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Tiemer said Nordic has built a couple of 28 SS models with some big custom power, but that this was its first 28-footer with a Mercury 1350 and M8 drive. Sins of the FathersThe end of an educational ideal by Paul Foot'School, what is school, nobody really knows what it is. The small mining towns of Buckhaven and Methil are not the perfect background for progressive social experiment. As I talked with (or rather listened to) Hamish Roger in the old art-room, his enthusiasm for his pupil's work began to take hold of him, until he was ripping old canvases off the cupboards and spreading them out on the floor. School is a place kids go to to be taught subjects such as math's, English and many other subjects. They hover gloomily on the Firth of Forth, their buildings and beaches blackened by the grime from the Wellesley colliery, shortly to close. Along came Wells and challenged them all – particularly Caesar and Napoleon.'Where possible, at Galashiels and at Kirkcaldy, Mackenzie tried to get his children out of the classroom and into the countryside. School is not a thing to be laughed at, because it helps many people to get on in the world. Most of the men work, or worked, in the coal mines up and down the coastline – notably the large Michael colliery at East Wemyss which, many local people believe, may close after two recent gas explosions.
Long ago, many people never had schools, and only the very rich people had tutors.'The leader-writer in this term's first issue of the Braehead News is Helen Tulley, 13, a pupil starting her final year at Braehead Secondary School, in Buckhaven, Fife. Two of the nine miners killed in the disaster at the Michael pit last month were fathers of children at Braehead School.
The good one knew the other was bad, but was quite happy to work on the project together with him, happily for many days. If you ask her for quotes, she will say that she disapproves of Braehead because it does not do enough 'teaching of subjects like math's, English and other subjects' and therefore does not 'help people to get on in the real world'. But experiment and reform, it was clear, were only to be encouraged as long as they made no real impact on the school or on the community.There was no immediate revolution when Mackenzie took over Braehead. But in private she is delighted that she goes to Braehead and is on the Braehead News editorial board and not sweating it out in classes in the High School up the road.Her younger school-friends will not have the choice. Fife County Council decided on 12th December last year that Braehead would be closed down and incorporated in the High School as a comprehensive. Neill, the famous libertarian educationist, was forced to practise his theories with the children of middle-class liberal parents who could afford his fees.
An older member of the staff admitted his astonishment at discovering in one of Mackenzie's books that 'the Headmaster really thought of all that'. Most other reformers of modern times – Currie of Dartington Hall is the most obvious example – have taught children who have been 'properly brought up'.
Normal curricula, normal routines, normal techniques dominated the early years at Braehead. But art for the children's sake.'Hamish Roger was standing now in the middle of his art-room, the entire floor and most of the walls covered with painted canvases and photographs of murals. By contrast, the children of Braehead come from tough, rough backgrounds where every penny must be counted.
Only the closing date is still in doubt.Unlike the usual groans about comprehensive schemes - that the grammar schools will be 'leveled down' by secondary modern incorrigibles – most of the complaints voiced are concerned solely with the closing of Braehead School. When asked whether the school should have a uniform, Mackenzie, who hates uniforms, shrugged his shoulders and said that the children could decide.
They will spend the money on digests of Plato.'In late 1960, a young mountaineer called Hamish Brown called in at the school and asked if he could fill in three spare months teaching English. For Braehead has become, in the past ten years, one of the most remarkable State schools in Britain.Scottish reactions to the 'Butler' Education Act of 1944 (the Scottish equivalent was passed in 1945) were slower than in England, and it was not until 1957 that the 'comprehensive' system operating in towns like Buckhaven went over to the recommended structure of senior secondary (grammar) and junior secondary (secondary modern). He has to take them as they come, unsoftened (or unspoilt) by the veneer of good manners and liberal generosity. Before long, he organised expeditions into the Highland mountains and moors of Inverness-shire and Argyllshire. Braehead was a 'comprehensive' until 1957, rigidly streamed but containing under one leaking roof the bright pupils of Scottish Certificate grade as well as the drop-outs. He managed to persuade the staff to abandon 'the belt' (a Scottish euphemism for corporal punishment) for girls.
