The deaf community is currently campaigning for British Sign Language (BSL) to be officially recognised as a language of the United Kingdom. MP Rosie Cooper gave the 3rd reading to the Private Members Bill on Friday 18th March 2022, and over three thousand people - deaf, hearing, deaf-blind people, attend Trafalgar Square to rally for the BSL Bill. Tallis’ KS4 DSC students and some students from Year 10 BSL class attended the rally to support the BSL Bill. Rose Ayling-Ellis (Eastenders and Strictly 2022 winner), Nadeem Islam (Small World, The Bay, also ex Tallis student) were on stage addressing the importance of passing the BSL Bill. We met a couple of ex Tallis students, Jazzy Whipps (Youtuber) and Benny Ngo (Youtuber) and they chatted with our students. It was an unequivocally historical event of epic proportions, especially when the reading swiftly passed with unopposed votes!
Great news! The House of Lords passed their 1st reading on 21st March 2022, and the 2nd reading is scheduled for 1st April 2022, where politicians will debate whether to pass the BSL Bill prior to Royal Assent. We at Tallis are optimistic that the House of Lords are in favour.
The day went smoothly, we were so grateful of the glorious weather and were met with a friendly and joyful atmosphere.
Channel 5 News broadcast the event.
Here are some comments from students:
-- Jane Newman, Deaf Support Centre
Four stories reflecting on teaching and studying science at Tallis:
My tale is one of fairness on the part of Thomas Tallis school. I left Nigeria in 2008 for my A-level program in London and my journey took me to Thomas Tallis school. My mum had researched some good schools in and around our neighbourhood at Thamesmead and Thomas Tallis was one of the schools that stood out because of the diversity of backgrounds of the student, as well as, the excellent academic record of the school. I indicated interest in joining the school, attended a few interviews and it seemed a good match.
However, since I was opting to study Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics and I had a credit in my WAEC chemistry result, there was doubt about my suitability to study A-level Chemistry at Tallis. Andrew Smythe called me for a one-on-one interview to ascertain my suitability for the program. I remember I was a bit nervous prior to the interview. Notwithstanding, during the interview, I explained why I was suitable for the science program at Tallis and why I believed I was capable of getting an A in Chemistry. I remember answering a few chemistry questions to Andrew's satisfaction and passing the entrance exam that was administered
To cut the long story short, the 2 years I spent studying at Thomas Tallis and under Andrew Smythe was one I'll never forget. Andrew always pushed me to become the absolute best version of myself and I ended up becoming one of the best students in my year - averaging above 90% in all 4 subjects I took!
As long as you're dedicated and willing to work hard, there is no limit to what you can achieve at Thomas Tallis. If I could do it, you can. They have an incredible collection of talented and supportive teachers to help you realise your potential.
The sky is the limit for you!
I started at Tallis in July of 2007 for the last two weeks of term, before officially starting NQT year in September 2007. I remember panicking during my interview lesson (observed my Andy and Mary) as the presentation I had spent hours preparing wouldn’t open up. Either I did a good job or they were really desperate as I landed my first Science teaching job with Andrew Wardell as my mentor and lucky to have my friend Aysha Karim for this journey.
Tallis days in the old building hold a lot of incredible memories and looking back this is where more of the ‘golden’ moments were. There are so many amazing memories, but one that was really poignant was the farewell ball at the old site. Tallis is definitely a place where personally I did a lot of “adulting”. Starting as a fresh faced twenty something year old to getting engaged, marriage, baby and then relocating to another country altogether.
During my time at Tallis, I had the privilege of meeting and teaching amazing students who taught me something every day. It was also amazing to have people like Mary Edmond, Andy Smythe, Andrew Wardell, Phil Manning Douglas Greig and Damien Quigg to learn from and grow as a teacher. Lifelong friends were also made and I’m grateful to have had the experience I did have at Tallis. The Science department will always hold a special place in my heart along with the amazing individuals both in Science and outside of Science.
When I left Tallis in 2015, I left as lead practitioner for Science with experience of being a deputy head of year. This experience really helped me in my current role as Head of Science in an International British Curriculum School in Dubai, UAE. I often do recall wisdom/strategies shared by Mary, Andrew, Andy, Zahra, Damien, Douglas Greig, Aysha, Alex Gibson, Kerry, Hanna Webber, Zoe Drysdale, Claire and Lucy, to name but a few.
