Post 1955: In Memoriam


This article was sent by David Turner (1963-69). It was written by Joe Whiteley for the Esthameian issue No. 108 from 1965


Just before Whitsuntide, 1944, I was appointed Headmaster of this school, and as I look back over twenty-one happy years of service in East Ham, I can hardly believe that I have now "come of age" as Headmaster. First, let me say how fortunate I consider myself to be in having had the experience of working in East Ham. I can remember vividly being impressed by the ability, liveliness and character of 5A whom I taught Latin in my first year, and this first impression has been confirmed as the years have gone by. The school is very fortunate in being able to recruit year by year from our excellent Junior Schools, a high percentage of able boys who come from homes that have been exceedingly loyal to the school. Secondly, I want to pay a tribute to my colleagues, especially those who have been at my side for most, if not all of these years. Pride of place must go to Messrs. Cooper, Shannon, W. W. Davies and Wallis. Then come Messrs. Amstell, Mott, F. Mills, Forrester, Seidman, Heyes, Butcher, Marder, Gulley, Eustace and Madgett. It has been a great source of strength that we have had such continuity over the years, when all grammar schools have found it difficult to recruit staff and hold them once they have been appointed. Since 1944, 130 men have joined the staff of this school, and most of them were the only applicants. That we have been able not only to maintain but also to expand the range and scope of our curriculum, is due both to the loyalty of my older colleagues and to the lively contribution made by younger men who have spent a few years with us before moving. Thirdly, it has been an exciting experience to see the development of the school not only in numbers, but also in the opportunity it now gives to all boys in the school to continue their education to the highest level in a wide range of subjects. I cannot help reminding the school that we must be one of the few Grammar Schools in the country that offers twenty-four subjects at "O" and "A" level, and, among maintained grammar schools, that sends to our Universities as many as 60 or 70 boys a year. As I glance over the past, I remember the old building, the "Tec" as it was popularly and affectionately known locally, where difficulties of accommodation (which sometimes included being flooded out in the basement, and joint Occupation by the Technical College), seemed to bring out the best in boys and staff. Some excellent work was done there between 1944 and 1952 as had been achieved in the previous 39 years the school had occupied the site. It was, therefore, a great thrill to have the chance to move to our new site at Langdon Crescent with adequate facilities and playing field accommodation which have made us the envy of most schools in the area. Fortunately the staff were allowed to help at every stage of the planning and we have greatly benefited from that experience. Finally, as I look back, I am deeply conscious of the contribution to the success that has been achieved, of an enlightened administration under Mr. John Dyer and Mr. W. T. Davies, his successor as Chief Education Officer; the courage of the former who saw that we did get our new school and the guidance of the latter, have helped to make my stay in East Ham enjoyable. Then we have your parents whose loyalty to and trust in us are always most moving. Their constant support and, above all, their appreciation, have always been an important factor in our success. Finally, our Education Committee and the Governors, who must seem somehow rather remote to the school, have played their part too. Perhaps I am the only one, who working closely with them at all times, can appreciate fully their genuine and sincere desire to help and to give the school every support and facility to become what we have consciously endeavoured to be - a lively community where we have had the joy of acquiring and appreciating knowledge, and of learning to grow up and experiencing the importance of service-in the class-room, the playing fields and in the various club activities, and societies which are such a feature of our school life. But my last word is to the boys of the school themselves from whom, believe it or not, I too have learned so much. Each successive year has thrown up a sufficiently large number of boys of ability and character who have been ready to accept the school's aims and ideals and, as they have gone forward, to identify themselves with them. Without their support and help, the school could not have done what it has done in the post war years. The nature of a Headmaster's job is such that there is always a risk that he over-estimates his own importance in school life. As I look back, I have realised more and more how many people have helped, and I am deeply grateful to have had a share, great or small, in what has proved to be an exciting twenty-one years. In the nature of things I cannot look forward to another twenty-one years in East Ham but I hope to remain as Headmaster for a few more years yet, working alongside colleagues, boys and parents and glad to be associated with a school which I hope can rightly claim to be Nulli Secundus, Second to None.


Added July 2001

In 1972 the school ceased to exist as a Grammar school. In September 1972 it became Langdon Comprehensive school. Joe Whiteley, the Headmaster, left in 1971, about a year earlier, and went to teach at a Girls' School in Leytonstone. He is now dead. Ernie Mott followed him to the same School; he was still alive in May 2000, as was, apparently, Freddie Mills. Sam Amstell became Headmaster of the Grammar School for the year or so after Joe left and before Comprehensivisation. He later became Deputy Head of the new School.

The last edition of "The Esthameian", shown below, a joint production with the Girls' Grammar School, came out in July 1972.

Here's what Joe Whiteley wrote for that edition.


In 1905, two years before I was born, a new Education Act enabled Local Authorities to establish Secondary Schools, as they were then called, to give what we now call a Grammar School Education to their pupils from the age of 11 -16. Selection to these schools was based partly on ability, about a third being free places to children in the Elementary Schools, partly on parents' willingness to pay fees. These Secondary Schools were fortunate in that they had a clearly defined curriculum, a sure purpose and staffs recruited mainly from those who had themselves been educated at our old-established Grammar and Public Schools. In addition, as selection was highly prized, they could count on the full support of parents, pupils and their governors.

