KING EDWARD VII SCHOOL, SHEFFIELD

SPEECH DAY

22nd NOVEMBER, 1962

This is the report given by Mr N L Clapton, Headmaster, at the Speech Day of 1962 (source: carbon copy of typed notes)

HEADMASTER'S REPORT            1962.

The school year 1961-62 was another year of generally sound results and provided a full round of activities and games.

Examinations loom large at present so examination results must command our first attention.

We increased last year’s record total of 23 awards by one to 24 and I expect that that will stand as our peak. The Science side reaped the harvest this year with 6 awards for Mathematics and 9 in Science subjects, our small Classics section had 3 and the Modern Studies 6. Last year Science and Maths. had 10 awards, while Classics and Modern Studies had 13. The difference in balance shows the variation in boys’ options for their Advanced Course work. The total of 16 Oxbridge awards is our highest to date. Our scholarship results for last year must be regarded as very good, and we congratulate those boys who were so successful in the face of the competition to-day. In addition to the scholarships, 10 boys obtained places at Oxford colleges and 38 at Provincial Universities, a total of 72 University entries. This is also our highest figure to date and in view of the competition to-day I think we can feel very satisfied with these results. Two of our award winners were for entry in 1963 so that 70 boys left the school at the end of last school year to proceed to Universities:(40 for Science courses, 30 for Arts): 5 applicants to Universities were not successful in gaining entry but 3 of them are trying again this year.

Analysis of leavers during last year showed that omitting boys who left the City and were proceeding to schools elsewhere, 72 were proceeding to Universities or Training Colleges and 38 were entering employment. I think these figures show that we certainly fulfilled our function.

In view of the ever increasing competition for University entry to-day we must certainly congratulate all those boys who achieved their aim, and hope that having gained their entry to a further field of education they will profit from it in every sense.

G.C.E. results were unfortunately not in keeping with the Scholarship picture. The number of candidates for ‘A’ level was much smaller than last year, due to the fact that a majority of University aspirants had already been accepted and therefore did not need to take the examination again. The overall % pass was 85.8 against 91.5 last year: there were much fewer distinctions than last year, considerably more 'O' level passes - which can be regarded as near misses, but no outright failures. The performance on the whole was our weakest since 1953 which is regrettable, particularly as with very few exceptions the candidates were a hard working band. Only three boys gained State Scholarships - this was the last occasion on which State Scholarships will be awarded.

‘0’ level results were also down with a % pass of 78.6 against 79.5 last year. 4A did well with a % pass of 96.9.

These G.C.E, results though not up to the standard of the preceeding 3 years were nevertheless quite reasonable and could be termed satisfactory.

You may have noticed that I said earlier I expected our Scholarship results for last year to be our peak; that was not pessimism or false modesty but what is I think inevitable. We are rapidly reaching the time when competitive Scholarships could be abolished and the sooner I think the better now, The University Grants of Local Authorities have become most generous so that the need to gain scholarships for subsistence has already passed. A scholarship now of course still carries its kudos and ensures a place but monetary values are falling. Except for special scholarships - usually bequests of fixed sums - Oxbridge awards are now £60 and £40. These sums can be kept by the winners and are not deducted from their grant. Some Universities have already given up scholarship examination and the University of Nottingham in particular is proposing to give its awards at the end of the first year at the University. This proposal I think has much to commend it.

With the passing of the need of an award to provide for a course, I expect many boys will prefer not to try for scholarships. Another factor has emerged only recently, the Oxford proposal to hold examinations in the Autumn term on which places and scholarships will be given, thus abolishing the March examinations. Those Provincial Universities who still give awards are now concentrating their examinations in January. This has already limited the number of attempts a boy can make and it looks as if shortly there will be only one attempt possible. In that event it would be best to abolish scholarships if a boy is to have only one chance in a year of obtaining one.

This Oxford decision may well be a sad blow to us I feel, if a boy’s hope of admission is going to be limited to one examination and if the examinations coincide as they are likely to with those of Cambridge, one chance of Oxbridge per year is a dismal prospect, particularly when it is confined to the Autumn term. We shall soon be talking of the nervous strain and stress of the 17+ as we do now of the 11+. This concentration of examinations will not be favourable to the ordinary Grammar Schools, I fear, but may react more so for the socially superior schools. I do not suggest that is a contributory cause for the change, but I fear it will necessarily be an effect.

