Testing Times

Billericay Secondary School School 1964/70
By Keith Clempson

A select few playing at a concert at Billericay Secondary School. I'm with the trombone.
Keith Clempson

I doubt there’s enough time at the moment to share all my memories about Billericay Secondary School as it was known by before becoming Billericay Comprehensive School in about 1968, but I shall try to share some.
My first year would have been 1964, Form 1B Mr Nobby Butler. The school was a mix of very bad and very good. In hindsight it’s obvious that the academic side only liked you if you made them look good. There was no understanding of the pupil.

Chopper Jones and the religious Hewitt were shocking and ruined any academic abilities I had which however blossomed with Mrs Garton in English. PE was always fun with Ron England and Mr Corlett. I remember scoring a goal from the half way line against Corlett ! In the early years Martin Canter was amazing and the confidence I lost thro’ Jones and Hewitt was replaced by Canter. He was a drama teacher and had me take pupils of my choice out of the class to devise a play in ten minutes and then come back in and perform it. Sadly Martin left after a couple of years and it was never quite the same again.

I did have my moments tho’ playing for the school football team each year despite being short sighted. When I got contact lenses aged 16-17 I scored a hat trick against the staff and got to the final of the cricket single wicket competition. We never did play that final as I believe because I’d been crap at cricket by not seeing a smaller ball in years previous, no one wanted me to win it and be embarrassed by it. I remember beating the two best cricketers in the early rounds and loosing a ball with a six I hit!

Teachers I admired who had time for pupils as human beings were Robin Corbin (Art), Martin Canter (Drama), Monica Garton (English), Mr Robinson (Art ), Taffy Elias (Technical Drawing) and Mrs Down (needlecraft I think) she always called me “young man” in the nicest possible way !! Mrs. Down got me to compere the school fashion show; imagine me and about 50 girls !
I remember having to meet her behind the stage to have the script altered because of last minute changes. It was one big changing room and did I get an eyefull! Mrs Down told the girls to not worry about me as she was sure I’d seen it all before, well I may have done but not 50 at once !!! I still have a grainy Billericay Recorder press photo cutting of us all on stage somewhere .
Robin Corbin and Susan Shane (Art) were amazing. I loved photography at the time (and yes the school darkroom was also an education room !) and Robin asked me to design the new school darkroom for the new buildings going up for the Comprehensive era. So if that darkroom still stands…thank you 😂👍

I was even allowed to make a stop motion film using the school 16mm cine camera which was under lock and key in Mr Lingard’s headmasters study, and I had to ask him for it every time.

Sadly, because of politics and the two aforementioned confidence destroyers, I had to leave in the lower 6th as they along with Mrs Simpson didn’t believe I would ever pass Maths and English “O” level. I took them privately and passed both first time the year after. The maths exam was taken at the school after I’d left. I remember it well. I was queuing up with other exam entrants and Chopper was handing out exam numbers. When he came to me he looked surprised and said “What are you doing here Clempson?” “Taking the exam sir” I replied. He chuckled and muttered “no chance” . Pleased to say I did pass and I always wanted to put my pass slip right under his nose !!

Other teachers I remember are Mr Drage who allowed me to play trombone in the school orchestra, Mrs Kefford (girls PE), Mr Ince (Metalwork), Sexy Jones (geography) what did go on in his cupboard ?! Jock Spurr (Rural Science) what did go on with the girl volunteers after school in the barn?! Peter Clyne (English I think) another great guy who left too early and was a Labour candidate for Southend I believe.

Many more stories from these days I can recount but maybe for another time.

To finish with here’s a list of those pupils I remember

Derek Wragg ( still in regular contact )David Langtree
Stephen SchwartzKeith Hugget
Barry CooperMichael Chapman
Michael PriorLinda Garrett
Colin WalkerLinda Childs (her dad was caretaker I think)
Joseph FarringtonPeter French
 Kevin StanburyWendy Ferdinando,
Richard KeelingSusan Ferdinando,
Denise RichardsDavid Needham
Philip CallowBernard Cooper
John SladeLyn Buck
Sharon RickenberghLyn Jones
Gillian SimsRichard Lyon
Stephen BullmanDavid Robinson (son of the other teacher Mr Robinson)

That’s all f’now folks !!

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