Sunday, 5 September 2010

School Days

Just like the vast majority of kids who are brought up in a northern Steeltown I went to a Comprehensive.
Thomas Sumpter Comprehensive to be exact, and this post has been inspired by watching my old school being demolished and a new building thrown up in its place and is being granted academy status.
I can see all of this from my back bedroom window with the new building being erected on the rugby pitch where I scored my one and only try.
Being a person approaching 50 my thoughts begin to concentrate upon my days there especially the Physical Education sessions.
We had two PE teachers, one of them would instruct the pupils in the usual activities such as football, rugby and basketball but the other was a big cruel sadistic brute who took great delight in humiliating children for the slightest mistake or even their appearance.
He was called Mr. Bateman but would be referred to by everyone as Batman. He had several descriptive words  for the ones he tormented, cretin, half-wit and moron being among his favourites. His lessons usually consisted of a three mile road run around the streets surrounding the school followed by circuit training in the gym. It was in the gym that he would be in his most   sadistic mood. Picking on those he knew could not perform the exercises he had devised. If he thought anyone was being lazy he would hit them with the metal end of the climbing rope or make them run the gauntlet of a row of the other pupils who were ordered to slap his object of fun on the backside. He would twist the skin of any pupil he considered to be overweight making them cry out in anguish. I remember one pupil being made to run around the gym for thirty minutes in his underwear because he had forgotten his white gym kit and at the end of the lesson he received the gym slipper as his punishment.
Despite the fact that I could complete his exercises he singled me out for special attention due to his experience of teaching my two older brothers both of whom rebelled against him.
I would be made to perform extra duties in an attempt to make me fail.
Occasionally he would inspect our gym shoes to see if we had whitened them the night before and if he was satisfied with our appearance we would be given the reward of a boxing lesson. Pupils of a similar size would beat each other in a makeshift ring for two minutes. He would pit me against the bigger ones in the class hoping I would take a beating but I always managed to come out of it unscathed. This eventually led to me fighting him and I did what any boy of fifteen would do against a grown man in middle age. I dodged his punches whilst landing a couple of my own upon him but his quick jabs soon had me against the ropes where he pressed against me not allowing me to move. I came out of it slightly the worse for wear and a little punch drunk. Afterwards he offered to train me with a view to take up amateur boxing but I flatly refused.
Maybe I should have taken him up on his offer because a few months later I turned up for my first job interview sporting a black eye. Needless to say I was not offered the job.
Some pupils like my eldest brother would have the misfortune of being in his Mathematics class. His style of teaching was not designed to educate his charges. They would be made to copy out endless sheets of sums which did not progress beyond addition and subtraction and if any pupil made an error he would make the whole class copy out the exercise again.
Certainly not the type of education that would prepare anyone for the big wide world awaiting them.
There were many stories circulated to explain his style the favourite being that he had spent time in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp but no one really knew his past.
I can't remember the year but it was in the 90s that I read his obituary in our local paper. He had left an estate worth £250,000 to no one. He had no family and no friends now why was I not surprised.
So Mr. Frank Bateman just in case you are looking down or more likely observing from a deep dark corner in the nether regions of Hades this is for you.



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