(An Article by Gerald Rudge, The Citizen, 3rd October, 2003)
Walk from Gloucester Cross down Southgate Street and immediately before you come to St Mary de Crypt church you will see a stone archway bearing two small, ancient stone plaques – the crest of The Crypt school, picked out in maroon and gold, and the pre-Elizabethan City coat of arms. It was here, nearly 500 years ago, that Joan Cooke saw The Crypt school’s first pupils arrive at the “frescole of gramer for the erudicion of children and scolars” that her late husband, Alderman John Cooke had stipulated in his will she should establish and should continue “while the Worlde shall last”. Today both John and Joan Cooke must be spinning in their graves, along with the thousands of Old Cryptians now deceased whose lives were enriched by a Crypt school education.
Present day Old Cryptians, pupils and their parents and staff are all also justifiably dismayed at the news that The Crypt is earmarked for closure under the latest reorganisation of secondary education in Gloucestershire.
The seedling of a school which John and Joan Cook planted in Southgate Street in 1539 and has since grown into the great educational oak which today stands at Podsmead is threatened with the axe in the oh-so-familiar name of progress and equality.
This might be understandable if The Crypt was a struggling, under-achieving school. It isn’t – and it never has been. On the contrary, judged by any yardstick over the years The Crypt has served its pupils and the city extremely well. Academically it is going from strength to strength.
From the beginning, many of its pupils have gone on to distinguish themselves in every walk of life imaginable. Mention a few from the school’s early days – the evangelist George Whitefield, John Moore who became Archbishop of Canterbury, Sunday schools founder Robert Raikes, the poet W.E. Henley, the artist and Royal Academician George Belcher – and the educational reformers will no doubt scoff. High office, outside their own echelons, does not impress them.
They have said it before and I am sure they will say it again, that the school is “all history” and its traditions and its ethos are irrelevant to the needs of today’s pupils and the modern world.
How wrong they are. Today’s pupils very quickly realise that as Cryptians they belong to a unique institution, which is what The Crypt truly is, rather than just a school.
The Founders’ Day service, held in annually in the Cathedral, reinforces that The Crypt has behind it a long history of helping its pupils to achieve their maximum potential, not just academically but in every aspect of their lives.
Likewise the not one but three Old Cryptians dinners – held annually in Gloucester, London and Oxford – where at the end of the proceedings the school song is sung as enthusiastically by those new members who have just left school as it is by those more than three times their age.
Walk around the school today and talk to the pupils and you see and hear overwhelming evidence of a thoroughly good, effective and efficient school.
Wherever you look, in the science labs, the language suites, the music department or the IT centre you see education in the true sense of the word. Of course exam results are important but there is much more going on here than preparing for exams.
At The Crypt you see young people being tutored in every respect for the adult lives ahead of them, being constantly encouraged to contribute the most they can to their world and also to get the most out of it.
The Crypt is, of course, a grammar school with an entrance examination and consequently will always attract the arrows of the anti-elitist brigade. Call it elitist if you like, but what is actually so wrong with a system which helps everyone to strive to attain a higher standard in an environment of equals as opposed to free-wheeling along in mixed ability melee?
One must speak as one finds. During my years at The Crypt I did not consider myself part of an elitist system; more importantly, nor I believe did anyone else then.
I had cousins at both Longlevens Secondary School and the Central School and the fact that I had passed the 11-plus and they hadn’t did not create any barriers between us.
I did not go into the sixth form and on to university, instead leaving at 16 to join the editorial staff of this newspaper but I felt in no way inferior to those who did, nor do I now when we meet up at Old Cryptian gatherings.
The case for reorganisation which is being made out by Charmian Sheppard, county council portfolio holder for education, is clearly defective and will convince only her acolytes.
“We should be able to go to one local school and know that if you are going there you are getting as equal treatment as you would get up the road,” she says. Note the phrase “equal treatment”. Aside from the fact that schools are not hospitals and exist to educate and not to dispense treatment, equality is clearly Charmian Sheppard’s undisguised priority.
In theory it may appear appealing; in practice it doesn’t work. If you are attempting to achieve equal standards in all schools you are attempting the impossible. This Government has already shown that the solution to schools where pupils are underachieving is to put in a “superhead” with the ability to identify the causes and deal with them.
If Charmian Sheppard really believes that “the attainment gap between schools is too wide” she has a proven solution at her fingertips – and it is not closure.
