portrait of a catholic boys’ school

Laurie Taylor writes about my old school – Sacred Heart College, on the Worcester Road, in Droitwich.

I’d say his article likely a fair reflection of reality; even in the 80s there were a few priests (and some sixth formers) whom the other kids told you to keep away from; but there were also enough lay staff to dilute the power. The article is repeated in the Times but one commenter there is clearly either whitewashing, or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (“Father Dutton”, mentioned in a positive light, was still teaching science in the early 80s)

One of the former teachers at the school wrote me in 2007:

The standards at SHC were very poor but Terry O’Malley did make some inspired improvements and despite his failings, he was one of the few who had a heart in the right place. […] I was most unhappy in 1990 when the order sold the site for 4 million GBP […] The new breed of priests were happier in the comfort and low effort requirements of the presbytery. It simply confirmed all I had believed about Catholicism!

Bullying was rife as it was in all schools and despite policies and modern methods it is hard to eradicate. I do think pastoral care has improved over the years and education is now much more pupil-centred. It is sad that FriendsReunited reveals such a bitter group of old boys. The school was far from perfect but there were *some* things for which it could be praised. I, too, read about questionable liasons [WEBSITE ELIDED] but it was implicit. People who write such things in the public domain should put up or shut up. The guilty party should be named and relevant action taken retrospectively. I was never aware of such behaviour […] but on two occassions, I have stopped priests from beating pupils senslessly. It is sad that few of them were actually trained teachers, and they did have short tempers. On the other hand, they were running a rather low class boarding establishment and had to be paternal for 24 hours a day. I was able to return to the sanctuary of a good family. Looking back, the school had to close. With current curriculum requirements and modern Health and Safety issues it would never have adapted adequately.

My sister still spits blood about helping fundraise for the school, only for it to be sold-off shortly after I left, the new “sports block” demolished.

I remember half-qualified teachers – including one con-man who posed as a History teacher for a term – and fights, and bullying and only half-edible food. I remember half-assed management, so that I got told I was doing the S-level maths exam, with literally no warning, related teaching or preparation; I also remember being told “not to bother” with Oxbridge entrance exams – yet of my peers I got the best university place.

I wonder where I’d be today if there’d been more than 3 teachers who were worthy of the description, and an academic framework not centred around the church next door. I hated it – but I’ve never suffered the illusion that schooldays were the best days of my life, so I must assume my life’s only been getting better ever since.

That’s about the only positive thing I can say; and I’m still grateful to have only been a day-boy.

There appear to be two relevant facebook groups, if you’re anothersuch survivor and Google sends you this way.

9 Replies to “portrait of a catholic boys’ school”

  1. I didn’t realize that you experienced the Catholic school thing…

    I went to St. Benedict’s in Ealing for the first year-and-a-term of my secondary education. Fortunately I dodged the bare-buttocks canings and gropings that have been documented recently, but it was still a pretty threatening experience. Fortunately we moved from Cricklewood to Beaconsfield at the end of my first year; I tried to commute from Beaconsfield to Ealing for a term, but it proved impossible, so I moved to the RGS High Wycombe. No monks, no caning. (Still no girls, but that was what Wycombe High School was for!)

  2. Re: where you’d be today if there had been more, or better, or less God-bothering teachers, I suggest you read this and stop worrying: http://sinden.org/verger.html. As Mister Rogers would have said, “I like you just the way you are . . . “

    1. @Weez – am not worrying. I think, however, I’m permitted to a) wonder and b) put on the record that Sacred Heart College was shit.

  3. My name is reuben lyon- mercado, and reading all these articles on that bastard school makes me realise that I was not the only one hating it

  4. I went to the SHC Droitwich between 1964 and 1969. It was the making of me. I started near the bottom of the class but ended up with a post grad. degree, a very good career and now a great pension. I owe much to the school and also their teaching of the need to think about things and question them.

  5. I attended S. H. C from 1947 to 1950 back then the only teachers were priests and the head master was Fr. Harrison, a rather saintly Man who would not I suspect have tolerated any questionable behaviour from his subordinates. Indeed apart from the occasional caning (in pants) if as rarely happened it was deemed necessary , but generally it was on the hand and mostly I recall for culpable academic failures.
    For my part I have only praise for the education I received there.

  6. I went to the SHC for 2yrs in the late 1970’s . I have mixed feelings . Yes it was an awful educational environment with very low standards of teaching. i left with 3 O levels, no idea about what to do next and very low expectations. I ended up with 2 degrees and have taught at University so i escaped my poor education. Terry O Malley however did in many ways save me from a troubled teenager situation. For that i’m very grateful. SHC wont be the only low quality private school from those times .

    1. I also attended SHC along with Micheal (twin brother). Whilst there may have been shortcomings regarding some aspects of the teaching my experience overal was (on reflection) positive.

      Yes, some of the preists were dictcatoral bullies; weren’t a lot of teachers in the 70’s?

      But yet as I recall there were aspects of education that were well delivered and thought provoking (take a bow cubo, Zilla, Joan and not least Terry himself)

      Having spent three years at a rural comprehensive school (please excuse the following as I had no control over my upbringing) as one of the few middle class children in attendance I regularly suffered extreme violence and abuse from other pupils.

      The relatively powder puff muscle flexing and the odd slap at SHC were (on reflection) tollerable.

      I enjoyed my time as a border and view the overall experience in a positive light.

      I also attained 3 0 levels (had I stayed at my previous school this wouldn’t have happened) and like Micheal went to university.

      It is with some sadness that I must recall fraught and harrowing conversations with friends and family who went to brilliantly academic and hugely prestigious private/public schools where they were sexually/phisicaly/mentally abused by masters, prefects and pupils alike.

      I am glad that I didn’t suffer that.

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