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Chapter 9 - School Involvement and Growing Up

As my life progresses the things that become important change. Friends become vital, but I find myself becoming calmer and unable to rant and rave at things that would have annoyed me years ago.

Similarly you watch your family grow up and realise that the old phrase "enjoy them while they are young, they grow up all too soon" is absolutely correct.

As the family grows up and moves away - there is a peace and tranquility that descends on the home once again reminiscent of pre-children days. The main difference is we are 25 years older and possibly 25 years wiser.

The world has become modernised and more cynical with every twist and turn and with it comes the realisation that, whilst I can make a small difference, I am never going to change the world. This inevitably leads to a feeling of Que Sera Sera (what will be will be). There is a section of the population known as "grumpy old men" which comes from a television series which sees well known middle aged men moaning about the state of the world, the state of this country and anything else which takes their fancy.

Of course in their youth if they had done this they would have been known as "angry young men" and that term wasn't a bad thing. It was a term used to describe people who railed against society, who were passionate about their beliefs (some misfounded admittedly) but people who cared. Now as grumpy old men they are just moaners.

So at what point in life do "angry young men" turn into "grumpy old men" or women of course? It seems to happen to all of us, although I do feel that the majority of grumpy old men come to appreciate the beauties of life more.

Certainly as I get older I appreciate the countryside  more along with art, music, poetry, good food and all the good things of life. I do think the cross over from angry to grumpy comes on gradually. It is a gradual build up of experiences, of fighting beauraucracy until one day you realise that the anger is futile, but the grump is okay.

But enough of that one with my story and that of my family.

When the boys started at Hethersett Middle School I began to get involved myself. I liked the place and felt very much at home there and a group of us joined the PTA which was hard work but tremendous fun.

It was probably as strong a band of people as the school has ever had, under the chairmanship of Liz Hovey. I eventually became vice-chair but declined to take over as chair when Liz left on the grounds that I could never keep up her work rate. So I left at the same time. I can't speak highly enough of some of those people. Our meetings usually took place in the King's Head and mainly involved insulting each other for two hours. That was because we were all friends, got on with the various jobs and enjoyed each other's company (it's a strangely Norfolk sense of humour that you insult people you really like).

Together we organised the annual May fete, the November pre-Christmas craft fair and numerous social fund-raisers in between. And at sometime I decided I would like to become a school governor as well. So I stood as a parent governor. I think there were two places available and six applicants. At that point I seemed to know most of the parents at the school, thanks to having two boys there. This must have helped as I topped the poll and started as a governor.

That must have been about 1991 or 1992 and I have been there ever since. I have been chair of governors for the last eight years and feel that during that time I have helped to achieve a considerable amount at the school.

Educational standards have improved considerably, an old and dangerous design and technology block has been demolished and replaced with a custom built modern unit. In addition security has been enhanced the front of the school has been moved from the side of the school (try working that one out). In addition new classes have been taken on and the school has been turned into a colourful and welcoming place with an open policy. It wasn't always like that. I can remember in my early days as a governor when meetings would go on until late in the night, often break up in acrimonious argument and when the governors seemed to be divided into two groups - those in the know and those not.

Hopefully all that has been changed. Meetings are now held in a professional manner and last just for two hours - which gives members the chance to make decisions without feeling worn out.  I never know why any meeting has to go on longer than two hours.

When the bys moved on from the Middle School I was appointed a Local Education Authority Governor. I was approached to join the Friends of Hethersett High School but never had the same affinity with that level of education. I prefer the middle school age range where the pupils are old enough to be able to look after themselves in the basics but not too old to have become over aggressive or anti everything. It is the age range when teaches and others can make a real difference in their lives.

Meanwhile Chris and subsequently Matt moved on to Hethersett High School. They both did very well getting armfuls of GCSEs and enjoying playing football, badminton etc. Matt was pupil of the year at Hethersett Middle and PE Achiever of the year at the high school. The former provided me with a great highlight in my life when as a governor I was asked to present the trophy and then it was announced that my own son had won it. It was a hot and sunny day so luckily I was wearing sunglasses at the time!!!!

On the people theme again I remember five head teachers at the school - two of whom I have worked closely with. Before the boys went there Bernard Jones was the head and had been for many years. On his retirement the post was taken by David Osborne. When David moved to take over at a Gorleston school he was replaced by the deputy head Trevor Atkins. It was during this time that I became a governor. Trevor moved to teach in Malaysia and was replaced for one term by Ralph Cross as a stand-in head and then by Tim Strugnell and subsequently the current head Andy Whittle.

The boys were at Hethersett High for four years before moving on to the Hewett School in Norwich for the sixth form. We looked round both the Hewett and the Eaton (CNS) School. The boys wanted to go to the former as it had the best school soccer team in Norfolk.

Chris grew and shone at the Hewett, being appointed captain of the football team in his second year and helping them to win a prestigious youth international tournament in the USA. Matt later took part in the same competition two years late and also played for the team.

It was another cause for celebration as first Chris and then Matt passed their A levels and moved on to University - Chris to study physical education at the University of Brighton in Eastbourne and Matt to study the same subject at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Both achieved their degrees and the relevant ceremonies stand out in our memory. Chris' was on a hot day in the picturesque Brighton Pavilion followed by a celebration evening meal with him and his girlfriend Lynne and Lynne's parents in Brighton.

Matt's graduation was a magnificent affair at the Beckett's Park Campus in Leeds. The welcome speech was by former international runner Brendan Foster and double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes was given an honorary degree. Again it was a very hot day indeed and afterwards we drove into the Yorkshire Dales to find food.