Thank you Science and thank you Tallis!
-- Jahida Janna
My first impression of Tallis was on the 5th of July 2006, a rainy, summer day. It was the first open day I had ever attended and remember it like yesterday. It was the day that I met my best friend, Daan Deol, whom I have now known for over half of my life. We first met outside the ‘temporary’ huts, who could ever forget those?
The dark and dingy science corridor in the old building has been etched into my mind for eternity. I could never forget lining up for science classes and someone switching off the lights in the corridor to wreak some mayhem. I had always been curious and fascinated about science, which is why I decided to pursue science at university and become a scientist. That wouldn’t have been possible without all my past science teachers, Mr Wardell, Ms Janna, Ms Karim, Mr Smythe, Ms Claire, Ms Stenhouse and Ms Edwards.
I stayed on at sixth form and made some amazing friends, whom I keep in touch with to this day. I owe Ms McGowan a debt of gratitude for her support in applying to university. As a first-generation university applicant, she made it possible for me to pursue my passion. I am now nearing the end of my PhD in microbiology and will be starting a postdoctoral position at the University of Birmingham.
My tutor Ms Moon was always a constant source of support and encouragement. She had made the daunting experience of secondary school less arduous, and her patience with our tutor group MO was more than admirable. It was only years later after I had left Tallis that I found out she had died from cancer. I owe you, Ms Moon, endless gratitude.
And that is what Tallis has always meant to me; the people I met and the friends I made.
-- Ilyas Alav
My first day at Tallis was a memorable one for me and my brother Michael. Growing up, we watched a lot of American movies showing high school students wearing suits to school. So, preparing for our first day at Tallis, we had our suits ironed and ready. On getting to Tallis, we were the only ones wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Everyone stared at us throughout but some students came up to us and welcomed us, making us feel at home. Instead of being embarrassed about wearing a suit, we were made to feel comfortable, which showed us first-hand the values at Tallis.
-- George Ezeanaka
Titter ye not, but I’m a behaviour nerd. Such is the debasement of the language that you’d expect that to mean some super-strict schtick, and may be goggling at my effrontery. How can someone simultaneously be interested in school behaviour while allowing trainers? Woman’s a nutter.
Allow me. Teenagers need structure. They need it not just as training for adult life, though that’s a useful side-effect. They need structure because their brains are constantly reassessing and confronting potentialities. They’re risk takers, boundary-pushers, programmed to start breaking away from home and focus on independence and friends. Some do this more than others. Socio-economics notwithstanding, some are happy to fit in, some rebellious. Some arrive ready for pleasant community life, some are prickles and pickles from head to foot. The needs or desires of the one seem hardwired to clash with the deserts of the many.
This is the context for secondary behaviour management. How you respond thereafter is a matter of educational principles, of belief. Do these children need to be metaphorically battered into obedience to save them from themselves or coaxed into their best selves?
I’m thinking about the last 50 years in these pieces. I was about to go to a girls’ grammar school in 1971 which turned co-ed and comprehensive in 1973. I suspect there was little thought given to behaviour management in the former system, which may have been regretted after the merger. Some grammar school staff didn’t last long – or perhaps they were all very old, they seemed so to me, but that probably just meant they were over 30. As a schoolchild I was disorganised, lazy, opinionated and loquacious: the kind of combo that finishes off the weaker kind of chalk-botherer but is easily squashed by the stronger, or the more interesting. I spent a lot of time outside classroom doors but if anyone had even thought about phoning my mother I’d have been silent for a month. Parents’ evenings, as I must have told you before, held significant terrors for me and were often followed by Ominous Silence on the Home Front.
