KING EDWARD VII SCHOOL, SHEFFIELD

SPEECH DAY

29th NOVEMBER, 1963

This is the report given by Mr N L Clapton, Headmaster, at the Speech Day of 1963 (source: carbon copy of typed notes)

HEADMASTER'S REPORT            1963.

Mr. Chairman, My Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Professor Goodwin, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I welcome heartily and give our best greetings to the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress who have so kindly graced our proceedings this evening. Also to our Chairman, Alderman Ballard, whom we are always glad to have with us. A double Welcome to our Visitor, Professor Goodwin, Professor of Modern History in the University of Manchester. We greet him as an Old Edwardian particularly, and are grateful to him for so kindly coming this evening as he has many engagements. He won an Open Scholarship in History at Jesus College, Oxford, declining an Exhibition he had won at the other place. He obtained a 1st Class in Modern History and also a Laming Travelling Fellowship and the Gladstone Memorial Prize. After lecturing at Liverpool University, he returned to his old College, Jesus, as a Fellow and tutor. He was engaged in the Air Ministry War Room and the Historical Branch of the Air Ministry for the war years. Returning to Oxford he became Senior Tutor and Vice—Principal at Jesus. He was appointed to the Professorship at Manchester in 1951 and since then has been a member of many historical societies and author of many publications - a very full life. At School, old magazines record that in addition to many academic results, he was a member of the 1st Xl for cricket for several years and was awarded Colours on several occasions; the last critique was “an excellent Captain”. But cricket and work were not his only activities - he appeared at the Debating Society and apparently on 3 different occasions won the sack race and the high jump. We can congratulate him on a very successful and varied career and trust that this will long continue.

It was with some misgivings that I prepared our customary booklet which shows school examination results, old boys’ results and prizes. This seemed to me to be going against the ruling principle of anonymity and could only add to our dreadful reputation of being a sweat shop.

However, I found that looking back through our files such a booklet has been issued since 1907 with the same items recorded on it - the only differences being that there are now more subjects mentioned, more prizes therefore given and it is only of comparatively recent years that “competition" prizes were added. I felt then that it would be a pity to abolish it at this juncture but to continue it as long as the school remained as an entity. Past numbers record the names of many old boys who now occupy prominent positions in the country today in all walks of life, not merely political. Let us hope that the present one and what future ones there are will also contain the names of boys who are present tonight and who will rise to high positions in the land. Above all, that when the promised new era has been established, they will not be ashamed to say that they attended King Edward VII School, Sheffield, one of the most maligned and outmoded Grammar Schools.

After 23 years of Headmaster’s reports, I find it difficult to break away from a pattern, so I am afraid this will follow the usual lines and I must hope that it is not such a bore to you as it is to me.

We must now refer to University Results - as I forecast last year I felt our peak had been reached and that proved only too true. A total of 15 Awards obtained against 24, 17 entries to modern Universities against 38. A total of 40 entries against 72. This however does not mean that there was a sharp drop in results due to failures. We certainly had some disappointments (we always do) with regard to Award winners, but they obtained their places. For the first time we had more cases of boys who did not secure a University place but 10 found places in Colleges of technology or technical Colleges where they can still obtain a degree. It reflects however how much competition there is and will be until some of the new Universities can take full quotas. Standards for entry themselves however were stiffer and as competition increases they will remain so. I presume they will have to come down when all the provincial Universities are in action, because I am not at all so sure that the ability is available and even if it is, whether the staying power will be there.

The Scholarship list itself continues to show a diversity of subjects and of those proceeding to Universities the propendium this year was for Arts Subjects - 24, Sciences - 16. We must congratulate those boys who achieved their University aim and hope that they will profit from this, not only in further education, but by broadening their horizons by social contacts in societies and games.

We must congratulate Mingay who was one of the winners of a European Essay travelling Scholarship, the third we have had for the School. With so many old pupils at Universities now it is most difficult to follow their courses and their final degrees.

