Photo: Illustrative image for the 'DOCUMENT WRITTEN BY GORDON HIGGS' page

School Teacher - Newhaven County Secondary School

By Carol Walton


After two years at the Barclay School in Stevenage, we moved to Seaford and I to the Newhaven County Secondary School.  After I had a year’s grind getting established in the school we had a staff meeting where the main topic was concerned with rewards and punishment.  The school operated a house system with four houses named after famous ships from the past.  For sports and games the house system worked satisfactorily, but for the academic work the only acknowledgement to a house system was that grades A to E for each subject on the end of term reports were translated to figures.  The astronomical figure obtained for each house was then divided by the number of pupils to produce a figure that needed to go to decimal places to decide the champions.  Not really an incentive for Johnny Smith to achieve a D instead of an E in Religious Instruction to advance his house by 0.001.  The irrelevance was that the result was not immediate.

It was in this circumstance that I introduced to the discussion the system that was developed at the Blackwell School in Harrow.  Briefly, it operated over each three week period, after which pupils were awarded merits in each subject from 0 to 3.  For conduct a pupil started with 10.  Marks were removed, 1 or 2 depending on the severity of the breach.  Loss of 5 then 8 led to referral to House Staff and then Senior Teachers.  Merit badges were awarded at house meetings.  Another colleague had used a similar scheme and supported it.  It was agreed I would type a stencil with more detail as an Aunt Sally for further discussion.

Having done that at home,  I conceived the following ode that I rattled off and type one evening. I disguised the authorship by taking the name of that worldly poet, both omnipresent and timeless, “Anon”.  The slight change from Wordsworth’s poem in the title seemed to suit the message of the verse.  To understand the poem, Mr Furner was the Headmaster, Mr Ray the Senior Master and Mrs Scott the Senior Mistress.  School pupils are notoriously cruel in giving their teachers nicknames.  I was aware of at least two of mine.  At my secondary school there was Beaky, Whiffy, Twinkle, Creeper and Sorbo.  Easy to name but a few.  Mrs Scott, however, did not breathe fire.  Next morning I crept unseen into Mrs Scott’s room before school and placed my “Ode” on her desk in an envelope.



One day at school a girl called Madge

Declared she’s win a merit badge

And so she worked with industry

At Science, Art and History

And though her mind did acrobatics

She struggled had at Mathematics

She dropped her craze for rocking rhythms

Whilst mastering her logarithms

In English she gave emphasis

To grammar and analysis

In meat extraction all may see

Her salient points in each precis

In fact the staff could all agree

“Potentially a G.C.E.”


Alack, a day came extraordinary

When hopes of gaining level ordinary

Seemed shattered when one took a look

At her Form’s Conduct Merit Book!

There hid in all its unreality

A tale of sickening calamity

There on the right writ large in red

Were marks lost through a chap called Fred

This Fred was he who, surnamed Sparks

Could care not less for conduct marks

In class one day she rashly said

“This subject is above my head”

With turning after these remarks

Her eyes encountered Freddy Sparks

A wind from Fred and Madge dis blush

Upon the class there spread a hush

The teacher, one who made no apology

For deprecating modern psychology

With all the strength at her command

Issued a severe reprimand!

This made Madge smile, the class all sniggered

Fred just muttered “Well I’m jiggered!”

The teacher then, with much assurance

Deducted marks, both from Endurance


The drama played, the battle won

The lesson then was re-begun

But Cupid had aimed all his darts

On both our Madge and Freddy Sparks

The class were reading in their books

But Fred surveyed his Madge’s looks

Whilst others avidly map-read

A single thought in Fred was bred

He sat entranced like some cool berg

“Here is my Anita Ekberg!”

And then without a single pause

Renewed his study of contours

Madge stole a glance, her eyes gave a flutter

Though not one word was heard to utter


But teacher saw with consternation

She coughed, exclaimed in indignation

“Now then my girl, and do not dally

Explain why here’s a U-shaped valley”

No hope for Madge and none for Fred

So out again the pencil red!


Endurance was sunk; There could be no recovery

Things looked rosier now for Discovery

And though this may seem very hard

Better the prospects of Vanguard

Whilst Eagle, still much at the bottom

Could not by now be quite forgotten



Thence Madge sank lower, so did Fred

When salvage vessels steamed ahead

Poor Madge and Fred to house staff went

Five conduct marks had now been spent

But even then it seemed too late

For soon the score had dropped by eight

So woebegone they made their way

To Mrs Scott and Mr Ray

“Courage” said Fred, “keep your rag on

Don’t be upset by that lady”


What came of both we cannot say

But seemed that in the strangest way

Our Fred reformed and so did Madge

Till both had won a merit badge

And so with both their merits up

Endurance now had won the cup

The moral clear to any learner

With cup presented by Mr Furner


 There were two sequels to this occasion.  Firstly, I had only written the verses for Mrs Scott’s eyes.  What she did with it after that was up to her.  She obviously enjoyed it, for she immediately read it to her class designated 4C.  At that time we were beginning to prepare pupils for external examinations.  The C in this case represented an all girls’ group taking Commerce subjects combined with the Basics, although boys were not excluded.  In that year, boys had to go to the Technical College at the County town of Lewes for continued education.

I was surprised next morning to find the typed anonymous response set out below on my desk.  Obviously, my disguise had been ineffective.  I subsequently ascertained that the girl who produced the short ode was Anne Weightman.  I wonder where she is now. 



