End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

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huggermugger
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End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by huggermugger » Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:13 pm

But properly spelt this time...

I had a message from the Mum of one of next year's new intake which has prompted me to do an update. Hopefully it'll be useful to her & others and pehaps of some interest to the rest of you.

My DS (Dear Son) started last September so has just finished his second term at CH. It's been a long & eventful term but also seems to have flown by. (How does time do that?) As some of you know, he had a blip in the first term but then settled well, going back happily after the half term & Christmas. It's been a big adjustment for us both but seemed to be going pretty OK.

DS was in the prep block last term. As most of you probably know, the prep block has been used as temporary accommodation for the residential houses as they have been refurbished, so each house has spent two terms there. It is far from ideal, because it was built as a classroom block, maybe in the 50s. Both halves of each house are mixed in together, which means they are in large groups a lot of the time. Obviously, neither I nor DS can compare life in the prep block with life back in house, but one of the deps from another house said "it was hell in the prep block." Certainly, the term has been characterised by all the staff saying "next term..."
Prep block is a long way from the rest of the school. DS, his room mates & others in the block have not settled particularly well at night & much to the exasperation of the staff have stayed awake late, chattering & squabbling & (sometimes) leaping around. Unsurprisingly, this coupled with a lot of work & sport has meant he & the others were very tired most of the time. (I think they are tired anyway but all this made it much worse.) So tempers frayed & intolerance levels rose. This is my interpretation but I think it's fairly accurate.

DS reached rock bottom a few weeks into the second term. It seems that if problems are going to arise, this is when it happens. The novelty has worn off & the reality hits, especially after a long Xmas break. He wasn't homesick but he was sick. Sick of the other boys, the hard work, the long walks, the wet & cold weather, the uniform, the routine and most of all, one of the lads he shared with. The last straw for him that night was another boy hitting him repeatedly (tho I think there had been some provocation from DS). He phoned me at 10.30 one evening & vehemently said "Get me out of here, NOW!" There was part of me that admired the clarity with which he outlined the reasons why he shouldn't stay. He was extremely upset but very coherent. He said "I've had enough. It's been building up & up and now I can't take it anymore."

Of course, I couldn't just go & get him (tho I really, really wanted to). I had to point out to him that he needed to try & find someone there who could help him & that he was going to have to trust them to want to do it & be able to do it.
I did persuade him to let me call the tutor on duty who talked things through with him. That seemed to help a bit. I spoke to DS the following morning - neither of us had had much sleep. The tutor passed everything on to hisHousemaster & also arranged to see Ds a bit later in the day to check up on him. Over the next couple of days there were a lot of calls backwards & forwards and I realised that there were a lot of people showing concern and trying to help. I was very touched by some of the things that were said to me and to DS. Though they were honest with me & didn't simply tell me he was absolutely fine.

The Hm suggested that DS came home that weekend, which he did,slept a lot, we talked a bit & he decided to go back albeit with a heavy heart. I did tell him that he needed to give it a really good try but that if he did that & still couldn't take it, he could leave. I said I thought that he should complete the year-but in reality I didn't think I could leave it that long if the rest of the term were to be unhappy. My biggest fear was that he would think I'd abandoned him, physically & emotionally,and however good an education & experience CH would be, I cannot allow that to happen. A good education can be had in any number of places - you only have one relationship with your mother & the former is not worth the destruction of the latter. I did elaborate on this theme to his housemaster...

Well, I'm here to tell you that both the education and the relationship are continuing in good heart. We limped through to half term & he went back a bit happier. His average marks rose (they're given them every few weeks) & he did Ok at sport & it stopped raining quite so much & various people looked out for him - one third former showed him a bit of kindness that made him feel very important & staff kept an eye on him & kept talking to him & checking up on him. The other second formers were told to take some responsibility for each other's welfare. All I can say is that,once again, it was all handled very well & both DS & I have confidence that if anything else were to arise, it will be sorted.

And to refer back to a previous post, we had a "Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder (Here we are at Camp Grenada..)" moment (- don't know whether anyone else remembers that..) When I went to pick him up at the end of term I said "So, are you coming back, next term, then?" and he said "Yup." They move into the newly refurbished house when they go back and he "can't wait" to get back & see what it's like.

I'm sorry, this seems to have gone on for a long time. It wasn't easy to put into bullet points... HTH someone! Oh - and the postscript is that last week DS met a lad here, told him about CH & he went straight home, looked it up on the Internet & told his mother he wants her to apply for him to go too. Can't really beat that.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by J.R. » Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:54 pm

What a heart-string tearing post, HM !

It bought back so many painful memories of 1958.

Lets hope things are sorted out.

After a term and a half of very similar treatment, I was given a bit of advice from a recently left pupil. The basis of which is that I was advised to invert myself, and totally ignore any verbal abuse - Show no reaction at all. Wait for the 'bullies' to try it on someone else, as they will obviously do, then join sides with the newly abused person to riducle the abusers. It worked like a charm.

