Forty Years On
THE FIRST TERM AT LINCOLN CHRIST’S HOSPITAL SCHOOL AUTUMN 1974
Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School History Paper No 2
1. A new dawn
Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School faced many challenges in its first 40 years between 1974 and 2014, each of which led to considerable change. Some were the results of political decisions shaped by ideology. These included the ending of the Middle School system, achieving Grant Maintained Status, becoming a Specialist Language College, losing Grant Maintained Status and, most recently becoming an Academy. Demographics also played their part. Falling roles at times led to budget and staffing cuts, but then rising roles would rebalance the numbers a few years later. The creation of more institutions offering post-16 courses in the Lincoln Travel-To-Work area had an erosive effect on Sixth Form numbers at times, but then the introduction of different routes of study and the effective raising of the school leaving age to 17 and then 18 in the 2010’s encouraged more young people to remain at LCHS. Similarly the School’s positive approach to welcoming new arrivals to the United Kingdom, especially after the major EU enlargement in 2004, led to more readjustment. However, while these movements in response to the winds of change were often rather abrupt and led to stormy conditions for a time, they fade into the background compared to the seismic structural and cultural shift in 1974.
The story is well documented elsewhere. In summary, two single-sex grammar schools and two single-sex non-selective secondary moderns in four different sets of buildings on three sites, closed at the end of the summer, and a new comprehensive 12-18 school was opened in the site of the boys’ grammar at the start of the autumn term. Thousands of pupils, staff members, parents, governors and administrators were involved. It was an enormous undertaking, recently described in the words of one former member of staff, Jim Baker, as “an exciting and challenging time”. For some the excitement predominated, while others found the challenges brought chaos and confusion.
Headmaster Arthur Behenna reflected on the whole sequence of events in his 1992 memoire “Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. A new school on old foundations”, the basis of Paper No.3 in this series. This current article, first published in 2014, tells the story largely from the viewpoint of some of the participants. In places, the author will divide the text where it is helpful to consider separate accounts from pupils and staff members. Elsewhere it will be a continuous thematic narrative interspersed with some updates and commentary written with the advantage of hindsight.
2. Preparing for the new school
2.1 The staff
Staff planning had started as soon as the reorganization had been formally ratified. The first major step was the appointment of Mr. H.A. Behenna as Headmaster of Lincoln School and Head-Designate of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School in 1972. This led to a cascade of further appointments with Mr. J.A. Shirley and Mrs. B. Coxon-Butler becoming the first Deputy Heads of the new school. Others in the senior team were Mr Sexton and Mr Cotton, soon joined by Mrs. Parker, all stalwarts in one of the existing schools.
In turn, teachers from the four merging schools were allocated roles in the new structure although of course some chose to retire and others moved to other posts, annual occurrences in most schools then as now. While new hierarchies developed, old groupings inevitably lingered. In the first year, PE teacher Chris Milnes, newly arrived from Stokesley, was “very aware of five factions – four previous schools plus the newbies. It took at least three years to come together. There had been a big staff turnover”.
In the grand scheme of things, modes of address might seem a small concern, but they were indicative of the rapidly changing times of the post-1960’s social revolution. More established members of staff like George Harrison, “and I think others of my generation, had been used to call older members of staff, especially senior staff and older ladies by “Mr. /Mrs/Miss [ surname]” until we got to know them better, but some I still never called by first name, especially the more senior ones. Suddenly at one, if not the first, staff meeting we were introduced to Jack, Ivan, Pat etc. and encouraged to call everyone by their first names, all except the Head. I still feel that in some ways this caused a breakdown of respect. I remember cringing when some new, young member of staff came into the staffroom and said ‘Jack’ or ‘Bill’.”
Curriculum structure was an early and very major consideration. The interests of those already on examination courses in the four existing schools were paramount with a myriad of ‘A’-level. ‘O-level’, CSE Mode I (board-defined) and CSE Mode III (teacher-defined) courses to be continued for the benefit of hundred of candidates from four different starting-points. Then an appropriate syllabus for the non-selective intake of the new school had to be developed while taking into account the very varied aspirations and wide-ranging abilities of the pupils soon to be under one roof. As one example, Pat Parker wrote the history syllabus for the new school with much discussion with the Lincolnshire CC inspector. Both Lincoln School and the Girls High School had been doing Tudors and Stuarts at A-level so it was logical to continue this. Chris Milnes was “sure I got a timetable and was told what (P.E.) activities I would be doing, but after that it was very much a question of just get on with it. No schemes of work. Brought a scheme of work from previous school. Odd, but it evolved.“
Throughout the existing schools, the prospect of mixed classes was a source of considerable apprehension for staff not used to different male and female attitudes to learning styles and also classroom behaviour.
