Brincliffe Grammar Peter Spinks

Brincliffe Grammar School

Peter Spinks (former Deputy Head & Senior Mathematics Master)
From EDGE, April 2002:-

Some months ago Joan Flett wrote an account of the old Nether Edge Grammar School building on Union Road. Much of the material for the article was derived from old school magazines and I enjoyed reading it, for my first teaching post, in 1950, was at Nether Edge and I remained there for eight years.

It was a relatively small but very effective school, crammed to the gunnels with 400-500 boys. It was said that if a boy fainted during shcool assembly he would be propped up by his classmates and his plight discovered only when the boys around him began to leave the hall.

School life did not finish when, in August 1958, Nether Edge School left en masse to make its home in the new building on Hastings Road, where it was renamed Abbeydale Grammar School. In September a new school was opened in the old building and three of the Nether Edge staff – Albert Hill, Senc Boul and I – remained behind to facilitate the launch of Brincliffe Grammar School.

Nether Edge (and indeed many schools until that time) had been a boys school but Brincliffe was mixed. Teaching girls was a new experience for us but we found they were a very civilizing influence on the boys.

The school had to cater for three groups of pupils: some 240 11+ pupils of the post-war bulge; pupils of secondary modern schools who earlier had been unsuccessful in the 11+ exam and were delighted to have a second chance of a grammar school education at 13; and the artistically talented group of youngsters who had been pupils at the Junior College of Art, which used to be in the city centre.

Staffing had its difficulties but everything seemed to fall into place. Albert Hill, who had been appointed headmaster, had several contacts who were pleased to work with him once again. Their experience was a great help to the young and enthusiastic teachers, some of whom were in their first posts. The Junior College of Art closed and its staff transferred to Brincliffe. The other main group of teachers were married women, who nearly all seemed to want Fridays and Mondays off – this was something of a nightmare when we had to prepare the timetable! But Albert made a fine job of welding all this together to create a happy, effective and successful school.

Brincliffe was doing well when, in 1964/5, the now Home Secretary, David Blunkett, decided that the city’s grammar schools should close and be replaced by the comprehensive system. So, at the time when Myers Grove Comprehensive was opening, Brincliffe Grammar was preparing to close.

The school building, which is soon to be converted into a residential development, looks much as it always did. Some 3 or 4 years ago I did ask to be allowed to look round what had become by then the Local Authority’s Resource Centre. Internally the building had changed very little, and all sorts of memories of former pupils and staff from both Nether Edge and Brincliffe came flooding back, but externally most of the outbuildings had been demolished. The buildings across the road, behind the present bus stop, had housed the gymnasium/dining room and the science laboratories. These were taken over by the hospital authorities and converted into offices some years ago.

Albert Hill retired to Scalby Mills in the late 1960s but sadly died not long after moving. _



Brincliffe Grammar Peter Spinks — 7 Comments

  1. A very interesting account. However, David Blunkett was not Home Secretary in 1964, when he was only 17 years old, and if he had been, he wouldn’t have had the power to instruct Sheffield to go comprehensive.

    • Hi John – Thanks for your comment. I reproduced the information as contributed, it seems Spinks recollections were a bit muddled –

      The largest expansion of comprehensive schools resulted from a policy decision taken in 1965 by Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Education in the 1964–1970 Labour government, a fervent supporter of comprehensive education. This had been the party’s policy for some time. The policy decision was implemented by Circular 10/65, an instruction to local education authorities to plan for conversion.

