“I’m going to mark its end, because somebody has to. I’m also going to speak well of the place too for the same reason.” – Adwick Style
I cannot tell you how strange it feels. Yesterday I received photographs from Saturday’s tour of Adwick School, and today I was sent more from a former pupil of the even older Percy Jackson Grammar School. As I meditated upon the beauty of the Polar Night here, I tried to take in these wistful reminders of my childhood whilst juxtaposing the thought that EXACTLY thirty-three years ago, I was starting my very first day there.
In fact this is more than juxtaposition in time. I’m now over here in Norway, and these events – both then and now – are way over the sea in England. Nevertheless I also feel a strange satisfaction in doing what I am. I have read many a spiteful comment about Adwick this last year, and feel that someone ought to point out that whatever its difficulties at its end, it was once highly respected. Someone has got to cover its end in a fitting way.
So my blog and I are like a kind of satellite, now with very little connection to the land that originally launched it, orbiting above and separated by a huge distance – yet transmitting a message that more should broadcast terrestrially. Fortunately I know that I am not entirely alone, though. After all none of the pictures I have of Adwick School these last days were taken by me! It may be ironic that a blog based in Norway has taken on this task (for that no one else has done so), but it is fitting that that very irony demonstrates the once great name our school once had.
Indeed there are former pupils living all over the world. One should also include those who went to the Percy Jackson Grammar School that preceded Adwick School. These people have been very active with reunions, and are a truly international bunch. We have perhaps differing views about the demolition of our former school, and the rebuild; but we are nevertheless united by our respect for where we grew up. Whatever our personal views, we do not rejoice at our school’s demise.
What has saddened me in the last year, then, has been to hear what I can only describe as contempt, on the part of certain people who still live in the vicinity, for what is and always will be a part of their own history. It saddens me that for these, it is also incredible that anyone should wish to mark the end…. yet in truth, they have never appreciated the worth of what now is lost.
I would rather not end this on a negative note. Therefore let me leave my point concerning those who have come with harsh words with the following observation. With the exception of one person whom I know personally, and who had a very difficult time at school, most of the comments I have read – on Facebook and similar sites on the Internet – come from relatively younger people. We are all aware of the problems the school faced in its final decade, before ceasing to be Adwick School. Yet let not that generation speak for mine!
So now we enter the very last days for what was our school, what was our childhood, and indeed what we for some time have been mentally preparing ourselves for. Seeing the photographs my friends have sent – I shall publish more (I already have permission for most of them) – I nevertheless can see that our old lady has become tired. The buildings, especially the old senior wing further down from the Percy Jackson building photographed here, show their age; and a certain melancholy pervades all the pictures I have seen.
Thank you everybody who has sent pictures to me. I wish especially to thank Janet Roberts for this wonderful group photograph. I have taken the liberty of posting it, but naturally I shall withdraw it if you would rather I do so. Adwick, there are many who have not forgotten thee!
Of course Adwick School was firmly on my mind today. My friends from school would be paying their last respects, and just as their tour of the condemned buildings began I took myself out on to the beach at Vestbygd.
A year ago, I had photographed brilliant colours coming to this place. This year there was so much cloud that black and white had to do. Perhaps the weather only reflected the sombreness of the occasion in England. Norwegian Time is one hour ahead of English time, so this picture was taken while the tour of my school was going on.
It is an odd thing that – of all the places – I should end up back here. Vestbygd School, which is itself threatened with demolition, is the one school in Norway with a connection to Adwick School. Back in 1997, when I worked in this municipality before, I had travelled to Adwick School with two of the pupils from Vestbygd. They had enrolled half a day there, and one of them even used my old school tie!
The darkness is upon us. The Polar Night has come.
Tomorrow is the big day. My friends from school go back to school – or back to that shell where once its spirit lived.
Today was cloudy. I was unable to take the pictures that I got a day ago, and which I know so many return here to see. So I shall publish one below from Wednesday. Today it was mostly grey all the time. Since it does not start to get “light” (everything is relative here) until about half past nine in the morning, a sense of gloom has pervaded the entire day.