There was also the impact of ROSLA, the raising of the school leaving age to 16 in 1974, which meant that all pupils would have to complete four years in the new school. One early decision was that the final year pupils in the secondary modern schools would stay there in what was renamed ‘The Annex’. George Harrison, teacher in charge of English at SGSMB since 1972, was based there. He recalls that there was a sharp increase .in CSE English entries from 14 in 1972-1973 to 64 the following ROSLA year, and that there were two much smaller classes which took no examinations.
And once the framework was in place, rooms had to be allocated. For some departments this was straightforward because new specialist facilities were under construction for subjects such as Art, Music, P.E., Science and various forms of Design Technology as well as small Sixth Form groups, but for others life was not so simple. The Old Hall gallery became a lecture theatre and the spaces underneath divided into two small rooms. The presence of Modern Foreign Languages in the 1.6m wide north-south corridor determined, or was determined by, the positioning of the language in what is now 305 opposite 309 which remained in Science hands for another two decades. Desk-bound subjects such as English, Maths, Geography, History and Religious Studies will invariably have come last in the considerations.
And whatever the decisions most teachers were assigned to unfamiliar rooms in September 1974 with the concomitant consequence of needing to move accumulated resources from other locations. Sandra Allen remembers walking between SMS and LCHS carrying resources because of the absence of wheeled transport. A front page story in ‘The Echo’ on 20th September described the move of over 200 loads from the High School to the Wragby Road as the largest ever undertaken by the contractor. This was supervised by the Deputy Mrs. Coxon-Butler because the headteacher, Mrs Wood, was absent with a back problem. Pat Parker believes that not all the High School records came across. One lingering rumour is that they were left in the attic and finally disposed of when the Art College moved into the Greestone building.
In some cases the removed items arrived in their new home on Wragby Road and needed temporary storage because the new buildings were not yet signed off for school use. George Harrison has a memory of the library being set up in the lower school hall for only a short time, probably in 1974-1975, and “then suddenly orders were given from above and it was moved to 232”.
While senior staff had been in regular contact from the beginning, for classroom teachers there was a need for introductions. Pat Parker remembers joint social events for the High School and Lincoln School staff, but not for future colleagues from the two schools on St.Giles. Jim Baker notes “many meetings from staffing to curriculum”. George Harrison recalls that “in 1973-1974 there had been a number of meetings for the staff of the new school, but for a number of colleagues, life in the new school didn’t start properly until 1975-1976” because they remained in the secondary modern buildings.
2.2 The pupils
For pupils there were the usual concerns about moving to the ‘big school’, normal except that this transition was to a school, which had no history of its own in September 1974. For most it was more complicated than it seems from 40 years on because, in the words of ‘The Lincolnian’ “they had been ‘the children’ twice over because the Middle Schools had retained the juniors for an extra year”.
Some like pupil Martin Hingley in the very heart of the process saw the whole thing as very contrived: “Starting at LCHS I was 12, and 13 by October 1974. This it seemed to me was a bit old to start secondary education. The reason being was delay in the start of the new comprehensive system. We were the first cohort and it seemed (and felt like) guinea pigs. We didn’t take the 11 plus and were ‘held back’ a year. I attended Monks Road Infants from the age of 5 and progressed to then what became Monks Abbey Middle School. This was a good school, but I had the feeling that we were being held in limbo with the delays in the launch of the new education system, and it seemed we were just waiting around in the last year for things to happen before going to LCHS.” However, it would be another decade before the middle schools were closed and the transition from primary to secondary took place at eleven.
The new-ness of everything was compounded by delays to the building projects which were to enable a 600-boy grammar school to expand into a 1500 pupil mixed comprehensive. On 4th September 1974 ‘The Lincolnshire Echo’ ran the front page headline “Opening of new school delayed” and reported that it had been postponed from 10th September to 23rd September, so pupils started their secondary schooling a fortnight later than planned.