Our school was one of these schools and was officially opened in March 1906 by the then Prince of Wales, on what was obviously quite a great occasion for the Borough of East Ham. Those of you who may be interested, may read a full account of the proceedings is the issue of the Local Paper, now framed and hanging in the vestibule.

Such was the beginning of East Ham Grammar School, known locally as the 'Tech', for it was housed until 1952 in the Technical College in the Barking Road and provided both day and evening classes. It was also mixed; the mixing however, was very much controlled -an interesting contrast to our day- i.e. boys and girls attended until 1932, when the girls moved to a separate school, built for them in Plashet Grove. In its first years, the Tech. gave an excellent, if narrow, education to generations of the young men and women of East Ham who, as I know, look back with gratitude to the high standard of teaching and achievement. The results in the School Certificate and Matriculation Examinations were very impressive and gave large numbers of pupils the entry to positions in banks, local government, the civil service, the commerce of the City of London and eventually entry to various professions.

In 1918, after World War 1 the 1905 Secondary Schools were encouraged to educate their ablest pupils until 18+ and give them the opportunity to sit the Higher School Certificate - an important passport to the University and other professions. During the 1st and 2nd World Wars there was a tremendous expansion in Secondary Education, although it was still confined to a relatively small percentage of the school population, the majority of children leaving at 13 and later at 14 from the old Standard VII in the Elementary School. This period was in some ways the heyday of the Secondary School as more and more were built by Local Authorities, more boys and girls stayed on until 18, and their obvious success and increased prestige enabled them to claim some parity with the Public Schools, not only in their academic results, but also in their sporting and cultural life.

Out-of-school activities, as they came to be called, were legion, sport which flourished as never before) drama, music, debate and numerous clubs testifying to the success, vitality and pride of the schools. The excellent esprit de corps was further fostered by the formation of Old Pupils' Societies which flourished all over the land. A few of the newly established Secondary Schools, most of whom had now adopted the name of Grammar, competed successfully in the field of Open Scholarships tenable at Oxford and Cambridge and thus threatened what had been a reserve of the Public and Direct Grant Schools.

In the case of our own school it was perhaps a pity that the excellent work done up to 16+ was not followed by a similar expansion in the VIth form. But there were many local difficulties. In those days, it was not easy for most parents to keep a boy or a girl at school until 18 or 19.

As far as E.H.G.S. is concerned, these opportunities had to wait until after World War 2. If I may be somewhat reminiscent, one of my most vivid memories was the early staff meeting in 1944, shortly after my appointment, when I reported on my first reaction to the school.

I had decided to teach Va Latin in my first year as Head, as I wanted to have the opportunity to assess the ability of our best boys. I was deeply impressed not only by the intelligence of this form, but also by the spirit of work which I found there. For these reasons, I suggested to my colleagues that we should run a four-year course to School Certificate, i.e. '0' Level, so that boys could enter the VIth form at 15 +, and, if of the right calibre, have the chance to compete for Scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge.

This suggestion met with the approval of the Staff and the boys and thus began the story of our VIth form success, which I venture to suggest, is second to none among the Maintained Grammar Schools of this country. If one is asked the reasons, the answers are not difficult to find: the quality of the boys, the support of the parents, the enthusiasm and teaching power of the staff. 1944-1972 is indeed a success story of which all who contributed may well be proud. Finally, let us not forget the Governors and Education Committee who came to believe that E. H. G. S. really was the first school in the country.

I have already referred to the development of the sporting and cultural life of the school in which the staff and pupils could meet each other in a different setting from the classroom, and learn to develop relationships that promoted mutual respect, tolerance and understanding. Here, I should like to pay a tribute to the VIth form whose members exercised a great influence on the school as a whole by their maturity, loyalty and sense of responsibility - a tribute which I am glad to pay not only to those who were elected Prefects, but to all members of our VIth forms who contributed in their own personal way to the general tone of the school.

And so at a time when so many of our Grammar Schools face reorganisation and lose their separate identity in the world of the 70's, it is right and proper that we should endeavour to sum up and appreciate their achievements of the last 70 years.

They did well for their pupils and they deserve well of their pupils. As far as E.H.G.S. is concerned, no-one can appreciate this more than I, for I had the good fortune to preside over this fine school for 27 years, and, arriving as I did in 1944, I had the privilege of meeting old boys and girls of all generations right down to the first year of the school. It is a matter of great pride that I count many among personal friends and not with deep satisfaction that the qualities of personality, style and character that I recognised in 1944 have been maintained throughout the whole history of the school, a great tribute to the flavour of East Ham, when it is remembered that the school has tended to educate its pupils out of the area. Today Old Esthameians will be found not only all over Great Britain, but throughout the whole world in positions of trust and responsibility.

Now the story is written. The school has changed and will change even more, as it meets new children, new problems and new challenges.

Those of us who belong to the Grammar School tradition, proud as we are to have served our school, will extend to the new school our best wishes to all staff and pupils who will work and play on the Langdon site.

Greetings from the Past to the future. Only a brave man or a fool will confidently predict what the future will bring in life as a whole, let alone education. But one thing can be said - the new school will shape its own future - its own traditions - that goes without saving. But it can be predicted that success can be achieved in the future as in the past, if the new school will elicit the same interest, and devotion in staff, pupils and parents which helped to make the development of the Grammar Schools in this century such an outstanding achievement.

Ave atque vale.

J. L. Whiteley.
March 1972.

Added August 2000

More post 1955 detail will be added as information becomes available.