'Risinghill closed quietly. No one broke up the school'

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
In her 1968 bestseller Risinghill: Death Of a Comprehensive School, Leila Berg had this to say about the final day:

"Weeks later, I talked to a mother, and she said to me: 'Mr Duane helped an awful lot to get the children to accept the move. Roger came home and told me about it, that they were not to go with malice, and were to show that Risinghill could breed gentlemen.' I was amazed. I had not sat among the children, and had not absorbed their response. Up in the front row of the gallery, I could scarcely hear the quiet, conversational tone. I had been moved, but out of an adult's experience. Yet 14-year-old Roger, who at first had flatly announced that he would 'not go to any new school', had brought this message home to his mother.

"On that last day at Risinghill no one did break up the school. The people who came to move the piano said another school had smashed theirs to smithereens. A teacher said that at a school in Lambeth the children tore the school apart on the last day. Another said that at a Paddington school all the doors were taken off their hinges.

"At a school near Risinghill, the staff had been pelted with tomatoes and the staffroom set on fire, though on the last day itself things had been quieter. And at another school, equally near, the children were rehearsing their brass band with the music teacher, and another teacher said they were making too much noise and furiously threw a bucket of water over them all.

"But Risinghill closed quietly, with crowds of children talking in Mr Duane's study, and the toughest kids of all crying in the lavatories."

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