‘Newbie’ David Sleight recalls: “The announcement of the merger between the schools received a mixed response. On one hand it removed the need for the 11+ (that we had all been working towards anyway) and created a super-school the size of which none of us could imagine. With an older brother two years up the school, we had a direct comparison to hand – and there was doubt that the new structure was right or deliverable. These suspicions were not helped by the announcement that the school was not to be ready for the start of term. Again this was a mixed blessing; two more weeks of summer holidays set against the uncertainty of entering the vast unknown.”
Parents, and doubtless many pupils, were naturally worried about this disruption, especially where children from the former selective schools were heading for external examinations in the summer of 1975. A letter in ‘The Echo’ on 10th September from C.J. Dawson of Cecil Street highlights these concerns. Even boys at Lincoln School had to be prepared to make a fresh start with the arrival of so many staff and so many new rooms coming into use, some before others
There were also concerns about uniform. Pupil David Sleight remembers that “practical issues also came into play. Whereas [previously] many families had been able to use hand-me-downs of uniform, the new school had a clear dress code, and I have a memory of people turning up in a variety of outfits with the excuse that panic buying in the city had caught their parents out!”
The variety is shown in what is at the moment the only 1974-1975 photograph to have been brought to the Archives, that of Jim Baker’s form
For pupil Martin Hingley, “the uniform seemed grown up after primary school uniform, navy and black and the horizontal striped tie. I recall going through the uniform and sports kit options distinctly. For me LCHS was very convenient, a short 5 minute walk on the flat from my house and novel relief after endless trekking up and down hill to Monks Road! Other than that I recall no other preparation and just turned up as required”.
Staff member George Harrison, recalls that “the non-uniform policy of the secondary modern era lasted for another 12 months in the Annex rather than requiring final year boys to buy a new set of clothing. White trousers and braces, a fashion of the period, could be seen in classrooms” in the former St Giles Secondary Modern School for Boys.
3. Early days
The first day for pupils (Monday 23rd September)?
It is unclear at the moment whether more senior pupils in examination groups were in class in school before late September, but building setbacks meant that the majority enjoyed a fortnight’s extra holiday as described by “The Lincolnshire Echo’. At that period the paper was published every day except for Sunday and at times there were four separate editions, all produced and printed in the building on the Brayford which is now the home of The University of Lincoln’s School of Business and Law. On Monday 23rd September 1974 the paper was able to publish a front page picture of new boys and girls meeting Headmaster Behenna on their first days.
David Sleight takes up the narrative: “The first day was one of utter confusion and bafflement at the scale of the challenge ahead. The year briefing was conducted with confidence, but the fact it took nearly 15 minutes to get everyone in for the assembly was clearly an unexpected challenge.”
For Martin Hingley,“there seemed to be an atmosphere of controlled chaos in the bringing together of so many people from so many schools and the demands of a whole new comprehensive education system, rather than previous regular process of grammar and secondary schools.”
Writing on the alumni site in 2001, Donna Germany notes that she was taken “into deputy head Mr. Cotton’s office, first day of school for calling him by his nickname, very scary, but excellent for my school cred! Also the horrible swimming pool... And fainting in Biology - last thing I heard was the teacher telling everyone just to step over me, I think he got used to it.”
Also from the alumnus site in 2001, Matt Dowson recalls that he “Enjoyed my years at LCHS, although not the 74-75 years when certain ex-St Giles’ members seemed to want to thump those of us who had been at Lincoln School; things got better though. Good lot of teachers, although there was one straggly-haired loser who loved to pull your hair from behind in the corridor, 73-74-ish here, anyone remember his name”.
David Sleight: “The [new] school did impose its ethos quickly. There had been a summer of dark mutterings about St.Giles pupils planning to assert their position, that the Monks Road ‘rabble’ were keen to swiftly contest. The staff had heard this coming, and the first assembly contained a blistering warning against any such riotous conflict. Knowing the school was overcrowded we suspected summary expulsions could be a very desirable mechanism for the school to slim down. There was little trouble, and quickly the Cinder Track leading to the playground became a place to share intelligence about the teachers.”
Martin Hingley recalls that “we were immediately divided in forms. Confusingly I was designated Year 2 and Form 6. So, 2(6). I assume year 2 rather than 1 for the reason of delay of starting the comprehensive system by a year. So the immediate impression of the school was one of appearing big with a lot of forms. The main building seemed impressively grand and old. Oddly we were not allowed to enter by the front gates”. Forty years on, using the front gates remains a staff and Sixth Form privilege.
