BOYS’ GRAMMAR SCHOOL PRIZE DAY
‘Boys and girls schools did not fraternise’
A PICTURE of school life in the distant, peaceful and unprotesting days of the 1920s and 30s, was given by Aberdare’s Mr. Oliver Timothy, guest speaker at the Boys’ Grammar School Prize Day recently.
Mr. Timothy, Assistant Deputy Director of Education for Mid Glamorgan, an old boy of the school and for 16 years District Education Officer for this area said, when he was considering a topic on which to talk to the boys, a “combination of events — my impending retirement and the timing of the invitation to me — provide a happy solution to my dilemma. The year 1978 is to be a year of change for the secondary schools of Aberdare.
“By a chronological coincidence, it will also be a year of change for me. In the course of the year, I shall retire from the education service, which brings to an end my long and close association with the school, firstly as a student, more years than I care to remember, and for the last twenty two years as an administrator, in the course of which I served as clerk of the governors of the school.
“Consequently, the invitation extended to me is a very timely one and gives my brief talk a valedictory ring. It provides an opportunity to compare the school of those distant days with the school of today, separated as they are by an interval of half a century, and to note the changes which have taken place during, that period.
“The curriculum of my days was narrow and circumscribed. Music, Art or Drawing, as it was then called, were frill subjects and were not pursued with any seriousness. In point of fact, one period per week was the time allocated to each of these subjects. Woodwork suffered similar treatment and was taught by a peripatetic teacher who visited the school two days per week to provide instruction for the first and second forms only.”
Mr. Timothy said: “Parents Associations were unheard of. The parents only involvement with the school was through their attendance at the various functions arranged by the school — the Annual Sports Day, Prize Day and the Drama performances.
“However, they gave their support to the school in a more direct and positive way by seeing to it that their children took full advantage of the educational opportunities which they themselves had been denied. The home influence was such that absenteeism and truancy presented no problem.”
The speaker remembered Sports Day, which was a very pleasant affair with tents being erected on the school field and a garden party atmosphere prevailed. The competitions were conducted in a very professional manner under the direction of Mr. Excell.
“My recollection of the Prize Day is that it was a very formal affair. It was held in the Palladium, which had to be vacated by about 4p.m. for the evening cinema performance. The guest speakers were truly VIPs. The school’s vocal talent was on display —in my day, a small glee party — which sang “Myfanwy” and “Soldiers Chorus” long before they became the familiar stock in trade of male voice parties.
“The proceedings terminated with a display of gymnastics by a team trained and directed by Mr. Excell and the piece de resistance was a spectacular tableau in the form of a pyramid.”
He continued: “Perhaps I should mention, too, the relationship, or more correctly, the non-relationship between the boys and girls school. There was no social or academic contact of any kind. Non-fraternisation was the order of the day and this persisted over a long period of time.
“The speaker at one of our prize days referred to it as the ice-age. It took a long time to melt. Indeed, we had the ludicrous situation where the boys and girls schools produced plays independently of each other and took the male and female parts.”
Mr. Timothy continued: “The intervening period has witnessed many changes. There have been administrative changes. The Education Act of 1944 abolished education authorities like Aberdare and Mountain Ash. The county council assumed responsibility for education within its administrative area and divisional executives were created to supervise the day to day conduct of education in their areas. Local government reorganisation has since dispensed with divisional executives.
“There have likewise been changes in the examination system. The CWB examinations have been replaced by the GCE examinations to which had been added, following public pressure, the CSE examination to cater for the less able child. The duration of the ‘O’ and ‘A’ level courses is now five and seven years compared with four and six years for the CWB examinations.
“The curriculum has expanded. Pupils may now pursue examination courses in Woodwork, Metalwork, Technical Drawing, Art, Music and Scripture, which did not happen in the old days.
“Education,” he said, “is now more outward looking and outward going. Pupils are now subjected to a wealth of experiences outside the classroom. They can learn to play a variety of instruments and can become members of a youth orchestra or brass band.
“Those with any vocal talent become members of the youth choir. They can participate in a variety of outdoor pursuits at centres which the authority has established in North Wales and in Merthyr, where they can indulge in canoeing, mountaineering, rock climbing, orienteering and other outdoor activities.
“Ski trips abroad and school cruises broaden and widen their horizons. They can attend a variety of courses in the pleasant and congenial atmosphere of Duffryn House. All these activities make the schools very exciting places.
No child leaving the secondary school is now penalised through lack of finance from attending institutions of higher education such as universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. They are assured of local authority grants if accepted at these institutions.
A function of this kind is an occasion for the recognition of merit and attainment. It is also an occasion when the students reap their due reward for diligence, effort and application. These are the attitudes and values which have secured for the school a reputation for learning and scholastic excellence and implanted in the community, which it serves, a pride in its achievements and good name over the past eighty years.
“In conclusion, may I wish the recipients of certificates every success in the future. Some have already proceeded to universities and colleges of education, whilst others are now pursuing ‘A’ levels courses,” he said.
• Mrs. Mattie Timothy presented the prizes to the boys.
Plea for success
A PLEA to make Comprehensive Education in Aberdare really work successfully was made by the chairman of the governors, County Coun. Mrs. Prudence Williams, at the Boys’ Grammar School Prize Day.
“I know many people are against the change over” she said, “But now we know it is going to happen we must all work together to make sure that it works successfully”.
