Hot on the heels of the image uploaded by Ian Heffer, it's motivated me to delve into my old photographs and dig out a picture of the first rugby team at Tallis. As you can see we didn't necessarily have the right kit or footwear but we had spirit and we didn't let the heavy losses to rugby playing schools like St Joseph's and Shooters Hill GS get us down.
Back row L-R:
Front Row L-R:
-- Richard Cox
The following image was kindly submitted by Ian Heffer who features in it. If you are in the photo or have great memories of playing sports at Tallis, please get in touch. You can leave a comment here or submit your own story.
This is the 1st 11 football team for Thomas Tallis in 1971. The picture was taken at the temporary school in Eltham (the old Thomas a Becket school). The names I can recall are as follows:
Back row left to right:
Russell Taylor, Paul Baker, Michael Dennis, (?), (?), (?)
Paul (?), Nicky Laffer, Charlie Piggott, Dale (?) Ian Prosser, Paul Madeley, and myself Ian Heffer.
At the time the school only consisted of one year and no girls were to join for a further two years. My class was 1TU. Teacher: Mr Stuart Turpie.
-- Ian Heffer
I write this as part of a celebration of 50 years of Thomas Tallis School in 2022. This reminds me of 1997 when, as Head of the Staff Association, I organised the 25th Anniversary event, held at The National Maritime Museum Greenwich. Former and current staff came together for a wonderful evening of celebration in a tremendous setting; indeed a perfect metaphor for Tallis - the centre of the world, the Mean Time.
I worked at Tallis from 1985 to 2019 under all its Headteachers, whilst fulfilling a wide range of roles and responsibilities - Head of Pavilion (On site Unit); Youth Centre worker (in the early days Tallis had both a Youth Centre and a Community Centre where on most days OAPs were welcomed – this later became the 6th form base); Deputy Head of Year; SENCo – I have probably done more IEPs, (Individual Education Plans) than are healthy to do – one year they took 400 hours+ at home and they were still not completed; Head of Citizenship and PSHE; teacher of Social and Religious Education (SRE), Pastoral Studies, Humanities, A-Level Sociology, A-Level Psychology, which I introduced into the school; Chief Invigilator/Exams once I retired from teaching; and also Parent Governor.
Our son, Lewis, went to Tallis and his words are salient:
I went into a tutor group, year 7, where there were 30 pupils and for about 10, English was not their first language. I was so lucky to have that, such richness of diversity. The school portrayed the best of humanity. All children were given a chance and it was so wonderful what it stood for, in its inclusivity, collaborative learning, every child being given a chance, and demanding and producing excellent results. At its best, people were not allowed to fail and there was a focus on the Arts - and winning football teams!. A child was allowed to be!
In its early days, possibly due to the rather unfortunate reputation of the Ferrier Estate which was on its doorstep, Tallis was certainly not the flavour of the month. However, by the 90s, according to National league tables, it was considered to be in the top 200 schools in the country, at least for A-Level. How did this ‘bog standard comprehensive’ in SE London attain such pre-eminence? No doubt the headteachers: Beryl Hussein, Colin Yardley, Nick Williams, Rob Thomas and more recently Carolyn Roberts, and key Deputies – Allen Skuse, Agatha Maguire (who sadly passed away so young), Spyros Elia and Rosemary Leeke, all helped set a tone and create an environment where teachers and pupils could thrive. However I am sure that they would all say that it was everyone - all teachers, pupils, support staff, even the building itself that helped make and ensure that Tallis was a very special place. While always maintaining respect for others, Tallis was an institution that had a clear sense of confidence in itself, its identity and practices, and this led to creative innovation, self belief and solid teaching, and dedication that demanded the best from its teachers and pupils. There was envy around. I once heard a teacher from another school say in a public meeting, “Oh, Tallis, you have to be a girl with a double barrelled name, play the cello and live on the Cator Estate to go there”. And such myths were marvellous because the facts were quite different. Indeed as SENCo, each year, I organised reading age tests for all incoming pupils, and generally at least 75% of the year were at, or more usually below, their actual age. Obviously as a local comprehensive we had no say regarding entrants, even our own children. Lewis was initially 93rd on the waiting list. Only the parents of Statemented children had that right and many, many used it, no doubt attracted by the overall success of the school and because Special Needs had a very good reputation. The school was the first in London to gain the prestigious ‘Basic Skills Agency Quality Mark’. Also, the Local Authority chose Tallis as the home for the Speech and Language and Hearing Impaired Units.