Staff member George Harrison: “As I was in the Annex I have no idea how the first day went; smoothly or otherwise. However I do remember a number of St Giles boys who did go to the main school saying in the summer term of 1974 that they wouldn’t turn up the first day in uniform … but they all did”.
3.2 Settling in
New structures, systems and patterns came into operation. Pat Parker recalls that first years started in mixed ability classes before they were moved into sets determined by individual subjects, but never streamed. Everyone did Latin in first two years i.e. Y8 and Y9 in current parlance. This gradually settled down and Latin became Classical Studies. There were eight 35 minute lessons in the day, often doubled up to suit the needs of the practical subjects. This led to a considerable amount of pupil movement around the site with the journey between distant corners offering considerable opportunities for pupils to get ‘lost’ or ‘distracted’ en route. The eight lessons were split evenly between morning and afternoon. The pre-lunch pattern including an assembly and mid-morning break, but in the afternoon the four lessons followed each other without a pause. This pattern continued into the new school’s second decade and evolved in the Cox headship to the current pattern of five 60 minute lessons daily for the majority of pupils starting at 8.30 a.m. Four lessons took place before lunch at 1.15pm. More senior pupils may have had two additional lessons finishing at 4.50 p.m.
For David Sleight, “finding our way around the school was one of the most difficult aspects, not least because of all the bodies in the way. ‘The crossroads’ were to be avoided at all costs – it became a sardine-tin at key moments in the day, and memory suggests teachers were posted on traffic duty to keep people moving. If one had lesson in the huts on the playing field various routes back to the Cloisters were possible – the easiest, round the front of the 6th Form block, and in full view of Mr Behenna’s office, was swiftly forbidden”. Forty years on, this route is reserved for staff and senior students should the later wish to risk crossing the car-park at the front of the school where 50 or so staff cars are parked during the school day. Access to the grassy areas is very strictly reserved for group photographs with the arches of the cloisters providing a timeless background then as now.
Whole school assemblies were impossible because there was no single indoor space where the whole school could be gathered together and so year groups became the norm. The Lincoln School hall had now lost its gallery and the space underneath to provide classroom space while the new hall, despite the bleachers, could only accommodate about 300. The pattern quickly evolved of junior assemblies with pupils sitting on the floor in the ‘Old Hall’. Older pupil year groups has assemblies in the ‘Main Hall, a utility space also used for productions, over-spill PE activities on wet days, daily dining and, worst of all, the eastern extension of the main west-east corridor. This ran from the junior playground along the cloisters, through the crossroads and eventually down stairs into the hall, across the front between the stage and any assembled body, up some more stairs and then out with some awkward angles around the new boiler-house. The challenges posed by this alignment remain to this day although somewhat reduced by the development of a second north-south axis through the Biology courtyard and a redundant space to the west of the hall. The lack of assembly space also continues with the Sports Hall providing an occasional venue for major events such as incoming Chinese gymnasts, an American band, Open Evenings and junior prize-givings for a maximum of 800 people on chairs, just over half of the school population at best. Then and now, only Lincoln Cathedral had the indoor capacity to house the entire school.
There were morning and afternoon registration times with big, floppy registers. The morning session was often known as ‘form period’ in which tutors collected dinner money. Chris Milnes wonders whether the meals cost a shilling a day, while Pat Parker suggests that there might have been two sittings. Form time was used for pastoral activities by the most diligent tutors, but mostly form rooms provided some catch-up moments for teachers and pupils alike on administration, homework and the occasional disciplinary matter.
Then as now, food plays a central part in the lives of teenagers and their teachers. David Sleight remembers that “getting through lunch unscathed was a challenge. The snake of pupils waiting for food took seemingly for ever, probably worse when hungry! The food was good, we were all eager for it, and some days the catering staff excelled themselves – they clearly had some decent chefs back then – and the main note I recall is the cheerfulness. Getting that number of meals out every day was a real achievement. I recall one lad would always finish off any food anyone left on the plate, thinking at the time he must never get fed at home. Looking back with hindsight, that probably was the case.“
Perhaps memories are golden. Writing in ‘The Lincolnian” in 1976 Stuart Goodacre commented that “the school dinners are what most people talk about. They aren’t too bad, but they aren’t always good. Very rarely do Second Years have a good choice, and when the cost goes up to 25p in September the number of people who stay will decrease and one of those ceasing to eat in school will be me”
Overall things went well and the vastly increased population settled into the greatly expanded buildings on the Wragby Road site. Martin Hingley observes that “LCHS had good, new and modern facilities compared to what I had experienced before. Science labs, sports, technology, cookery etc. It seemed a regular and serious curriculum with facilities to back it up. However, some outposts were at odds with this, such as the quirky Biology hut”. The Biology Hut was to survive into the twenty-first century, as were some other architectural oddities from days past, such as the main internal north-south route through Languages being a mere 160 cms wide at its narrowest point and necessitating a one-way flow at lesson changes, studiously ignored by more senior students
The first term (September – December 1974 )
The remaining new buildings were soon completed and handed over to the school which gradually filled up, although the St.Giles seniors stayed in the Annex at all.
