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Andrew Johnson

His life as a pupil at Westminster. Cliques and the effect of the arrival of girls in sixth form. [4.09] Stayed in touch with surprisingly few Westminster schoolmates. [6.21] Phab [experience week in partnership with a charity working with disabled and non-disabled children]. How it has changed over the years. His work gave it more stability, health and safety clearance and financial stability. [10.54] Phab’s expansion over the years, and possible reasons for its growth. [13.54] Difference between his school days and time as a teacher. School now seems better able to help pupils who are less academically gifted than the others. School takes part in more outreach and charity work. School facilities much better. The Manoukian Music Centre, Millicent Fawcett Hall [theatre], Weston’s [classrooms] and Lawrence Hall [sports centre] were all acquired after his schooldays. [16.20] Difficult to tell if there’s been a change in ethos. Still promotes individuality. [18.07] Effects of internet. [19.25] Effects of increased numbers of pupils. [21.28] How his experience of the school has changed now he’s a teacher. [23.06] Will miss colleagues and pupils, but not the physical place. [26.12] His future plans. His move to the London Academy of Excellence. Potential to make a difference to social mobility. How he will interpret the role. [31.11] Proud moments as a pupil. [33.22] Proud moments as a teacher. The changed atmosphere in Ashburnham. The house publication The Ash Tree and house concerts and plays. The house has become a community. Has enjoyed his time as a teacher.

Gavin Griffiths

No strong impulse to go to Westminster. Serendipity rather than conscious plan. Just wanted to leave his school in Wimbledon. [2:07] Sees teaching as a job rather than a career. Accommodation at school meant he had a better lifestyle than he would otherwise have been able to afford, so unable to leave Westminster. [3:50] Enjoyed all his roles in the school. Attempts to prevent him from being Head of English. Without an SMT, it was easier for elderly teachers to put pressure on Head Masters than it is now. [7:05] Ashburnham House Master. Great job. Its location meant it was difficult to get people over there. Supervision of the house had not previously been very thorough. [8:31] Grant’s was fun but very tiring, since it was a boarding house and therefore very long hours. This improved after another boarding house master had a nervous breakdown. [10:18] Far greater parental involvement than before. Can make it more difficult for the children. [12:17] Westminster looks after children better than it used to. More involvement and pastoral support from the House Master now. [13:26] Change in the texts studied. Othello and Lolita now no longer on the syllabus. [18:33] Teachers’ tendency to perform. Used to being the centre of attention. [19:13] Big figures in the Common Room. Ernest Sanger, an Austrian Jew who left Europe before the outbreak of war. Should have been an academic. Theo Zinn, an enormous influence. [21:47] Inspirational teachers can often be the bully as well. [22:29] Common Room 30 years ago. All men apart from one teacher. Smoking and conspiring. An example of plotting against the Head Master, John Rae. [24:21] Improvements to Common Room photocopying during his time as Common Room President. Also finding a helpful Common Room secretary. [27:47] Computers have made some tasks easier but have created more work. Enjoyed teaching in different classrooms when there was more pressure for space. [31:14] Introduction of girls to the school. Frances Holland School didn’t have laboratories, so girls came for the science lessons. It began as an informal arrangement. [32:57] The introduction of girls meant there was more socialising in Yard. House differences became less important. [35:24] Much harder to get into Oxbridge than it used to be. [38:21] The importance of straightforward criticism. [41:24] Theory of the developing intellect. [42:01] Negative effects of child protection policies. More cumbersome now and instructs children to distrust all adults. Morally offensive. [45:20] Miss the 7th term for Oxbridge, when the most difficult topics were tackled, but otherwise the intellectual element of teaching is just as challenging. [46:49] Teachers that he particularly remembers. Russell Dudley-Smith, a polymath. Richard Jacobs, an inspiration as an English teacher. [48:58] The predominance of Maths, the only subject with no moral content. On whether this will continue. [51:43] Advice to teachers joining Westminster. Advice to pupils at Westminster. [54:51] The virtues of conformity or independent thinking. [55:41] Will miss having an audience when he leaves. [56:50] An anecdote about a pupil’s late prep. [58:22] Unsure what he will do after Westminster. Perhaps writing. [1:00:19] Preventing the stripper-gram from accosting John Rae.

