What was the attraction?

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What was the attraction?

Post by richardb » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:16 pm

Looking back on my time at CH when it was a single sex school in the middle of nowhere, I struggle to see why it was attractive to a young unattached male teacher (most teachers were male then).

You got a study on the ground floor and bedroom next to a dormitory. You didn't have much in the way of cooking facilities and staff would often eat in dining hall.

You would have to be available (on call I suppose) during evenings and weekends.

I don't remember there being much in the way of a social life and it wasn't a way of life that lent itself to romance as you didn't get a lot of privacy and couldn't really nip down to a nightclub in Brighton, pick someone up and bring them home.

In contrast, it wasn't a bad deal for those with families as you got accommodation and pay on top. You might also get reduced fees for the kids. The kids of course might go to school outside of CH and so you would have the opportunity to develop some form of life outside school. As I recall, Sillett used to play cricket for Barns Green and had his masonic activities outside school.

My recollection is that there was something of a drinking culture amongst single members of staff but then there were wasn't much else to do.

More flamboyant singleton such as Peter Warfield didn't hang around long. The school may have cramped his lifestyle.

Looking at it now it seems to have been a pretty miserable existence.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by scrub » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:15 am

I'd imagine some saw it as a stepping stone to a better job. I don't know what the reputation of CH was from a teacher's perspective, but at the very least it was a selective boarding school which provided a classical education. There must have been some sort of cachet having that on your CV when looking for future jobs. For some there would also be the potential for making handy contacts with governors, clergy, masons, and the infamous 'old boys network'. Same thing I got told when I started uni, "it's not the education you receive, it's the contacts you make that matter most".
Maybe it was a way of 'paying their dues'. My parents were teachers and in the state system (in Aus) you were more likely to get a transfer to a cushy school if you'd worked in some hard ones first.

Like any profession, a couple of years slog in prestigious (but not social life friendly) conditions can help your career immensely.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by richardb » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:30 am

That was my first thought but it doesn't really explain why there were so many crusty old bachelors there who stayed for a long time.

There were people like Lorimer and O'Meara (note, I am not suggesting that Lorimer and O'Meara did anything wrong - they were typical single men who never moved on). Webb and Burr would have been the same if they hadn't got caught.

Can't help thinking that the pay wasn't that good as they don't seem to have been able to afford homes outside school.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by scrub » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:44 am

Lots of people spend a lifetime in a 'temporary' place though. Once you've settled somewhere inertia can rob you of a decade before you notice it.
Maybe for some of them CH was a temporary gig that turned into the devil they knew?
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by jtaylor » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:50 am

I’m guessing inertia was a big hold, and as most of found when leaving CH it was quite a tough transition from the closeted environment of CH - all the tears at the leaving service are testament to that each year.

From a teaching perspective, the culture at CH was one of achievement, in whatever your forte was. I remember feeling proud of working my way up from a low set to a high set, whilst also not being overly pressure-cookered in the subjects which I clearly found difficult. The balance felt just right of striving competition, but not fighting competition.

Working as a teacher in an environment where, as a pupil, the default is to do as well as you can must be rewarding, compared to the culture which seems to pervade in the average comp of teasing those who did well, and kids are embarrassed to know the answer. Combine that with continuing the university drinking culture, access to all the facilities for your own use, and a built-in lifestyle and timetable, maybe that appeals to some people, over-and-above finding a relationship. The phrase “confirmed bachelor” comes to mind - maybe the drive for a relationship is lower for some people, and they’re more comfortable alone than others.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by richardb » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:01 am

I can certainly accept that there was inertia but I think it was probably what might be said to be constitutional - the people who were single and seemed to stay for ever weren't particularly motivated and were happy to have a job, an income and a roof over their heads.

Three or four nights a week in the Bax Castle could quickly become a habit that was difficult to break. An easy and undemanding life.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by Foureyes » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:19 am


"...I struggle to see why it was attractive to a young unattached male teacher (most teachers were male then)."


I think that you are looking at a 1950-60s issue through 2018 spectacles. In those days it was the norm in many professions for the juniors to be single, and, in many cases, compulsorily so. In the armed forces officers were not allowed to get married before their 25th birthday - if they did, they did not receive marriage allowance and were not entitled to a married quarter. Similarly, in many overseas jobs, such as colonial civil servants, planters, and the like (of which there were many in those days) they were not allowed to be married in their first three year tour, but were encouraged to get married in their first 'home leave' and expected to get married in their second such leave. This may sound crazy now and led to many unhappy marriages, but it was the accepted social norm then (read Somerset Maughan!)

