It was the first week of September, I seem to remember it was a wet and windy Thursday, I was  feeling uncomfortable in my new uniform with my new school bag. There was no doubting we were the lowest of the low, a shock to the system after having been on the top tier of our previous schools, everything that day seemed design to bring home to us our insignificance.

After arrival our first stop was our designated cloakroom where we duly deposited our regulation school raincoats and hung our school caps on the pegs. Then we were all brought together in the main hall where the great Mr Sexton read out our names and we put our hand in the air when ours was called. I don’t remember being told which of the three forms I had been allocated to but the next thing I remember was being in our form room where our processing was continued by our form master.

Our new form master, a large fat man whose jovial manner I was to learn masked a dark side, seemed to find the whole thing highly amusing and singled out a couple of kids, inviting us to snigger at them and of course we duly obliged. Under his direction we copied out our school timetables, which lessons we would attend in which rooms.

Then things took a rather sinister turn, we where given forms to complete with details of our parents position in life. The school wanted to know, for both parents, their names, occupations, educational and professional qualifications – basically they wanted to know where our families stood in the British class system. I don’t know to this day whether this information was being collected on orders from the education authority or had been unilaterally implemented by Mr Sexton though I think one must strongly suspect the latter. I was not happy even at the time and looking back I find it totally distasteful and wonder how long this practice continued.

I don’t remember much about lessons with the exception of PE where we met a rather ill at ease youngish teacher who seemed to be attempting  to compensate for his lack of confidence by doing a bad impression of an army drill instructor. Many, many years later I discovered it was also his first day at the school. Having rather enjoyed PE at my previous schools I was shocked by the realisation that it was no longer going to be “fun”. He often told us “I’m not asking you to do anything I can’t do myself” rather missing the point that he was a fully grown man and we were boys.

At one time during the day I had occasion to visit the toilets, I was followed in by a very unprepossessing older youth with a hair helmet and surly manner who proceeded to one of the cubicles and I heard the sound of metal objections being dropped down the lavatory pan. Apparently the latest craze was stealing cutlery from the canteen, bending or breaking them in half, and flushing them down the toilet. Describing this as mindless yobbery seemed an insult to mindless yobbery. To say I felt trapped in a nightmare was an understatement, if I was with the elite I could only wonder what life was like at a secondary modern school.

Eventually “home time” arrived and we went to the cloakroom to find that the nice neat rows of caps had been too much of a provocation for the older yobs who had played football with them and left them strewn over the filthy floor. Welcome to your new school!

Then I was out of the front gate and blessed relief, somewhat dimmed by the prospect of having to come back and go through it all again the next day. It was the start of the most unhappy five years of my life. When I joined Francis Bacon it was a Grammar School and I had to fight for my place as there was a much more convenient secondary modern dustbin school just up the road. However, pupils who had no such convenient dustbin school got a place at Francis Bacon regardless of ability. Of course attempting to dispense a Grammar School education to those without any desire to be educated caused serious problems.