Education: Passed/Failed - Barry Hines

Barry Hines, 59, is the author of A Kestrel for a Knave, on which the film Kes was based. A new adaptation opens at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, in Leeds, on Saturday. Other novels include Billy's Last Stand, and Elvis over England, which is out in paperback in July
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The Independent Online
Unhand me, Sir! The junior school at Hoy Common, a mining village about five miles from Barnsley, was a late-Victorian building like a chapel, with very high windows you could never see out of.

The rooms were dark, the furniture was old and the teachers seemed old - even if they weren't: some of them were in their twenties or thirties but they had the clothes and haircuts of their dads.

Mr Blackledge, the headmaster, had some fingers blown off during the war, and your eyes were always drawn to his hand.

For corporal punishment, he would crouch down and his hand would go behind your bare legs (we wore short trousers) - and the thought of the gammy hand at the back of my legs, like something out of a horror film, was worse than the actual punishment.

The absolute pit: Our junior school seemed to get more people through the "scholarship" to grammar school than other nearby primary schools. Mr Blackledge used to choose about 15 children; those of us considered to have a chance of getting through.

These special lessons were a double streaming: a dozen or so taken out and the rest of even the A stream abandoned.

The boys who didn't pass went to the very rough secondary modern up the road, just passing the time until they went at 15 down the mine or to the steelworks.

Not my forty: The headmaster of Ecclesfield Grammar looked like a public school head, in a gown, and our school song was Forty Years On, the Harrow school song; it was in fact an ordinary grammar school and, although at heart I felt I was still one of the boys who hadn't passed the scholarship, it was right for me.

I was captain of the school football team. I've played for the England Grammar Schools! We played Scotland at Celtic Park, in Glasgow. We lost 2-0.

Miner hiccup: I left when I was15 in the summer holidays and went to the colliery at the bottom of the street where my dad worked. My idea was that I ought to have some kind of office job, but the colliery manager said: "You need some O-levels." So it was back to school for me in September.

I got six O-levels and then left to take a surveying job in the pit. I realised after six months that this wasn't the career for me and so I went back to school at Christmas.

The highlight of my academic career was passing Economics A-level; I realised I was not as dumb as I thought. For the History A-level you could learn dates but with Economics you have to work out the Law of Diminishing Returns, that sort of thing.

Sir, you were wonderful! After a year out, I went to Loughborough, which was then the Physical Education college. A diploma from Loughborough is really prestigious in the PE world and you can get a job anywhere.

At Longcar Central School in Barnsley, I was teaching on the same staff as Brian Glover (the actor who played the bullying teacher in Kes).

He was a wrestler and every evening he would go off to wrestle (under the name of Leon Arras, a French wrestler who didn't turn up at one match and so Brian went on instead under that name).

Wrestling involves a lot of acting and, as all the teachers in film were, or had been, actual teachers, Brian asked me: "Is there a part for me in the film?"

He'd been taking part in classroom readings and he'd come into the staffroom to tell us: "I've been playing Captain Queeg in Mutiny on the Bounty - and they applauded me out of the classroom!"

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