The theory was that young bachelors could devote their time to learning their profession, learning languages, looking after their soldiers/employees, etc, etc, whereas marriage and children would take up their time.

So, in my view, there was nothing at all unusual in young bachelors becoming teachers. That is not to say, that they should have remained unmarried.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by jtaylor » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:22 am

A very interesting informed perspective David - thank you for adding to this - particularly, as you say, there’s a risk of viewing everything with 2018 attitudes, rather than understanding the cultural and accepted norms of the era.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by richardb » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:46 am

Makes sense for my era David.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by wagenman » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:46 am

I don't think it was necessarily the Spartan socially isolated existence suggested. House staff worked to a Rota and not a particularly demanding one at that. Four staff to cover 7 days. Certainly there was enough time for a social life outside of school and enough of one for Peter Wright, a previously confirmed bachelor, to suddenly announce one day that he had got married! I can also remember both my senior housemasters having girlfriends that turned up occasionally.

That said, I also think there was a type of teacher who had zero interest in a social life, Omera, Shippen and Sutcliffe as examples and would imagine CH suited them in this regard.

Looking back, I think that if I was a teacher in my early 20's, fresh from University and a year or so teaching elsewhere, a reasonable salary and free board and lodgings would probably have been quite appealing.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by marty » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:26 am

wagenman wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:46 am
That said, I also think there was a type of teacher who had zero interest in a social life, Omera, Shippen and Sutcliffe as examples and would imagine CH suited them in this regard.
If you mean Roger Sutcliffe I'm not sure he fits into that category. He had 2 separate stints at the school. Whilst I recall he was single during his first stint, he was married (i think to a member of staff - perhaps a matron...#hazymemory) by his second one.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by Observer » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:34 am

The school master of the single sex independent school (most public schools up until at least the 70s) has become a caricature (perfectly captured by Rowan Atkinson in The Secret Policeman's Ball and Fatal Beating); Public School, single sex Oxbridge college and then back into another single sex institution where misogyny and gratuitous cruelty in the name of discipline were the norm, was a well trodden route.

1960s CH had many such junior housemasters. To be fair the older bachelor housemasters had in most cases seen serious war time action and were the better for it. Richard is right - the accommodation was dreadful for unmarried staff, junior and senior alike, as was the difficulty young staff had in those days requesting term time leave to maintain outside relationships. There was a notably high turnover of heterosexual staff who clearly found the lifestyle suffocating.

Richard is not alone in wondering why people stayed.
Last edited by Observer on Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by wagenman » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:35 am

marty wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:26 am
wagenman wrote:
Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:46 am
That said, I also think there was a type of teacher who had zero interest in a social life, Omera, Shippen and Sutcliffe as examples and would imagine CH suited them in this regard.
If you mean Roger Sutcliffe I'm not sure he fits into that category. He had 2 separate stints at the school. Whilst I recall he was single during his first stint, he was married (i think to a member of staff - perhaps a matron...#hazymemory) by his second one.
I did mean Roger Sutcliffe and was unaware he had got married. Just goes to show that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by yamaha » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:36 am

They got 30% of the year off and a few went travelling extensively - RM in his camper van 'WAM' to Spain. Nicholson and Bowditch were keen on theatre and went often to Chichester, Worthing, Brighton and London - all close to CH. Nicholson had a home in London. Jeremy Gates was the only one who complained about being in the sticks. He got a job at Harrow and a couple of years later the IRA blew up his home at the school.
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Re: What was the attraction?

Post by Jolyon » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:37 am

I remember Shippen talking about the fact that the school matched the state pay rises (during the 70s when the unions had some clout) as well as paying above average.

Added in to that was the accommodation and meals, anyone who was coming from the Oxbridge university environment would have just seen it as more of the same.

The longer holidays than the state system can’t have hurt. My father (who notoriously lacked tact) did once ask Mr Kemp if he fitted his sking into the holidays or just filled the off piste time with a teaching...

Though having recently re-watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, perhaps we just had a lot of former spies?
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