by the age limit and were taking essential subjects; there were the two five-year course classes, who had not been affected, Sixth-formers still catching up with odd requirements in French or Latin or other subjects, and then the fourth-year boys who were admitted under the new rules. This produced a heavy entry and bewildering results: for example, 191 boys sat for English Language, 185 for French, 157 for Elementary Mathematics.
The new examination system makes it exceedingly difficult to really assess standards. You can twist the figures in many ways, some to look quite satisfactory and yet again from another point of view not so satisfactory. We have to remember that boys are taking varying numbers of subjects, and that in many cases the best ones in a subject, who are later to specialize in it, are not taking it at all in the examination. So percentages, although beloved of so many of us, and particularly by administrators, are a feeble guide.
On the whole, however, the 'O' Level results were sound, though not in all cases quite up to last year is standards. The overall percentage of subject passes was 71, which itself was better than the past few years. Percentages of passes in the Advanced Course fifths and in the fourths were definitely good, but the general five-year course results were disappointing. I have definite sympathy with the boy who has to leave school at sixteen under the new system, as he can so easily just fail to produce a satisfactory result.
Here I would definitely criticise the G.C.E.; the results are still used by future employers and trade and professional bodies as a yard stick of the boy's attainment. The results obtained in an external examination must of necessity have more attention paid to them than any internal certificate can carry. While admittedly the pass mark of the Old School Certificate was quite definitely too low, equally now the pass mark (the only mark) is often too high. I do not favour the 'distinction' or 'very good' mark at this stage of education, but I would definitely like to have two standards of passing - a low pass and a high pass, e.g. 40% and 60%. This would, I feel, be much fairer for many of our less gifted pupils who do their best and put up a reasonable performance, which in itself is not really unsatisfactory, but is not shown on any certificate.
The 'A' Level results for last year were definitely good; the number of '0' Level passes and fails obtained were very much smaller than for the preceding three years, beyond which comparison is of no avail: the overall percentage pass was 84%, and. 31 distinctions were gained and 9 State Scholarships. The Science side came out very successfully and retrieved their reverses of the previous year admirably; 8 of the 9 State Scholarships went to boys from the Maths and Science Advanced Course. This is not to disparage the Modern Studies results, which were very sound, but they had a smaller entry and distinctions on the whole are rarer. We had some unexpected and puzzling failures, but the results were definitely good, and the boys concerned did well and deserve our congratulations.
In the Scholarship field we improved considerably on last year, though we were disappointed in not gaining more successes at Oxford and Cambridge, but with two years of National Service to face, boys are not likely to stay for the extra year, which can make the vital difference.
Butler's Major Scholarship at Trinity Hall was a well deserved success, and we were delighted that our versatile Head Prefect of last year combined his ability in Classics with his musical talent to gain an Organ Scholarship at Oxford. The Science Side, with Clinton, Drake and Richmond, accounted for three out of the seven Hastings Awards, and others who competed at Provincial Universities were successful - two at Nottingham, one at Durham, one at London and one at Loughborough. Competition for these Scholarships to-day is in many cases equally as keen as at the older Universities, and they are not lightly won.
At the commencement of the year we had 44 boys who were hoping to proceed to a University either by obtaining an Award car a place; we were able to place 41 of these, which is a further criterion of the satisfactory state of the Advanced Course work.
I feel quite secure in saying that academically the year was definitely one of distinct satisfaction.
Turning abruptly from the classroom to the games field, we had a busy year, and though not one crowned with victory after victory, one in which the general balance was on our side. Programmes were full for all our activities, but bad weather caused several cancellations as usual for most of them_.
In Football we fielded five teams, though it is difficult to obtain fixtures for our Third Eleven; there is plenty of spirit and skill to field even an Under-13 Eleven, but fixtures do not appear to be forthcoming.
The First eleven with Butler as a capable Captain had a good season, with 20 wins out of 29 games; Second Eleven and Under-14 kept the balance of wins on their side, but the Third Eleven and Under-15 were not so fortunate.
The new Rugby XV's had their first real season, and found opposition from all- Rugby schools rather too much for them, as was to be expected, but they put up a good fight and their results - lat XV 5 wins out of 13, Colts 2 out of 5 - are no indication of the keenness shown by the players. Since at present the field for selection for Rugby is small, it is difficult for the teams to face schools where the main game is Rugby. We shall continue to- hope that more adherents can be won over and a better balance kept.
