1986: Popacatapetl, pupils and possible promotion

Monday 1st September 1986

We were up early this morning for a walk before we went into school. I hate these days just before term starts. The walk is pretty quiet because we are both thinking of things that still needed to be done. We looped around from Bradwell through Bancroft and back down to home via Linford Wood. Fiona dropped me off at school and I intended to make my way home by bus but cadged a lift from Alex.

I managed to start writing the policy document on working with gifted students. Bruce wants to have something that stretches those who might be able to achieve higher grades at “A” level. The problem we’ll have is in identifying those pupils and trying to get intervention / support early in their school life. By no imagination is Leon a school with a long and cherished academic tradition. I think we will have to introduce some tutoring beyond the normal for students in the sixth form and extension activities throughout the school My enthusiasm for this is tainted because I have absolutely no intention of being here beyond next year. I still haven’t any class lists for next term and I will be peripatetic again. At the last count my timetable has twelve different rooms. Even the registration room is temporary, using the lecture theatre while a room is sorted. P.E. has now gone from my timetable and Maths has become a new and novel addition.

I collected a couple of adverts from the Times Ed. Wrote for details of Head of Department jobs in Cirencester, Oxford and Aylesbury. The school is also after an assistant Head of Sixth Form. Will apply, if only for the practice.

Fiona came home in a much happier mood. Her school is brand new and the head, Peter Murtagh, is a bit of a control freak. The journey to work is so much easier than the trek to Aylesbury and she will have a lot more opportunity to do things her way. She has already started transposing music for a Christmas concert, something of a modern Christmas tale rather than traditional carols and shepherd nativity.

We went to the Countryman for a pint or three. Chinese takeaway rather than cook.

Some names are referenced in this diary entry. Alex is Alex Grant, one time lodger and then groom with this best man. Alex married Kate and left Leon to go to Aylesbury Grammar and we have long lost touch. Bruce was Bruce Abbott, Head at Leon and now sadly deceased. Leon and Stedders had rather come to a separation that would suit us both. I had applied and been rejected as Assistant Head of Sixth Form. The practice did give me some insight into the thinking of school promotion procedures. I resolved fairly soon that it is not worth applying internally unless the senior staff had suggested you should apply. Similarly the first question one should ask externally is whether the internal candidates had been similarly been given the nod to apply. When a Headteacher gives you a local county council circular with a job circled within it then it might be a good idea to ask some questions about that vacancy. Applying for internal jobs does no harm and just raises your profile with the Head as someone who should be given some sort of responsibility, if only as a C.V. filling activity. I had an interview later in the year at the Cirencester School. Reflecting after the failure to get the job I think I had a lucky escape in this one. The excuse I was given was that the department needed a Head who had more expertise in Computers within Geography teaching. In 1986 this was limited to using very poor computer packages and applying data bases to record information. This was a classic fobbing off of an external candidate with a statement that reflected the interests of the successful internal one.

Much of Fiona’s spare time was spent working on school music. She developed a specialism within her school that led to school productions at least three times a year. I had to listen to endless versions of the songs on the recorder, guitar and later piano. I learned the words to school plays. Did you know that Popacatapetl is a big volcano, far away in Mexico? Popocatapetl old, Popoacatapetl goes bang, sizzle sizzle bang, so you won’t forget that…

leon school sixth c 1986

The Sixth form photo of 1986

A sixth form of 100 or so pupils was really unsustainable and soon had to be supported by student courses being shared between all the Bletchley schools. At this time there was an anxiety that the students would not come back in the numbers to have an “A” level group. It was good feather in the cap to get a viable group beyond 6 students. At Leon this involved recruiting adults like Denise Robson to study Geography and in doing so add something special to the mix.

Rs Tim Gulliver and Jane Freeman

Three Staff sixth form teachers

Stedders in scruffy teacher mode. No patches on the jacket elbows but this was my attempt to move beyond the young novice into showing capability to take responsibility. Next door is Tim Gulliver who was well on the way to teaching stardom. He became a senior teacher in Sussex and a Head in Kidderminster. I remember his friendship in offering his house as a lunchtime refuge when we were effectively barred from the school site during the strikes of the previous year. Jane has recently come back into contact. As a History colleague we spent some time doing some advanced stuff that was useful throughout our careers. You too should look her up as her teaching has taken her to Guyana and back, setting up her own school and now writing about a life that has been beyond that of the average young Historian. My memories of her include the whole school visits to Biblings in the Forest of Dean where, for a week, we would offer a cross curricular field course under canvas to whole year groups as a team building pastoral experience. That was truly innovative and ground breaking at the time.

laraine and Lorraine (Ficken and Williams)

Sue Cooper

marlon morgan

Some members of Pine 1981 who made it to the sixth form. They didn’t know how proud they made me feel at the time.

Top; Laraine Ficken and Paula Williams

Middle; Sue Cooper

Bottom: Marlon Morgan

They had various different tutors as they went through their school carers but they were all part of that first ever registration that started:- Bramham (Suzanne), Chatfield (Alison), Cox (Philip)………….

james follows

debbie jessiman

Tony McMurray

Some Geographers

Top: James Follows

Middle: Debbie Jessiman

Bottom: Tony McMurray

I have no idea what James or Debbie are up to nowadays but Tony is a facebook friend. We all paid close attention to his athletic prowess at the time. He was jumping around in sand as a national champion at the time. More lately he has been climbing big mountains and talking about the experiences.  I claim absolutely no credit for either of these feats. I do promise to visit his tea room in Towcester sometime soon though.

I can remember many others on the picture but that isn’t the point of talking about it here. This represents a good aspect of life at Leon. These pupils achieved so much. We had children of teachers and folk from the Brickhills learning alongside Lakes Estate wide boys. We had some excellent teachers and students who were at times battling the system as much as the exams to get relatively outstanding success.

By the next year I had moved on to Denbigh School on the other side of Bletchley as Teacher In Charge of Geography.


1990       Open University A W 26 1c 1-0-6-0

2001       Shrewsbury H 0-0

2007       Nottingham Forest H 2-2

2009       Hereford A 0-0 2-4 pens

2010       Derbyshire

2011       Glamorgan

2012       Morecambe H 0-3

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the mention Richard. I remember James Follows, Sue Cooper and Marlon Morgan and recognise Debbie from the picture above. Of course Tony McMurray has never been forgotten. Are you still in touch with Tim Gulliver or Alex Grant? I do have fond recollections of Alex’s staffroom banter and remember when he went off to Aylesbury Grammar School. I remember many of the issues you mention about working at Leon as a feature of life then, but I don’t remember who got the job as assistant head of Sixth form. That was when I had the Head of General Studies job and also assistant pastoral head under Rick Townsend as Head of Year. I must say that I have absolutely no recollection of Biblings in the Forest of Dean, however, although the name rings a bell somewhere in the deepest recesses of my memory!


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