My best teacher

31st March 2000 at 01:00
The story so far 1943, July 26 Born Dartford, Kent 1947 Attends Maypole primary school 1951 Moves to Wentworth county primary 1954 Enters Dartford grammar school 1959 Passes seven O-levels despite a report which says that he is 'too easily distracted' 1961 Passes history and English A-levels but fails French. Wins a place atthe London School of Economics armed with a school reference declaring him to be 'a lad of good general character' 1962 Forms the Rolling Stones with Keith Richards and Brian Jones 2000 Returns to Dartford grammar school on March 30 to open the Mick Jagger Centre for The Performing Arts

I've been back to Dartford over the years, but I hadn't been back to the grammar school until now. It's a strange feeling, because you want to be on your best behaviour. When you walk through the gates you remember that's where you got in a fight or that's where you got busted for not wearing the correct uniform. But I was a good, rounded person because I wasn't a swot and I wasn't a dunce. I was in the middle ground.

There was real violence between masters and pupils. There were guerrilla skirmishes on all fronts, with civil disobedience and undeclared war; they threw blackboard rubbers at us and we threw them back .

There were paper darts, pea-shooters, catapults. It was like something out of a cartoon in a comic book - The Beano, or something.

We used to get caned. It was routine everyday, with a line of boys standing outside the head's study. He was called "Lofty" Herman and he was a classic short person. He had very disciplined ideas and strange notions about social life. I didn't like him at all. I don't think anybody did.

He was an iron-fisted disciplinarian: totally cold and unapproachable. You had to wait outside the study until the light went on and then you'd go in. And everybody else used to hang about on the stairs to see how many he gave and how bad it was that morning.

Every master had his own tortures. There were some who would just punch you out. They'd slap your face so hard you'd go down. Others would twist your ear and drag you along until it was red and stinging. It was another world. They wouldn't get away with it today.

It's such a cliche that your school days are the happiest of your life. It really wasn't very pleasant. There was far too much petty discipline. There were incredibly petty rules about uniforms. There was a girls' grammar school across the street, and you weren't even allowed to speak to them at the bus stop.

It was hard work. If you had other interests like singing or dancing you seemed to have very few hours for them. The weekend was taken up with homework. I remember getting up at 6am to finish my homework because I'd fallen asleep over it the previous night, especially during the second year of A-levels.

Some of the masters were better than others. Arthur Page, the sports master, he was okay. He was a friend of my father, Joe, who also taught sports as well as history at other Dartford schools. Having a teacher as a parent meant you couldn't lie about your homework, but at least they could help you with it. They would know the syllabus and the cribs for your Latin and how to pass the exam.

I did Latin for five years, but today I couldn't translate a three-word Latin tag. We used to rag the Latin master something terrible becaus he never really punished anyone. We used to throw the rubber dusters at the blackboard while he was writing on it. Then he'd turn round and you'd be yellow carded. Keeping order was really a problem. It was all streamed and our class was one of the better ones so I hate to think what the less interested groups were like. There was one really good maths guy who wasn't actually my teacher. But he was another friend of my father's and he helped get me through my maths because I found that tricky. My history master, Walter Wilkinson, was good, despite the fact he had a really imperialist view of history. We used to throw football boots at the English master, just to keep ourselves amused and relieve the boredom of English poetry appreciation. Sweet Mr Brandon. He didn't deserve the ragging we gave him. He was such a gentle man.

We didn't make their lives any easier. It was terrible what we did, really. Even the ones who were okay got caught in the crossfire. The behaviour patterns were entrenched; we abused them whether they were decent or not. I was famous for mimicking them. You spent so long watching them, you could get them down to a fine art.

I read in the prospectus that the emphasis is now on self-discipline rather than corporal punishment, which is wonderful. The whole climate today is different. I think attitudes changed when they stopped using so much corporal punishment. It wasn't just the caning; there was a whole culture of violence. It was fear and loathing in north Kent. A different way of teaching came in during the Sixties which probably in some places has gone too far in the other direction.

Now the school has got this new performing arts centre, which is wonderful. There are so many different things they can do there: music, theatre, films, video. When I was at the school you got the feeling that arts and music were very much on the edge of the syllabus. I started a record club and we'd sit there in the lunch hour with a master behind the desk frowning while we played Lonnie Donegan records. That's all we had. If we had a facility like this new centre it would have made a fantastic difference. It would have gathered together all the people who had been in the closet, because it was a bit like being in the closet wanting to be a musician in those days. Nobody wanted to admit it. It wasn't a serious job like being the assistant manager of a bank.

Some of the masters rather begrudgingly enjoyed music, but they couldn't own up to it. There was a general feeling that music wasn't important. But we had the stereotypical modern master who liked trad jazz. Dave Brubeck was very popular. It was cool to like that and it wasn't cool to like rock 'n' roll. Jazz was intelligent and people with glasses played it, so we all had to make out we liked Gerry Mulligan.

It's a big honour to have a building at your old school named after you.

But to be honest I think they were a bit stuck. There aren't many famous people who have come from Dartford, so they didn't have much of a choice. There are a few generals who went to the school who are enshrined in the scrolls. But given that it is a performing arts centre I don't think they wanted to name it after the bloke who relieved Lucknow in some imperialist battle. So they ended up with me.

Mick Jagger was talking to Nigel Williamson

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