LETTER:Sad prophecy for failed school

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The Independent Online
From Mr Ray Hanks

Sir: As a former pupil of Hackney Downs School ("Failed school to be shut down", 1 November), I remember well my last day there in September 1967. It was, arguably, the beginning of the end. With a few friends, I had called in to say goodbye to the staff before leaving for my "gap" year and on to university - then the destination for the vast majority of boys.

That was also the first day for the new "comprehensive" school in the newly constructed school building. Following the terrible fire in 1963, we had been told that nearly 100 years of tradition would be protected in the new era, but retaining grammar school status was not an option given the tidal progress towards non-selective education (and the finance needed to build the new school).

It was, however, all too obvious that the school would never be the same again. Gone were the mock Greek amphitheatre and the "fives" courts. Masters had already started to forsake their gowns. There would be no more detention for forgetting to wear the school cap.

We were assured, however, that "boys from across the whole community, regardless of ability, would now benefit from the school's proven high standards of teaching". Regrettably, this has not been so (leading article; "Orphans of a dead school", 1 November.)

Arriving at school the day after the fire in 1963 was like a naive schoolboy's dream. Yet Alec Williams, the headmaster, was in tears. Perhaps he knew.

Yours faithfully,

Ray Hanks

Baldock, Hertfordshire

1 November