By the time I was in my final year, I was known as a stalwart and protector of the people being picked on and set me in good stead for the rest of my life.

I'm sure some of my posts on here will reflect this.

As one of my ex-HR managers once reported on me during yearly assesment.

'HE DOESN'T SUFFER FOOLS EASILY OR GLADLY !'
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by Mid A 15 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:34 pm

Glad you're both hanging on in there!

Hopefully he will really enjoy the forthcoming summer term - especially if he likes cricket!

There were times when I was there that the sport each day was the only thing that kept me going. I think it is inevitable, especially in your first year away from home, that you will have emotional peaks and troughs for whatever reason.

Meantime enjoy the holidays!
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by nastymum » Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:08 pm

It is very easy to conspire with your child against the school when they are tired and upset. When they say, or imlpy ,they would like to leave it is so tempting to let them do it because you miss their company and you feel the ever accusing glare of friends who say they would rather cut off their right arm than send their child away etc ad nauseam. Don't do this unless you are sure they are really unhappy, unsuited to the life style, the benefits of leaving out weigh the benefits of staying and above all you are absolutely sure it is more about them being unhappy than it is you missing them.
As to the prep block -it is revolting but there are worse places to live. Some of the children at the school have worse homes.
The bullies-my advice is stand up to them as much as possible and also complain,complain and complain again. Trust me -it works.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by sejintenej » Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:19 pm

Sorry, Huggermugger. You are not going to like this but .......

Apart from the bullying which I cannot condone, unfortunately this saga illustrates the difference in cultural norms between now and when Horsham was built.

These days homes have central heating at 80º whereas that is a new innovation since I was at school. It used to literally freeze inside the dorms so we were allowed a second blanket.
The walk from the Prep to say the Dining Hall was say ten minutes max whereas in my day kids walked for over an hour to school (each way). Getting wet - that is the cost of living in the UK; I guess the Horsham rainfall is about 25 inches per annum whereas in Devon it was well over 100 inches - you simply sat in wet clothes in a cold classroom. Remember that sitting in wet clothes does NOT give you a cold - only a virus does.

Nattering after lights-out - the government has stopped the teachers taking action. I remember in Prep A such a situation - it was quickly and very effectively stopped never ever to reoccur; take it up with Downing Street and DS will be taken away.

A lot of sport? so what? He will become considerably healthier, far more able to carry that coat up to the quad, far more able to walk that distance and have far higher resistance to illness. Have a look at the results of the Bristol University study to see what I mean. I suspect that he will have a higher tolerence to pain in later life.

You want better living conditions - fine but in the meantime it will be a bit more cramped. There is not much you or they can do about it except smile and look forward to when it is finished. You say that intolerence has risen; when he gets out and looks for a job he will often be in situations where he is frustrated, highly stressed and becoming intolerent. This should teach him how to handle it.

Yes - it will be hard getting used to it but in a year or two he'll be skipping up Helvelyn in two feet of snow and considering it a nice afternoon stroll.
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by nastymum » Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:33 pm

I so agree.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by Wuppertal » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:36 pm

Life may have been harder in the 'old days' but it doesn't mean that the children now have it completely easy, and they shouldn't have to feel guilty just because people had it worse 40 years ago - I think that is irrelevant to today and the topic discussed by Huggermugger. I was often treated this way by LE when I was a 2nd former - they had a personal grudge against us simply because a new headmaster had come in and got a lot tougher on bullying and hierarchy. This was a good thing of course but the older pupils seemed to think it was our fault that we were suddenly treated better than before - they seemed to think we had an obligation to "suffer" what they had suffered and anything better than that was completely unfair and wrong.

I lived in that very Prep Block in today's exact state for the three terms and calendar year of 2002, during my UF-GE. I absolutely hated it, it was easily the worst 3 terms of my 7 years at CH. I was more homesick during this time that at any other time, including the beginning of my 2nd form. Also my behaviour discipline worsened - in general I hardly ever got into trouble, but here I did a series of stupid and, to this day, inexplicable things completely out-of-character, and ended up with detentions and drill DTs on too regular a basis than I would have liked. It is not an excuse, but a explanation that my discipline was poor due to my deep unhappiness and frustration with daily life when living there. Luckily for me, one of my best friends, who remains so to the present day, was a non-foundationer and lived close to the prep block, so I spent quite a lot of time at his house, which was wonderful while it lasted, but then as soon as I stepped back into my own accommodation the gloom and downright hopelessness came again. The general morale of everyone was lower; established friendships were weakened or even broken due to being split up and mixed with others whom you didn't know very well, or didn't get along with. But when my boarding house was renovated it was like moving into a 5-star hotel. Everyone was beaming for weeks and weeks, everyone seemed to be nice to each other and get along, even if before they had been sworn enemies or bullies.