Strangely enough, this is not unlike Friday 7th December 1979, apart from the obvious enormous difference in the hours of “daylight” (once again everything is relative). That was also a grey day if memory serves me right. My parents insisted that I go into my old school, Don Valley High School, to return some books. I had also to be “de-registered” there before starting Monday at Adwick. It was something I wasn’t too happy about, but in those days I had not any choice in the matter.
So just as tomorrow is a day when my thoughts will be on Adwick School, so too the immediate days before Monday 10th December 1979. I can remember them as if they were yesterday! How time has flown by, and how we have all aged!
However, enough of my musing…. since it was so grey today, as you can see in the photograph above, below is a picture that I did not show on Wednesday. They say that smells bring back memories. I think the views of nature we have are rather conducive to doing the same, if only because they dispose one to contemplation.
Yesterday I received an e-post from a former pupil of the Percy Jackson Grammar School (which was the earlier name of Adwick School). I was informed that this Saturday my old school will be putting on a tour of its premisses – the last chance for those who went there to see where they grew up. During the Christmas holidays, the present academy will move out of the premisses and into its new buildings – and the older school buildings will all be demolished.
There is a Christmas Market and tour of the ‘Old School’ – the Former Percy Jackson Grammar School/Adwick School on Saturday 8th December 2012. The market begins at 10am and ends at 3pm and the tour starts at 12 noon – assemble in the reception area. This, as you may know, will be the last chance for many of us to visit our former school before it will be demolished next year. The new building for Outwood Academy, Adwick will be completed very soon and their use for the old buildings ended. They plan to move during the Christmas holidays – e-mail from former pupil.
Of course I should have liked to have gone. Unfortunately it is completely out of the question. Even if my economy allowed for a jaunt back to the United Kingdom (which it does not), I have other engagements this weekend. Nevertheless my heart will be there, and I have friends who are going. They have promised to take pictures. If they permit me to, I shall post some on this blog.
As I have maintained since the rebuild became known, although I do not oppose it – I think the new facilities are a great thing for today’s children – I will not be sending up the rockets the day the bulldozers move in. Some apparently feel differently. However, I think they are making a mistake. Whatever the failings of our teachers (I have a friend whose memories of school and Adwick in particular are not indescribably happy ones), our formative years are just that: they remain a part of us, and speaking for myself Adwick School will therefore remain a part of me.
On the other hand, I realize that it went from a school with a very good reputation, to one with serious problems, and I cannot speak for those who came after my generation…. one of whom has said that he would like to press the button the day it comes down! I still think that this marks the end of an epoch, and as such we should observe it with quiet dignity. Even if I think that they have done the right thing building new, it is still a sad day to lose the last seat of childhood authority.
Therefore as we now approach this end, Adwick School unashamedly comes to the fore of this blog. On this day, the fourth December 1979, my parents and I met the headmaster Mr Atherfold in the morning, and it was agreed that I should be transferred there. I remember that there was a system of coloured lights outside his room, saying when he was busy and when you could go in! In the afternoon my father took me to Cliffs in Doncaster, where I was fitted out with my Adwick School uniform. I was to start school the following Monday, 10th December. It seems a little strange that these dates fall exactly with the days this year, thirty three years later, just before it all comes to an end.
I should like to thank those who have promised to take pictures for me. Not everyone feels as comfortable with writing as I do, but words for visiting an old school just before it is demolished will always be found wanting. How do you express your feelings? When you see that place that once was “up there”, now very much at your own level? When what was strange and new is familiar, old and worn out? When that room you feared to approach is now just a mundane place?
So thank you to those who are going Saturday. I cannot exactly say enjoy yourselves, but I do hope that you will find the tour meaningful.
Today I was out at Vestbygd. It’s a little village 45 kilometres (or 28 miles) away from the municipal centre of Lødingen.