So if anyone is offended at being omitted be can only blame himself, since apart from Oxford, Cambridge and Sheffield, it is most difficult to obtain the results of final examinations. We do ask all leaving pupils to let us know their results but we do not receive them the reasons may be modesty, a not very good performance or even failure.

I have tried to collect as many good degrees, by that I mean a first or second class, but I am quite sure there are more. A glance at these will show some very good results and that again disposes of the sweat house accusation because when boys go on they do well, that would not happen if they were over-driven or crammed. 4 Old Boys who took their degrees this year all obtained posts in the Administrative Civil Service. This evoked a letter from Sir George Mallaby, First Commissioner, saying that he would like to see many more young men like them as candidates and hoping their success will encourage more of our boys to consider seriously the possibility of a career in the public service. He also mentioned that one of them had done particularly well at his interviews.

2 Old Boys have also obtained University Prizes at Oxford - M. A. Blythe - the Gibbs Scholarship in Law, D. M. Bows - the Winter Williams Law Scholarship. Both these boys had obtained Classical Awards to Oxford and then changed to Law.

Coming to the G.C.E.  results we have an 87.7% pass at ‘A’ level compared with 85.8 last year, better but by no means our best. In 'O' level the overall pass was 80% against 78.6. These G.C,E. results though not up to our highest standard were nevertheless very satisfactory. An innovation in the publication of results this year was most welcome; in ‘A’ level there were 5 pass grades -

A denoting in the first 10% of candidates
B the next 15%
C the next 10%:
D the next 15%
E the next 20%

In the 'S' papers, the standards were 1, 2, which were only awarded if ‘A’ papers had been of certain quality.

At 'O' level there were 6 grades of pass from 1 to 6 and 3 grades of failure from 7 to 9. These were valuable in showing the boys the strength or weakness of their performances.

I was perturbed last year at the few chances of boys for Oxbridge places or Awards, at that time full details had not been established, but the present system at any rate at Oxford is one to be welcomed. Boys now apply in the Summer Term for entry to a particular group of colleges and are considered on their school record and their ‘A’ level results they already have or will get. If not rejected they are allowed to take an examination called Part I in October. On this, some get places outright, others are rejected completely and others are allowed to take Part II in December, which corresponds to the old Scholarship exam.; on this they can win an Award or a place. Boys are considered by all the colleges of the group they have chosen so there is every care taken that a worthy boy is not lost. That is not the end, however, because another group of colleges examine in January and a boy not lucky in Part II has still a chance of an Award or place. This system to my mind is a vast improvement on the old, as not making rejected boys toil through scholarship work from October to December.

They can strengthen their ‘A’ level subjects to obtain a place at a modern University. There is only one drawback for the school - the preparation of school records at the end of the Summer term, which is already a nightmare of work.

It must be made very clear to would be University entrants that their first ‘A’ level result is now of the utmost importance. These results are used both by Oxford and Cambridge and also by the modern Universities. We still have those who scrape ‘0’ level, settle down to a restful year in the 5th and then find that ‘A’ level work cannot be mugged up in a few nights, Their results, if D or E passes, are of no use whatever as a qualification. It is to be hoped that all our 1964 A candidates will take full note of this.

The Use of English paper will soon be compulsory for Oxbridge and for the Northern Universities, which may prove the downfall of those who regard General English periods as times for rest or relaxation, I would like to see more pupils paying attention to the courses offered by the New Universities - York, Sussex, East Anglia, Lancaster and Essex, Their ideas are new, their courses broadly based and interesting and on the whole the specialisation is less intensive, too many boys are still applying only to the well known Universities and too many are still applying for the highly specialised courses which in many cases is making it difficult for themselves when they are not too strong. They should study prospectuses more carefully before making decisions. We overlook as many as possible, but it would be better to start earlier and consult us more frequently on their choices. The same applies to the Sciences where there are excellent and many openings for the less orthodox tours,4 Too many are still putting down Physics, Chemistry,  where less well known courses might well lead them further. Again there is an excellent selection of Careers pamphlets at school, unfortunately not used as frequently as they should. Year alter year, I raise the desirability of being able to talk well and comport oneself well at an interview. I now make special mention in reports of a boy’s oral participation in class discussion and it is surprising what a number there are of low rating.