So success must have been due to the practices developed once students arrived. The old school was crumbling but not in spirit! There was a clear sense that both the pastoral and the academic – the whole child – were important. Great emphasis was given to extracurricular activities - after all, if you ask a student about memories it is usually what went on outside the classroom that first comes to mind. For myself, I am very proud that as football manager for the older students I managed to get to a few London Cup Finals, including beating private schools on the way, and winning the competition later became the norm under Richard Ankar. Also, when I moved into Debating after an invite from a competition the day after I was sacked as Football manager by the inimitable Terry Richards (after a couple of sendings off and the worst refereeing display I had ever witnessed, including a goal being disallowed for offside after our captain, in his anger at decisions, had dribbled from just outside our penalty box past every one of the opposition team and put the ball in their net). Not only did we win various debating competitions but we were also asked to represent London in Paris as part of the Entente Cordiale celebrations. Various public schools requested that we join their Debating League. Turning up to compete at Westminster School will be remembered by us all as one the scariest moments of our lives. John Bradshaw’s generosity of spirit also led to us to representing the school in a discussion group at 10, Downing Street for a meeting with Tony Blair and George Brown. Wow!
For a mixed comprehensive to be successful it has to ensure that all abilities want to go there and that it maintains a healthy mix of girls and boys. Colin was brilliant in managing to get middle class parents to demand and trust Tallis instead of sending their children to private or selective schools, of which there are many locally. This was achieved not only by going on a ‘Ferrier Watch’ every lunchtime and chasing after any miscreants, but also emphasising the importance of Art, Drama, English and Music, ably assisted by people such as Howard Nicholson, Cath Barton, Geraldine O’Mahoney and Keith Lark, in leading their subject teachers; too many people to mention, all brilliant. Speaking of Colin, as a ‘Gooner’ I always saw him as George Graham, with Nick Williams as Arsene Wenger – keeping up the great defence but with a bit more style. Indeed the old school could be seen as Highbury, without the grandeur, and the new build as The Emirates. It looks good but perhaps something is missing.
When every teacher left they were given a farewell speech and if they had been there for a couple of years they were expected to reply with their own. When Colin left it was a bit more special… far more song and dance, including a rendition of ‘Love Letters’… In the breaks I read out, totally flat and without dramatics, words from the many disciplinary letters he gave to me. I don’t think anyone could fully understand why I got so many. One was because I had been absent – in fact I did not have a day’s absence for more than 22 years. On the day in question I had organised paternity leave anyway; however, sadly, on that day, my mother died… and yet there was his disciplinary letter! But I loved the man.
A few more words about The Pavilion. It was the on-site unit for pupils who were struggling, or creating struggles in the classroom. One boy ‘just’ came to the unit for drama. That subject ruined his entire week. Another could not face any ‘normal’ lessons. Each student had their own reasons, their own stories. I came with quite a therapeutic, psychoanalytical background, and it was interesting to introduce these approaches both in the 'Pav' and in training sessions in the school. I grew to be doubtful about the convergence of therapy and teaching, but it was really fascinating at the time. There was only one pupil who frightened me in over 45 years of working with young people. I interviewed them all on entry to the Pavilion. He sat so tightly, saying nothing. I was quite fearful that he might suddenly explode and attack me. My dog Charlie came in and rested by him. I was very afraid for my dog. The boy did not move and did not respond to my words. Charlie’s head rested next to his knee. This seemed to go on forever, and then the boy’s hand moved and he started stroking Charlie. Symbolically he was joining the group, and Charlie had done all the sophisticated work.
Beryl Husein was invited to a pupil-cooked lunch at the 'Pav' a couple of weeks after I started. From day one, without asking, because I thought if I asked then refusal would have been the only reply, my dog Charlie (golden retriever/border collie mix) had come to school with me, as he had in my previous place of employment. On her return to the main school Beryl said, “I was given two wonderful pork chops”, whereas what I remembered most was the incredible lick that Charlie had given her and her look of bliss. Charlie worked there for the rest of his life. Interestingly the whole area was an RAF base during the war, with the Pavilion being a hospital for injured airmen. Charlie seemed to feel their ghosts.