As you can see, the winter has arrived. The white stuff came earlier this week. It makes for very demanding driving, since yesterday it rained, and now the temperature hovers around zero. On my journey I saw two big lorries that had got stuck.
Fortunately I arrived at the school safely, being welcomed by the year’s first snowman. The school brass band is putting on the musical When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town, and I am playing the piano. Today we had a rehearsal from ten o’ clock until five.
Because I used to work here between 1994 and 1998, it was a strange feeling. It is almost as time has stopped still. Yet like my own school in England, this school is marked for demolition. Actually, the decision was deferred last week, but suffice it to say that this is how things are now looking.
In the breaks between our rehearsal, I walked around the school, and the experience was rather surreal. This is the one place in Norway with a connection to my own soon-to-be-demolished school. I took two of its pupils in 1997 to Adwick School. Moreover, I realized that my first meeting with Vestbygd School was this very weekend in October eighteen years ago. I had been on a youth camp with the church, and we had all slept at the school from Friday to Sunday. When the band ate pizza during our lunch break from rehearsal, I realized that the last time I was in the kitchen there was indeed on that camp!
If, as now seems likely, the school goes the way of Adwick, it is for very different reasons. Vestbygd School was built at a time when there were some 150 children there. Today there are about 23. This means that, for the council that is already cash-strapped, the buildings are just too expensive. However, their proposal to move the old people out the old people’s home and move the children and nursery there has stirred local feelings…
Still, it seems odd that at the time when my former school in Doncaster is now entering its final days, the one school that has a connection to it here might also go the same way. I shall keep you posted!
Preface – Old Article from 2000
The final seat of authority in childhood, my last school has (to my thinking) acquired an aura of mystique. As I have commented in another post before they were demolished, its old buildings were all that remained of a world that has since passed.
Trying to see when that world actually ended is a heavy exercise in the existential! Of course at the simplest level, it ended at about three o’clock on Thursday, 21st May 1981. That was the day before I was supposed to leave, but for fear of some unpleasant things that were rumoured for the 22nd May itself I had decided not to bother going in that last day. On this final afternoon, I thought I was being very brave “twagging” the very last period, in order that I could slip out unnoticed well before the school bell, and hiding out in my final minutes completely unnoticed in one of the music department’s practice rooms!
Yet of course, I am talking about something more than this. For in the immediate aftermath of my schooling, even the first two years after I had left, I did not think that Adwick School had become any different from the school I had known. It was still the place I used to go to, and nothing more. Eventually, as my own childhood began to recede into time, I began to see my school in more nostalgic terms.
At this time I still had active contact with people in that area, and between the years 1985 and 1988 I first noticed some changes to the uniform that I had worn. This was when I observed pupils leaving the school at the end of the day. Those changes were not very large ones. Yet for the first time there then was a clear distinction between that time I remembered and the school world I saw now.
In 1988 I took up a place at the former Polytechnic of Huddersfield. Sometimes I should return by bus at the weekend. This invariably passed Adwick School just as school was ending. In my years at Huddersfield, I thus noticed the continuing changes to what had once been a very smart uniform. By then it was seeming far less strictly observed, and the overall changes were much more noticeable.
Having emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1991, I was to have yet one more experience of the school world at Adwick. This was in 1997, when I travelled back there with two Norwegian school children. One of them, indeed, borrowed my old school tie, and they were enrolled at the school for half a day. However, by now many pupils were not wearing the uniform, or only parts of it, and I had the impression even then that its days were drawing to an end.
In 2000, a year before my father passed away, I wrote a small article concerning this on my home page – the blog wasn’t invented back then! This article was subsequently revised after my father had died, and indeed after the uniform had finally been replaced. In 2002, Adwick School was renamed Doncaster North Technology College, and together with the new branding for the school, the old uniform was replaced by a modern dress code.