      In 1970 the Conservative Party re-entered government. Margaret Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education, and ended the compulsion on local authorities to convert. However, many local authorities were so far down the path that it would have been prohibitively expensive to attempt to reverse the process, and more comprehensive schools were established under Mrs Thatcher than any other education secretary. However, she went on to be a ferocious critic of comprehensive education. By 1975 the majority of local authorities in England and Wales had abandoned the 11-plus examination and moved to a comprehensive system

  2. I attended Brincliffe Grammar School when it first opened in September 1958 having just passed my Eleven Plus. Albert Hill was the headmaster, a kindly old man but not unafraid to use the cane when necessary. I never had that pleasure thankfully but I would like to make a record here of my treatment at the hands of Mr Senc (Tim?) Boul the Science teacher and great pal of Peter Spinks (Maths – Deputy Head) I was from a very deprived background and was always the worst dressed kid at school. I was also admittedly a bit naughty and a rebel but that was no reason for what Boul did to me. Within a fortnight of starting I felt the full fury of his wrath for a minor transgression. He came to my stool in the lab, picked me up by my hair and slapped me across the face several times before dragging me to the front and giving me six of the best with a slipper. This was done with a run up of the width of the lab and left their marks on my buttocks for many days. That was only the beginning for he would find fault with the tiniest detail in lab drawing homework which would result in yet another six. It would be a regular even monthly occurrence that this treatment continued. I had nightmares about handing in Science homework. I would go so far as to say he victimised me and I still feel angry fifty five years later. If he did today what he did then he would be jailed. He was a child abuser and a cowardly bully. I have been looking for somewhere to tell the truth about this man for a lifetime.
    Peter Spinks was a very severe man, also a disciplinarian. He only slippered me once and that was unjust because I was breaking up a fight and I got the blame. Prejudice again because of my background. I only got two from his slipper but the bruises on my backside were horrendous and lasted a fortnight. Between the two of them my life at Brincliffe was made a misery. On my first day there Albert Hill took us for Scripture and he declared to the class that I would go to University. Instead I left the school as soon as I could at fifteen with no exams and joined the Army where I got a proper and fitting education.
    I hope someone will respond to this after all this time.

  3. Hi Gordon, I’m sorry to read you account of life at Brincliffe. I have no personal experience of Brincliffe – Boule was after my time. I have allowed these comments to run, with some reservations, since it makes serious accusations about a man no longer able to respond for himself.

    I do recognise that existence of corporal punishment in the classroom and the potential for class prejudices. Clearly your experience was excessive and inappropriate.

    Can I ask others to speak up and corroborate this experience or otherwise.


  4. I was at Brincliffe from 59 to 64 when I left to Join the Navy. I have to say I was afraid of both Senc Boule and Peter Spinks. Boule, yes was a strict disciplinarian but from my experience only exercised the slipper when justified. I was disruptive in class and Peter Spinks, whilst I found him to be very fair in controlling his classes had had enough with me. No corporal punishment, he just wanted me out of his sight. Justified. He lived, I think quite near to me – I at Lowedges estate and he at old Greenhill. I saw him one Saturday when I was taking my younger brother for a haircut near the old Greenhill primary school. He was pushing a pram with his latest baby inside. He spoke to me in a very friendly way and he became Human in my eyes from that day. On another occasion I was in a chess class and he was sitting at the teacher’s desk playing a game of chess with a pupil remotely. I have never forgotten that. I have only respect for Peter Spinks.

  5. I enjoyed my years (1958 to 1964)at Brincliffe Grammar School very much. I made many friends, but sadly have lost contact with them. I think I must have been well behaved because I never saw any punishments. Detentions, yes and usually well deserved. The girls school uniform was different from other schools at that time as we had teeshirts in our house colour and a pinafore dress for the winter and a checked dress for the summer. Mrs Potter, I believe decided on the uniform.
    All-in-all my days at Brincliffe were happy days. Eventually when I got married I lived very close to the school and used to take my children to Chelsea Park on sunny afternoon.

  6. Hi Gordon Clarke, I’m sorry not to have spotted this post before. I was a pupil at Brincliffe from 1958 to 1963. I recall Mr Boule and Mr Spinks very well although I never fell foul of them I’m pleased to say. However, I do remember Mr. Boule running the full width of the room when delivering his slipper to some poor boy’s backside. I used to wince everytime and think that this just seemed too cruel but as kids what could you do. Mr Spinks left me with a hatred of Maths for years despite spending the majority of my working life as a wages clerk. I also met up with Mr. Spinks a few years after leaving Brincliffe and being amazed that he was a human being and quite nice. Just wish that I had found out before.

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