I don’t remember a behaviour management focus when I started teaching in the eighties, though you soon got a feel for the ones who could hack it and help you. Sanctions, as in punishments, weren’t routinely discussed. There was no expectation of restorative conversations, just a vague idea that children should know how to behave and be shouted at until they did - though probably the best colleagues had more strings to their bows. My second school was out of control and I left teaching for a bit. Later, in a middle management role in the nineties I got hooked into a US training programme called Assertive Discipline. Looking back, this was probably the start of the kind of detailed, consistent whole-school behaviour policies which are now everywhere. I love tangling with human nature and the systems seemed blindingly obvious to me. I became a trainer with the chance to help struggling teachers – but did it make a difference to my practice? I’m still a bit disorganised and personally disinclined to use rigid systems when I could generally generate a decent climate in the room by other means, notably a really interesting and quite challenging curriculum.
When I first clawed my way up the greasy pole to leadership I worked in an eccentric school with an arcane and largely unknown behaviour policy. We could codify simple expectations: do your homework, listen carefully, don’t swear and so on. A Deputy Head more experienced than I decided to set about the ‘unwritten rules’ which appeared to catch out lots of children – don’t go west to east along the upper science corridor, don’t use reception as a short cut into the lower science corridor and so on. She collected them into one document with brief explanations, twelve pages long and utterly unusable.
When I started as Head at the turn of the century we were up against it so introduced some quick and specific rules. In an exceptionally challenging school I still stopped short of monolithic classroom expectations because I knew I was temperamentally unsuited to enforcing them. Quality standards, yes. Identical structures, relationships and lessons – no. Did I let them down? Lazy, disorganised and opinionated again? Returning to the eccentric school we tightened it up a bit, got fiercer at the sharp end and one Head of Year introduced the only fully teacher-proof rewards system I’ve ever seen.
When I was interviewed at Tallis (finally, you gasp) no one talked about behaviour. I did, quite a lot, when I got the job and we’ve been on it ever since. Why? We’re a mixed community with liberal values. Children expect to have things explained to them. They don’t share similar backgrounds. We encourage debate. Parents are of all sorts. We have to be subtle and nuanced. We have to try to work for everyone. We are about as far from zero-tolerance as you can get and yet our behaviour is reliably good – a working definition of excellence, actually.
I’m not a nutter. I was recommended Professor Michael Marland’s matchless magisterial Craft of the Classroom in 1983 and I’ve clung to it ever since. A product of its time, it sets out the basics of behaviour management at classroom level and upon its methods rest all learning and good order in my view. I sometimes buy colleagues a copy for about a quid off the internet and at a penny a page it’s the very best value. Some bits need excising or explaining: this from a section on ‘physical action’ is very much of its time, for a book first published in 1975.
All that having been said, I must add that we are all human and tempers can be lost. There are very few teachers who have not struck a pupil at some time or another int heir career. A time will come when either you are in a particularly touchy state or a pupil is extremely irritating, and you strike out. Should this happen, don’t cover it up. Send at once for a senior member of staff. If one is not available, go to see your Head of Department or the Deputy Head as soon as the lesson is over.
We forget how far we’ve come.
I think that my view – the minimum rules needed for a fair and safe school - is reflected in the way that the United Nations characterised the conditions necessary for justice for young people, also in the eighties and expressed in eighties language:
Behaviour is a language of communication. Like all languages it needs to be learned and understood. It needs support and constant attention. Children learn how to behave well when they trust the adults around them to do the best they can. Adults do the best they can when they are appreciated, supported and trained. None of this is easily measurable but all of it is vital, vital to all of our fulfilment and happiness in every generation.
The young people of the twenty-twenties are learning to behave in a time of trial perhaps unprecedented, certainly unknown to the generations before them. We pressure and commodify our young through capitalism and the examination system in a way that raises expectations of equality just to crush them with the class boundaries we still, inexplicably, endure. They struggle with racism, gender-based violence as well as plain old misogyny and all in a context of pandemic, uncertainty and poverty for many and catastrophic, exploitative climate change that threatens us all.
Old Machiavelli lived in difficult times and had some difficult solutions to offer. But he knew that the state was safer if people’s lives weren’t made too difficult, and he underpinned that with a simple insight:
A city based on good laws and good orders has no necessity, as have others, for the virtue of a single man to maintain it.
It takes a community to raise a child and that community needs good laws and procedural regularity. That’s what we try to do at Tallis, fairly, and persistently. As we build up our young folks to lead the future we dare to be different, we stick with difficulty and we tolerate uncertainty. We try very hard to do it fairly, because there’s no peace without justice.