There was something wonderfully ‘Napoleon’ about Beryl, diminutive but colossal. Indeed when I arrived a couple of minutes late for my first SSC (Senior Staff Committee) meeting, having in that short time sorted and cleared up the blood after a very rare contretemps in the 'Pav', she said very clearly and firmly “Richard, I do not want to hear the reasons why, but if you are ever late again, do not bother to come ever again”. Clear messaging!
I was Deputy Head of Year to ‘Mrs Tallis’, Margaret Young, another wonderfully formidable woman – there were so many at the school. Pupils thought her very hard, but she had a very kind heart; indeed she was often soft cop to my hard. She would have hated the pupils realising this. Every day she wore her ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ apron. It always seemed incredible to me that by the end of the first week of term she could put names to faces of all the 210 children. Our year base overlooked the concourse; marvellous for her to keep an eagle eye over all proceedings! Indeed, one summer, Colin and I knocked down the dividing wall between classrooms so as to make a proper sized year base. Not sure too many headteachers would do, or be allowed to do that nowadays. The NRA, annual National Record of Achievement Ceremonies, probably called ‘The Prom’ nowadays, were started by Margaret but evolved into the most wonderful events, especially led by Tim Joyce and Cath Barton, when all the leaving Year 11 students, their parents and special guests came together in celebration. In 1992 Margaret asked me to ‘run’ it. No Deputy had ever done this. I bought a special Hugo Boss cream linen suit. Everyone wore their finest. I shall never forget turning around on the stage and seeing Colin in an almost identical outfit. It was also raining heavily, and totally worryingly I had lost my speech – I had raced home twice to try to find it, which I did 3 weeks later in my car - and the moment for coordinating and giving the welcome and core speech of the evening was getting ever closer. One of my tutees, Chris Williams, said, “Don’t worry Sir, you will do fine”. I didn’t feel it.
Pastoral issues were always taken very seriously, and Tim, Cath and I had counselling training. I became a sort of specialist in working with older students, Year 10/11 and 6th formers, writing all the key reports and testimonials and supporting them in putting together their UCAS statements. And over the possible 5 years of staying with a tutor group one had the privilege of getting to know the parents really well, always phoning home that day if their child was absent, and it was embedded in the culture of the school that one worked alongside the parents in getting the best for their child.
Special times were the ’Reading Weeks’, held every year, where literature and reading took pride of place, largely organised by the English faculty. I was very pleased when Nick Hornby, of ‘Fever Pitch’ etc fame, and the future Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, each accepted my invitation to spend a day with staff and students. Carol Ann was a close friend of my wife’s family; indeed the poem ‘Warming her Pearls’, studied by so many pupils, is dedicated to Sara’s mother Judith, who had first alerted Carol Ann to what became the central theme of the poem. Neither writer demanded a fee.
Geography field work weeks are also fondly remembered. Many staff took part, although Stuart Turpie, another who has sadly passed away, and the Darenth/Dartford studies plus Margate trips remain vivid in the memory. There we were on top of a huge vacuous, empty gravel pit and Mr. Turpie says, “This is going to become a huge shopping centre”. Oh yeah right!? – and now it is: Bluewater! Coming back from Margate and the coach full of kids and breaking down on the M2 will also not be forgotten. Inverliever Activity Centre in the Highlands of Scotland became a regular venue for students, massively encouraged by Colin, Tim Joyce and Keith Lark; although for me, travelling up on April 15th 1989, and desperately trying to keep up with the Arsenal game I was missing, all became largely irrelevant with the news from Hillsborough.
Activity weeks were fantastically enjoyable with everybody undertaking incredible adventures out of school to all manner of places and things. Except, of course, for the day of the 7/7 bombings, when hundreds of Tallis kids and their teachers were stranded all over London, miles from Kidbrooke, and everything shut or closed down, and they all had to walk home safely.
Elliot Furneux and Martin Collier were two teachers who enthusiastically promoted pantomimes by the teachers for the kids at Christmas time. So many took part, but without their drive it is doubtful they would have happened. Very firmly in my memory bank at least is my ‘Loads Of Money’, (Harry Enfield) and Mr Blobby, but I am sure all teachers have their own stories. What is worth highlighting is that there were many times of fun, laughter and enjoyment alongside all the academic hard work. Have times changed?