Mr Higgs the geography dream

Took advantage of the scheme

To exploit his poetic talent

His lengthy effort was judged as gallant


His heroine he christened Madge

Who tried in vain for a merit badge

Twixt globes a-twirling to and fro

She spied her girlhood Romeo


The young man’s name was known as Fred

At fourteen Madge’s Galahad

Down the merit list she fell

Once top she now was bottom girl


The moral now for Form 4C

Is to pay attention to Geography

Don’t worry about being abandoned

You’ll end up with a handsome husband

Certainly worthy of much higher than B-


The second sequel was that the Headmaster abhorred the idea of the scheme, so we dropped all thought of it.  I had become the Housemaster of Eagle after a colleague left.  I guess we still remained about 0.111 behind our nearest rival for the wooden spoon!

Mrs Scott became the next focus also of my next poetic narrative.  In addition, I got my colleagues to cooperate in a jocular manner to an end of term report , or rather of career.  She was an extremely good-hearted lady and I and a colleague who came from Saltdean, and was much older than myself, shared in a number of light-hearted provocations that she was quite capable of taking in her stride.  In this final year she was Form Teacher of 4X.  On this occasion the X represented pupils of limited ability whose command of the English language was not the greatest.  I say this in no disparaging way, for in retrospect I feel  the best contributions to education were with the lower half of the ability range, those who were covered in those optimistic post-war days by the Newsom Report.


Thus we come to –



Weeve fawt a lot of Missus Scott

‘Bout wot she’s got, she’s got the lot

And wot snown not by Missus Scott

Is not a lot or werf a jot


And staff who’ve lived in her domain

Realise next term won’t be the same

Sincere, inspired, gifted Mary

Very often quite contrary

Especially when a Saltdean gent

Would seek to start an argument!

We’ll say this in her last report

That Mary Scott was quite a sport

Hear her side-track with real agility

“Automatic availability”

Then would follow without apology

A sly old dig at child psychology

So then it would be no non sequitur

To hear the next agent provocateur

But he’d give up because he hears

“I’ve taught all that for forty years!”

When all is said and this term’s done

Both she and we will miss this fun


Our tribute now in all sincerity

Commends you to her versatility

No matter what the lesson was

She’d not be at a loss because

In nearly almost each particular

A graduate – Master of Curricula

Just see her teach without fury

Jockeying discs in her Juke Box Jury!

But whilst in class she cast her pearls

She still had time to guide the girls

Inspired by William Wordsworth’s ode

Chastising rebel girls forebode

“Intimations of Immortality”

Or “Investigations of Immorality”?


Now could we all pass a motion

To her unfailing devotion

To extra-mural activity

“The Pageant of the Nativity”

At games and sports it wasn’t hard

To know the Mistress of Vanguard

On film club nights she checks all tickets

And keeps them happy with chocolate biscuits!

Many’s the outing, so the historian tells

When she nips round the coach with a packet of Kwells!


There’s many a tale could here be told

For some of them I won’t be bold

It’s true that some spoke out of hand

We’ll not tell stories of that brand


May we now tell you without defection

That all will hold you in great affection

Again I should say with no dissension

We wish you well in spending your pension

Ending, I hope, in no adulation

Hoping you’ve paid your superannuation!

                                 GEORGE GRAFFER

I used a different pseudonym for this, but it left little doubt as to


A little before or after this occasion, I cannot date it accurately, the Head of English decided to collect together the talent in the school and create a stage production.  The first act was developed around the idea of the passengers on a cruise ship, boarding and meeting the crew.  This was punctuated by sketches and amusing situations.  The second half was the ship’s concert.  With the relatively recent advent of commercial television in the south, I suggested the idea that a group of 5th year non-performers in the main show be used to parody some of the jingles and dialogue of well-known advertisements, but revising the text to relate to school subjects.  He accepted the idea with alacrity.  I had already produced a sample or two and set about writing a dozen or more.  Unfortunately, I lost the paper I had kept to remind me of the enterprise and memory has faded to recall most of them, though the one for Geography stands out clearly in my mind.


At the end of the first act I appeared from behind the curtain and stopped people disappearing for their cuppa and biscuit to announce our plan to cash in on the commercial approach to school entertainment.  Regrettably, I said, the only response from the local community was a coupon with twopence off, so we decided to advertise ourselves.  A total fib, of course, but it served to keep them settled whilst we then projected the light from the school’s slide projector on to the curtains to give the image of a giant television screen.  I then provided the continuity to bring each “advert” before the lights as my performers came in from the wings.


As an example, a soap advertisement used to simper “You’ll get a little lovelier each day with fabulous pink Camay”. This became “You’ll get a little Mathematics every day with fabulous Mr Ray”.  William Pickles had a vogue in advertising a certain Health Salts where he enquired of a sad rather sick member of the public of their health.  The somewhat mournful reply would then be followed with the catchphrase before revealing the product.  A delightful pupil had just the sort of voice needed when asked how he was today.  In a draw, “Well, I’ve had double Maths, then History and Science”.   “Not much fun is it?” replied the Wilfred substitute.  A cough cure was used for Metalwork, Corn Flakes for History, but the details escape me.  I doubt if there are a lot of people who will not identify the product used for Geography. 

Hip, hip, hooray, it’s the time of day for Geograffay.

Note: Mr Higgs gave this to us at our school reunion in 2000 and I thought it would be a shame for it to get lost - so here it is. 

This page was added by Carol Walton on 10/01/2020.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.