The Cricket Season saw a good fixture list marred by the weather's vagaries, and there were as usual the numerous unsatisfactory drawn games with no result. '.the First eleven had quite a good season with 7 wins out of the 15 matches played; the three drawn games might I well have been won if finished. The Second Eleven was unlucky in having difficulty in maintaining a stable team, being called on frequently to fill First Eleven places, and affected by both ‘A’ and 'O' Examinations. The Under-15 Eleven was undefeated; the Third Eleven played only two matches owing to weather, and the Under-14 had a mixed result.
The Senior Cross-Country Team won most of its matches, but the Manchester course again proved too much for them in the Northern Schools 'Cross-Country. The Junior Cross-Country Team did not have its usual success. Inter House Cross-Country Championships in the three sections, Senior, Middle and Junior, were keenly contested.
The Standard Sports regulations were varied to fit in with the Athletic Sports programme, and results were quite satisfactory. The Athletic Sports themselves again provided a very pleasant function, and the Lady Mayoress distributed the Trophies. Field events in Standard and Athletic Sports still need to be improved.
In Swimming the usual success was met with except against Cranwell, where much older and experienced competition gave us our first loss for many years. The Swimming Sports were very well attended and provided, as we now expect, a most interesting evening with some fine swimming. House Water-Polo knock-out and League Competitions were held as usual.
Tennis is now fully established as an alternative game for the Summer Tern, and was introduced into the Middle School. The School Teams had good results apart from the reduction of their Programme by unwind weather. There is considerable demand for Tennis, and it is to be hoped that some day the clouds of economy and stringency may lift and provision of our own courts be possible. That would be greatly appreciated and increase our possibilities; as it is, Matches can only be played with schools who will take us as guests on their courts.
Fives had its adherents, though not as many as we would like, and the usual inter house Competition was held.
Badminton is raising its head as another activity which has a School Team; fixtures were limited, but most were won, and the field is being extended.
Afternoon games have provided the usual Inter House League and mock-out Matches in Football and Cricket.
Experiments in further house Competitions were Rugby Sevens and a P.T. Competition; it is hoped that these will be established as regular features, and improved.
That brief review indicates the variety and extent of the School's physical activities.
Participation in the life of the school outside the classroom is a highly important item for the boy who is staying on at school for further education. Games provide one opportunity, and the number of School Games and Teams give many a chance in this direction. Captaincy or a secretaryship are excellent training in responsibility, and we have some very co-operative and efficient officials.
Further opportunity is provided by the number of school Societies now in existence.
The older Societies continued to hold their sway, some with a large following, others with a smaller number of adherents, but whose constancy and keenness made up for the lack of quantity. Among these we have the I.D.G., Scientific Society, S.C.M., Modern Language Society, Photographic Club, and Chess Club. There was a revival in Chess, and it would be pleasing to feel that this activity was more flourishing. The newer members - Graft and Construction Club- and Middle School history Society - continued their activities, the former doing some valuable work for the School. Kew groups launched were a Literary and Debating Society for the sixth Form, and one for Middle school boys, and a Junior Classical Society. These are welcomed, and we hope will flourish and continue.
These various Societies prove good training grounds again for initiative and organization on the part of their officials, and excellent practice in discussion and debate for members.
There is no more critical audience for a boy than his fellows, and confidence in speaking is gained by the opportunity provided in these activities.
The importance of active membership of School Societies to a boy cannot be under-rated. University and Service Questionnaires always make this an enquiry; testimonials for Colleges and Universities are thin if only work can be commented on. But confidence and the aptitude for speaking are also gained; these carry their weight in interviews. The interview is increasingly becoming the deciding factor in so many quests to-day - College Entries, faculty Entries, Civil Service, the Services, and now even for the Education Committee Scholarships. Competition has and is making it a further test of competence. I would urge parents, therefore, who wish their sons to succeed, to encourage them to participate fully in the activities the School has to offer.
Positions of responsibility, such as Team Captains, House Captains, Prefects and Sub-Prefects, are necessarily limited, but a boy who takes an active and not passive part in school affairs is known, and gains thereby. The Public school boy is forced to stand on his own feet in the Boarding House, but the Day School boy can too frequently escape challenge and responsibility in the shelter of home. So the Grammar Schools meet adverse criticisms in selection for Dartmouth candidates and Service Commissions.
