Standards soar at my old school after mobile phones given the boot

A view from the dome at the top of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin. The architect who designed the dome is Sir Norman Foster, who is a famous alumni of Roger's old school, Burnage Grammar in Manchester, along with Roger, obviously.
A view from the dome at the top of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin. The architect who designed the dome is Sir Norman Foster, who is a famous alumni of Roger's old school, Burnage Grammar in Manchester, along with Roger, obviously.

By Wetherby News columnist Roger Bealey. There are people who live a well organised life and plan ahead. I’m not one of them but Len Dawson most certainly is.

We were sitting in the Old Men’s Parliament and Len was telling us about the booking he was making at the Wetherby Social Club for his ninetieth birthday party.

“I’ll need some invitations printing” he said.

“I’ll do that for you” said John Tower pulling a notepad towards him and beginning to note the details.

“Len’s 90th Birthday Bash,” he wrote.

“What’s the date of it?” asked John.

“April 17, 2017” said Len.

Then with the draft copy approved, it was time for Len to zoom off on his mobility scooter for his 10.45 appointment for a haircut.

“Make sure you remove your fur hat or that might get trimmed instead of your hair,” said John.

Joining our daily gathering of dogs and owners in the field one day; a lady asked if we called the meetings a Dogs Parliament.

Apparently she’d lived in the Philippines for a while and the daily gathering of dogs at sunset was called the dogs Parliament.

Here in Wetherby it hasn’t any particular name - but Dogs Parliament? Why not? We have the Old Men’s Parliament and we would have had an Old Women’s Parliament if anyone had taken up the suggestion when it was made.

These parliaments are a great place for talking and that’s probably the only thing they have in common with the real thing.

At another one of our meetings on the field a lady told us that her son had needed some filo pastry for a cookery lesson at school.

He forgot to tell her about it so she had to go out late in the evening to buy it from the local supermarket. Just after she finished telling us about it, she realised that the pastry was still sitting in the car, her son having forgotten to take it into school with him.

“I’ll soon be getting a telephone call from him asking me to take it to the school” she said.

Later that day I opened the daily newspaper and the thing that caught my eye was an article saying that standards at a Manchester school had soared since pupils were banned from using phones.

Pupils caught using one must surrender it immediately or face exclusion. Reading on, I discovered that the school was Burnage Arts Media College – but it was Burnage Grammar School when I was a schoolboy there 60 odd years ago.

Apparently the school is now in the top 10 per cent for English although 38 different languages are spoken in the school with a majority of the boys at the school not having English as their first language.

Back in my school days there was just one German pupil, all the rest being of local origin. How life has changed.

Reading the article made me wonder what the policy is with regard to mobile phones in local schools.

It also made me think back to my own school days. There was a teacher called “Clouter” Clayton because of his habit of giving any misbehaving pupil a clout around the ear.

There was Harry Grimes who taught chemistry to the sixth form. He wanted to give us a demonstration of how beer was brewed, but was told by a customs and excise inspector that it could only be done with an inspector present and ready to impound the beer after it had fermented; private brewing of beer (or any other alcohol) being illegal in those days.

Harry was learning to drive and gave us a daily update on progress – including the occasion when he was putting the car in the garage and drove straight through the end wall.

On a form trip he had to beg a lift from one of the sixth formers who had a car and had passed the driving test.

It was long before the days of mobile phones and cars 
(especially old bangers) were cheap and easily maintained.

When I’d forgotten some vital piece of homework, another pupil took me in his car to collect it. It was a scary journey as the steering wheel was waggling around attached by only one spoke – there were no MOT’s then.

All these thoughts were in my mind when I visited Manchester seven or eight years ago and had a look at the old school.

I was accompanied on the visit by Marie Fox who had been a pupil at the nearby Levenshulme High School for Girls at around the same time. From the outside appearance neither of the schools seemed to have changed very much.

We might have gone inside the Levenshulme School but bells started ringing and girls running out – then fire engines arrived.

So instead we went to see the house in which Marie had lived – and she pointed out the upstairs window through which she had climbed during one escapade.

Since then, the Burnage school has been demolished and rebuilt.

For those who didn’t know her, I should perhaps explain that Marie Fox was 19 when she came to Wetherby as a trainee journalist.

When she retired as Chief Reporter she continued writing the Our Wetherby feature until her death three years ago.

Marie was well-known around the town and a former Townsperson of the Year.