Jamie Oliver’s TV series based on improving nutrition and school meals was filmed at Kidbrooke School and Tallis, and I remember Jamie serving me my lunch. Interestingly, because Tallis students took to his dishes so positively, and there were no parents lobbing chips over the fence to their distraught sons and daughters, the series seemed to be ¼ Tallis and ¾ Kidbrooke. There is a message there somewhere.
Because I worked most of all on the Pastoral, SEN, Arts and Humanities side of the curriculum my insights into Maths and Sciences are limited. They can tell their own stories. However Mr Carvin must be mentioned. He was so wonderfully old school, always in his slippers and his white lab coat. He was totally feared and totally loved. One look achieved impeccable behaviour and for this he was respected. The students felt absolutely safe in his company. They were going to learn.
There are so many stories that could be told:
In 1990, With Colin’s agreement, 9RS set up a business - ‘DK Enterprises’, with pupil Sonya Reader as CEO, a sort of lunchtime tuck shop. Soon we were making over £400 a week. Every child in 9RS was involved and paid for their work, and we had more money in our business bank account than the school had in theirs. Colin demanded our closure and put all the money to school projects such as Martin Dean being paid to restore the school exam tables!
Other memories include the introduction of formal organised counselling, headed by Jane Weinberg; ‘Red Rum’, perhaps the greatest Grand National horse ever, visiting the school; Fred the groundsman and his 32 procedures to create the perfect wicket; Sports Days and student/pupil games; uniform innovations, later followed by almost every school; Friday lunchtime football in the old sports hall, with year 11 for many years, each week a mini/massive epic which all ended with the a/b weeks; close links with the National Theatre; Brian Jones and my A-Level group achieving 100% pass and all A* or A; Nick Williams and his superb managing of the school throughout his tenure, especially during times of crisis, including tragically a murder; Nicholas Serota of The Tate Gallery being headteacher for the day; the move to a new build.
But, most of all, every teacher in every department and every student everyday and their hard work to achieve success and often with a smile on their faces. So here’s to 50 more years!
-- Richard Stubbs
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.
The following interview with Richard Cox and George Taylor was recorded in 2018. Thanks to both them for sharing their memories of the early days of Thomas Tallis School. You can listen to the recording or read the transcript below.
My name is Richard Cox. I went to Thomas Tallis. My first day was the sixth of September 1971, the day that it opened. So I was one of 120 original boys, no girls then, that went to Thomas Tallis. It was at a time when there was a shortage of secondary source spaces and there was a plan to open up Thomas Tallis, further down the line, in Kidbrooke to cope with the the demand of the new people coming onto the Ferrier Estate. But, in September '71, the school hadn't been built and we had to spend two years at Briset Road. So, that was my introduction to Thomas Tallis.
I've never been a student at Thomas Tallis but my son is a friend of Richard's and he started on the same day in '71. Because my son was coming to the school, I took an interest in what was happening. And I was a parent governor for a number of years. I stayed a parent governor for about three or four years and then my daughter came to the school.
In the early days, there were only four teachers. There was Mr. Turpie who everyone will know and love. We've lost him recently, which is a big shame. But we also had Mr. Richter and Mr. Evans and Mr. Martindale. So they were our four teachers. Mr. Evans specialised in general science, Mr. Richter was English and Mr. Martindale taught maths. Mr. Turpie was geography. And we had a temporary Head for one term, Mr. Davis. And there was a Mr. Edwards who was the deputy head at the time and he taught history. So we didn't have a broad curriculum. In those days, we didn't have any sports facilities like you've got now. Fantastic sports facilities. The students here are very lucky in that respect. But we just had to get on with it. So it was very a big learning curve for everybody. In those early days we had a fantastic basketball team. The first intake got to the last eight of the national competition. And we played against a school from Hampstead down here in the old building. The gallery was packed with teachers and students watching us. It was a really close game. We lost it, but the sporting achievements were fantastic. And of course, in those early days, the school produced Pat Van Den Hauwe, do you remember him? He went on to play for Tottenham and Everton. He was in the year below me. Yeah, that's right. He had a brother called Rudy but I don't think he was that great. But yeah, what Tallis gave me was the friendships, the social interactions, because all of the people that I grew up with are still my friends. I mean, we've been friends for 47 years. So it's a, it's a big deal for me. I left school with virtually no qualifications. But we all make our way in life and some of us went on to great things. I've just retired. I'm not complaining. I've had a good life. Thomas Tallis set me on my way. There was a big reunion about 15 years ago. The teachers were there and it was as if we were really good friends. I mean, we used to call them by their first names. I'm not sure you get that anymore. I went on to form friendships with some of the teachers outside of school with rugby. So a lot of the teachers here came to play for Charlton Park and that's the rugby club that I was taken to by one of the teachers who played there, so that set me up for life. They treated you like adults, and they encouraged you. And they let you get on with things. They let you learn. They let you use blow torches and things like that in the metalwork classes. You didn't have to worry about health and safety. Everything was common sense. And they kept you on the straight and narrow. It was like a family atmosphere.
