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The Manor School Chronicles 1977-1982: Part 2

Andy again recalls being part of the new intake at the Manor School on Arbury Road in 1977... This is the school in 1982.

I can't remember my first year teacher. I think it was a girls' PE teacher who had long hair and often wore a track suit, but not at all sure. Funny that. My memory is usually excessively good when it comes to trivia. But not, of course, when it comes to what I learned in maths or history or when to restock the tea bags. The important things of life.

The headmaster of the whole school was Mr Lewin. I remember seeing him in a corridor once. It must have been some sort of special occasion, because he was wearing his mortar board hat and a cloak.

'How posh!' I thought. And 'How old fashioned!' This was 1977, and the Sex Pistols were much more my scene.

Mr Lewin, like Mrs Firman, had been with the school since it opened in 1959 and the school had gained an excellent reputation. When I started there, we were 'banded and streamed'. This means we were put into forms according to our academic aptitudes. I was in Class 1A1, and 'A' stood for average. 'B' was 'below average' and X - well, I don't know how they arrived at the 'X', but we took it to mean 'Excellent'. All what we called 'The Keenies' - those keen on school work - were in those classes.

The banding and streaming system was going out of fashion in the 1970s. The popular thought was that mixed academic aptitude classes were the way forward, but Mr Lewin declared that he still intended to band and stream 'unashamedly'.

Essential pieces of kit in those days were your school homework diary, a neat little thing with the Manor badge printed on the front, and your time table. How strange it seemed changing classrooms for individual lessons!

Andy's old School homework diary. 

One of the worst things about the school was getting lost. It seemed massive. But, within a few months, it seemed not that big at all and I knew where my classrooms and all the loos were.

I thought about trying for the Manorians football team, but couldn't be bothered.

The teachers were a mixed crowd when it came to personalities. Some tended to treat us boys like we were in the army - 'YOU BOY!', always called boys by their surnames, and treated us with grave suspicion a lot of the time. 

'National Service has ended, Sir,' I told one teacher, fancying myself a bit of a shop steward and speaking up for my peers.

'SIT DOWN, BOY!' he thundered. So I sat down, muttering 'what a big gob...' to myself.

It was well grotty at times.

Also, we had to wear ties and girls didn't.

Sexism was rife!

Some of the teachers seemed to have wafted straight out of 1960s middle class hippiedom, and most of those were hardened lefties. So was I, even that age, so that was OK.

There were a lot of great teachers at the Manor who really cared about us pupils.

Some seemed to believe it was kids and teachers against a rotten world.

Then there were the old fashioned teachers who had been at the school years. One of these was so old fashioned, she used to tell us a story at the end of each lesson.

By 1977, for most Manor kids of eleven and twelve (I turned twelve in October), this seemed a bit juvenile, but it just shows how times had changed. I think we were very cynical and worldly compared to a lot of the kids before us.

The '70s did that.

One of the things I most remember at the Manor was the 'good old boys'. I was one. Most of the boys were. 

I think the Cambridge accent must be a cross between Essex and rural Suffolk or something. We referred to each other as 'good old boys'. 'Good old boy, ain't yer, Reedy?' we'd say. That was another thing. If your surname was Reed, you became 'Reedy', if your surname was Scott you became 'Scotty', if your surname was Speed you became 'Speedy', etc.

If your surname was Whitty you remained Whitty, of course.

Part 3 is here


  1. I remember Miss Burns. She married Mr Brown, the school librarian. She taught cookery and had a notice up in her classroom that read, 'DON'T FORGET YOUR BOOK OR ELSE YOU WON'T COOK'.


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