The economy remained depressed post-war. However, society became increasingly concerned by the Cold War and the fear of nuclear war. St Clement Danes Grammar School for Boys’ students expected to do National Service and most saw a strong likelihood that they, like their fathers and grandfathers, would one day have to fight. Looking back they remember the Notting Hill race riots in 1958 with the white working classes protesting against the increase in Caribbean migrants to Britain, and Conservative Harold Macmillan’s rise to power as Prime Minister in 1957 and his “you’ve never had it so good” campaign.
Most of the students were relatively poor working-class boys whose parents struggled to pay for school uniform and trips. The school, however, continued to excel in education and in the sports arena, particularly football and cricket.
Don Daws (1955-60), John Brearley (Lincoln 1950-57), Terry Hunt (Clement 1954-61), Willliam Soar (Clement 1955-60) and Stephen Caley (Burleigh 1958-65 and House Captain 1964-65) remember their days at St Clement Danes Grammar School for Boys.
The school day ran from 8.50am until 3.30pm and began with an assembly every morning. Forty minute periods or lessons taught English, Maths, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Latin, Art, Physical Training, Religious Instruction, Woodwork and French or German.
Although the school worked a five-day week, the timetable continued to run for six days – Monday to Friday plus X-Day. X-Day would replace Monday in the second week, Tuesday in the third and so on until an ordinary Monday to Friday week came round again.
Free milk was served mid-morning and most boys had school dinners. Students were not allowed to leave any of their food and a master would watch and send boys back to eat anything considered edible.
Any mention of the word rugby was likely to result in a detention
Football and cricket remained the two most important sports at the school with the first teams playing against professional clubs. Mr Caley says: “Any mention of the word rugby was likely to result in a detention! The school punched far above its weight at sport generally and this may have been a ‘secret’ entry qualification! Tennis sort of sneaked in later in my time and boxing had been stopped a few years earlier.”
All masters were addressed as ‘sir’ and students were called by their surnames. Students also had nicknames for every master: Chip Chop, Old Nick, Drac and Toffee, to name a few!
There were three types of detention: Headmaster’s, Masters’ and Prefects’ and the occasional caning or slipper from the Headmaster and a few Masters.
Mr Caley recalls: “Some teachers had large plimsolls, an over-sized table tennis bat and there was the odd ear tweaking and chalk or board dusters at 100mph. Nobody really complained. The odd cross country run was used as a punishment and also cleaning up The Cage (playground).”
Mr Soar adds: "Some teachers were very strict. One teacher seemed to delight in dishing out treatment that would be unacceptable today."
Prefects’ detention – the nearest thing to hell
The Cage was policed by the prefects who had a great deal of power. Mr Daws remembers: “A prefect could impose prefects’ detention – the nearest thing to hell in school life. A typical hour’s detention would be the torture of sitting with one’s hands on one’s head for an hour or having to write an essay on a subject, deliberately chosen because you knew nothing about it.”
Fridays were parade days at school. Students who were members of the army cadets (most of the senior school) would dress in army uniform for the day.
Mr Caley says: “Like many of my peer group I realise that I was from a blessed generation of good education, full employment, the 60s, house price inflation and a defined benefit pension. I chose from seven offered jobs and have never regretted the choices I made. I have literally seen the world - a world that was brought to life for me in geography, history, music, sport and many other ways by some remarkably good men, many of whom probably still had scars from World War Two and had to put up with students who were the probable forerunners of an age of rebellion.”
The annual rededication service at St Clement Danes Church in London continues to this day but in the 1960s the school chartered its own train to get students and Masters to and from the Strand!
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