Representations to the Forestry Commission produced a small hut near Loch Rannoch, where the pupils travel in groups of ten between March and October every year to spend a few days in wild freedom.'Every time you take a new bunch to Rannoch,' says Hamish Brown, 'you get the same thrill.
Then the 'sheep' were herded into the glittering new High School and the 'goats' were left behind at Braehead, to be joined by a small band of politely-termed 'modified' children who had stayed over their time at the Denbeath Primary School nearby. Buckhaven lies near the heart of John Knox country – where one of the most puritanical disciplinarian movements took root and prospered.One of the best-qualified applicants in 1957 for the post of Headmaster of the new school was Robert Mackenzie, son of a radical station-master in rural Aberdeenshire and a graduate of Aberdeen University. But when he suggested that, for a trial period, the teachers should stop belting boys, the entire staff signed a protest petition and sent it to the Director of Education. As they get out of the bus (a minibus bought after money had been begged and borrowed and with the help of a local authority grant), they explode. The Staffing Committee of Fife Education Committee which interviewed the applicants say a tall, craggy Scot with a gentle voice and a sudden, mischievous smile.


The proposal was dropped.The two main departures from ordinary junior secondary routine were in the teaching of art and the extra-curricular activities.
It took note of an impeccable teaching record at Galashiels Academy (grammar) and the enlightened Templehall School, Kirkcaldy (secondary modern).
The deputy headmaster at Braehead is Hamish Roger, a wiry Highlander, who saw the founding of the school as a perfect opportunity to teach art in the liveliest and most unconventional way. They just run and run for miles.Demand for these trips is high, and Hamish Brown reckons nearly half the school's 400 boys and girls go out on some form of expedition each year. Mackenzie must have seemed an intelligent fellow, perhaps with a few ideas about education which he could use to help justify the school to angry parents. Thus art lessons at Braehead are apparently chaotic affairs, with pupils ranged across the barren art-room, drawing and painting as they choose with the maximum of individual instruction.The results have been staggering. He has also worked out that the examination results of those who go on expeditions is higher than for those who do not, higher even than the average junior secondary results in all Scotland.Outdoor activities do not stop them. It is a fair guess that the committee that the committee came nowhere near to understanding what Robert Mackenzie stood for, because it gave him the job – and few of its members ceased to regret it.Robert Mackenzie got many of his ideas about education from a year's teaching soon after leaving university at a tiny school (about forty pupils) called the Order Of Woodcraft Chivalry.
The corridors and classrooms at the school are hung with paintings which would compliment a good provincial art gallery. The Order was set up on the banks of the Hampshire Avon with some money left for the purpose by a Quaker eccentric named Ernest Westlake.Work was entirely voluntary at the Order Of Woodcraft Chivalry.
The Braehead paintings have been shown at exhibitions at Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow colleges of Education, and a selection was shown at the start of an art conference at the Glasgow College of Art.
And Mackenzie found to his astonishment that two members of his staff were qualified gliding instructors. The exhibition in November 1965 had unpatronising, if surprised, rave notices from every major critic in Scotland.Roger's aim is to widen his pupil's knowledge through the art medium. Squads of boys are taken out to the gliding aerodrome near Loch Leven and flown around at 2,000 feet, from which vantage they can gain a better knowledge of Fife than from any map.Most of this was greeted in Buckhaven, and by Fife Education Committee, with extreme suspicion. Two months before each Christmas, he concentrates his art classes on a massive programme of Christmas decorations for the school. The parents of Braehead were understandably upset that their children had been left behind by the High School pupils that the difference in schools was a crucial merit difference, a ruthless division of the able from the drop-outs. A lot of it was quite mad, of course, and the children were entirely unrepresentative, since their parents had to pay fees. One year he concentrated on the Commonwealth Arts Festival, another, on the architectural development of Buckhaven; another, on the old eighteenth-century fishing communities of Buckhaven and Leven. The grumbling grew when the parents saw the canoes on the sea and the uniforms discarded and heard from their children that at some lessons they were very much left to themselves. Neill at the time, and the place proved to me the accuracy of his basic theme – that people who are free grow up happy, that if children are not happy, it is because they are not free.''There was also this terribly important thing – the absence of fear. A forty-foot high Neptune was built from driftwood and wire, and magnificent marinie murals, painted for the most part on old newspaper, turned the school hall into a weird but glorious aquarium. Many parents saw the experiment and the comparative lack of discipline as an added insult; further evidence that their children were not up to it. If children stop being frightened of all the hoodoos and the feelings of guilt imposed on them by their parents and conventional schooling, they start to live entirely different, more invigorating existences.'Such ideas were quickly submerged by the Second World War, when Mackenzie became a navigator for the RAF. These parents would have been happier if their children had trod the weary treadmill of examination-ridden, grammarian discipline followed in most junior secondary school. He went back to teaching after the war, but resolved no longer to experiment in the sociological no-man's-land of the middle-class liberal intellectual. He has always maintained that educational experiment and reform is really valuable only when applied in the State system – which caters for more than ninety-five per cent of British children.At Galashiels in the Borders, he set himself bravely to 're-learning all the stuff about the Napoleonic wars, and forgetting it again – just like the children'. Mackenzie deliberately allowed the Press to look at his school's dilapidated lavatories and comment upon them.