Rod Beavan, 2013-06-24

Greatly enjoyed his time at King Edward VI Camp Hill Grammar School in Birmingham. Worked as a technician at the University of Birmingham for Neville Cartwright, a bacteriologist. Then worked in the Physics Department. Completed a PhD. [2:24] Started to consider teaching at a school. Enjoys the collegiate atmosphere and learning from colleagues about different subjects. [2:53] Started teaching at Sherbourne School in 1972 and stayed there for 19 years. [3:18] Head of Science at Westminster. Was attracted to the role’s combination of different sciences and the great reputation of the science department at the time. [4:51] The school is now a kinder place than it used to be, but hasn’t lost its academic edge or its tolerance for unusual people. Before, the school’s atmosphere could be quite abrasive and girls had to be survivors to enjoy it. [8:13] How to change the atmosphere in a school. [10:13] The characteristics of a Westminster pupil. Often more confident. Intellectual curiosity. [12:53] The importance of pupils progressing in every aspect of their lives. [15:10] Moved to SMT and gave up most teaching. Became the Senior Master and got to know more pupils. [18:30] He has really enjoyed his time in the SMT. Insight into the work behind the scenes. [19:58] Different Head Masters had little effect on him when he was Head of Science. They trusted him and left him to run the department. [22:33] Enormous increase in the number of pupils taking science. There is much more energy in the department than when he first came. [24:38] Changes in the science curriculum. Now more emphasis on understanding than in just knowing things. [26:48] Chemistry influences how he looks at the world. [28:42] His time as Chief Examiner for Edexcel.

John Corsellis

[00:24] Background. Father was barrister, served in First World War and keen pilot; died flying in 1930. Two older sisters, went to Francis Holland. Brother to Winchester. Corsellis to Westminster. [04:14] Prep School at St. Clare’s, Walmar, Kent. About 40 boys. Taught Latin and Greek. Encouraged to try for Westminster. Timid and nervous. [05:48] Put in for the Challenge a year early and failed, tried again and failed and admitted as Town Boy as a Homeboarder. [07:01] Head boy of St. Clare’s. Reading lesson in Chapel – good training in public speaking. Disciplinary authorities and responsibilities. [08:13] Went from ‘big fish’ at Prep School to ‘lowest of the low’ at Public School. [08:24] Joined Westminster September 1936. [08:38] Two uncles had been to Westminster. In awe of the school. [09:35] Friendly school. Proud of Westminster School. [10:02] Started at Westminster living at the northern end of Baker Street. Walk to school in top hat and tail coat through the parks. Enjoyed the attention. [11:12] Family moved to Brighton. Commuted for a term on a daily basis. [11:44] Didn’t enjoy football or cricket matches at Prep School. Became a scorer – went with first XI to away matches, got to enjoy the food, ‘felt nice and important’. [12:38] Westminster offered fencing instead. ‘Tiny claim to fame at Westminster’ with fencing. Clerihew ‘Corsellis / rhymes with trellis / Hence / Fence’. [15:30] Fencing in Little Dean’s Yard when weather was nice. Fenced over the graves of the monks in the cloisters. Old Gym when the weather was bad. Armory garden, Ashburnham Garden? [17:14] Distinguished French fencing instructor. No electric scoring. Didn’t have to do football, cricket or water for fencing. [18:40] Left-handed. Was made to write right-handed. Disorientates right-handed fencers used to fighting right-fencers. Successful. Made school team. Public Schools Championship – first in foils, second in épée. [20:30] Beginning of first term, new intake congregate in Yard and addressed by master in charge of Corps. Gave patriotic speech. Alternatives – Scouts or gym. [22:15] Influence of brother. ‘Mildly disrespectful of authority’, advised not to do Corps. Opted for Gym. Learning to vault and parallel bars. [23:40] Conscious of war. Pacifist tendencies. Aunt ‘militant pacifist’, role model. [25:25] Westminster ‘evangelical, in the wider sense’. John Christie, Head Master, as ‘striking preacher’. Classics Master as pacifist, left school when the war started, ‘presence not very desirable’. Not characteristic of a normally tolerant Westminster. [27:45] Three contemporaries from College joined Friend’s Ambulance Unit (FAU). William Barnes; nickname ‘Bishop’, strong personality but liked and respected, became head boy. [29:57] Norman John Peppin Brown; became Professor of Philosophy in Canada; Catholic. [31:00] Donald Swann; musical, same election as Corsellis, went to Oxford. [31:38] Left Westminster, entered into articles with a lawyer in Oxford. Apprentice, didn’t need a degree. ‘Paid for the privilege of being a trainee in a lawyer’s firm’. One or two years of part time lectures at university. [33:24] Would meet up with Swann while both in Oxford, in British Restaurant for ‘awful meals, quite cheaply’, or two own sandwiches. Got to know Swann’s father, grew up in Russia until the revolution. [36:58] Advise Swann of FAU. Both ended in the same camp in the Cadbury Estate in Birmingham, six weeks of training. Converted stables for recruits, help to toughen up. [38:52] Both sent to ‘training hospital’ Guy’s Hospital in Orpington. Had been Canadian military hospital in First World War, ‘geriatrics hospital’ between wars. Converted to sector hospital to move patients out of London. Swann, Bill Mann (ended up music critic of the Times), Douglas Harvey. [41:08] Hospital porters, used as ward orderlies.