This is not the first time The Crypt’s existence has been threatened and unfortunately it is unlikely to be the last. But the reformers should realise they are trying to kill off much more than just another school. Old Cryptians throughout the world, present-day pupils, staff and former staff are already galvanising themselves, just as they did in the eighties, to fight off this latest challenge and ensure that their school survives.
The Crypt School motto: Floreat Schola Cryptiensis, (The Crypt School will live and thrive forever) means what it says….
(The Citizen, 2nd October, 2003)
Gloucester looks set to become a national battleground in the fight to save the nation’s grammar schools after education chiefs yesterday backed moves which could lead to the first closures in five years. Campaigners are gearing up for a massive battle after political leaders voted though proposals which will mean losing at least two comprehensive schools – and one of the city’s four single-sex grammar schools.
Supporters of the eleven-plus system fear that the council will use closure or merger procedures to try and bypass the ballot of parents required if they want to end selective education in a particular school. The closure and merger plans are included in a raft of options put forward yesterday to county education chiefs. Councillors have to solve the dual problems of falling pupil numbers and too many unpopular ‘sink’ schools which are failing children.
But parents living in a city where 22 per cent of pupils attend grammar schools have been shocked to find those selective secondaries, which consistently top the league tables, also in the firing line. Under the present proposals Gloucester’s well known Crypt School, which dates back to 1528, is the most likely to close, even though GCSE pass rates have gone up from 67 per cent in 1998 to 90 per cent last year.
Education chiefs admit the over-subscribed school takes in an “unusually broad” ability range for a selective school but question if a grammar school curriculum is appropriate for pupils of average ability.
Headteacher David Lamper said the school would resist any pressure to close or merge because it is popular with parents, with three times as many applicants as places last year.
Speaking during the school’s open day, he said: “I am very surprised by the proposal put forward to close our school, which was named as one of the most-improved schools in the country in 2001.
“This school offers pupils the opportunity to reach and exceed their potential.
“I do not think the debate should be about selection, it should be about parental choice.”
Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “What they are proposing is educational vandalism and will lead to the imminent decline of standards in Gloucestershire. They are set for a huge battle, because experience shows parents want grammar schools and will fight tooth and nail to keep them.”
But county councillor Chairman Sheppard, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity. We want to put our young learners at the heart of our education service and want to stimulate a constructive and open debate about how we can maximise their opportunities.”
(The Citizen 21st October, 2003)
Parents will come face to face with the education chiefs planning the most ambitious shake-up of education in Gloucestershire for a generation at a series of public meetings.
The county council has released the dates of 18 meetings in November and December to discuss its review of secondary schools which could see some city grammar and comprehensive schools closed or amalgamated by 2006. At least one grammar school will close and Oxstalls Community School and Central Technology College are also earmarked for the axe.
There will be five meetings open to the public and meetings at each of the 13 schools which could be affected by the review.
Hundreds of parents are expected to attend the meetings, each of which will be attended by at least one senior councillor and senior officer.
The five public meetings will be open to everyone whereas the school meetings are aimed at parents of children at that school and its feeder schools.
A council spokeswoman said: “At each meeting there will be a presentation by officers and members who will explain the reasons for change.
“The meeting will take the form of an open forum with questions and comments coming from members of the public.”
All comments will be noted and will form part of a paper as part of a later consultation stage.
Meetings are expected to last around two hours and any questions that cannot be answered on the night will be answered in writing.
(Emma Pickles, The Citizen, 30th October, 2003)
An Article By Emma Pickles,
Reproduced From The Citizen, 30th October, 2003 With Kind Permission
The anger caused by proposals to close The Crypt School in Gloucester as part of the county council’s review of secondary education is dominating a website for former pupils.
The Old Cryptians Club has set aside a section of its website – at www.oldcryptians.org – for comments about the proposals. Not surprisingly, correspondents are strongly against the threat to the school.
Former pupil Brian Jones, who was at the school from 1945 to 1953, said: “In writing this I find it difficult not to become emotional, difficult not to allow the arguments to become too passionate, difficult not to want to strike out at those who can so wantonly, lightly and so indiscriminately strike out an institution which has done so much down the centuries as an instrument for good.
“Old Cryptians and everyone with an interest in the future of the school – STAND UP AND FIGHT THESE INIQUITOUS PROPOSALS.”
Parent Derek Austin writes on the site: “A good school is a good community and a good community cannot be manufactured in a few years; the few short years that any pupil attends.
“It seems that it’s a political choice and not a democratic choice; choice is being taken away from parents and prospective pupils, not just those who would attend a grammar school.
