WAC: Trials and triumphs of a grammar school headmaster 1941-1965

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
WAC: Trials and triumphs of a grammar school headmaster 1941-1965 Old Maidstonian Society, The Grammar School, Barton Road, Maidstone, KentME15 7BX. pound;10 inc pp

December 1945. Peace at last, and Maidstone grammar's annual speech day is graced by the presence of Admiral Sir John Tovey, Commander of the Home Fleet. The headmaster, William Arthur Claydon (WAC), reports to the assembled school and dignitaries: "Our new prefabricated dining hall and canteen, promised us nearly two years ago by the Ministry of Education, have not yet materialised... dinners are served in the gymnasium, which has to be ready for PT 20 minutes after the second dinner has been served."

("Tell me about it," chorus generations of his contemporaries and successors.) Post-war privations are not the only clouds on Mr Claydon's horizon. The 1944 Education Act is taking effect, and there's a new Labour government.

The headmaster fears that: "The needs of the grammar schools may be forgotten in the desire to achieve parity and equality between all types of school." But not in Kent, Mr Claydon, never fear.

The speeches that heads make at speech day, prizegiving, or whatever you call it, give a fascinating glimpse into a world where pride in scholarships, sports trophies, Shakespearian productions (and, these days, Ofsted reports) is intermingled with niggles about car parking, leaking roofs, and the hassle of supervising new building.

There's also a time-honoured tradition of directing polite but telling shots at local authority and government. In 1959, facing a year of trying to run a school that's to be virtually rebuilt around him, Mr Claydon reminds the assembly that everything is down to the Kent education committee and the ministry, and adds: "A headmaster must be forgiven for envying at times the impersonal anonymity which these collective nouns lend to the individuals concerned!"

Mr Claydon's reports from 1942, covering momentous years for education in general and for grammar schools in particular, provide a valuable original resource for historians, quite apart from being interesting in their own right.

The final report of his predecessor, Alfred Woolgar, takes the record back to 1925.

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