Paul Leedham: 1975, Pupil eye view

Paul Leedham was one of the pupils at the time of transition from Burton Grammar School to Abbot Beyne Comprehensive:

As far as the transition from Grammar to Comprehensive was concerned – the whole subject was full of mixed emotions. Many pupils lived in denial that it would ever happen. The cynics amongst us, always filled with awe at the legacy of Mr Gillion, believed that Bomber Harris was brought in because of his left-wing tendancies!! (it never occurred to us that perhaps, just maybe, Mr Gillion was at retirement age by then!!) Nonetheless, the idea of the school becoming comprehensive was something we could never contemplate, despite the fact that several masters told us “this will happen in Sept ’75″ and tried to convince us that converting to a Comprehensive was a much better prospect… as if it were just a game of politics… it became apparent just who the “yes” men were amongst the staff. We were all very proud to ware our Deus Nobiscum badge and accompanying uniform, and what it stood for. Who could possible take the fact that we were Burton Boys Grammar pupils away from us? Well the system couldn’t – the vast majority of us continued to wear our uniform, badge and tie until we left school and moved on, despite being encouraged to hang up our uniform and don the new badge with the motto “Onward Together”.

When the transition arrived in September 1975, the effect ranged from submission to the new regime, to what verged on anarchy. I can clearly remember the first morning, when the doors opened. Where coat hooks had stood at the end of summer term, there now stood horrible, tall metal lockers! Our beautiful wooden lockers, which were built into the walls along the corridors (I’m sure you’ll remember them) were all closed, and were kept that way be means of 4-inch nails through the doors and into the frames. Now we understood why we were asked to empty our lockers at the end of the summer term. Enter the anarchists! A small number of pupils, (suprisingly they were probably the brightest amongst us) borrowed claw hammers and removed as many of the 4-inch nails as possible, and then transferred their belongs back to the wooden lockers. This was followed by a ritual kicking of the new metal lockers, until they were dented and severly damaged. When faced by staff, the anarchists were abusive, disrespectful and downright obnoxious. They’re previous respectful approach to authority was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, the anarchists were dealt with via statutory means at the time, the cane, plus letters to parents. Suprisingly, none were suspended.

Despite the demise of Burton Boys Grammar in name at least, the merger of the three schools caused a number of different emotions. Certain pupils could see the benefits: access to girls from the High School would be much easier, and justified; after all, we were one school now with some mixed classes. However, there was a downside: Ada Chadwick. The girls from there were considered to be “not of suitable standing” to be seen with Grammar School boys, and were avoided at all costs on this basis. The Ada Chadwick boys were another problem all together. They treated us with contempt and regularly called us “Grammar School poofs”, “Nice Boys” or “Snobs”. This led to many bloody scenes, one of which I was involved in; I sustained more damage than any rugby match had inflicted ever on me. Then there was the organised battles on the bank between the rugby field and the ex-Ada Chadwich Building, involving missiles of all shapes and sizes. They were frightening times.

Eventually, I think we came to accept what had happened, but a streak of rebellion always remained. Right to the point where I left the school in 1978, there would be a small contingent that refused to sing the new school song (myself included), and would manage to sing “Deus Nobiscum, God With Us” at the same time as the new song.

At the end of the day, we were all proud to have been pupils at Burton Boys Grammar. Its legacy lives on in all of us. Whenever asked, I’m sure most say “I was at Burton Boys Grammer School” -never- “Abbot Beyne”; I know I do, and always will.


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