David Sleight: “As the school became less like a building site and space opened up, staff became creative about their teaching spaces and timetables were simplified to avoid classes moving. In some cases we stayed static and it was the teachers in the crush between lessons!“
We quickly began to see the quality of our teachers, and their ability to quell rebellion compared to primary school was of the highest quality. As the winter came on, we discovered the variable delights of the new sports hall set against the horror of the non-heated Withers Pool. I actually think we didn’t swim in there at all the first year, but the fear of it was always there. The playing fields seemed endless when it came to cross-country running, and when we did venture out on extended routes through the upper city, various short-cuts and garden hops were discovered to lessen the pain. I didn’t take the easy way, honest – but it was remarkable that no-one blabbed on those who did. If they got caught, depending on the Games Master – the punishment was to be avoided at all costs. “
Chris Milnes notes that Saturday morning sports continued to thrive in the early years , but this later declined as part of wider social trends. These were to include the teachers’ 1265 hours contract, an increasingly reluctance by non-sports teachers faced with more and more marking pressures to give up their personal time, the growth in part-time jobs for pupils, and a general move against team sports and elitism. Parental concerns about ‘stranger danger’ and the growth of isolationist computer-based activities did not improve the situation.
George Harrison has clear memories of the new school’s first Christmas carol service held in the cathedral. “Not only did the Year 11 classes based in The Annex have to undertake a longer trek across the north of Lincoln, but there was a blizzard in progress. On arriving at the west front, they found queues standing in the deep snow waiting to enter the building. Even the fashionable parkas worn by pupils and many staff in the mid-1970’s couldn’t keep out the cold or suppress the chuntering and chattering teeth”
For a variety of reasons not all the children at the St.Giles transferred to the new school in September 1974 and remained in the secondary modern buildings for another year. This of course reduced the numbers eventually moving across because they had now reached the school leaving age, now 16, but at the start they were clearly singled out and left out. As ‘The Lincolnian’ sympathetically records about the merger as a whole, “particularly the pupils from the old St.Giles and Myle Cross Schools were disturbed: they were divided between themselves, so that some girls and some boys came to Wragby Road, while the remainder were brought together and taught as a small dismembered school in the old girls’ school premises.”
Some staff stayed at St.Giles Secondary Modern for Boys with the Year 11 while the senior Myle Cross girls also remained in their part of the building, separated from each other by the central ‘bar’ in the H-block. This area was filled with gym equipment. Two mixed Year 9 classes were also based there. The whole area was known as the Annex and was led by Bill Cotton., although without the band, an inside joke for those who can remember a choice of two television channels in the 1960’s
In this first year George Harrison and others spent 2½ hours per week teaching in the main school. However, “there was no travel time built into the schedule so they had to jump into their cars and race between the schools, hoping that their next class would have arrived in the room in an orderly manner. Some staff went to the ‘main’ school for more hours than I did. A few staff came over to us to teach a few lessons.
Apart from going over for my sessions at LCHS life was as normal in the Annex—except not only was I teaching the top two year 11 boys CSE I found, with very little warning, that I was to teach the top two year 11 girls CSE in the Myles Cross part.”
Staff from the Annex went over to LCHS for departmental meetings and year meetings at various times.
To conclude the story of the Annex, George Harrison also remembers that “towards the end of the year, it became very quiet in the Annex because the exam pupils had left. Some furniture was transferred to the Wragby Road site, but items regarded as redundant, unfashionable or surplus items were summarily destroyed.” Mr.Harrison’s oak classroom desk was chopped up in the room and many traditional double desks with metal frames were removed and burnt somewhere south of Lincoln. Team photos of the many successful SGSMB football teams were apparently just dumped into a skip….which is why all schools, even the newest, should have archivists to keep a beady eye open for such treasures!
