A few reflections of a 43 year connection with Moseley School both as pupil and teacher
by Peter Samuels (1967-2001)
My family moved from Small Heath to Hall Green and in 1964 I was one of the early intakes at the brand new Hall Green Bilateral School. After O’Levels a group of us applied to the sixth form at MGS and Mr Gaskin welcomed us in September 1969 until 1971. (I swapped the company of Nigel Mansel for Carl Chinn, Anton Lesser and other alumni at MGS!). The grammar’s all boy intake academic, robed male staff, rugby instead of soccer and strong emphasis on academic and sporting success was a contrast to Hall Green’s more modern approach. However both were great schools and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
My science “masters” included messers Bullock, Sames, Bacon, Pinney and Clarke, while Mr Hingley advised me against physics in no uncertain terms! (Weak Maths!) The quality of teaching (and practical work, which modern students wouldn’t believe!) was outstanding. Little did I realise when I left in 1971, I’d be back as a colleague of these legendary teachers (and those of Moseley Modern!) three years later.
After drifting a bit in the heady late 60s and early 70s I was at a bit of a loss at what to “do”. I turned to Mr Gaskin and he suggested I would make a good teacher (so I blame him!!) and the following day I was admitted to St Peter’s College of Education Saltley (where it turns out all the best teachers were trained!)
After three enjoyable years at Saltley, where I realised that I really quite enjoyed teaching and that maybe this was my vocation, I was directed by the Birmingham pool of teachers to attend an interview with Headmaster Mr Wilford at Moseley Modern (Secondary) School in June of 1974. After a very intense interview (about 20 seconds)
Mr Wilford: (after shuffling some papers on his desk) “Do you want the job?” (as a science teacher).
Mr W: “Right ……see you in September…..now I’m rather busy…so if you don’t mind…….”
Now some may realize that 1974 was the year of amalgamation with MGS with both schools given about two weeks notice! Some steps were cut into the bank through the bushes, signifying physical union!
My first staff meeting, held by Mr Goodfellow (who was also given a “fait accompli” to become Head at the new Moseley School) contained many traumatised staff. Many anxious faces, including me sitting with my aforementioned science teachers quizzically asking “Samuels…! What are you doing here?”
I had by now met my science boss and subsequent Head of the new school’s Science Dept, Bob Powell. He is still one of the best teachers both in expertise and support, that I have known. He led by example. No OFSTED then, but outstanding colleagues like Bob would let you know if you were not “performing” at the expected level. It is probably invidious to mention too many colleagues and friends by name. There are so many, and we all remember staff of a similar calibre.
The comprehensive amalgamation didn’t suit everybody, but overall most staff found the blend of grammar and secondary strengths pleasantly successful, at least at first! The personalities (and humour) of people like John Webb and Rick Coleman introduced a new social dimension to staff (and pupil) life, and both staff rooms (East and West!) soon mixed quite freely. The new talent available produced the best Rugby squads ever in the late 70s and early 80s. Academic success at A’ Level was as high as King Edward Schools, always a competitive benchmark with MGS.
I had been introduced to the Old Grouse (school cottage) in 1969, hitching down for a sixth form maintenance and social week with Mr Martin and Mr Bullock. I was fortunate to take the first group from the Moseley Modern staff on an exploratory weekend in 1974. Very basic, but as always, after a big fire and “refreshments”, with its unbelievable location and views, a lifelong bond was forged with some staff and the cottage (although one or two were put off for life!). I’m pleased to have been one of those who managed to keep the place going for so long on a shoestring budget, improving when necessary, but fulfilling the wishes of the cottage purchasers (the parents) back in 1968, for a residential asset second to none and the envy of most schools.
My teaching varied from A Level Biology to P.E (every young teacher was roped in for that but I loved it!) I also had a forte for “less able” science groups. Even Drama when they were desperate! And always trips to the cottage, or Tal-y bont Camp, or field trips to Kingsbridge in Devon.
By now Roger Norfolk’s Crossed Keys Musical Theatre Company had revealed another latent talent (apparently). Mr Lockwood suggested I “had a go” and from 1976 (Carousel) to 1988 (King) I was involved in many school musicals and other productions (but to us they were all West End/Broadway standard!) No-one was rejected from auditions (although a certain Joanne Malin might disagree?)
Earlier I mentioned all went well “at first” with the new school, but in 1985 the National Curriculum came along and (a bit like Beeching with the Railways in the 1960s) had a “dramatic” effect on all things educational. I won’t go on. All educationalists have their opinion. Mine is that ultimately teaching became politicized as never before. Individuality amongst wonderful teaching talent was stifled. Target culture ensued, meetings took over from “extra curricular activities”, and time for thinking and acting “out of the box” was discouraged. I couldn’t wait to get to work in my first ten to fifteen years of teaching-I was rarely absent. In fact never in my first ten years (boast!). I found parents’ evenings were enjoyable and vitally useful. However towards the end of my career I found it hard to explain to parents exactly how their child passed a science exam! An essentially simple job had become so inexplicably complicated. Maybe it was time for Samuels to reconsider his options! I had also picked up an “awkward” arthritic condition which became progressively more “incompatible” with my job and my enjoyment of teaching (which is a very physically demanding job) was no longer possible. So finally I “bowed out” in 2001 after my brother Andy suggested early retirement, along with support from Mary Miles. It is not the way I would have chosen to finish (old Brummy working class pride etc) but 27 years service wasn’t bad.
My beautiful wife Kate, and children Ellie and Will moved to Cornwall in 2003. I’m in touch with school events and wince sometimes when I compare teaching then and now. I am full of admiration for young teachers, but can they endure 30 years with current pressures and unrealistic expectations?! I advocate a one year sabbatical to “recharge their batteries” every five years or so.
Enough of my ramblings…… have I done 400 words yet? I think of dear friends (some no longer with us) and many ex pupils who became friends nearly every day. I cannot believe I am nearly 60 and many ex pupils are grandparents now! Kate often asks me why I’m smirking. I’m often recollecting a silly moment with JC Webb or Tony Thacker or some outrageous classroom event that happened many years ago. I could write a book!