Monday, 19 June 2017

On going to Crown Woods and attending a Conference at Eltham Green

The class of '68 outside Crown Woods
I went to Crown Woods.

I started there in the September of 1966 as a sixth former having come from a secondary modern school in New Cross.

It was at the time and remains one of the most exciting periods of my life.

Even leaving Eltham for Manchester three years later to do a degree never offered up the same mix of magic, discovery and sheer fun as those few years I spent at the school and so it is something I keep returning to.*

Take one fairly ordinary working class lad with a love of history, provide him with some excellent teachers in a stimulating environment, throw in a mix of fascinating friends and the result is something very special.

This was what learning was all about, and like all good learning it led off in all sorts of directions, from Shakespeare to Marlow and John Donne and onto the machinations of 18th century politics and the grand duels between Disraeli and Gladstone.

Later I was of course to learn that history is more than a few famous individuals, as one of my teachers at the time scrawled on an essay on Italian unification, “forget Verdi and think Marx.”

That said the rest including my love of 17th and 18th century literature, and that understanding that you can’t separate culture, history and economics came from those years at Crown Woods.

All of which says something about both the value of good state education and in particular comprehensive schools which some today would deny ever delivered the goods.

Well I can tell you they did and I am grateful for that.

Nor did it stop at Crown Woods.  Every year Eltham Green that other school just down the road hosted a Sixth Form Conference.  It attracted schools from across London had some pretty impressive speakers.

The year I went there was Arnold Wesker, A. L. Lloyd and Margret Drabble.

There were set piece lectures followed by group discussions and time just to meet other young people some of whom came from the other side of the river.

Of course after 47 years much has now become a blur, but I remember the debate about the role of culture the theme music played throughout the two days.

This was Sgt Pepper by the Beatles which had been released earlier in the month and which by coincidence was the name of the teacher from Eltham Green who organised the event.

I made new friends, sadly none of which lasted the end of the summer, gained in self confidence and felt very special.

Now almost half a century later I look back and I have to say it was a good few years.  I learned a lot, discovered a love of literature and am proud of what these comprehensive schools achieved.
Location; Eltham, London

Pictures; the class of '68, 1968, from the collection of Anne Davey  and the badge of Eltham Green, date unknown courtest of Ryan Ginn

*Crown Woods School Eltham, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Crown%20Woods%20School%20Eltham

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