I seem to have talked overmuch about Universities, but I do not apologise. Boys do not always tell their parents all they should, so this is an opportunity at speaking to both parties of the system as it is.

Coming to the less academic side of School life, we find that on the whole we had a poor games season. 6 Soccer teams were fielded but fared badly - out of a total of 92 matches played, only 29 were won, 10 drawn and 53 lost. The Under.14 team fared best. 3 rugger teams functioned, but again results were very disappointing - 3 wins, 1 draw out of the 24 played. The severe winter of course interfered badly with football games. This year we started some hockey for those boys who did not shine at football. As a result only one match was played, which not surprisingly was lost. Much keenness was shown, however, and we shall hope it will increase in popularity. Cross-country was represented by 4 teams, but as several matches were triangular it is difficult to state results but again they were not by any means up to our usual standards. The same gloomy picture applied to the Badminton team and the Tennis was not successful either.

Swimming was more successful and the three teams between them won 23 matches out of 37. Here a shortage of strong seniors was the reason for a drop in our usually good results; the two junior teams did quite well. The shortage of senior swimmers is often blamed on the fact that they may not get a swimming period, but in a limited number of periods per week, I feel that the younger boys should come first.

Cricket was on the whole a sad picture - 5 teams - 18 games won, 1 tied, 6 unfinished and 6 abandoned on account of weather, out of 55 played. The Under-13 and Under-14 teams did quite well.

Chess alone presented a successful season, with 9 won and 1 drawn matches.

I am afraid our games results all round were not on a par with our academic ones, but there were a satisfactory number of teams playing and the general team spirit was good. Some of our younger teams auger well for the future. The number of teams involved does mean a considerable amount of time devoted by maters in coaching, umpiring and travelling and we are in heavy debt to those who so willingly help in these ways.

The Athletic Sports this year were held later in the hope of beating the usual weather bogy and this proved to be the case. A very pleasant afternoon was enjoyed. by the few people who attended and the usual smooth organisation was apparent. Some good times were recorded in track and sprint events but field events were only moderate. Councillor Tindall very kindly presented the trophies and treated us to an interesting short address.

The Swimming Sports were as usual most enjoyable and exciting; they are always very well organised but I felt that this year’s was one of the best we have had for some time for sheer enjoyment. Mr. Arnold Brittain, who has always been keenly interested in swimming, distributed the various cups and as an Old Boy of Wesley College we were most pleased to welcome him.

It is here that sweat house, as describing us, does contain a certain amount of truth. The weekly games and the weekend school matches must provide quite an amount of this commodity. Most games are played with vigour and there are only a few boys who do not like games or who wish to bestir themselves as little as possible and so do their best to catch cold through inaction. It is of interest to note that in 1962-63, R. J. Nosowski obtained his Blue for Soccer, W. M. Abbott his Half-Blue for Swimming and F. I. Parker and B. Cheetham Half-Blues for Water-Polo.

The various School Societies continue their activities with quite interesting programmes, all have their devoted adherents, but not enough, probably due to the fact that they are not entirely recreational and therefore do not attract the T.V., pop and youth club fans. However, I have stressed the importance of this before and do not propose to do so again. Universities and Employers, particularly the larger industrial units always seek to know a boy's part in school life and his general interests. There are too many cases I find when filling up their various reports of boys who have few interests except for purely recreation or social and whose contribution to the general life of the school is nil. It is pleasant to see that Old Edwardians at Oxford are taking active parts in various forms of University life.

