"Have you ever wished that you were still back in school? I know that such is a desire of many of us and yet I also know how horrible the experiences of school life was for numerous other folk, particularly those who experienced bullying, material deprivation or low educational expectations.
My school experiences were mixed ones and varied greatly between First School, Technical College, Adult Evening Classes, Polytechnical College, University and teaching experiences.
After the initial hiccup of running away from school during my first day at the age of five years and being picked up by the police and returned home (for the first time) in a cop car, I soon settled into 'St Patrick's Catholic School' in Heckmondwike. My years between 5-11 were the happiest of years at school. I was a popular boy being a good friend, good fighter, good footballer, good singer and a good scholar, in that order. I was also pretty good at stealing things from time to time. If you are out there and are still alive Brian Curran, I'm sorry for stealing your little green sports car with the rubber tyres and never returning it to you. I have tried to make amends by giving away many sports cars since to dozens of children. I always keep a half dozen toy cars to give away.So wherever you are, Brian Curran, I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
By the age of 10 years, I was being taught in the top class in the school for 14-year-olds. The reason was twofold. First I was very clever (140 IQ), and second, I was the only boy in the school of my age to pass my 11 plus for grammar school, which permission was granted for me to take a year earlier than usual.
Being an inverted snob and coming from a poorer home, I considered the grammar school pupils to be a toffee-nosed bunch and decided not to take up my place offered at the local grammar school after passing my '11- Plus'.
Being the school's brightest pupil, the Catholic Head decided to punish me in a devious way for letting the school down, that Satan himself would have been proud of. He moved me up two classes (14 and 15-year-old pupils) to be taught alongside older pupils of my own ability. In one stroke, he had deprived me of all my daily friends under the guise of 'acting in my best educational interest'. It is my experience that Roman Catholics are probably better than all other religions at inflicting punishment through their actions 'done for the greater good of the person'.
I was also exceptionally good at football and was put in the big boy's team before my 11th year of life, playing alongside 14 and 15 years old. I planned to play for the country of my birth, Ireland, as my father had done in his early twenties; and was only waiting for a local football talent scout to spot me and shoot me towards stardom.
Fortunately, my schooling at St Patrick's was brought to an abrupt end when at the age of 11 years, a serious traffic accident kept me in the hospital for over nine months and away from school life. Because of a serious spinal injury and over fifty operations on my left leg which had got wrapped around the main drive axle of the lorry that had knocked me down and run over me. I was unable to walk for three years in total.
At the age of fourteen years and nine months, I went to Dewsbury Technical College and having missed out three years schooling in the interim period, I started in year two at the technical college instead of year one. This naturally gave me an educational disadvantage as well as a social disadvantage that I never came to terms with until later in adult life. All my other classmates had experienced one year together forging friendships and I was the new boy who was seen as being privileged to join them, having missed the first year's lessons.
Being the new boy who could hardly walk after my traffic accident, I was obliged to watch football and rugby from the sidelines, besides being expected to cope with the perennial school bully. In class, instead of coming first or second in all my subjects, as I'd grown accustomed to at First School, I had to content myself with seventh or eighth or thereabouts in a class of twenty-nine.
This proved to be too much for a boy of my character flaws and ego to bear, and I developed an 'attitude problem' that stayed with me for the next six years until I went to Canada to live briefly. On the day the technical college broke up for their Christmas Party, instead of attending school festivities with the other pupils, I gathered all my textbooks, took them to the Head's office and told him that I was leaving school 'now-today' as I was 15 years old, instead of staying on for another year to complete my educational contract. I'd no intention of allowing school to interfere with my education of life.
One month later, I was working at a mill in Cleckheaton, earning my first wage packet, which enabled me to help out more at home with my six younger siblings. The next fifteen years saw me emigrate to Canada for a few years, return to working in textiles and become a mill foreman and then a mill manager during my first marriage.