The system of entry to Provincial Universities is altering and this is the first running in year. A boy fills up one form only now, which is to be photographed and the copies submitted to those Universities he has asked to consider him. A number of parents will no doubt have seen these forms, we shall soon need courses for Headmasters and Deputy Heads on how to understand the booklets of instruction so as to pass on the information to the applicants. Considering the number of applicants for University places which is still increasing annually, I think that anyone who gets a place this year will be fortunate. Our short experience so far has not been encouraging.

I am afraid some of our young men are not realising the pressure of competition to-day, for some years now the School has done very well indeed in securing awards and places and there are very few aspirants for Universities who hate not been successful in getting a place somewhere. This leads some to feel that it is not really worth putting in every effort, they think that the reputation and standing of the school is always there to lean on. I think some may be in for a shock.

As a factor on the credit side, however, there are the new Universities now being formed. Sussex admitted its first entry this year. York and East Anglia will do so in 1963. Full syllabuses are not yet available but those that are are most interesting. It is good to see that attention is being given to more general courses, and widening of background, an antidote to the often excessive specialisation and narrow fields of some existing Universities.

There are on foot now schemes for making compulsory examinations in the Use of English and General Studies. It is very amusing though rather galling to see how “the more we change the more we remain the same”. Too many examinations is a cry to-day, so we propose to: add more! Sixth form syllabuses are too specialized, more time must be given to minority subjects, the schools are to blame for the excessive specialisation, etc. It is easy to pass the blame on to the schools, but as long as Universities advertise minimum requirements for entry which can be attained by so many, their own standards of admission and selection are necessarily higher and the schools must follow. Many parents do not realise this - they see minimum requirements for admission to a University, they see that the young hopeful has these or is likely to gain them and they think that is all. One way of combating the pressure for entry would be to raise the minimum conditions of entry to a more realistic approximation of the standards which are applied by the Faculties themselves. The people who sit on these committees who dictate our policies are very often too far removed from the classroom. The widening of Sixth form studies can only be done unfortunately by the imposition of extra Examinations and the complete revisal of existing syllabuses with a definite curb on their extension into what should be first year University work. Boys naturally feel they must pay all attention to their ‘A’ level subjects and so resist the extension of more general studies — they tend to regard them as waste of time or as periods of relaxation which do not really call for any effort.

State Scholarships are now abolished but the ‘S' papers as they were called still remain, now to be used for University entry purposes. There is therefore no lightening of load there.

Sixth form education you can see is at present being affected by numerous changes, no doubt necessary but not all welcome,

As I hinted last year, within the school we have now dropped the two classes in the 3rd year where early options had to be made so all 4 3rd forms are back on a general basis and the question of option is back at the end of the Fourth year.

Last year I referred to boys who for some reason or other fail to take part in class discussions. I do not wish to go over all my remarks again, but they still obtain. I find in writing the school statements for University this year that in several cases it is necessary to add that the boy is not likely to interview well. It is all very well to be the strong, silent type, but too many are silent without being strong.

School games again had a full programme and our usual mixed bag of results. Of the six soccer teams fielded, the under-15 was distinguished by only losing one game out of 22. For the others, in spite of much practice, the losses exceeded the wins. Rugger does not on the whole have such a full programme, the 1st IV registered more victories than losses, but the 2 younger teams did not fare very well. The Senior Cross Country team had quite a satisfactory season and the other three teams fared quite reasonably. Swimming fixtures of necessity depend on the availability of baths and that limits them to schools either possessing their own which are few, or those who can arrange for the use of public baths, often difficult; there is therefore a growing tendency to hold four corner or triangular matches in order to make full use of opportunities. Results can also vary with the particular events on the programme. While we no longer hold our once unbeaten record the team did quite well. The Swimming Sports were as usual most enjoyable.

Cricket brings always its list of unfinished matches, some of which would obviously have been victorious and others the reverse. 5 teams were fielded and on the whole we came out on the right side, the Under-15 and Under-13 XIs did well.

School Tennis is not strong and the weather did not favour matches, fixtures were few with moderate success.

Badminton is popular as a lunch hour game, but the school team had an unfortunate set of results.

