Happy birthday Homewood School
Oooops! I blinked and ages have flown by since my last post. Thanks to everyone who's nudged me for the next post.
Before I get into round the Round three & four review (next post) I'm delighted to say things have settled down to my new normal of spending a week in ChemoLand then returning to three weeks feeling better until the next round ensues.
Trying to get stuff done has been a challenge (no change for 58 years and counting!), but especially now as within the 28 day chemo cycle week one is yuuuuck, week two is maaaah and weeks three and four is yippie I yay, let's go party! It really feels like a two week holiday every month followed by a bad cold.
The other reason I haven't been blogging is a deliberate attempt to get my BACP Accreditation in before the 31st Oct deadline when they change the system. I could have submitted it at any time since April but it's sat on my to do list. I'd write a book about procrastination but I haven't got around to it yet.
Only the BACP could choose Halloween as a deadline and not reference it as humour!
Accreditation is a usefully useless thing. It serves no purpose as potential counselling clients don't know about it. All it means is that I've been doing what I've said I've been doing, in the way I said I've been doing it, for long enough to assume I'll continue to be doing it that way!
It does offer counsellors in private practice bragging rites i.e. the chance to lord it over the lesser unaccredited counselling masses, in a profession that aspires to equality and respect. I will of course be shouting about it from the rooftops when/ if I get it. I'll also be referring to myself as a therapist if only to make the following joke:
I saw a therapist about my dyslexia. Those terrapins are great listeners!
For me my counselling training fills an emotional gap of not going to university. Accreditation signs off an academic experience that should have started and finished 40 years ago.
[ WARNING I'M ABOUT TO BANG ON ABOUT SCHOOL WHICH MANY OF YOU HAVE HEARD MANY MANY TIMES ]
Why didn't I go to university? Here's a chance to roll out my familiar well worn broken records of justifications, strap in:
Now that’s a little harsh, I enjoyed school and took a lot from it. It was an all round education and they gave me the opportunity to act in plays and form The Grass with Jeff and Nigel. They even allowed me to park my bright red Triumph Spitfire MkIII in the car park which pissed off Mr Stroud in his green MG. It’s just in those sixth form years I needed their support for my academic ambitions, which they didn’t do well enough.
It already sounds like an angry rant so let me offer an example:
I did A-levels in Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics, the three subjects that had the least writing (That’s a whole other blog!)
All that differentiation and integration! I don’t know dy I did it! (I dedicate that maths joke to eX proff. Uncle Frank and family who will probably be the only ones who get it!)
We had two teachers in my applied maths class because of timetabling issues and malaria. One teacher had malaria and was often off ill for weeks at a time (I know that feeling!). Now I'm not going to do some crass joke about it being a jungle out there, but in fairness he probably sweated more over my A-levels than I did! (I know that's poor taste but I'm still angry).
In the second year of sixth form, our maths class was down to around six students (many had escaped). In teacher student ratio terms that should have been heaven but... ALL our applied mathematics text books were written in imperial measurements and our exams would be in metric. Confusing!!! The school wouldn't cough up for six books. They wouldn’t have cost a tonne/ton, but they just couldn’t go that extra 1.6 kilometres.
I remember the physics teacher Mr Paine lamenting that we couldn't finish the physics curriculum because we hadn't leant the maths necessary to understand the physics! I should have taken A levels in chicken and egg, it wouldn't have mattered which came first, or would it?
Why didn't we say anything? Well, It was our normal. We assumed this was how it was for everyone across the country. The father of one of my classmate's father was the headmaster of another school, so if he was OK we all were, right? Later I found out that he'd had weekly private tuition, which was virtually unheard of at that time.
I am a therapist so tradition says blame the parents but my parents hadn't gone to university, so how would they know what was necessary. No one else I knew of went bar Uncle Frank, but there was little family discussion about this as far as I know. Our family motto is 'Shhhhhhhhh'. We don't actually have a family motto as we prefer Welcome Breaks! (Yes, it's a motorway service station pun!)
