Education: School's out for ever: the teachers' story: Games, God and GCSEs: Geoffrey Treasure: senior master at Harrow School, retiring at 62

AT 18, after Shrewsbury, I did two years' National Service. I became a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery - that gave me invaluable experience when I came to teach. But first I went to Oriel College and read history. I loved Oxford. There were two great things there: one was history, which made me want to write, and the other was rowing, which may have tilted me towards the type of life in which athletic games play a part.

I didn't intend to teach. After I'd taken my degree, I started some research on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, but in the November I found they wanted someone to teach temporarily at Harrow. So I came here in 1953 with the marvellous idea that in the evenings I could write. But I found teaching was a busier occupation than I imagined, and I've been here ever since.

In the Fifties Harrow was much like the pre-war Shrewsbury I'd attended. There were no exeat days. If parents didn't come to take them out to tea, the boys might not see them at all until the holidays.

I think the relationship between boys and masters is more relaxed than it used to be, though it wasn't so formal even then: I would go for bicycle rides with pupils even in the earliest days. Somehow I managed to find time by 1966 to finish a book - Seventeenth Century France - which is still in print with John Murray.

In 1967 I married and became a young housemaster in Headmaster's house. Melisa, my wife, really has been the heroine of the story. She was from New York, an editor at John Murray, who came down to the school partly because she published the School Science Review and partly because someone invited her on the grounds that there were 'lots of marvellous bachelors' at Harrow. We met for the first time then. After meeting three more times, we got engaged. She gave up her job. At that time it was difficult to combine the duties of housemaster's wife with outside work.

In the Sixties there was a recognisable change in the school. It was the height of the pop decade . . . the Beatles. Boys started wearing rings and looking like pop stars. They wanted to be different, and I saw a great deal that was good in that. But it was a difficult position trying to hold on to what was important, the feeling of community. The housemaster has to take over the role of parent, and the parents expected us to have a fairly strict regime. The whole business of caning had been taken for granted by my generation. I stopped that in my house. It suddenly became unthinkable: a humiliating thing to do.

The number of divorced parents increased, but I didn't find their sons were less stable. Some of the most difficult boys came from the happiest homes: naturally they wanted to get back to them.

I spent six years in Headmaster's house. I would breakfast with my family - we have four daughters - then there would be some teaching, writing to parents. Then lunch with the boys. Each house had a cook until 1976, when the school started eating together. You kept an eye on their manners.

There are days and weeks when you work round the clock. It's a total commitment. The headmaster has to rely on the fact that over the weekend about one third of the staff will be taking games and running societies. I've been lucky in that I've always been able to concentrate. My friends say I wrote my books on the backs of envelopes. I published a Life of Richelieu in 1972, then The Making of Modern Europe in 1985.

After six years in Headmaster's house, in 1973, I became housemaster of The Grove - an 18th- century building where Sheridan had lived. Everyone says, how beautiful, but remember, you had to share it with 70 boys. At the end of our first year, soon after our youngest daughter had been born, we had a very bad fire. All the top floor went up, and the water tanks came down through the house. Melisa says it was a literal watershed for her, she had grave doubts about whether she wanted to come back to live in it. But we did. It was a brave decision of hers, I think.

The school has relaxed in some ways. There is shirt-sleeve order now for hot weather. But the famous hat is still there. I rather like it, and the boys do on the whole. And Sunday dress, the old-fashioned tails, they still wear them. The boys go out far more: home, to London, to do community service.

The demands of exams, of course, have changed enormously. There's far more awareness of the need to look at sources and documents. I'm very optimistic about history A-level. In history GCSE the syllabus can lend itself to short cuts and slick answers, but it can be stimulating.

One or two of the boys I have taught have become dons, for example Richard Fletcher, a leading Anglo-Saxon historian. There's a lieutenant-general, Charles Guthrie, who was in one of the first classes I took. It's unbelievable when even the generals start to look young.

We have a small farmhouse in Herefordshire that we have been doing up for 20 years: that has been our real home, and that is where we'll live. And we'll travel. There are lots of things I've been waiting to do. I'm working on a book on Cardinal Mazarin now, and that should appear in two years' time.

I was paid more or less the same as in the state sector, with an allowance for the education of my daughters. But I think I've been very fortunate to find a job that has been a happy pursuit. Fitting the Victorian idea of 'godliness and good learning' in with the world of GCSEs has been a fascinating challenge.

Education: School's out for ever: the teachers' story

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Teaching Assistants needed in Wigan

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

Biology Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Biology Teacher for fixed term contrac...

LSA - HLTA in SEN - PRU

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Luton: SECONDARY PRU / SEN / LSA experie...

Teaching Assistants Needed in Bolton

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments