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Reminisces of a Former Student: 1956-58

Fifty seven years have passed since I left Chester College and during that period much has happened to me: not all of it positive! At the time of my leaving to go on to Derby College, the Reverend Aubrey Price was Principal and John Bradbury was Vice-Principal. I remember the Reverend W.A.L. Vincent with affection. He only died in January 2014 at the great age of 102! Amongst other notable members of staff were: John Stephens and Ernie Pickup, (the actor’s father), who together were my tutors for academic studies, which paralleled the Principles and Practice of Education. All students were required to pursue this in order to obtain the University of Liverpool Certificate in Education and gain qualified teacher status. On reflection I wish I had worked harder, then maybe my results would have been better. On the other hand, my sense of under-achievement was a catalyst for the rest of my career.

A photograph taken outside of Fisher House in January 1957. (Back row, L-r): John Martin, Bryan Harding, Derek Rowe and Derek Rowley. (Middle Row, l-r): Unknown, Robin Hughes and Paddy Riley. (Front Row , L-r): Unknown, Wilf Fitton holding the Cup, and ? Wilkins.
Since 1958 I have often wondered what happened to my fellow students. Some I can account for such as: John Martin and Peter Kniveton, both of whom achieved headships of primary schools in the Isle of Man.  To the best of my knowledge John is still going strongly but sadly, Peter has only recently passed away. Others, whose faces are as clear to me today as the last time I saw them, have disappeared.  Where are Graham Williamson, Alan Spencer, Bill Fitton, the Rowleys, (not knowingly related to each other), and all the others whose names appeared on the list of leavers which accompanied our examination results way back in July 1958?
A scene from RAG week, 1956. Bryan is pictured in the middle- the tallest!
I hope that each of them is well and that they have enjoyed a happy and successful career, although, unfortunately, I suspect one or two may be in a better world. It would be pleasing to have news about them but how one can communicate with alumni whose addresses are out of date, is a problem which would appear to be insurmountable. I hope that anyone reading this narrative who has any such news of former colleagues in the Year Group 1956-58, will get in touch with the Alumni and Development Office at what is now, the University of Chester.
After leaving Chester...
My career in education turned out to be more varied that I ever expected, or planned for that matter.  Having trained in primary education and as a specialist teacher of English in secondary education, I spent three years teaching in Liverpool. Firstly at Arnot Secondary School, Walton, and then at Millwood County Primary School in Speke.  Family pressures then persuaded me to return to the Isle of Man, my home, where I took up an appointment at Douglas High School more out of necessity than choice.  I remained there for twelve years during which time I gained a University of London degree by private study. I followed that by being seconded for one year to the University of Leeds where I gained the Advanced Diploma in Curricular Studies.
Following the reorganisation of secondary education in Douglas I secured the post of Head of Department and Senior Tutor in one of the reorganised secondary schools.   The one I was in had a complement of 1450 pupils and nearly 100 staff. Since the building was never designed for such numbers you can imagine the difficulties which that limitation produced.  I remained there for three years, all the time keeping my sights on getting promotion. I missed out on some deputy headships but finally ended up, believe it or not, as Head of In-service Education and Training for the Isle of Man Department of Education! During my tenure in the latter post I also spent twelve years as a Tutor Counsellor in the Open University responsible for the Arts Foundation Course. At the same time I managed to obtain my MA degree. After facilitating the delivery of in-service education and training I was promoted into educational administration firstly as Professional Assistant and then rapidly to the post of Assistant Education Officer. I was Assistant Education Officer for nearly ten years before I took my first retirement!
Over the next twelve years I worked in the construction industry as a health and safety consultant and Planning Supervisor. This move was assisted by my previous record in educational administration where I had been responsible for the planning and construction of new schools and school extensions and the maintenance of the existing building stock of forty primary schools, five secondary schools and the College of Further Education.  I still had to maintain my continuing professional development (CPD) as related to the construction industry and health and safety, and with that in mind I managed to qualify as a chartered member of the Institute of Health and Safety, a chartered member of the Institute of Builders and a chartered member of the Institute of Personnel and Development. The upkeep of CPD was critical to obtaining work in competition with other practices in the construction industry.  After twelve years I was offered a new challenge so I retired again and reverted back to the field of education, albeit this time in an independent school!
And Now....
Currently, then I am Director of Alumni Relations at King William’s College, Isle of Man. The school was opened in 1833 but the trust fund required to accumulate the funds necessary to finance the building of the School was established in 1688.
Pictured above is Bryan (back left) at King William's College, with the RAF Presentation Team, who Bryan arranged to visit the school for a three-day promotion, in April 2015.
The School caters for the age range 3 to 19, so as you will have gathered there is considerable educational diversity. Overall, there are just over 200 pupils in the preparatory or primary section of the School and just over 370 pupils in the senior section. The pupil ratio is generous with 90 teaching staff including part-timers. So teaching groups are small and that is how added value is obtained.  A far cry from the 1450 pupils which inhabited the School in Douglas of which I spoke previously. The School has an enviable academic record including a Nobel Prize Winner and now provides studies in the Sixth Form leading to the International Baccalaureate Diploma.  The IB Diploma is no sinecure because unlike A ‘Levels the pupils have to study six subjects, write an extended essay on the Theory of Knowledge, and undertake 150 hours of Community service in order to qualify for the award of the Diploma. In recent times, some of our pupils have attended the University of Chester undertaking degrees for example in Accounting and Finance; Criminology and Psychology; and History and Heritage Management. No doubt others will follow from our current Upper Sixth of 64 pupils or from future years.

 Bryan (far right), with the School Chapel Choir, having sung mass at St Matthew's Church, Douglas, Isle of Man.
In conclusion, I hope that this humble offering will encourage other former students of my year to respond and get in touch with the Alumni and Development Office, and maybe come along to the Reunion weekend in September when everybody will be welcome.
Bryan Harding (Fisher 1956-58)
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