I hope this happens to DS too when he moves into his new boarding house and that the worries of the last term can fade away.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by nastymum » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:58 pm

You misunderstand what is being said about the past. Buildings do not make people behave badly. Where there are weaknesses in the characters of the occupants, these will be exacerbated by poor living conditions of course, but indeed the reverse is also true.
It is not true that anyone is saying that because they suffered so should all who come after. It is true however,that an awful lot of moaning about nothing goes on. If anyone has a real complaint then tell the school and they will attend to it.

It is also clear that many parents do not understand the unique make up of the school community. One of the main requirements of entrance is boarding need. This often means that the puplis have very complex emotional needs . They are also often very clever; this is a volatile mixture.The school is not an ordinary cross section of society.

It is also worth bearing in mind that often parents do not complain to the school because they feel they are being ungrateful when they are receiving a massive subsidy for their child's education. Even when their child tells them that something is wrong they leave it rather than appear to be making a fuss.

Added to that there is a ridiculous culture in the school amongst the pupils of not telling. I do not understand how this persists though I can see that it has been passed down through many generations.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by ben ashton » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:43 am

Prep block is no further from the rest of the school than Hunt!
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by ben ashton » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:53 am

nastymum wrote: The school is not an ordinary cross section of society.
Precisely why everyone should be treated in the same way. Treat one person differently and you alienate the rest.
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by Great Plum » Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:54 pm

I think the good news is that Middleton are the last house to use the Prep Block for accommodation...
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by nastymum » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:13 pm

What I meant about the school not being a normal cross section of society was , that some daft parents think they are sending their children to a normal public school. The school is heavily biassed in terms of children who have something wrong somewhere along the line. Parents seem amazed when they put such a large group of clever , damaged children together that sometimes they behave badly.

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by cstegerlewis » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:46 pm

nastymum wrote:It is not true that anyone is saying that because they suffered so should all who come after. It is true however,that an awful lot of moaning about nothing goes on. If anyone has a real complaint then tell the school and they will attend to it.
Unfortunately the inherent tribal nature of boys is that it should be like that, each year group will impose their experience on the folloiwng group, whihch will evolve over time, but not change overnight. This was a big difference in behaviours I learnt when the schools merged, especially as the girls had all year houses and the boys were stil split into juniors and seniors.
It is also clear that many parents do not understand the unique make up of the school community. One of the main requirements of entrance is boarding need. This often means that the puplis have very complex emotional needs . They are also often very clever; this is a volatile mixture.The school is not an ordinary cross section of society.


Couldn't agree more, especially for those from greatest need who will never have come across such an institution, or community, before. I sometimes struggle to relate to my own family now due to the education, and attitude Ch instilled in me that I wouldn't have got elsewhere.
It is also worth bearing in mind that often parents do not complain to the school because they feel they are being ungrateful when they are receiving a massive subsidy for their child's education. Even when their child tells them that something is wrong they leave it rather than appear to be making a fuss.
Interesting observation, I will check with my Mum on what it was like 25 years ago!
Added to that there is a ridiculous culture in the school amongst the pupils of not telling. I do not understand how this persists though I can see that it has been passed down through many generations.
Isn't it like that in all schools or cliques? again it may be a male rather than female thing, but it even happens today and throughout my career in commerce and industry all the time (never tell the bad news if you think you can recover from it; when you don't it is too late to do anything about it). However I ahve built my career on having the integrity to tell the truth however much you think it may (negatively) affect you, a skill/lesson learnt from Roger Sutcliffe on my LE/UF - if you are going to get b*****cked for something, stand up and get it done straight away rather than spend the next few weeks constanly looking over your shoulder, and then getting caught anyway - reduces personal stress levels enormously!!!
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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by Momto2 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:45 pm

Great Plum wrote:I think the good news is that Middleton are the last house to use the Prep Block for accommodation...
I heard rumours to the contrary when leaving my children at school last night :?

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Re: End of Lent Term - another Post Mortem

Post by blondie95 » Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:59 am

the fact is that regardless of when people went to CH if it was 40 years ago, 20years ago or only a couple it will be difficult to settle into the school and the way it works. Children do not have it any easier now because they are living in 'luxurious' boarding houses-as pointed out in another thread, had they not done this the school would have been closed. Yes we expect better living standards now but the same fundamental issues are there for any new pupil regardless of how the school has improved over the years: other children and the whole concept of boarding school. No matter what you do the routine of CH will wear you out, even at 18 i was totally exhausted by the whole routine. Also yes when you get a group people together and make them live in close spaces, tired and under pressure tempers wil fly, and there will be down times but there will also be very high times. The important thing is to find someone who you can talk to whether it be a member of staff or a senior pupil and find an activity in the school that you enjoy and get into.
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