In Stories from the Hill

Since returning to the Hill after almost 40 years and listening to the stories of a number of alumni, I now regret the fact that I never met E.C. Cooper, or Teddie, as many of you affectionately refer to him. He retired from his 24 year tenure as  Warden of Kingham Hill School in 1978. I was appointed a year later by his successor on a 12 month contract.


In the 6 schools that I have taught in – mainly in the state sector – I have worked under 10 Head Teachers; but none of them were quite like Teddie. I would love to have served under him. The 6 Hillians, who feature in the video below, all admired, respected and probably “loved the geezer.” 



Jonathan refers to Teddie as “old school” and he is right to do so. Times were different the 50s, 60s and 70s. The Head of a school in those days was one who should be feared.”S/he literally wielded the stick, although corporal punishment could also be administered by other members of the teaching staff. Proverbs 13:24 comes to mind “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” 


I am so pleased that Nanci has not sought to curb my independence as an editor or the school seek to airbrush out the recollections of this practice that was ubiquitous then and illegal today. I must confess that I have never personally given any of my former pupils the cane or slipper. One set of parents asked me to cane their son when I was a Head of Year at a large comprehensive school in Bedfordshire. However in 1983, when I started teaching in a tough boys secondary modern school in the London Borough of Bexley, I was advised by my colleagues to be “physical” if I wanted to survive. So, on one occasion, I did take a boy, who was trying to get the better of me, outside of my classroom into the corridor and grabbed him by the throat, before I pushed him against the wall, eye-balled him and gave him a right old “bollicking.” I only needed to do that once.


The beautiful thing about this week’s video is that the boys clearly saw a very tender and compassionate side to Teddie and were aware that he took a personal interest in them all. How many Head Teachers today have the  time and the luxury to  get to know their pupils personally. Do they write personalised letters home to parents or rely on a template? These were the days before the introduction of the National Curriculum, league tables, OFSTED / ISI, appraisals, incessant testing, assessment for learning, target setting, and, or course, the tyranny of emails.



The staff room at the school I last taught in is now virtually empty of teachers at lunch times. Only the support staff frequent it. The teachers are too busy in their departmental offices and cubby holes checking and writing emails to each other. Senior managers are also too busy analysing pupil and departmental data on their computer screens to be able to put names to the faces of their pupils on Sports Day. I can feel a rant coming on! The world of education has, in my view lost both its bearings and moorings. I hope that this is not paralleled on the Hill today.



One of Teddie’s greatest contributions to the annuls of Kingham Hill School’s history was his enactment of the founder’s vision for the school. The Old Etonian’s Christian heart went out to the poor street urchins that he saw whilst  walking around East London. He used his great wealth and dramatically changed their life chances, as mentioned in previous blog posts.



Today Kingham Hill School is a pukka independent school. It offers a great education, to those able to afford it. The school in the 1990s became  unsustainable as it was and was forced to change its clientele base.  So I am delighted that the current Head teacher, Nick Seward (another stalwart) is keen to re-ignite CEB Young’s vision and offer 15 free bursaries to the likes of some of those pupils who feature in our video below who had a “boarding need.” But the finances have to be found.

I will leave you to do the sums: 15 x annual school fees x 7 years is a large amount of money for each prospective pupil. Well it is for me. I am trying to do my bit by producing this fortnightly video blog on an expenses-only basis …. for now at least. I hope that many KHS alumni – especially those who have had their life chances dramatically transformed and benefitted financially for their education on the Hill – will give generously to the Founder’s Initiative Scheme. Wouldn’t that also be a great gesture in memory of E.C. Cooper [1912-2003].


Teddie’s Video


“Wow that’s a beautiful little film. Very moving.” (Martin Glover)




Teddie and his Two Predecessors


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