The Music of the school maintains its high standards and numbers in Choir and Orchestra still increase. Instead of the usual Christmas service of Nine Lessons and Carols, a new form was tried - Music and Verse for the Feast of Christmas. This proved to be highly successful. It produced our largest congregation in the Cathedral and many people, including myself, had to stand for the whole performance as there were no more seats available. The introduction of the woodwind and brass groups and the variation of verses helped to make a most enjoyable and novel service. Unfortunately we cannot repeat this this year owing to the reduction of seating due to the extensions at the Cathedral. We are reverting to the usual Nine Lessons and Carols service which will be held at St. John’s, Ranmoor, but we shall certainly resume our successful venture when opportunity presents itself again.

The Concert provided a most enjoyable and varied programme, which brought in all the musical sections. Once again, however, one must express disappointment at the attendance which does not support the willing work put in - all out of school time - to produce such varied and interesting items. Our grateful thanks are due to Mr. Barnes whose enthusiasm and energy maintains school music at its high standard.

After an unfortunate lull in our dramatic activities, it was with great pleasure that we welcomed Mr. Points' production of Richard II. This produced much praise from those who saw the play and while congratulating all the actors, we must single out especially M. P. S. Birks for his excellent portrayal of Richard.

We must also add our thanks and congratulations to those who produced the set -  a most interesting innovation and one which involved as all sets do on our miserable staging arrangement, a vast amount of willing work, outside school time. We shall miss Mr. Points' production of a play this year.

The 2 School Scout Troops have as usual been active and we congratulate R. Pilley on obtaining his Queen's Scout Badge and also being one of the Sheffield representatives at the world Jamboree in Greece. The loss of Mr. Vout has created a problem for A Troop and one which is likely to persist unless we can recruit a younger member of staff who will fill his place. In the meantime we are grateful to those masters who are by their joint efforts keeping the troop in existence.

This year is the tenth “birthday" of the new Library and our zealous librarian, Mr. Oppenheimer, brings to my notice certain facts which appear to emerge. The use has increased steadily over the time and keeps a close relationship to the number of Awards won, figures of circulation and Awards won showing the same upward trend.

The gift on leaving, which was one way in which a boy could show that he did not take all benefits for granted, has tended to decline. The best years for this were those: at the first when prep. school boys were passing out, showing a sense of loyalty which has been mentioned before by me, but which is by no means so apparent now, except among a few.

The standards of conduct and care demanded by a library if it is to be regarded as a place to work, is not natural to all our boys but the right point of view is gradually being acquired and it is very pleasing to say that in the ten years passed, extremely little damage has accumulated. We had again a very good response to the request for volunteers for librarians; we are grateful to them as there is considerable work involved in providing the facilities needed.

I am afraid I have overstayed my time, not that I like to speak, as I thoroughly abhor it, but I do feel that it is necessary to show what is done in the school, in addition to the main teaching, which entitles us to be a sweat house.

Two short points I wish to raise before relieving you are that senior boys should begin to investigate their probable future careers much earlier and that they should pay more attention to our notices, library section and careers files. The provision of more notice boards to advertise the many openings today would be welcome, but they need lighting, and our request for strip lighting provision gets continually turned down.

The other is the reminder to investigate industrial and technological scholarships more closely than now and in the case of the marginal pupil to consider them before pure science. In addition to this, greater care for interview technique, the gift of the gab is not wholly desirable but it does help at interviews, much of course like in politics.

Appearances too, as well as manners, count for more than some of our pupils think. General appearance here is usually satisfactory but we still have the few parents who will not cooperate by providing school uniform (not a very exacting item here).

It is noticeable how many boys though smartly turned out are unable to wear a school badge. Whether this is to look more adult or that they are ashamed of the school I do not know, but either reason seems poor to me.

Manners too have their value and it is depressing to have complaints of poor behaviour on public transport - at 'bus stops as well as inside the actual vehicles. It only helps to give the school a bad name and in these days it behoves to keep all our standards as high as possible,

I close with my usual, but none the less sincere thanks to my colleagues, not only for the help they afford me but for that work they do in and for the school which they need not. Without their guidance, supervision and coaching, our life here would be much poorer and far less successful. I also wish to include the non-teaching staff who are not niggardly of their time and who are very loyal helpers.