Remember me? Pudgy lad with the bowl-head hair…

Cast your mind back to 1983. The comedy genius of Blackadder has just been unleashed on the nation.

The novelty of people asking Bob Holness for a P on the gameshow Blockbusters hasn’t yet worn off.

As we munch on our toast, we’ve gone from having no telly in the morning to being able to choose between BBC’s Breakfast Time and ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Either way, chunky sweaters are in.

Yours truly, however, has more important things on his mind.

I’m part of the guinea pig year – the first group of students to attend high school at the age of 11 rather than 12 in order that we can eventually take the new GCSE exams which are to be introduced in 1987.

Gone are the O-levels and CSEs in favour of a new system which uses coursework as well as one-off exams to assess a pupil’s academic ability.

Holden Lane High School is one of the biggest schools in the Potteries and boasts five, brand new mobile classrooms to cope with the additional influx of children.
One of them is to become my home for five years.

I’m a nervous, overweight lad from Sneyd Green for whom the first few months at Holden Lane High would be a real trial for all sorts of reasons.

There’s none of this school-run nonsense. We all walk to school and I even go home at lunchtime to play Dungeons & Dragons with my mate Glyn.

To be honest, I’d have ridden there and back on my metallic blue Raleigh Grifter if I didn’t have to go down and back up Abbotts Drive – the Potteries equivalent of Kilimanjaro.

Make no bones about it, high school in the Eighties was a totally different beast to modern-day state secondary education.

Most of our classrooms still had blackboards rather than those new-fangled whiteboards.

The library was just that – a place filled with books – and there were no such things as learning resource centres boasting smart screens and laptops.

In fact, computer studies was a brand new GCSE with the emphasis very much on dull-as-dishwater programming. Frankly, we’d have learned more playing PacMan.

The school’s pride and joy was actually its ‘language lab’ – rows of sets of headphones with microphones which allowed us to listen to French and German and attempt to speak a little without our mates taking the mickey.

In the classrooms we sat at decades-old old wooden desks, complete with redundant inkwells and etched with graffiti which carried the names of naughty pupils who were long gone.

Discipline was strict. We all stood up when teachers entered the room and didn’t sit down again until we were told too.

We walked on the left in corridors and woe-betide anyone who didn’t.

They risked an ear-bashing from ‘Doc’ Whieldon or detention/lines from history supremo Geoff Ball.

My form tutor Mr Jones still dished out the cane for bad behaviour – or smacked pupils’ hands with ‘Edge-On the Chinese ruler’.

There was no internet to distract us, no social networking and no mobile phones to be confiscated. Break times consisted of the lads playing football on the Tarmac and the girls standing around discussing Pods shoes, Duran Duran’s latest single and Michael J. Fox.

Whereas previously it hadn’t mattered what you wore at school, suddenly my generation became brand aware.

Suddenly it mattered that you had Nike Air Trainers, that your bag was by Head or Adidas, and that your jacket wasn’t from Vale market.

Yours truly scraped into the top class at Christmas thanks to the re-assessment of all new arrivals to make sure they had been put in the right boxes.

Rubbish at sport, nowt to look at and of average ability academically, my school days could have been grim.

But they were made bearable by Richard Murphy and Rob Freemen – two lads who became mates for life – and the fact that I developed a massive crush on a girl who sat at the back of our class.

I eventually became a prefect (or defect as most people called them) which was both a blessing and a curse.

It meant you got to spend some lunchtimes and breaktimes staffing various doors and ensuring pupils weren’t running riot.

This enabled me to let my mates into places where they shouldn’t have been but I missed out on a lot of footie.

Given that I was a hopeless asthmatic maybe that was no bad thing.

Looking back, I think I actually enjoyed school far more than I ought to have done.

I came to love some subjects – English and history in particular – and admire the teachers who inspired me through them.

Indeed, school couldn’t have been that bad because I helped to organise a couple of reunions for my lot a few years ago which I enjoyed enormously.

Half a lifetime had actually elapsed before I visited Holden Lane High again and, in truth, much of it was how I remembered it.

Gone were those mobile classrooms and the corridors I had traversed so many times seemed a lot smaller.

But the main part of the school was exactly the same as it had been when I left back in 1988.

Somewhere in there the ghost of a pudgy lad with bowl-head hair and a love of writing is still trying desperately to fit in.

And the memory of it makes me smile.

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

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3 thoughts on “Remember me? Pudgy lad with the bowl-head hair…

  1. Ye nowt but a kid, Mart. Don’t know how lucky you were. In my day it were grim, a tell thee 😉

    I went to Sandon High, it was such a dump it was the first to be knocked down and rebuilt under the new PFI initiatives. On the subject of teachers we had the usual gym teacher with wandering eyes, one who thought he was hilarious, one who hogged the school computer so that no kids EVER touched it not that it was anything to rave about as it was a rubber keyed and I think black and white Sinclair ZX81. He was also the school perv who the girls had to try and keep at a distance unless they wanted to increase their grades.

    We also didn’t have the delights of school uniforms but neither did we have much talk of brand names as I recall and I’m sure I’d have remembered getting the mickey taken on that subject. Even now I’m not one for wearing a nametag, I’d much rather just wear a shirt.

    On the subject of pnnishment and discipline as you say, all standing silently in lines on the yard before standing in the pouring rain waiting your turn to dutifully alomost regimentally march in, Keeping to the left of the centre line in corridors and stairs. Some of the delights of child beating during my school days were Mr Moore who’d get you to touch your toes and whack you across the backside with a cricket bat (middle school), Mr Moore who’d bend you over his knee (wrong in so many ways) and thwack you with a size 13 black plimsole (middle school) and Mr Yates who’d use the edge of a steel ruler and hit you over the back of the hand (high school) whilst everyone else in high school opted for the good old cane, either on the hand or across the backside. To be fair, I really don’t think any of that did me any harm, it did teach me some respect. Can you imagine the response from kids of today if they were told they were the new rules.

  2. Takes me right back. I have to say I loved Holden Lane High School and have some very fond memories. I was looking through some old photos a couple of months ago and my children commented on ‘the big hair’.
    Just one question, who was the girl at the back of the classroom?
    Justina

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