I arrived at Tallis in September 1993, having led a rather sheltered life. Well turned out for the first day in my new shiny black trousers and even shinier black shoes, it soon became clear that rather than being a place of conformity and rule following, Tallis was a melting pot of characters where the whiff of rebellion was ever present.
Whether it was the Thomas the Tank Engine apron proudly warn by Mrs Young, or the Tibetan Flags that were festooned across room 43 (Ms O having spent the summer immersing herself in an Asian adventure of apparently epic proportions), the pupils, staff and subjects that made Tallis were like nothing I’d ever experienced.
The 5 years leading to my GCSEs were the very best, and very worst of times. Throughout the ups and downs, Tallis became a home. It was the unfailing support , perseverance and determination of a great many people that meant I made it to year 11 in reasonable shape. Bar one red ticket (absolutely Shane’s fault, Ms Leeke!), some infrequent detentions and the occasional bollocking, I was usually on the right side of the law as far as school was concerned.
Mrs Maguire had introduced me to politics and I was enjoying representing the school in our local youth council, learning more about democracy and very much finding my voice. It was a passion that gripped me from an early age and although none of our formal education had been political, Ms O, Mr J and others had informally educated us on the intricacies of the geopolitical landscape. Mr Mandela - revered. Mr Major - not so much.
Anyway, the summer was approaching and I was doing my best to keep those year 11 plates spinning in the air, aided ably by the wonderful Mrs R. I was the only student for her half term revision class, the subject of which was the power of aromatherapy oils and the hidden powers you could unleash to get through your exams. It was great fun. Armed with more lavender than a small branch of Holland and Barrett and an array of highlighters, I was motoring towards the end and making good progress.
Except for Italian.
Now, the languages faculty was a big deal at Tallis and filled with some big characters. Exotic menus of global cuisines adorned the walls. As a very fussy eater it all looked pretty disgusting (me being much more a fan on the turkey twizzler than the tortellini) but Ms C had persevered with us for almost 2 years, desperate to make the kids from the Ferrier authentic for any future trips to Florence. Sadly, I was more captivated by her colourful use of the overhead projection than I was trying to pretend to buy a second class rail ticket from Rome to Venice and by the February-March time, with just weeks to go, I had decided (inspired in part by the icons Summer and Streisand) that enough was enough.
My lobbying efforts were well underway by early March to rid me of this evil (to be fair, Mrs C was very evidently feeling the same way at this point) and despite eloquent, extended explanations to all of the senior team, no one was prepared to let me drop the bloody subject. I was furious. Seething. Livid about the amount of time I was wasting on this pointless endeavour!
A brief flashback to a year 10 history listen - I was a big fan of the suffragettes - led me to the firm conclusion that a period of direct action was required. After all, I couldn’t be the only one feeling like this! (Year 11 was a rollercoaster - Emmeline Pankhurst one moment, Adrian Mole the next…) So having evaluated all options, I swiftly eliminated window breaking, hunger striking or chaining myself to anything.
An organised walk out would be my chosen method of attack. Although I wouldn’t be in lessons, I had considered all legal arguments and was pretty sure there was a world of difference between truanting and protesting.
Pandora was recruited as my fellow commander and we got to work on the specifics. It’s bizarre to think that we had no WhatsApp, Facebook or any platform to really communicate at scale. I didn’t even have a mobile phone! So we reverted to the trusted communication method that has served those dessert islanders so well over the centuries - the rolled up piece of paper. Pandora and I both had excellent handwriting, but it was fairly recognisable and whilst we were happy to organise, we hadn’t quite settled on going public as protestors in chief. At that stage of our education, one of the benefits of year 11 was the 2 hours twice a week discovering the joys of word processing. So we set ourselves to work.
Languages walk out. Enough is enough. Meet at the year base period 4 Wednesday.