3.5 The first year 1974-1975
For David Sleight “the first year was life-changing. We’d become big cogs in our primary schools, and to go back to being the bottom of the list was tough. The older boys in the school probably resented the enlarged cohort, including girls – for the first time, so there was some effort to establish the old school pecking order – and the structures of monitors and prefects helped perpetuate that.”
Writing on the alumni website in 2001, Susan Wakefield (née Goodacre) remembers that “the only pupils who could use the main driveway, the central staircase and the shortcut from the cloisters to the door by the staff room were 6th formers, when the pool was outdoors and could only be used in the summer (and there was precious little of that!), and trooping down the cinder path to the girls’ playing field on Nettleham Road (ugh!), when we were sent out into the yard at break whatever the weather!!”
For almost every teacher there was the novelty of mixed classes for the first time. Mixed gender was an issue for both teachers and pupils. The shyness and coyness of some contrasted and conflicted with the macho ‘strutting stuff’ of others. This was really hard for some of the former single-sex school staff in particular.
Writing on the alumni site in 2006, Anneliese Macalister-Smith recalls: “I was a pupil at LCHS from 1974-1976 in the 6th form during those "revolutionary years" of being allowed to wear normal clothes. At least in those days, anything seemed normal after wearing an English school uniform for so many years! And what a difference having boys around!”
Chris Milnes remembers discipline issues and inconsistency in applying codes of conduct as a major concern for most staff. “Some just couldn’t cope. It took three to four years to become LCHS as the GS streams moved away and the uniform settled“ as pupils grew out of their attire from their former schools. In a similar vane George Harrison is convinced that “it took several years for the staffs to meld. The SGSMB teachers tended to congregate in the bay window of the staff room, now Room 702. Others had their own offices e.g. 11 English teachers squeezed in by the Lecture Theatre” in a space now occupied by a server room. Chris Williams remembers that when he stated at the school in April 1986 the scientists were split between the Biology Hut, the Chemistry store-room and somewhere in Physics. This did not promote staff unity. Today there is no central staff room. Early morning briefings are scheduled for all staff, year groups and departments on a fixed rota, while breaks and lunchtimes are spent on duty or in pastoral or subject offices across the site.
For George Harrison “there were inevitably ”stresses and strains in the new staff structures as teachers from four different school cultures came together. In the early days it wasn’t always easy to identify who should do what such as whether responsibility for classroom behaviour, discipline and punishment should fall on the Head of Subject or the Head of Year.”
Forty years on, we would say that the starting point is the teacher with support from both departmental and pastoral staff, and also with members of senior leadership. However, even with well-honed systems, there can be inconsistencies.
The pupils’ perspective is shown by Martin Hingley: “What seemed a major issue early on was the culture shock of what would have been ‘grammar’ and ‘secondary modern’ streams of pupils coming together when in the past they would have been divided.
Personally I believed the mix of pupils was a good thing, or we would have been ghettoised by background and class. We were setted purely on ability for core subjects and I believe this was a good thing. Not only that, we could progress between streams. I think some of the staff seemed to have a hard time adjusting to the comprehensive mix. For example, some from the grammar tradition seemed to struggle with the challenges of dealing with those from a tougher and poorer upbringing. Until then, social class typically divided people and their schooling in Lincoln. Even for me, having come from Monks Road, many of my new classmates seemed a whole lot smarter and more refined. So being thrown together for the first time was a difficulty for both staff and pupils, but on balance it was a good thing. The school to me seemed to offer possibilities for all according to ability rather than the side of town they came from”.
Pat Parker asserts that academic standards were not diluted and notes that 40 years on LCHS still sends people to Oxbridge. The very large Sixth Form, then recruiting from William Farr, Cherry Willingham, St Peter and St Paul SSPP and the Convent, remains large with over 300 post-16 students in 2014 although the recruitment area is different with a higher proportion coming through our own ranks including a growing non-British element, and a wider range of courses.
In March 1975 the School put on its first play, “Twelfth Night” with Richard Greenway and James Brandon as Sir Toby Belch and Malvolio respectively, another tradition of the pre-1974 schools maintained and continued to the present day. The house system also began in 1975 with Bluecoats, an unaccounted for change from singular to plural from the ‘olden’ days! Greyfriars, Lindum and Minster, the chosen names. After a break from the mid-eighties, the system and these names have been restored with that slight tweak!
