A few posts ago I made a few remarks concerning events taking place in my last year at school and referred to the quirky sense of humour of my class “5A”.
What I did not mention anywhere, and which may not have been apparent, was that the school in question ( which I shall glory with the title of Prospicimus Secondary Modern School!) had the words “FOR BOYS” at the end of that already ponderous title.
This arrangement only lasted for about another 3 or 4 years before the Government-created “Comprehensive school” system appeared on the scene bringing in mixed gender/ability schools and generally lowering standards in the eyes of everyone except (surprise, surprise) the Ministry of Education.
By the way I’m not saying that it was girls who lowered the standard – if anything it was probably the boys! However, when you are trying to teach stuff to ANY teenager you are, always, making life hard for yourself by introducing the opposite sex into all those seething hormones as an additional distraction. Things were bound to go downhill!
There was indeed a Prospicimus Secondary Modern School FOR GIRLS too – but there might just as well not have been! The building was shaped like a capital E laid on its back and with four arms instead of three. There were other later asymmetrical add-ons on both sides but that gives you the basic idea. One half of this was the boy’s school and the other half, the girl’s. And never the twain shall meet.
There was an entrance foyer (for teachers and visitors NOT children) at the “border” with a double staircase, one half of which curved to the left and the Girls school Staffroom, the other to the right and the Boys school Staffroom. At ground level the corridor to the left lead past the “Dragon’s lair”, the study of the Headmistress of the Girls school; while to the right you had to get by the study of “the bat”, the Boys Headmaster already mentioned in the earlier post. If you have ever seen an “old style” (I suppose “old school” is a better expression!) teacher in the type of robes normally now only seen at University Graduation ceremonies, especially when moving at speed, you will understand the “bat” allusion.
He was not the problem! She was! Sometimes a boy would be grabbed and given the task of taking a message to one of the teachers in a classroom in the Girl’s school. However quietly the poor kid moved and whether he tried to sneak past or do it at speed, it was impossible to get past the Dragon’s lair without being stopped by a great, booming “BOOOOOY!!!! WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING?!” Once you had explained your errand nothing more was said but it was a job you tried to avoid from the sheer fear of that shout!
It is extremely interesting to note that twenty years after leaving I attended the School’s 50th birthday reunion (and that event itself was twenty years ago this year, SIGH!). We all wore badges with our names and the years of our incarceration and while there were plenty of ladies about wearing “1964-1969” badges, I did not, by the very nature of the system I have been describing, know any of them. I managed to find one other guy I recognised from my year group and the 2 of us joined one of many conducted tours being given by the senior students. It has to be said that we were the only ones in our group from the “segregated” days and when the group left the hall, marched across the foyer and TURNED LEFT at the foot of the stairs, we stopped. Dead! Unfortunately the student in charge noticed and asked us what the problem was, resulting in two blokes in their mid-thirties having to suffer the embarrassment of explaining “That’s the Girls school. We’re not allowed in there!”
Of course, we were able to overcome our inbuilt reactions and enjoy “the forbidden city” as well as the bit we recognised but I was wondering in what other ways those five short years of forced separation from the prettier half of the human race affected our later lives.
The seventeen of us in class 5A scattered to the four winds after school and at the present time through the offices of Facebook and Friends Reunited I am in touch with two directly, while another three could be contacted if their posted email addresses are still current. Looking at only myself and the two I have detailed knowledge of – between the three of us we’ve been married SEVEN times in total (and not one has managed only once). Statistically it is probably extremely likely that some have turned out to be homosexual (although I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at which ones) and that some have stayed single. I don’t think the three of us are atypical so on the small sample we have it doesn’t look promising for life-long monogamy.
Is that all down to single-sex education? If it is, I wonder if it might not have been worth a bit of disruption to our education to avoid the heartache that a little advanced knowledge of the female of the species might have saved.
I think I need more data.
PS. The school name wasn’t really “Prospicimus” – that was its Latin motto. You can Google it if you like but it still gives no references to the actual place that I’m talking about!