As Pandora and I were both quite proficient in IT, we decided to upgrade this rather dull message to something more fitting, a revolutionary call to arms. Though I can’t be absolutely sure, I’d imagine that comic sans was the most likely font of choice and as we were doing well with Mrs B and the word processy stuff, we were able to arrange a perfect set of label printing. We needed 210 of those (1 for each of the year group as we were in a 7 x 30 combination at that stage). Rotatrims we’re in ample supply across the school and we were fortunate to have an unending supply of the year 11 must-have accessory: the clear plastic wallet - big thanks to WH Smith at this point, still the nation’s best stationer in my view.
I enlisted a series of lieutenants and gave them 10 each, instructing the message to be disseminated broadly across the year group. A good strategy I thought and one that would mean a charge of joint enterprise in the event that we were uncovered.
So with messages printed, distributed and the date of the revolution set, all there was to do was wait.
And before too long, it was D-Day.
In the run up to the day itself, chat was fairly muted - most people weren’t aware that me and P were commanders in chief. Many were dealing with impending coursework deadlines or the latest emotional crisis. I’d wondered whether this was all going to be a rather damp squib.
But, arriving into school that morning, I knew we were on. There was an electric current in the air as we geared up for action. Huddled whispers, nervous giggles - and not a clue about what was to come from our unsuspecting teachers.
It was suddenly break time and as usual we headed to the year base. It was a fairly warm day and we would normally have been outside, but a spontaneous solidarity now united us.
Suddenly, commotion. An almighty racket from the door leading out. What the hell was going on?
Having headed round the corner, I was momentarily lost for words. The 11RS lads (very much a motley crew) were suddenly amassing any piece of available furniture they could lay their hands on and for some unexplained reason barricading all of us inside the year bus. Chairs, tables, trays - it all went on, piling higher and higher by the second. Having intervened to ask what the bloody hell was going on, one of them replied they were stopping us from going to languages, having apparently completely misinterpreted the note!!! As I ran over to stop the false start, a very angry Mr B was heading towards the door at speed, hollering and shouting - we assumed - for the immediate cessation of activities! As that failed, he launched into a sort of fly kick, desperately trying to break the barricade, at the door! Panic ensued in the year base, with most now exiting through the emergency door, or the window for those feeling more adventurous!
Period 3 was over in a flash, and the familiar tone of the pips signalled the beginning of the revolution: operation walk out was on! I sprinted to the year base, to find not one, not two but many revolutionaries who had answered our call. I also found Pandora, who was now mildly hysterical. Lots of noise and swirling about before someone came up to me (my cover blown) and said: so what now? At that very moment, I was panic stricken, it suddenly dawning on me that I’d done all the work to get us here but hadn’t actually planned what next. We had no placards, or purple and green sashes, no organised meeting point…just most of the year group who were now looking to me for direction.
“To the back fields”, I bellowed possibly accompanied by a revolutionary fist in the air. Off we went, huddled together (Pandora and I) now in the middle of the throng, marching purposefully under a Tallis blue sky, all buzzing that things seemed to be going well (so far!).
We were suddenly at the very furthest point of the field, adjacent to the railway line, which seemed as good a place as any to set up shop. We arranged ourselves in groups and mostly sat down. After moments of what seemed like a party atmosphere the air was penetrated by the amplified tones of Mr B.
“Stop, stop right there. We know who you all are” he boomed, megaphone in hand and flanked by at least 20 teachers who had arranged themselves in a line formation and were advancing towards the revolutionaries. As they moved closer, everyone stood up, unsure what would come next. Suddenly, and without warning, one of my number shouted, “RUN”…
And with that, we all did. Quickly, bags in hand, arranging ourselves neatly into a sweeping formation that meant we could escape their advances. “Danny Thorpe, stop right now” one of them screeched, but they had absolutely no chance. Whilst any sporting talents had eluded me so far, my feet were very much to the metal and we were ascending at speed into the building…
Almost hyperventilating, I fell through the door into the Italian classroom. A sweaty, ginger, hysterical mess. And Mrs C was furious. Practically steaming. She ordered us straight back outside and made clear we were not welcome in her room anymore. Trying desperately to get ourselves together, we were soon discovered my Ms L, senior, serious and furious. She was actually much friendlier than her general demeanour suggested, but she was not to be messed with. Her inquisitions were always of a serious nature when her glasses were moving and today was absolutely one of those days. Her demands for answers to explain just what on earth had been going on only made me and P more hysterical, but luckily for us she was soon distracted! A number of the RS lads were now in full flow at the other end of the corridor, reenacting some kind of battle scene as they escaped from the increasingly furious teachers, whose echoey shouts could be heard from all four corners of Planet Tallis as the revolutionaries entered the building.