“People need more choice, its not grammar or comprehensive, it should be a wide range of schools specialising in various areas. Yes , share facilities, but don’t merge identities.”
Howard Allen, president of the Old Cryptians’ Club, writes: “The emotional ties of the members of the committee and the members of the Old Cryptians’ Club, founded in 1901, towards the Crypt School run very deep.
“Understandably, therefore, the recent announcement in the Draft Proposals that The Crypt School will face dismemberment or closure, has touched a raw nerve.
“We have been dismayed, rendered incredulous, saddened and angered by this news.”
The Crypt is Gloucester’s oldest grammar school and was founded in 1539, the original schoolroom still exists today in St Mary de Crypt in Southgate Street, although the present school is at Podsmead.
The all-boys school is facing closure under every single option in the county council’s review of city secondary schools – unless the status quo is maintained.
A series of public meetings begin next month into the county council’s far-reaching planned shake-up of secondary and sixth form education in Gloucestershire.
(The Citizen, 5th November, 2003)
Trustees of the Gloucester United Schools Trust – which owns two of the city’s four grammar schools – have met with education bosses to discuss plans for Gloucester’s grammar schools.
All 13 members of the trust, which owns The Crypt and High School for Girls sites, attended the meeting for a video presentation of the council’s plans for secondary education in the city. The trust provides thousands of pounds in funding every year to all four city grammar schools, which are now under threat of closure as a result of the review.
Trustees asked questions about the review and studied the options for consultation but council bosses would not be drawn on questions about whether the grammars would be saved from the axe.
Trust chairman Peter Robins said: “It was a friendly meeting and they gave us a long explanation of what they were doing and their various alternatives.
“They gave us a while to ask questions but said that obviously until the consultation is finished they couldn’t comment on anything else.
“They would only answer questions about the consultation process and wouldn’t answer questions over what they have proposed and thought was likely to happen.
“My opinion has not changed and I personally am in favour of the four grammar schools in Gloucester.”
He said it was now likely the trustees – who include three socialist county councillors and one city councillor – would call a special meeting to discuss the review and trust’s response to it.
Council leader Peter Clarke, who represents the council on the board of 13 trustees, also attended the meeting.
The Crypt looks likely to close under the council’s plans and Ribston Hall, Sir Thomas Rich’s and the High School for Girls could also be closed or amalgamated.
The Trust, which has not been involved in the strategic review so far, provides funding for facilities and resources at the grammar schools that cannot be funded through the LEA and Government.
Geoff Black, head of planning and development at the council attended the meeting and said: “The whole point of the meeting was to ensure they were fully briefed and they had the chance to ask questions about things they weren’t clear on so they can make a response.”
Ownership of The Crypt was transferred to the Dame Cooke Foundation in 1862 and the High School for Girls was transferred in 1940. The Dame Cooke Foundation was merged with another charity to become the Gloucester United Schools Trust which does not get any income from the two schools. It has other funds which are invested in stocks and shares
(The Citizen, 1st October , 2003)
All sixth forms in Gloucester could be closed to make way for a single comprehensive sixth form college in the city.
The radical proposal was one of the options for changes to the sixth form education system taken forward by cabinet for consultation this morning. It is all part of the Classroom Revolution in Gloucestershire – the biggest shake-up in education since comprehensives were introduced in the 1960s.
If the sixth form proposals were to become a reality the college could either be located alongside or separate to Gloscat to provide access to a full learner entitlement post 16.
It is a more radical option to those generated by the Joint Review Group – made up of headteachers, church representatives and educationalists – and was included as an alternative option for cabinet to decide on.
At the cabinet meeting in Shire Hall this morning Councillor Jeremy Hilton stressed that the proposal for a single city sixth form be given serious consideration.
He said: “As a Gloucester councillor what I want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the system is also the possibility of having a sixth form college somewhere in the city.
“I think if I was a 15 or 16-year-old child doing my O’levels and looking forward to sixth form I would rather like the idea of going to a sixth form college in the city.
“The advantage of having it all under one roof is that it could be both academic and vocational and give children a lot more opportunities to develop themselves.
“I hope it doesn’t get lost in the overall review of secondary education in the city.”
Schools with sixth forms in the city include: Beaufort Community School in Tuffley, Central Technology College in Gloucester, Chosen Hill and Churchdown School in Churchdown, The Crypt School, High School for Girls on Denmark Road, Gloucester, Ribston Hall High School, Severn Vale, Quedgeley, St Peter’s School on Stroud Road, Sir Thomas Rich’s, Gloucester.