John Corsellis

[00:25] Move from Homeboarders to College. Two uncles went to Westminster: Philip Manley Bendall and Geoffrey Skeat Manley Bendall. Knew ‘D J Knight’ – teacher or housemaster? (Housemaster of Homeboarders 1929-1936) [01:35] Started in Homeboarders. Allowed to take Challenge a third time once in the school. [02:08] Didn’t believe self to be academically gifted, but was well-behaved and conscientious. Got bottom place in College. [02:42] Big change. Started to board. Had been commuting from Brighton. [03:20] Used to boarding – had boarded at Prep School. ‘Laid-back’ culture in late 1930s Westminster. [03:48] Dormitory one large room. 18th century building. High ceiling. Divided up with wooden panelling into 40 cubicles. [04:55] ‘Degree of promiscuity’, boys sneaking into each other’s cubicles. Too ‘law-abiding’ and frightened to get involved. [05:40] Don’t remember being cold. [06:03] Monitors try to maintain order. Didn’t always succeed. Did lots of reading with a torch at night. John Mason Whiskard in next cubicle. Richard Geoffrey Whiskard, older brother. Was a monitor, Corsellis was his fag. Involved almost nothing. Gave Corsellis inscribed copy of ‘Oxford Book of English Verse’ on leaving the school. Was a role model: ‘modest, decent, fair’. Father was a senior civil servant. [08:50] Tasks as a fag. Whiskard was part of the editorial team of the Elizabethan, Corsellis kept a record of their contemporaries. Doesn’t remember preparing food or drinks. [10:45] Latin Play, still in College Dormitory each year. Never even considered for a part. ‘Soft spot for Terence and Plautus’. Matter of considerable excitement. One year attended by the King and Queen. [13:20] Disruptive effect on normal school life, but ‘most enjoyably’. No one annoyed by it. Prologue and Epilogue great fun. [14:50] Felt involved even though didn’t appear. Roped in to help support. [17:05] School felt like a place full of radical ideas and debate. [17:45] Head Master Costley White, ended up Dean of Gloucester. Pompous. ‘Losing his grip’. Governors decided a strong hand was needed afterwards. John Traill Christie followed. Corsellis ‘hero-worshipped him’ as a boy. Exercised authority. [22:00] Doing gym instead of joining the OTC. Discovered fencing. So few fencers, it was easy to be a high achiever. [23:00] Stand out teachers: Peebles (maths). Hillary (history), good role model. Godfrey-Barber (Classics), organiser of the Scouts, Pacifist, eased out of the school. DC Simpson (Master of the King’s Scholars, Classics Master), approachable and kind. Claridge (Modern Languages, school librarian), ‘feud’ with John Bow. [17:45] Christie as a ‘striking preacher’, good projection. Would have been unfavourable for anyone anti-authoritarian. [28:45] Pacifist leanings even when joining the school. Encouraged by the virtues of Christianity in Christie’s preaching (non-intentional) – Christ seemed to be a pacifist. [29:48] Four pacifists in College. William Barnes, became head boy, ‘striking character’, joined Friends Ambulance Unit. Donald Swann. [31:15] Could argue Friends Ambulance Unit to be a ‘logical extension of Westminster’. Contemporary Norman John Peppin Brown, ended up Catholic philosopher in Canada. Corsellis recruited Swann, possibly Brown, for the FAU. [32:32] John Christie, first Lay head master since Camden, yet remembered for his preaching. Charismatic teacher. ‘Put the fear of God in one’. High standards, intolerant of poor performance. [35:12] Felt like Christie was trying to change Westminster – wanted to introduce more discipline. Some boys resented him for it. Culture of staff common room was already strong. [38:10] Could attend debates in the Houses of Parliaments. [38:48] Not the only good fencer- Pears Brothers (Michael Andrew Pears and David Francis Pears) were excellent fencers. [41:30] Kim Philby (Harold Adrian Russell Philby). Had been aware of his father, reviewed a book of his in the Elizabethan. [42:08] Also produced ‘pillars of the establishment’, like Sir William Deakin (Frederick Wilham Dampier Deakin). [42:24] Westminster in the 1930s was particularly outward-looking. Speakers came in to school. Not there when Gandhi came. Poets. Active literary society. Felt in the centre of things and not cut off. [44:40] Paul de Labilliere, Dean of Westminster. Lovely man. Corsellis went back to Little Dean’s Yard to visit someone after leaving and was invited in for tea at the Deanery. Gallery of Westminster Abbey. [46:15] Abbey a big part of school life. Taken for granted as the school chapel. [47:18] Sang in Bach chorale. Couldn’t sing in tune, but volume was too great for anyone to notice. ‘Marvellous feeling’ performing in the Abbey. [48:05] Was at school when coronation happened, but as