The Athletic Sports last year were held in what we now regard as the normal weather conditions for them - very cold arid damp - but no snow was evident. In spite of this, competitors put up a good show.

Two years ago I mentioned a suggestion that someone made after a gloomy year of games results - viz. that we took up Tiddlywinks and Shove-ha’penny, as major games. Shove- ha’penny is of course a very popular sport played on desks (but not usually during lesson time) and on window ledges. Its devotees muster all age groups in the school from first year boys to Sixth Form and upwards. In spite of this, however, there is, as far as I know, no school team yet and no fixture list. In the case of Tiddlywinks, however, the position is different: two matches were played, one against the University which was a heavy defeat, the other against another Grammar School which was won but the score never reached the official games results book. Whether that entitles us to give colours is I think doubtful as the team was entirely composed of prefects and did not necessarily represent the best Tiddlywinks talent in the School.

Some Hockey has been introduced into Upper School games to interest those who are not too expert at Football. I hope it will develop into a full school game in time.

Table tennis and Fives were indulged in the lunch hour mainly, but fixtures are difficult to arrange. It is a pity that Fives has so declined as a game among boys, old School Magazines show that it was quite a thriving game at one time.

I think that covers the games programme of last year. Our very sincere thanks are due to masters who have given much time in refereeing, travelling and coaching. Their efforts and the teams' efforts may not always produce spectacular results, but valuable work is done in providing opportunities for so many boys to represent the School in different games.

It is not possible to review the School societies in detail as the games. They are numerous, grave and gay, practical and recreational, they function with differing numbers of devotees and with differing degrees of enterprise on the part of secretaries or publicity agents. Owing to the number of societies, games practices, choir and orchestra rehearsals, the diary is quickly filled so that many meetings are held in the lunch hour. There should be enough to provide some interest for every boy but that does not happen. Better support for some would enable more ambitious programmes to be carried out. Here again, particularly for some of our seniors the importance of participation in school affairs must be stressed.. In school reports for Universities, one often has to observe a discreet silence on the part played in the life of the School. This silence (to use an Irishism) speaks for itself to the reader of the report. We accord our very sincere thanks to the masters who give up time to overlook and guide the many school activities and to the secretaries and committees involved in their smooth running.

The musical life of the School continues to thrive with increasing numbers in choir and orchestra. The Carol Service and Concert were of their usual high standard we have come to expect from them, though neither received the full support we hope for.

There was no full scale dramatic production last year but we hope to resume again this year. Two plays were produced mainly to provide extra funds to meet our games expenditure which is high. One of the plays was by boys and the other by the staff. The boys’ play as was expected from its type, produced different audience reactions leaving some people puzzled and a few straight laced ones slightly shocked. The staff play as is usual showed what talent hides behind quite innocent exteriors and was naturally enjoyed for the unexpected roles by boys and colleagues. Again, much effort was put in but audiences could have been better. The games fund profited but not as much as we hoped,

School competitions again produced some excellent entries, though not numerous. One cannot help commenting on the care and effort which have been expended on some of these, and it is a pity that more boys do not enter.

Three masters left us last year, Messrs. Wightman, Burns and Baldwin, each had made his valued contribution to the life of the School outside the classroom and we wish them well, We were indeed fortunate in being able to replace them and we hope their successors will find their stay with us happy and profitable. The retirement of Miss Hutson after forty years service came as a shock to us, although known to be pending, it was difficult to think she would really leave. She had and has a very strong devotion to the School. Her memory for Old Boys was prodigious and I personally owe her a very great debt of gratitude for her unfailing help at all times. She commenced her duties at the School in the reign of Dr. Hitchens and has borne with his successors. Her remarkable memory has stored away some most enlightening facts concerning King Edward’s and its varying fortunes. She could write a most interesting and revealing history of the School if she would but she will not be persuaded. We will miss her personality and quiet calm and wish her many years of healthy happy retirement.

I have tried to give some review of the School’s work, games and activities for the academic year 1961-62.

I can safely again say that we maintained and we added to our full programme successfully and profitably for another year. I must warmly thank my colleagues on the Staff for their work in and out of the classroom. Their support and loyal help is much appreciated.

I offer also our due thanks to the Director and the Education Office staff for their help at all times.