I am aware that the older Doncaster North Technology College, which itself has now been superseded by the new Outwood Academy Adwick, called their dress code a “uniform”. However for the purposes of this discussion, I prefer to restrict the term “uniform” to a certain type of school clothing. The technology college’s “uniform” is far better described as a dress code for these purposes. Nevertheless, from what I can gather about the new academy, there is once again a uniform, as smart and strictly applied as ours in my days. That is however completely different to the green, white and black uniform we wore at Adwick School.
I am republishing here my earlier article, after its revisions in 2002. Take yourself back therefore to that year. These are my observations regarding the decline and ultimate loss of the Adwick School uniform…. They are only my opinions, and in no way meant to be authoritative!
Note: this article was first published in year 2000, when the last vestiges of school uniform still existed at Adwick High. The only changes made are therefore those of tense. For example, “traces of its distinctive look could still be seen” was originally “traces of its distinctive look can still be seen”.
The article is otherwise republished exactly as it was first put out on the Internet, below.
Observations on School Uniform
Adwick School had a classical English school uniform. Traces of its very distinctive look could still be seen as recently as 2001, when formerly speaking the school still retained it. However by then, there could be little doubting its decline, compared to its heyday in the seventies.
That this is so I can vouchsafe myself. When I was a pupil at the end of that period, I did know about the practice of wearing the school tie in such a way that only a tiny bit could be seen poking out of the knot. However, this was then fairly new, regarded as scruffy appearance, and the vast majority of us still wore it conventionally. Indeed house tutors would upbraid us if our ties and uniform were not neatly, and correctly worn.
This photograph to the right admittedly shows my tie in a position that would have earned such an admonishment. Yet it was taken, as I recall, at the very end of the school day, and the “slack” tie shows the photograph to be genuine: schoolboys did not as a rule pay too much attention to detail unless teachers made them. What the photograph does clearly show is the school tie with the correct knot (as opposed to the “scruffy” versions described above that later became both fashionable and, indeed, the rule rather than the exception).
Documented too are all of the uniform’s items waist up, with the sole exception of the school scarf. Had I been conscious of the photograph’s ultimate historical value to this discussion, I would definitely have taken my scarf along with me – but such things had of course never dawned on me when this photograph was taken. I was no doubt counting down the minutes to the bell (for home-time).
The photograph being old has required a good deal of editing on the computer, and this is the best I can do. I have been able to bring the green back to the blazer and tie (which had all but gone on the original), but to make this green colour like it was when the photograph was taken would unfortunately make me look rather “seasick” in the face.
Shown too is the distinctive black V-neck, which disappeared in the eighties shortly after I left school. The green and white colours of the school’s green, white, and black scheme made two stripes at the “V” of the neck and at the arms, which were folded in at the ends – though I cannot now remember how those stripes were, whether they were right at the point where the hands came out, or further up the fold.
Not shown is the equally distinctive Adwick School logo on the breast pocket. This took the form of bold black initials “AS” on a white background that filled the square of the pocket. Below this was a so-called “flash” that denoted the House (pupils belonged to Priestley, Delius, Rhodes or Moore Houses).
The Priestley flash I wore was yellow, the others were blue, green and red – if my memory serves me correct, though I cannot remember which colour corresponded to which House. The name of the House was written in clear black letters over this colour background.
The Adwick School Sixth Form also had a uniform. That was certainly not in existence a year ago, and given that I did not stay on after 16 years at school, I regret that I cannot remember the details of how exactly it was composed.
The Uniform Begins to Change
Not long after my departure from Adwick in 1981, the uniform began to change. The neighbouring school, Don Valley High School lost its uniform entirely (at least in the stricter sense of the word “uniform” required for this discussion), and although the Adwick uniform remained times were a changing.
Between the years 1985 and 1986, I observed that the first casualty of these changes was the V-neck pullover. The majority of children were now wearing plain black V-necks, without the colour stripes at the “V”. These would be clothes bought from ordinary shops, and not specially tailored uniform clothes. A very few did have the old patterns, and I suspect these were children from the more well to do areas of Sprotborough – which was still a part of Adwick’s catchment area at that time.