The School Scout Troops have again continued their mysterious activities; they have celebrated their Silver Jubilee by an effective display, and enjoyed their Camps. Three of their members gained the Queen's Scout Badge. A debt of gratitude is owed to senior boys who successfully managed the affairs of 'Of Troop, who were without a Scouter last year. Thanks are due to the Parents' Committees who are very active in providing for their respective Troops.
School Music excelled itself again - the Carol Service in the Cathedral filled the building and was most impressive; the January Concert and the Coronation Concert held in the Victoria Hall were greatly enjoyed by large audiences, and fresh laurels were very definitely gained. The time so generously given to practice by the members of the Choir and orchestra is a measure of their keenness. We are greatly indebted to Mr. Barnes for his almost fanatical zeal, which is highly contagious. The various practices, which for lack of other opportunity must take place in the dinner hour, curtailed the activities of the Music Club last year. This was a pity, as their mid-day Concerts were welcome and enjoyable. However, you will have gathered from the number of our projects that it is very difficult to fit all these things in after school, and I often marvel how it all gets done.
An increase was shown in the number of lectures, plays, films and concerts attended, and in organized visits to Exhibitions, places of interest, some organized for us, and many by us. A party spent Easter in Paris, and others joined a trip to Switzerland in the Summer Holiday: foreign exchanges with our linked French and German schools were arranged, but these are much too few, and there should definitely to more among our older pupils.
School functions were held as usual. The annual Armistice observance was addressed by the Rev. J. Holland Pain, Vicar of Ranmoor; the Commemoration Service, held at the School, had a big attendance, and a fine address was given by Professor Laughton, an Old Boy of the School. Speech Day last year was the first occasion held here for many years, and Sir Stanley Rous, Secretary of the Football Association, was our guest.
One sad gap last year was the absence of a School Play; it was felt that the numerous activities and fixtures had not left sufficient time for a production. I hope it will be possible to restore this tradition. The difficulties of the stage and the shape of the Hall, which only allows of an absurdly small audience, are factors to daunt all but the hardened or most courageous Producer. Alas, the possibility of a new hall in which all School Functions could be successfully held, is a very remote and almost unattainable possibility. In order that the year should not pass without some attempt at drama, some One-Act Plays were produced, largely by senior' boys, with help from the Staff. These showed that there was enthusiasm and budding talent to be exploited.
During the year the now Library, gift of the Governors of the Sheffield Royal Grammar School Exhibition Fund, was finally completed and was handed over this term. We are most grateful for this handsome gift. The alteration of this room added to our difficulties of room shortage, and we are relieved to have it back for use.
A larger number of leavers this year followed the custom, which we should like to establish firmly, of giving a book or donation to the Library on leaving. We are most grateful to the many boys who gave books, and to their parents for some fine acquisitions. It is hoped that the practice will increase.
In the Autumn Term 1952 we welcomed seven new Masters to the Staff, five replacing Masters who had left, and two additional members. During the year we suffered a sad loss by the death of our colleague, Mr. E C. Cumming after a long and painful illness. Mr. Cumming had been a member of the Staff since 1947 and was well liked and respected. We miss him and value' the contribution he had made to the life of the School.
Our only vacancies by leaving last year were due to the translation of two Senior Masters to Headships. Mr. Harvey, who was Senior Classical Master, was appointed Headmaster of Dame Allan’s School, Newcastle, and Mr. Wallis, Senior Mathematical Master, was appointed Headmaster of Dronfield grammar school. Both had given much to the School in work and out-of-school affairs, and we were glad of their well merited success, though sorry to lose their devoted and valued service in so many school affairs. We give them our very beat wishes for the future.
I must give most sincere and very grateful thanks to my colleagues on the Staff, whose zeal and industry ensured a successful and fully occupied year. The lengthy catalogue I gave of events outside the classroom and school time is only possible by their ungrudging help. The task of looking after School Teams is one which demands the sacrifice of much personal time and energy, and a particular debt is due to those who referee or umpire the School Games and who organize the various house Competitions. The past year was an exacting one in its demands on time and with difficulties of time-table owing to absence and a shortage of rooms. I greatly appreciate the help and co-operation which is always forthcoming from the Masters in so many ways, and for the way in which they place the School first in its demands so often.
In this expression of thanks and appreciation I include the non-teaching staff, my so helpful secretary, Miss Hutson, the School Clerk, Caretaker and Groundsman.