It was fair to say that the unfolding chaos wasn’t quite what we had planned. And I’d had far more fun than I would have had if my time had been consumed with the seemingly never ending exploration of Italian tenses!
Lunch time was a weird affair. Word had got round and upon encountering any year 11 pupils, the teachers would simply look in disgust. Carol, who ran the dinner operation at Tallis, broke ranks, screaming enthusiastically at any year 11 she could find how disgusted she was with the mornings events.
But there must be more? They must be planning something, we pondered, fairly sure that there would be consequences for our actions. And sure enough, we were right.
Halfway through period 6, we were instructed to down tools and gather our things. Immediately. Directed to the door, it was clear that Operation Strike Back was underway. Marched in silence to the goldfish bowl that was the Sports Hall, we were arranged into tutor groups for the bollocking of our lives.
Understandably, they were beyond furious. And as the torrent of anger rained down, it’s fair to say we weren’t laughing any more. Poor Mr J (Head of Year, Top bloke) looked close to tears, declaring “you’re all sheep” and running between us hollering “baaaaaaaaaaaa” at the assembled masses. The dawning reality that we’d probably taken the poor guy closer to the edge than at any time during his 5 years of shepherding our flock was a sure fire way to bring the party to an end.
There wasn’t really any discussion about a second strike, and after Mr J’s worrying display, I developed the view that I should simply shut up and get on with it.
By some miracle, I ended up with a C in Italian at GCSE, a grade I’m sure I could have improved if I’d concentrated on my studies instead of revolution.
-- Danny Thorpe, Leader of Royal Borough of Greenwich Council
The following article appeared in the Kentish Times in January 1974. The text is included below. It certainly represents some interesting views of secondary education in the 1970s, not least the radical idea that boys and girls should both learn needlecraft and woodwork! Ambitions to knit the school more securely into the fabric of the nearby housing estate were certainly realised in subsequent years. Fascinating stuff!
THOMAS TALLIS pupils should grow up to be the most "liberated" people in the area if their school training is anything to go by.
They are the only local school to have mixed classes in all the indoor lessons with boys learning needlecraft along with the girls, and girls joining the boys for woodwork and metalwork.
"If anything, the girls are better than the boys at metalwork because they come along with no preconceived ideas and are very willing to be taught," says the teacher.
And the boys are as good as the girls at needlecraft - last term some of them made needlework collages, which involved hemming and, in some cases, sewing on. buttons. It should one day cut down on the mending of their wives!
Gym lessons and some other games classes are also mixed, and so is the basketball team, which is often a great surprise to teams from visiting schools. The school even boasts a female football team.
Yet such modern ideas come from a very young school. Thomas Tallis opened in Briset Road, Kidbrooke, in September 1971, and moved to new buildings in Kidbrooke Park Road last September.
The new premises are not yet complete. The first block is occupied by nearly 600 pupils, aged from 11 to 14, but the second block, which will house another 700 pupils, is not expected to be completed until next year.
Built on a fairly open plan, the school has many unusual features - carpet on ll the floors, except in the laboratories, a games hall, a sixth form common room, with snack bar, and the latest equipment in the gym and laboratories.
The Thomas Tallis Youth Centre is also housed at the school, and an evening institute block will be incorporated in the new building - along with a home economics wing and more classrooms.
One of the criticisms often made of comprehensive schools in that they are impersonal but headmistress Mrs Beryl Husain is adamant that this does not apply in her school.
"Although we do not have a house system here, each year has a year head, who gets to know everyone and, of course, from teachers get to know their pupils extremely well," says Mrs Husain. "I cannot claim to know all the pupils, but then how many heads of smaller schools can really claim to know the pupils well, even if they know them all by name."
The school was designed to be an integral part of the Ferrier Estate, and Mrs Husain is always happy o arrange for visitors to look round the school - although few take the opportunity.
Later, it is hoped to start various community projects, leading to the children becoming more involved with the area.