Town Boy. Watched procession. Probably saw more of it than the boys in the Abbey, juniors were right at the back and didn’t see anything. [49:15] Ceremonies in the Abbey. Very much part of life. Privileged. School gym. [51:05] Meals in College Hall. Food wasn’t particularly good, even before the war started. [52:00] Women at the school. Matron, allowed the boys to listen to Bach symphonies on the radio in College. [53:10] Suffered from appendicitis. Taken to private hospital looking over Vincent Square. Head Master’s wife (Lucie Christie) came to visit, shared books - 17th century literature. [54:12] Being at school when the war broke out. Evacuated to Lancing just before Munich Agreement was signed. Happy memories of Lancing College, especially scenery. Bitterly cold and fairly spartan. [55:55] Allowed back to Westminster for a brief period. Evacuated to Exeter. Mother decided he would leave the school early, get more practical training experience. Not expected to succeed in competition for scholarships for Oxford or Cambridge and wouldn’t have been able to afford to go without one. Left school and articled to a lawyer at Oxford. [57:50] Shorthand typing course at age 18. Could touch-type and write shorthand. [58:30] Atmosphere among pupils being evacuated. Positive. Challenge. ‘Closed ranks and got on with it’. Learned basic first aid. Fire watching. Most of the boys contemplating post-school life – wanted to do a year at university before being called up. Closer to the teachers. Greater feeling of team spirit. Conscious that it was a big job for the teaching staff to cope. Would Westminster survive at all? [01:01:15] Survival of school in debt to JT Christie. [01:01:58] Partly integrated into Lancing college when evacuated – shared activities. Own identity still preserved. [01:29:56] Staff make conscious effort to preserve Westminster identity. [01:03:25] War felt inevitable, boys were aware. Boys with family members in Europe. [01:05:45] Doesn’t remember talking about the war on a personal level with others boy. Kept a low profile. Aware there were a number of pacifists. Unaware William Barnes was a pacifist at the time, but knew Donald Swann was. [01:07:40] Pick up from where left off with first interview. Orpington, working as a hospital orderly. Classical education in Latin and Greek and adequate knowledge of French and German proved useful. After Orpington, spent time as nurse in state hospital. Spoke German to patients, including a fanatical Nazi who was refusing blood transfusions out of worry his ‘Aryan blood would be sullied’. Little chance of surviving. [01:10:45] Sent to headquarters as personal assistant to Whitworth (Old Etonian), who was planning the to assist refugees that would be created as Allied armies made their way through Europe. Dealt with policy correspondence. [01:11:55] FAU ran a training centre in Hampstead in an old house. 12 week training courses. Corsellis didn’t attend, but dealt with teaching material so learnt from that. [01:12:35] Sent abroad. Two months in Egypt, one month in refugee camp for 25,000 Yugoslavian refugees from Dalmatian coast. Teams of 8-10 relief workers. One interpreter liaison officer. Needed to learn Serbo-Croat, found book for Italians wanting to learn Serbo-Croat. Latin and French education made Italian easy, so taught self Italian and simultaneously learned Serbo-Croat. Quickly acting as interpreter. [01:12:14] Went on to Italy, developed fluent Italian. Up to Austria. Camp for 20,000 Yugoslav refugees. Sent on own to translate. Neighbouring camp in next field, 12,000 Yugoslav refugees from Slovenia, part of anti-communist resistance movement, had been involved in Civil War. Political advisor to army decided they were a problem, told would be sent down to Italy. Intention was to send them back to Yugoslavia under agreement with Yugoslavian authorities. Brutally massacred by the communists. Sent back by deceit and threat of force. Wrote book about it, finally achieved a kind of apology from the British government. [01:23:58] Book published in Slovenia. Outselling Harry Potter. Inspired/encouraged a Slovenian writer to write fictionalised book on the subject, with Corsellis-based character as hero. [01:27:45] Other claim to fame – published poetry of his brother from Second World War. [01:30:40] After the war, worked for 13 (ran for 10) for Education Interchange Council, wanting to open up exchanges with ‘ex-enemy countries’ and then with Communist countries (biggest danger of being opponents in a third world war at the time). Told not to become a modern languages specialist at school, but had since learned many in line of work. Good classical education was good preparation.

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