Sunday, November 27, 2005

sums that don't add up

Did you know that I went to a Mathematics and Computing Specialist High School? No? Really? Funny that, neither did I.... I've got their website open now and am listening to what I am assuming is the school orchestra play - someone please tell me we sounded better than that... ( now I know we murdered March to the Scaffold (all it was fit for if you ask me) and Symphonieta was never going to sound good no matter how much we practiced (it was supposed to 'stretch us' - out of 10 flutes in the section only 3 of us could get the highest note and even then not all all once... I reckon they just didn't want to take us back to London that year) but we did a pretty good L'Ariessienne and Saturday Afternoon got us to the Royal Albert Hall!

But anyway, as I was saying - Mathematics and Computing specialist school? Cough, spluttter and other untypable noises... well all I can say is that it must've changed somewhat dramatically since I was there. But then it ought to have, in fact most of the teachers have probably retired and some have probably gone to meet the great homework marker in the sky. Yup, I have to face up to it, it is now 20 years since I started 5th year (the final year at that school). Twenty years? 20 years, two zero, two decades, no, it looks just as bad no matter how I write it - gordon bennett how the devil did that happen? (or should that be Andy Bennett given the name of my form teacher for two years?) I think this is one of those left brain right brain things, you know - kitchen calendar vs pocket diary - one part of you knows something and the other part refutes all knowledge of it. I had all this 'how long ago?' business with the Pilgrimage earlier in the year and you'd think that logically speaking if it's 18 years since I went on QYP '87 I'd have worked out it'd therefore be 20 years since I started 5th form and come June 20 years since I sat my O levels. But no, brain cannot compute (nor do mental arithmatic it appears, see what I mean about a specialist Mathematical School...) - I think I'm in denial....

It has brought back some very mixed feelings. School was far from being 'the happiest days of my life' - an expression which is probably responsible for a fair few teenage suicides. Life can get better honest! Music and computing were what saved my sanity at that school - hanging around the music block and science labs at breaks in the last couple of years or so of that school were the safest space I had there and I really appreciate those who were there with me for being there.

I was in the first ever Computer Studies class at that school (and those of a techie disposition who regularly bail me out probably find this hard to believe) - we studied a 2 year course in two terms, before school started, lunchtimes and after school finished and two of us got A's (yes, me - my only A grade out of 10 subjects! The fact that every single essay question that came up I knew back to front and the logic problems in it were my forte is beside the point, oh and Dad claims credit for the programming bit). The teacher we had wasn't exactly my favourite though and after he left suddenly at Easter under a cloud of allegations including the words store cupboards and young boys he fell off the bottom of the scale. On and off over the years I've wondered about it all, I'd often felt my presence in that class was tolerated by him more than anything else and it looked good to have a girl in it for pc sake (and it is probably why I studied so hard, to prove him and the physics teacher who thought I could be doing better things with my time - the aforementioned Andy Bennett - wrong. I had acquired a habit of doing things to prove people wrong, that a girl 'could do it thank you very much' and hopefully one of these days I'll remember I don't have to any more but hey, that's probably another posting!). When the word got out about the what the teacher was accused of (and from what I've learned since which added the words scout hut to the equation, I believe it wholeheartedly) I and some others got really worried - he used to give some of the lads a lift home from computing on the nights we stayed on late and if he did or said anything to them then... ye gods - goodness knows what we would have done mind, we were uspet enough about the lad who blew the whistle on him (who has my undying admiration and respect for having done so). None of us had the nerve to ask the lads in question or mention their risk to anyone and that still bothers me - in the same way that several of us knew one of our friends was being physically abused by her father but we didn't know who to say what to.

I've done a lot of work with teenagers through Quakers over the years and one of the things that gets covered again and again in training is dealing with disclosure of abuse. Only once have I known of it happen at an event I have been at (disclosure that is not abuse I hasten to add) and thankfully I know very little about that as I wasn't directly involved, the only reason I'm aware of it is one of the girl's friends came to me for support having spent several hours being the support giver and had exhausted herself emotionally. When I was at school I hadn't really got going with my involvement at residential Quaker events, that was just starting in my final year there, but I know that had they come along a couple of years earlier then that is where I would have said something; in a safe space, away from anyone who knew the people involved, people who could tell me it was ok to tell someone at school and maybe help me work out what to say and who to (which is what I needed to hear) without me feeling as though I was doing something wrong by voicing my fears. Childline didn't exist then and I'm not sure I'd've rung it anyway with it being concerns about my friends not me.

I've been asked to represent Friends at a seminar on Wednesday run by UNICEF on the campaign to repeal Section 59 of the 1961 Crimes Act which would basically give children the same rights as an adult not to be physically assaulted, at first I tried to pass the buck, I studied Child Abuse at uni and struggled with it. But life has brought several other sexual and physical abuse survivors across my path since school, no-one else can go to represent Friends and I feel I owe it somehow to them all to help Aotearoa New Zealand catch up to where the various Children Acts have got Britain now to protect the rights of the child. Had the Children Acts been in place when we were kids my friends might have had a better chance, and provision would have been in place to ensure that concerned school friends could say something knowing it was ok. Can't say as I'm particularly looking forward to it though.

1 comment:

kate said...

oh heavens, where do I start? I hate to be flippant on a post which has such serious overtones. But, boy, what memories.... Let's just go straight over how long ago it was, shall we? And over what a challenging time some of it was. I'm happy to forget lots of it, that's for sure. I am quite gutted, in hindsight, that I never got the O-level computer studies due to the strike knocking out our lunchtime lessons with Andy. At least ours were with Andy, after the change of staffing. Andy probably got off lightly really, think he struggled enough trying to teach me physics (note to everyone who doesn't think physics and me go together - they don't, once he'd struggled to get me to learn how to wire a plug, he gave up and let me do other homework in a corner for the rest of the year till I could drop it!) But on more serious topics, I'm sure, I think, that if the enlightened world we live in now was then, the rather seedy goings on that almost certainly involved some of our close friends couldn't have gone on as long or as unacted on. I wouldn't like to ask them now, perhaps as much for their peace of mind as much as mine. But it is a thorny issue, and I applaud you for getting involved in the sphere.

But I still think that I'd rather have heard Holmfirth was a music specialist college in tribute to all the achievements of Liz, Alan and Jim, even if we did murder the odd thing in our repertoire. March to the Scaffold, you say - yes, that was definitely bad. Be interesting to hear what it should sound like though :o