The official opening took place on 3rd May 1975 when the plaque now fixed at the foot of the Garton corridor was unveiled.
For David Sleight, “in summary, LCHS in the 74-75 year felt like a hybrid school, enough of the old grammar to give the ethos and rigour (including many academic staff), with the newness of a comprehensive expanding for a glorious new age of open and accessible education for all – that’s certainly what we were told was the benefit.”
4. Memories from the early years
These are not year-specific, but give a flavour to the period.
David Sleight: “The huts on the playing field that were used for teaching had a temporary nature, but were made of creosoted wood coated so many times the whole place felt like it was centuries old. We didn’t mind the cracks in the timber walls because at least it offered some ventilation. We had Mr Williamson for Maths in there, and I don’t recall being cold in winter, but the heat in summer was unbearable. It was inadvertently compounded by Mr.Williamson talking about fridges. We could often get him away from Maths and onto industrial inventions he had taken part in. The one that stood out and made him a legend to me, was that he was part of the team that worked on the mathematical foundation for the way the rubber seal around a fridge door works to draw it to.”
David Sleight: “The playground at the western end of the school, near the sports hall, had a covered shed with room to store what seemed like hundreds of bikes. A spate of thefts resulted in stern advice to purchase locks, after which components like wheels and seats were taken. It was on an industrial scale, and probably not by schoolchildren, so everyone took off the nickable items for safety.” After a period of disuse the sheds were returned to service in the first decade of the new millennium with proper bike racks and a caged-in front, locked and unlocked by a member of the site team at the start and finish of the school day. In general cycling has become more popular nationally through various national initiatives, but sadly Wragby Road and adjacent routes are much busier with commuter traffic and so the improved security for bikes hasn’t actually brought a huge upsurge in use.
George Harrison remembers that back in 1974-1975 smoking was permitted in the staffroom, at meetings and even at parents’ evenings, when there was competition for the seven staff ashtrays. Gradually opportunities for smoking were reduced to half of the staff room, and finally, after a controversial ballot, a smoking room upstairs now used as a leadership office. Chris Williams remembers it as the place you could go to see a completed version of the day’s ‘Times’ crossword. Some colleagues nicknamed it ‘The Production Office’ because of its clientele.
Final words looking back
Jim Baker, then a staff member, comments: “I believe the transition went as smoothly as it did because staff could focus on ‘what mattered’ i.e. maintaining the learning and well-being of the students and themselves. In those days staff had the autonomy to be able to do this.”
Martin Hingley, then a pupil, concludes: “As I have reported, the first year of LCHS was challenging, sometimes confused and chaotic, a clash of people from different backgrounds not usually thrown together. But on reflection I believe it was a good thing. My reflection on those times is that, unlike education today, there was a real sense of new possibilities for all. We were thrown together and worked our way through it.“
I wonder how members of staff and pupils at LCHS in 2014 will reflect on ‘autonomy’ and ‘new possibilities’ in 2054
Chris Williams 28th December 2014
The author would like to acknowledge the support of many members of the school community, past and present, for their conscious and unconscious contributions to this paper
The author eagerly anticipates that others will step forward over time with ‘corrigenda and addenda’ to improve the accuracy and extent of the narrative. In due course there will further editions. He welcomes fresh contributions from former pupils and staff members alike with tales to tell about September 1974
We will also look forward to being able to use back numbers of ‘The Lincolnshire Echo’, now stored by the University of Lincoln while a new research facility is developed. The readers at Lincoln Centre Library are helpful, but now show their age in terms of ease and speed of access for a major research exercise covering an extended period
Contributors to this first edition:
Pupils in 1974:
Martin Hingley, now Professor of Strategic Marketing, Lincoln Business School, University of Lincoln;
David Sleight, then a ‘newbie’, now Associate Professor of Media, Dean of Public Engagement, University of Lincoln;
Staff members in 1974:
Sandra Allen, then Remedial teacher
Jim Baker, then Science master, now “Freelance Educational Consultant, Teacher, Teacher Trainer and Maverick”
Jean Barker, then Classics teacher
George Harrison, then, had been in charge of English at St Giles Secondary Modern School for Boys since 1972
Chris Milnes, then Assistant teacher of Physical Education (Burnham Scale 1)
Pat Parker, then Head of History and i/c Lower Sixth at GHS; Head of History at LCHS – appointed six months before merger
Maureen Smith, then Maths teacher
Behenna, Arthur; Garton, Charles; Skinner, Joyce; Stuart, Francis (1990): Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
Behenna, Arthur (1992): Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. A new school on old foundations.
