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In July 2005 it will be 40 years since the school closed. Our research to date shows that, while the demise of the school (and its Head) was welcomed by some, it was a major disappointment for others. There were clearly deep “divisions” amongst the teaching staff and as ex pupils we would like to know why.

In 1960, when “comprehensive education” was a totally new concept, we can see that this must have been a very challenging time for all, not least the teachers at Risinghill. Here was a brand new school with a new, unknown mix of pupils and a Headteacher with radical new ideas! In the wake of Newsom, would Risinghill have not posed a significant threat to the traditionalists, who perhaps wished to maintain the status quo? And would a progressive Headteacher, such as Michael Duane, not have inflamed that situation further … if such a situation existed? How strongly did the teachers feel about the report (‘Half our Future’) and what were their views on Newsom? These are questions we would like to ask, as the comprehensive debate would appear to be as divisive now as it was 40 years ago!

Even so, we find it difficult to accept that Risinghill was closed within 5 years of opening, as from our perspective (and those ex pupils we have contacted to date) the school was nowhere near as bad as it was made out to be. Risinghill must surely have been one of the flagships for comprehensive education in England when it opened in 1960 and to give up on it - before it was even opened officially - does not make any sense to us at all. The educational environment at the time would have been as alien to the teachers as it was to the pupils, so this was a learning curve for all. Given this scenario, it is inconceivable that Risinghill was allowed to fold so unceremoniously and especially when the political climate appeared to be right for such a school. In 1963 John Newsom received a knighthood for his “visionary” approach to education, yet in that same period something very different was happening to Michael Duane and to Risinghill. We would like to understand the politics of the time and if you have any views on this, we would welcome them.

The questionnaires that we are receiving back from the pupils indicate that they were very happy with the school and some teachers are remembered with considerable fondness. It is not just Michael Duane, therefore, who is credited with making such a difference to the lives of Risinghill pupils.

Although Michael Duane is remembered clearly by the pupils as someone who was important to their education, he probably had his faults and was not a Saint. Therefore, to give our research more balance, we need to know more about his character and his working relationship(s) in the school. We know that he interfaced well with pupils, but how did he get on with the staff? And how did the staff get on with each other? Were there factions and why?

We hope you will agree to help us with this project by completing and returning the Teacher Questionnaire Please click here to get your zip copy. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Alan Foxall direct, or Please click here to email us. As you will see from the website, we think there is a lot to be learned from Risinghill and our book will be as much for you as it is for the pupils and MD himself. If you are in contact with any other ex-teachers, please tell them about us and ask them to get in touch.

Thank you for your assistance.

Isabel, Lynn, Alan and John
RISINGHILL RESEARCH GROUP

 
 
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