He struck a deal with his principal teacher, who allowed him to speed through the history syllabus in two terms so he could teach H.G.
A deputation from the Education Committee visited his school and argued angrily that his behaviour was improper. Like his two later books, it is written in clear, unsentimental prose and is a devastating attack on traditional notions of education.
Drawing on the Braehead experience, Mackenzie exposes the total inadequacy of teaching and learning as laid down and accepted by examination setters and the educational administration by local and central government.'And so it goes on, breaking your heart if you take it seriously. Because you know that when the formal educationists come in at the door, education escapes through the window. On the one hand there is Maureen Smith of the Coal Town who can make you split your sides with laughter as she plays the part of her aunt at Sunday afternoon tea; on the other hand there are the educationists who want to examine Maureen's ability to write and correct things about Shylock as a tragic character in a comedy, in order that Maureen's prospective employers can know how many marks Maureen made in 'English' . In order that this end might be achieved the pupils are lectured, provided with incentives and pep talks, warned, promoted or demoted, punished; they write notes then revise their notes and sit tests and then preliminary examinations. It is based on what is called 'discipline', one of the most frequently ill-used words in the English language. The book was widely reviewed in the Press, and Robert Mackenzie was invited to lecture at the main Scottish colleges of education. It provoked a violent debate in staff-rooms throughout the country, particularly in teachers' training colleges.Joan Davies, who had been teaching at teachers' training colleges for twelve years, went to Braehead after reading Mackenzie's book.


In a town where work for men is becoming scarcer, while women's work is still available, the breakdown of the traditional family is more frequent than elsewhere.'Things are changing at terrifying speed,' says Joan Davies. They could get away with just teaching facts without worrying too much about the emotional consequences.
And the schools will have to provide a lot of the security and affection which previously came from home – or the society will disintegrate.'Colin Cushley, a 31 year-old graduate from Edinburgh University, was teaching French at Oban High School (Grammar) Argyllshire, when he read Mackenzie's book.
Grammar was more important than language.'Cushley threw in the towel after he had taken a group of High School children to France in the summer holidays.
It was the younger ones, who hadn't passed the exam, who started to pick up the language.'At Braehead, children come to me classified as linguistic failures by the eleven-plus. He showed me thirty note-books crammed with pupil's poetry, all written in a few periods each week in one year. We have to try to persuade them that they can do things, and in most cases it works.'Harper teaches the guitar to groups of boys and girls after school hours, four nights a week. About 100 children in the school have been to his classes.Malcolm Kirke, 37, started teaching later than most and worked for a year in primary schools in his home town of Nottingham. The universal set', he read from one of the introductions, ' contains all the elements discussed in any particular context. Again, in a certain florist's shop, the set of daffodils is a subset of the universal set of flowers in a shop.''I very-much doubt,' says Kirke, smiling sadly, 'however much I read that out, if the children will begin to understand it. These girls agree with the other teachers that their primary incentive in going to Braehead was to be allowed to teach and experiment as they wished.Bill Rintoul, 54, one of the five teachers who have stayed the school's full course of ten years, came out top of a quick popularity poll I conducted among a group of senior pupils.