Between the ages of 21 and 29 years, I became an avid reader of half a dozen books weekly, mostly historical or biographical. I had carried an educational hang-up around with me for too many years of not having completed my education, so at the age of 27 years, I decided to go back to night school, obtain my 'O' and 'A' levels, get a university degree and become a history teacher.
One week after having been accepted for an Honours History Degree Course at Bath University, I was accepted as a Trainee Probation Officer in conjunction with studying at Newcastle Polytechnic College for a Certificate and Qualification in Social Work over a twelve-month period. This was ideal at the time as it helped me to complete my education while getting a reduced wage and learning on the job, as well as in the classroom.
My year at Polytechnic brought out the swot in me, as did my subsequent year at Manchester University and the many other educational courses I took thereafter, including an adult teaching course and an advanced diploma in Behaviour Modification. During my twenty-five years as a Probation Officer, I remained an educational junky, researching my own work and establishing new working practices; one of which was to mushroom throughout the English speaking world two years after I'd founded it. You will know it as 'Anger Management'.
When I was obliged to leave my Probation job and take early retirement because of bad osteoarthritis in my legs, I found myself unable to abandon my life-long educational studies, so I became an author of books across the reading age range of children, young persons and adults. To press I have had sixty-seven books published and have another two books in the pipeline that will be completed in one month and three months time respectively. I found the research that goes into writing books highly stimulating, and today, my daily writing keeps my old brain functioning and prevents my grey matter from rotting.
My parents were relatively uneducated people who grew up in Ireland during years of want. Whereas my mother always believed in education is the only way out of poverty, my father, who left school by the age of twelve years to start work, could never see the point in all this schooling when one could be out earning money and breaking honest sweat.
During the most rebellious years of my teens when I was forever getting into trouble, my dad would say, 'If school were the happiest days of your life, then it's no wonder you've been miserable since. It's time you grew up lad and got a job!'. That's to say, he would have spoken these words, had he ever obtained the literal skill to express them in that manner instead of having to manually work between the ages of twelve and sixty-five from morning 'til night for his family! He might have also reminded me that Winston Churchill was never any good at school, yet look where it got him? He probably would have made reference to Churchill's dislike of school, had the great man been born Irish instead of English!
Given the amount of money owed by university students today in order to obtain their degrees, if someone was to ask me now, if someone going to university was worth it, I couldn't honestly put my hand on heart and say, 'I'd go to university at your age if I was starting again, given what I now know.' I believe that in life, there are horses for courses and that doing a degree for one person is right for them while taking an apprenticeship is far better for another person. I also believe that all the learning in the world is of no use unless you can apply it to improve life for yourself and others. There is little point securing two degrees if one is still left with half the sense they were born with.
Many older people hold the view that the standard in the literacy of school pupils today is lower than it was sixty years ago when I was in Secondary School.I don't know if this is true or false, but I do genuinely believe that standards applied are 'different' and that the teachers of today are so much different in so many ways from the teachers of yesteryear.
For a start, teachers of my day were stricter and all were expected to wield the cane when it was considered necessary. Many teachers in the classroom today dress more like fashion icons, whereas in my day, they looked naturally sterner in overall appearance with their Hitler mustaches controlling their stiff upper lip as the male teachers strode their classroom suited and booted, ready to strike the back of your head with a ruler as they sneaked up on you talking to the boy or girl at the next desk.
As for the female teachers, Miss This and Miss That, it was no surprise that the reason their title was 'Miss' was due to the fact that most had missed the Romantic Bus and had remained unmarried. Pupils of the 50s/60s would view them as having fallen into the category of 'suspicious spinsters sad women and cat owners'. The few female teachers who did marry could only find a male teacher to marry, especially the frightening looking ones, who behaved like fiery dragons when they lost their cool.
Still, this was how it was meant to be in my day. After all, we didn't go to school to become a 'drop out' in society as soon as we left school. We didn't seek a degree so that we could secure employment to our liking, and when that failed, live off one's parents and on the dole for the next decade. We went to school to learn; and for the vast majority of 1950/60 students, most of us did!" William Forde: February 26th, 2018.