[Photograph from Reginald Snell's book *]
We were encouraged to develop a strong sense of personal responsibility, and there was much more self-determination than at standard schools. In the senior school, instead of daily homework we were given assignments of work, which we were expected to complete within a fortnight. This gave us more flexibility in planning the use of our time. It led however to the reading out at the morning assembly of the dreaded ‘blacklist’, the names of all those who were behind in their assignments. There was also a senior school council, made up of children of the full age range (11-17) and staff, and this was empowered to make disciplinary decisions, among others. The Head used to say the only two things over which he retained the absolute right of veto, were the curriculum, and the vegetarian diet.
The headteachers, Lyn and Eleanor Harris, were Quakers, though it was not officially a 'Quaker school'. There was however an optional Sunday chapel service which was based on Quaker meetings. Also the school gave sanctuary to conscientious objectors who were 'persona non grata' in other places, but were able to get teaching posts at our school. Young male school-leavers who were conscientious objectors were prepared there for their tribunals, which they had to go through if they were not to be obliged to join the armed forces. There were a number of German refugee children in the school too, some of whom were advised to anglicise their surnames before going off to fight in the British Army.
I think I was happy there because my life was full and well-rounded: I was stretched academically and allowed to develop socially and emotionally. I liked, admired and respected the headteachers and the large majority of the school staff, and I have always considered myself lucky to have been there. My family was still not well off at the time, and it was our good fortune that the head teachers believed so strongly in what they were doing, that when they realised how much our parents wanted us to attend the school, they did a special deal, as it were, by taking both my brother and myself at a discount price – “buy one, get one half price” as it were.
The school floodlit on VE night in May 1945
ENDPIECE: Soon after we were married my husband and I were invited to lunch in the home of one of his senior colleagues. Two young men joined the party, the son of the house and a mate who had just come back from a skiing holiday. They were so obviously products of a public school that it was perhaps unwise of me to start talking about the ‘crank’ school that I had attended. I'm sure I actually saw the noses on the faces of these young men go up in the air and wrinkle with disdain. It was a moment that I have always cherished!
* "St Christopher School 1915-1975" by Reginald Snell