Years later when I saw the film 'The History Boys I couldn't believe that it was set around the time I was at school. Those students had special classes preparing students for university. Even fictional students got more support than we did!
I can say, hand on heart, that NO teacher ever promoted university to me at Homewood.
The upshot was a very low expectation of success. If Nasa's tagline is 'Failure is not an option,' Homewood's would be 'Failure is the only option!' My mock A-level results were all fails.
My father had said he wouldn't help fund University (I would get a partial grant which he'd have to top up). This was a spontaneous reaction by him and I'm now certain he would have changed his mind, but at the time it felt like a solid no.
When my father was sixteen, my grandparents and his younger sister returned to Shropshire after my grandfather retired from the police. He was a proppa beat bobby, although his name was Dick. If you don’t mind, I won't send you any pictures of him. This left my dad staying with relatives in London. I always sensed that this was a tough time for him, but he was proud of the self reliance it had taught him. He'd received the message 'you're on your own now' and was instinctively passing it down to me. I note in my counselling how often self reliance comes from feelings of abandonment. What I’d give to chat to him now. I’m only two years younger than he was when he died!!
I received five out of five rejections from UCCA and said to my friend Nigel 'F*&k it! I'm going to London to become a photographer.', Something Nigel reminded me of several years later after I’d completely forgotten having said it, but had moved to London and become a photographer! (another post, another time).
Back then A-level results were posted to your home, or you could collect them in person from the school a day or two earlier. I was desperate to get the result and the shame over and done with, but I didn't want to have any of my schoolmates around as I collected them. I went in a day late and to my total surprise I'd passed all three! They were D grades. F was a fail and E was a scrape pass, so D was not brilliant but OK. (Back then, the typical university grade expectation was far lower, but apparently not as low as my school's expectations! Three Ds wouldn't have got me into a top Uni but somewhere like the Polytechnic of Barrel Bottom which I think is now part of Bristol University.
Swirling with shock I walked along a corridor by the school's office and bumped into the headmaster Brian Duncan. Mr Duncan was a compact, wiry Welshman. His catchphrase was 'You Boy!', after which he'd point to a piece of litter with the expectation that it was about to be picked up. His assumption was always correct. He was quite a fashion icon in his day, reportedly Adolf Hitler copied his hair and his dress style, the three piece suits, not the uniforms (at least not in school).
'So Sadler, three Ds?' I was already shocked at the result and now he'd remembered my name! He sounded as surprised as I was, which offered us the one and only moment of empathy that I experienced from him in seven years.
On reflection (someone's been writing accreditation essays) it revealed his expectations for me may have been low throughout the previous two years.
There's often a public narrative that things were better back in the day but I'd like to say that in my experience education is far far better now than it was back then. I regularly meet passionate teachers at every level. Nearly 50% of kids now go on to university, unlike the 5% in my day (15% if you count all tertiary education). There was no shame in not going to uni as so few did. There are still huge gaps between private and state education which shows there are many opportunities for improvement.
FYI Homewood celebrated its 75th birthday last week and is now the largest school/ sixth form college in Kent. Let's hope it's not just quantity!
For more information about comprehensive schooling in the seventies and eighties please watch the documentary series Grange Hill. (I heard they're making a feature film of it!!)
So forty years have passed. I've had years of therapy, psychotherapeutic training and done a ton of self development so you won't find me banging on about this stuff in a blog!
Coming soon: My school days part two, three and four!
In reality there's another side to this post where I examine my needs and aspirations in more depth. In essence I'd selected those A-levels to avoid writing, something I'd been repeatedly shamed for earlier in my schooling. I had no love of maths and I wasn't really interested in electrical engineering, the subject I'd applied for at university. I'm sure that showed on my UCCA form and they probably saved my three years of hell. My A-levels were still crap!
Happy birthday Homewood School