The V-neck became completely discarded soon afterwards. This happened in the early nineties, and by 1997 when I visited Adwick with two schoolboys from where I now live, I was told that the V-neck was still “there” theoretically – but nobody would be seen dead wearing it. Indeed I noticed how, despite the cold September air, pupils would go to school with but the protection of a shirt, their designer winter coats open.
The latter indeed, in all kinds of sundry colours now masked the look of uniform, at least when the children were outdoors. I had observed moreover that the blazer too seemed to be on the way out: the answer seemed to be to go to school without it, with an outer designer coat for protection from the elements. At the time of my visit, though, there were still plenty blazers to be seen, but those dropping them altogether were quite noticeable.
The tie was by now either not worn at all, or worn with most of the tie tucked into the shirt, and only the tip end showing out of the knot. I had the distinct impression then that the uniform’s days were numbered.
As good as all girls now wore trousers – not that there were anything wrong with that I hasten to add – but because these girls had so many colour alternatives, and because of the outer clothing that everybody wore over the uniform, the whole point did seem to be lost. The uniform no longer existed in the strict sense, though a weakened impression of uniform did admittedly hang on for dear life.
Important note: this article was revised in 2002. Outwood Academy Adwick has now reintroduced school uniform. This is a very smart one too, using purple and black with an earthy yellow stripe. See the official website for the academy. This article was written at a time when uniform (as I prefer to understand the word) had been abolished. I did not foresee a time it would ever return again, as it has with the academy. That is therefore the context of the final paragraphs below.
It was therefore, regrettably only a matter of time before someone took the by then inevitable step of abolishing the Adwick Uniform. At the end of the day, a uniform is the expression of the community that wears it; and when there is no consensus for keeping it, no amount of force will save it. There is a world of difference between the last dying vestiges of Adwick Uniform and its living, proud expression of the former generation.
In our day, the uniform fulfilled a role, and both we and our parents wanted it. Yet to be fair too, that was a bygone age, with different values. Today the community had to make a choice: it had either to abolish school uniform altogether or put its weight behind the concept. Clearly it has chosen to do the first.
Now the Adwick uniform is history. It is my firm opinion that whatever the rights or wrongs of its abolition, the uniform is [also] important history. Children today and tomorrow should know about it, because it was an essential part of being a child in school for many generations. History is about how we understand ourselves, and with the demise of classical school uniform at Adwick, it is even more important to keep it living in historical discussions and study.
Description of the Older Uniform
Girls Green or grey skirt; otherwise as boys except blazer optional
Boys White shirt
School Tie (pictured) – green, white, black diagonal stripes
Green Adwick Blazer
Black V-neck – green and white stripes at “V” and arms
In addition came the optional school scarf. This had parallel stripes of green, white, and black – though interestingly the black colour band was a little larger than the green colour band. The white band came in the middle, and like the stripe on the tie was the smallest.
The school scarf was never widely used. I had one, but unfortunately I have no pictures of it.
The school tie I still have today. It is pictured at the top.
Since my Norwegian blog was launched last year, I have maintained a twin blog system. I have one blog for English, another for Norwegian.
I intend continuing thus. The system has served my blogging needs very well, and further allowed me to be much more radical in my Norwegian (since May this year I have favoured Nynorsk over the more usual Bokmål). Nevertheless the matter relating to my former school merits coverage in both blogs. Because of this, I have also made an exception in just this case alone, and you will find an English translation of the original Norwegian post on the Norwegian blog itself.
The translation is but that, and is therefore on a separate page. The alternative would have been to put the translation on this blog, as I have before. However, in this case both blogs will be covering what effectively is the end of an important part of my formative years. That is why I feel I have to cover these developments on my personal blogs. It is “front page” stuff in a sense.
Both blogs will therefore continue with their own separate identities, but the Norwegian one will also cover this story from its own angle.