Well I'm afraid I'm going to pour some cold water on it because I haven't got very many positives. Some of the experiences Richard is telling you about were anathema to a parent of my age. First name terms with teachers and so on and so forth. My son, like Richard, what was it...? O Levels...?
We were so far behind. For the first two years, we did virtually nothing. Because we didn't have the building. We were in Briset Road, a very confined space. We just did the basics so when we came to Kidbrooke Park Road, it was catch up. And they tried to bring people in, they tried to cram but it didn't work. There were only a handful of people that went on to do O Levels. Most people did CSEs. So the academic achievement was non-existent. Of course, you didn't have league tables, you didn't have the pressure of trying to achieve in 1976. You could walk out the front door, and you could get a job. You didn't have to worry about qualifications. You could write to a bank and say, "I'd like to come and work at the bank" and you'd get a response or a nice letter back saying "Come and have an interview". And they'd give you a job and there were jobs aplenty. From a personal perspective, I didn't feel cheated. It's only later in life, that you feel cheated when you realise that you haven't had the education that you deserve, when the promotions are not there at work. So that's interesting.
I can really reiterate a lot of what Richard said in relation to my son who suffered at some stages from word blindness and something else. Turns out, far too late, he was discovered to be dyslexic. But like Richard, this particular group, and the group that he's talking about, all went on to degrees of some kind or other, mainly by their own efforts after they left school. My son struggled for some time. He did get a good job at the local town hall. But he came home one day and said, "Will you sign these papers?" He went to work on a kibbutz for six months, and then it turned out to be a year. And then he walked across the bottom of Africa. "Is he going to settle down?" He did. And would you believe he got a flat with another school friend on the Ferrier Estate. I helped decorate it. But the positives are not very great. I mean, looking at it now, it's marvellous. I do remember when the governors interviewed Mr. Lark. And I was greatly tempted to ask him if he could do a Byrd song at the interview when he had his bag with all his music in it. I wished I'd asked him "What do you intend to do to tie in the school to Thomas Tallis the organist?" Taking up what Richard said about the family atmosphere, having left school with very few qualifications as they did, my son or my daughter, both have had success. My son is now retired, in fact. He was a police inspector when he retired. My daughter had, and we've still got it, a coat that she made here. It was in a glass case in in the foyer of the school. And she now has a beauty business. Very successful. I have nieces, not nephews, actually, who passed through the school and all of whom took degrees at various universities. I have great nieces who came to the school and both of those went on to a degree education. So whatever it was, was planted in those early days. Whilst it might not have benefited the originals, it's benefited a lot of other people since.
Well, I feel I've been cheated in terms of facilities you've got now because we never had those opportunities. In Briset Road we had a very tiny gymnasium. There was also a big sports hall but it had a concrete floor and was very cold. Looking around at the facilities here, the basketball arena, the dojo, the studios, the gymnastics hall. These students are so lucky to have those facilities. And there isn't anything that can stop them from going on to achieve. They can, if they want, be the best. They've got an opportunity to be the best.
Through my own son. I know the affection that he had for the school because he won't have anything set against it. He held the long jump record at the school for a long time. It probably still stands. But that brings up another point. When the Inner London Education Authority went against all competitive sports, and you've got children who are good at competitive sport, but a little bit weak on the academic side, they've got something to wave their banner about. As Richard said about basketball, my son played basketball with Mr. Turpie. But again, we missed out as parents where our children didn't get what we thought they should have got.
I've got no regrets about coming here like Russell (George's son), I wouldn't say anything against it. It was a great, great school.
George kindly donated some photos of the school being built from 1971: