David Jenkins was a day pupil at Wennington from 1969-74. He talks about the educational ethos of the school.


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DJ               No actually,  I mean there was nothing within, if you like an educational framework that was particularly different. I mean, you know, yes, I mean there were differences in the sense that – and, I’m talking about the early ‘70s - the lads would do cookery, and the girls would do woodwork and metalwork, whereas, I mean, I know for a fact in my sister’s comprehensive school down the road in Wetherby, that was a completely unheard of. But there wasn’t anything inherently novel, I wouldn’t say, about the way things were taught, no.


GG:               And you said it was an attitude and you’ve, you’ve said a little more about that. Could you, if it wasn’t the teaching or the lessons...


DJ:               What was it? Oh, I’ve absolutely no idea.


GG:              [laughs]


DJ:               I don’t know. I honestly don’t know, but what I do know, it was a very, very different environment from those which I’d experienced in any of my previous schools. Now, I will give you an example, actually. There were four of us who decided that we were going to do O-Level astronomy and, of course, you know, it wasn’t, and the other thing you have to remember is that after when I was there, whether people will deny this or not, it’s true. I mean not necessarily as policy but de facto that from the 3rd year if you wanted to drop a subject you could.


                     Now, I don’t know if people will deny this but it did happen, and you had people who didn’t want to do anything, and they wouldn’t go to lessons. I remember one particular chap who decided he wasn’t gonna do any O-Levels at all and he spent the last year at least, anyway, helping Jack Bugger, as we called him, managing the woods. But, anyway, there were four of us and we decided we want to do O-Level astronomy and, of course, you know, the school didn’t teach O-Level – no school taught O-Level astronomy, so off our own bat, we found out the examining board which was the London Board and we applied through the maths teacher to be registered for candidates and we were, and we sent via the maths’ teacher, for four mock papers to sit a mock O-Level exam. We did it all without being taught.


                     We got the maths’ teacher, we got these, I don’t know, these text books or, and he would mark stuff, you know, to do with planetary rates and all this kind of stuff. And I remember that we got these four mock O-Level papers and we, of course, we had school on the Saturday morning, so on the Saturday morning we said, we didn’t ask, we said, “We are not going to go to lessons because the four of us have got this room,” that we’d booked, in the courtyard, off our own bats, “because we’re gonna sit the mock O-Level astronomy exam.” And the four of us went up there with these papers and we were scrup – we were so honest, because we didn’t open them until we got there.


                     And we sat up there, I can see it out of the window now, it’s a beautiful blue sky with autumn colours on the trees, and we played Mahler’s Third Symphony, right, on this cassette tape recorder, and whilst we were playing Mahler’s Third conducted by Leonard Bernstein it was, we actually did the mock O-Level exam, and when we finished it, we switched off Mahler’s Third – we were sitting in duffel coats and parkas because it was freezing - shoved the papers back in the envelope, switched off the tape recorder, walked down and gave them to Briggs, as we called the maths’ teacher. “Here we are Briggs!” And then [claps] - and we did the O-Level, as an official exam.


                     Now, I can’t see another school at that time that would’ve done that and, now, you know, what really annoys me is, people used to say, “Well, there can’t have been much discipline.” Well, excuse me, if there wasn’t some degree of remarkable discipline, how come four 15 year-old lads would’ve taken it on themselves to arrange to do that? [pause] Yeah.


GG:             So, they were very flexible...


DJ:              Yeah.


GG:             ..in what you –


DJ:               Yes, yes. I mean, in fact, when it came to history O-Level, my friend and I we didn’t like what the history teacher was teaching. I mean, it was all part of the syllabus but we had a den above what was called the red corridor. Now, you might’ve heard other people talk about the red corridor. It was a railway room. We had a model railway up there, and it was kind of quite amazing, and, but we hived one bit off as a study area, and two of us could sit at these sort of desks behind this model tunnel to work.


                     So Jonathan and I - he was the other day boy chap who was, you know, my other big friend there, we went to see David the history teacher and we said, “Look, you know, we really don’t give a toss about what you’re teaching with this, so can we kind of do stuff from the syllabus that we would like to do?” So he said – he was American - he said, [adopts American accent] “Oh, yeah, of course guys, yeah, but I’ll mark it.” “Okay.”


                     So we actually did, Jonathan and I did the whole of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany between us, and we taught and we got it we got the O Level. And we used to, you know, go down and David would mark what we’d written and but, you know, when it came to history that most of the 5th year, Jonathan and I would bugger off up to the railway room and work on this history stuff and do it and get it marked and, you know – we got the O-Level.  It’s quite extraordinary.


(Interviewed with Gemma Geldart.  Recording reference: HLF-WEN-022-OH ©)

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