Harrod P. and Williams C (2012): Occasional Paper No 6: A Brief History of Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
‘The Lincolnian’ magazine collection in the Garton Archive: A single edition covers the whole period of 1974-1976. Producing the magazine was certainly not one of the priorities in the first 18 months of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School
Contributions from Matt Dowson, Donna Germany, Anneliese Macalister-Smith and Susan Wakefield (née Goodacre) through their entries on the LCHS alumni website - http://www.christs-hospital.lincs.sch.uk/alumni/alumni.htm
About the Author
Chris Williams was a teacher of history and Deputy Headteacher at LCHS from 1986 to 2007 with two three month periods as Headteacher. He now works for the school and a number of organisations on a consultancy basis. He has been Honorary Archivist since 2005. In April 2014 he was appointed to a post with specific responsibility for the Archives of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School since the reorganisation of 1974.
Appendix 1: Research questions
If anyone reading this paper would like to add further comments, please feel free to do so in any way works for you. The author hopes that there will be a second edition in due course
These prompts were used by the first group of respondees, whose contributions shaped the first version written in December 2014.
Forty years on: the first year of LCHS 1974-1975
Some headings and prompts for those with memories to share
Please don’t feel that you have to write something on every line! Adjust the sheet to suit you. Any contribution welcome.
Current position: ? Position in 1974: ?
How did you prepare for starting at the new school?
What do you remember about
the first day for pupils (Monday 23rd September)?
the first week ?
the first term (September – December 1974 ) ?
the first year 1974-1975 ?
(Prompts – assemblies, uniform. buildings, lessons, meals, lunch-times, travel, plays, activities etc.)
Do you remember anything about how the people and traditions from very different schools were brought together?
Please tell us anything else you think might be of interest to others
Can I quote your exact words and use your name in any article? YES NO Thank you
Appendix 2: Other stories from the early years
Several of the respondees have reminisced on events in the early years to which they could not attach specific dates. Any of these might eventually form the basis of lengthier articles.
One dramatic event remembered by George Harrison was “The soldier who fell from the rope dangling from a helicopter—injured—LCHS playing field” David Sleight adds to this: “Visit by helicopter of Army or RAF commando-types – the whole school were trooped out to stand on the field while the Wessex flew in and hovered with the back door open, long ropes dropped about 30 or 40 feet to ground and the personnel began abseiling down. Except for one unfortunate who lost his grip and fell about 30 feet to the playing field below. It looked very painful, and many pupils were upset by what we had seen. We were quickly ushered away as an ambulance arrived for the soldier. I recall one of the sports teachers rather bluntly adding to the distress of some by announcing loudly “he’ll have a headache for a few days.” Perhaps someone can add further details.
Another accident recalled by George Harrison occurred when a painter fell through the skylight during Brian Daulton’s A-level lesson resulting in two pupils being cut with glass.
Writing on the alumni site in 2001, Matt Dowson asks about the school revolt of 78-79 when the 6th form went on strike. George Harrison remembers a pupils’ strike over school dinners, perhaps the same event. They remained on the school field for a few days and the police came. The strikers eventually gave in when weather turned cold. Is there anyone out there who participated and has a story to tell?
The weather featured in other ways according to George Harrison. One April a CSE exam was stopped as a sudden gale blew open some top windows in the Lower School Hall and papers were snowed on. There was one freezing cold June when staff and pupils in old part of school had to work for over a week with overcoats on as the heating was being repaired. On a different occasion pupils were lost in thick fog on Kinder Scout with the rescue team being informed.
One final recollection from the Harrison memory bank was the sponsored walk to save Hercules the hippo or find him a home, possibly when Cleethorpes Zoo closed in 1977.
Chris Milnes recalls a strong Duke of Edinburgh programme with several gold awards, the first Iceland trip organized by Roger Best and John Benson, and also the ski-trips, the latter continuing to the present day.
Further details about any of these stories would be welcome, especially if there are photographs and narrative to accompany them.