Rintoul, quite, methodical, solidly Scottish, reckons he maintains a discipline in his class as good as any, but without thug methods.'It's not that we get our ideas from the Headmaster,' he says.
At his gold club, friends would rib him constantly: 'How's the circus going?' If Rintoul laughed, he was admitting the 'circus' existed. So he shrugged his shoulders and go on with the game.'It's funny,' he says, ' I don't get any more of that any more. Perhaps they realise at last that the truth is that we do have discipline problems here on the same way most schools have.'Later in the day, Mackenzie told me, 'Well you know, Bill may be right. From the teachers names here, and many others who spend a great deal of extra-curricular time sailing, mountaineering, and teaching guitar, accordion, piano, painting, pottery and French in hours for which trade unions would demand overtime but for which the teachers are unpaid. The idea – prominent in the minds of some Fife County Councillors and Buckhaven parents – that more freedom for pupils means an easier life for teachers quite false.'The fallacy is,' says Malcolm Kirke, 'that you can give children far more freedom than they can cope with. And far too little is done to spread the importance of the Braehead experiment into the homes of Buckhaven. The justification for the 1944 'Butler' Education Act – the division of schools by selection at eleven or twelve – was that the junior secondaries would be allowed to experiment. Yet the authorities, local and national, grow suspicious and obstructive when experiments are genuinely attempted in the most difficult circumstances.The Scottish Education Department Press officers were all to keen to refer enquiring journalists, particularly English journalists, to the 'great work' being done at Braehead.
But official enthusiasm vanished when it came to practical support.Thus Fife Education Committee went on record against Mackenzie's idea for a hunting lodge at Inverlair in Argyllshire – generously offered by British Aluminium – where forty boys could be housed for a month at a time and enjoy the freedom of the countryside.
The council and the Government deliberately refused to contemplate Mackenzie's carefully worked out estimates for the Inverlair Lodge and refused their own ?15,000 estimate because the lodge was too 'remote'! Then suddenly, they announced that 'O' grade secondary modern pupils (those who are thought 'inadequate' for the High School but possibly capable of passing exams) could choose between Braehead and the other Buckhaven junior secondary, Kirkland, which is housed in glittering new buildings and has new equipment. Scottish Labour MP's have joined to the man in the general campaign of calumny against Mackenzie. Mrs Judith Hart, formerly in charge of education in the Scottish Office, Mr Tam Dalyell, Old Etonian MP for West Lothian, and Mr Harry Gourlay, formerly deputy Convenor of Fife Education Committee, now MP for Kirkcaldy Burghs, have been particularly hysterical in their support for 'traditional education'.Until recently, the method of attack was simply to dismiss Mackenzie as a crank and to characterise him as a dictator with nothing but contempt for the teaching profession. Mackenzie's defence of his school, and the campaign among many educationists in the south are seen as an attack on the comprehensive system and as a deliberate, Enfield-style attempt to sabotage progressive comprehensive proposals. The wife of a Scottish left wing Labour MP put it this way:'That man Mackenzie, he patronises his kids. Mackenzie's views on education are stated quite clearly in his book A Question for Living:There is something seriously wrong with an educational system that ruthlessly destroys parents' hopes for a child when he is eleven or twelve and as a consequence decreases the child's confidence in himself.
Parents who have watched the miracle of birth and growth are briefly informed that the miracle is over. They are regarded by their parents and themselves as just ordinary, as have-beens.'His arguments so far could have come straight from a Labour Party policy statement – but for the lucidity of the prose and its obvious sincerity. But Mackenzie goes on:'The comprehensive school in its present form is assuredly not the answer. The same treadmill is in operation in comprehensive as in junior secondary (or secondary modern) schools.
Mackenzie's is no sectarian whine against the comprehensive system, in which all education for all pupils is geared not to the rat-race of examinations but to the creation of a fuller life for all the pupils.And that is why, if there is a spark of humanity or libertarianism left in the Labour movement which still controls Fife and the country, Mackenzie would get a brand new school and the Braehead teachers around him would move with him. Braehead pupils pass their exams at about the average Scottish junior secondary rate, in spite (or because) of all the experiments.



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