County Coun. Williams said she would prefer to hear, in the future, those who had been against comprehensive education, to be able to say, “We were wrong”, than for those people to be able to say, “I told you so.”
County Councillor Williams said it would be a very fine thing if comprehensive education was a real success here.
“Parents, teachers, children must all pull together to ensure this and I’m sure Mr. Noel Thomas will do his utmost to see that it does”.
Mr. Noel Thomas was congratulated on his new appointment as was Mrs. Tydfil Thomas, (appointed to the girls’ post,) and Mr. Thomas in turn thanked everyone for their congratulations.
During the evening, musical entertainment was provided by the wind instrumental group: a violin solo by Neil Thomas and a trumpet solo by Vivian Davies. Mr. Gethin Evans was the accompanist.
Votes of thanks were expressed by the head-boy Huw Williams who presented a bouquet to County Coun. Williams and this was seconded by deputy head boy John Podpadec.
THE T. Brinley Reynolds Memorial Prize for French, Nicholas Bowen and Rhodri Newcombe (shared); John T. Bowen Memorial Prize for Welsh, , J. R. E. Jones; Aubrey Roberts Memorial Prize for History, Philip Harvey; Louis M. Thomas Memorial Prize for English, Jeremy Davies and Nicholas Bowen (shared); Rev. Ivor Parry Prize, John Howard Davies and Huw Williams (shared).
Jeremy Davies won a Price Davies Scholarship to Aberystwyth in English and Geography and was designated a Senior Scholar, that is the best of the Scholarship winners.
EXAM RESULTS GOOD
THE ‘A’ level successes at Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School, last year, were TWICE the national average, and the ‘O’ level results were over 10% above the national average.
These figures were given by the newly-appointed headmaster, Mr. Noel Thomas, at the school’s prize day. The school becomes comprehensive next year.
Mr. Thomas, who will be head of the new comprehensive set-up, too, said: “The academic life of the school continues to flourish. At a time when standards in education are being scrutinised as never before, we can certainly offer for inspection our results at ‘A’, ‘O’ and C.S.E. levels, at the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, though certainly not smug.”
The head added: “At the ‘A’ level exams last year, 49 pupils gained 100 passes, 22 of these Grade ‘A’. This figure is twice the national average at this level.”
Mr. Thomas also pointed out that at ‘O’ level, over 29 subjects were offered to pupils — the highest number ever. “The percentage passing was over 89% compared with 58%, compared with the last available national average.” He said 100 passed out of 103 entries at C.S.E.
Particular reference was made to the outstanding results gained by Michael Griffiths, Broniestyn Terrace, with three ‘A’ grades and a Distinction in the Special Paper. Michael, now studying medicine at London, was awarded the Rhys Llewellyn Prize.
Other excellent results were obtained by Kevin Evans Roger Israel, Anthony Morgan, Philip Picton and John Huw Williams, each of whom obtained two ‘A’ grades. Roger was awarded a Miners’ Welfare Scholarship.
Mr. Thomas had a word of encouragement to those whom the glittering prizes had eluded. “To them I say, true failure in life consists not in having tried and failed but of never having tried.”
Past pupils had also done well, sixteen gained degrees, 14 with honours. He singled out Warren Davies and Arwyn Harris, who gained the degree of M.Sc.; Noel Bevan who qualified as a physician; Gregory Bull was called to the Bar; Jeffrey Price took a degree of B.C.L. (Civil Law); Christopher Spiers was awarded Research Scholarship to Imperial College; and Martin Jones won £750 as a prize in a National Art competition.
“The news of these successes was overshadowed by the death of Robert Anthony Jones, who had obtained first class honours degree in Law and was about to be called to the Bar.”
On the sporting success of the school, Mr. Thomas said Carl Jones and Mark Davies represented the County in the National Athletics Finals and John Milligan and Paul Davies have been chosen to appear in the Gymnastic Display on the occasion of the Queen’s visit to Caerphilly in June.
He referred to rugby successes and to the success of the Under 15 cricket eleven, and to the way in which school societies continued to flourish including two new ones, The Earth Science Society (the “Dirt Club”) and a Debating Society.
Mr. Thomas praised the boys’ efforts for charity and also said the efforts of the Parents’ Association was much appreciated. They had presented the school with a £250 machine for duplicating purposes.
The Christmas Fayre, actively assisted by the Parents Association, raised £700.
Finally, the head said: “This term promises to present difficulties as extensions and adaptations are to be made to prepare for our becoming a Comprehensive School. However, I am sure that, with the co-operation of the staff, pupils, and the L.E.A., these difficulties can be minimised.”
Tinged with sadness
PRIZE Day celebrations at the Boys’ Grammar School were tinged with sadness when reference was made to the death of headmaster Mr. Gwilym Williams. Mr. Noel Thomas, new head said, “Clearly no occasion such as this could pass without reference to the great loss to the school and community in general caused by the death of Mr. Gwilym Williams.
“He was a man who dedicated the whole of his working life to the school, a man of strong principles who wanted only the best for and from the boys of the school. To commemorate him, a Gwilym Williams Chemistry Prize is to be funded for annual award, some small, but fitting tribute to a man who will long be remembered for good he did the school, first as a Chemistry teacher, then as its headmaster.”
Previously, tributes to Mr. Williams had been paid by the chairman of the governors, County Coun. Mrs. Prudence Williams, “We were shocked by his death,” she said.