This final page is where I will leave you, so please permit me to indulge in a little truth telling piece (or rant if you want to see it that way). Under the steady guidance and leadership of head teacher Ian Pedder, Menzies High School was a good school with a first class academic record- in the traditions of the West Bromwich Grammar School.
The L block fire was the beginning of the end. After Mr Pedder left, the ship began to sink. Menzies was failed by its leadership. Headteachers, whose face fitted the times, yet whose incompetence for the role was only eclipsed by their utter talentless ineptitude as “educators”. Governors, who alongside the weak main actors running A block issued paper platitudes for serious failings that anyone with a brain outside the school, and certainly from within, knew were happening.
There was widespread drug dealing in and around the school, episodes of inter racial gang warfare and fights and persistent bullying. Religious books and poppies were burnt. How desperately and pathetically they attempted to play these down with their hollow words of denial ; stagnant hubris that their failure wasn’t to blame.
Menzies was failed by a local authority- Sandwell council. Their schools were left to crumble , and then in their wisdom closed down as failing. Hill Top, then Churchfields, then Manor, just as it had earlier tried to do with the sixth form at Menzies (which wasn’t failing), due to its complete mismanagement of money. These vacant sites were then short-sightedly sold off for housing, or mothballed whilst no investment at all was put into the vacuum that Menzies had to pick up- and the chaff. This was politicised by tub thumpers using children and their education as their pawns whilst trying to drum up hostility against an outside London Government, who also failed to invest in areas where the other party dominated local politics.
When these oversized Oliver characters bemoaned the “fist sized” holes in classrooms and wanted more money to fix them under the politicised sound bite “building schools for the future” , no one bothered to ask whose fists had caused them in the first place, and why they hadn’t been restrained.
It became easy to blame someone else, and I believe that this was totally deliberate, as the new “children’s rights” brigade also allowed classroom savages to weaponise their “rights” over those who were just trying to do their jobs. Discipline became a dirty word. Senior teachers that had earlier taught me were violently assaulted or had nervous breakdowns and their careers finished.
The school was also affected by an insane gun fanatic in 1996 who shot and killed children in a Scottish classroom for fun. New security measures implemented at the school and elsewhere became reminiscent of a prison/concentration camp, cctv, fencing- no welcome environment for an invitation to learn or achieve- what a visual difference to the days of Clockwise, and also those which I remember well.
The axe finally fell with the new name and its Harry Potter rip off logo replacing the throstle. Except for the bitter irony, I have absolutely no time for “The phoenix collegiate.” It wasn’t my school.
But in all this whirlwind of darkness, bitterness and isolation of what was lost, I am not egocentric enough to dismiss the fact that all of this change is an inevitable step of life. I am sure that those who attended the West Bromwich Grammar school , with its long and proud traditions were equally horrified when a new dawn was created in 1964 with the opening of a new site. Just a short time later, the name would also fade to be replaced by “Menzies.”
This cycle of serving ones turn upon another can only be balanced by recording what positives took place in that time and place and recalling the good memories which defined ones part within it. There are things which I said and did that I shouldn’t and that I didn’t do and say and should have.
And it is with this, and this website that this light becomes clear, just as oxygen relights a glowing splint. I have stood as a distant and powerless observer seeing the old blocks I knew fall one by one under the direction of the flailing Carrilion , and also wryly smiled that this company has in itself met its fate in the task. Poetic justice. I have seen those buildings fall to rubble, with at the time of writing only the ruins of the twin towers remaining , still standing like two fingers up defiant to the end. It has saddened me deeply to see them, asbestos ridden they may be disappear into ashes. Soon too they will also be gone, and what lies then on the unfamiliar horizon?
My thoughts however swerve away from uncertainty when I recall through pictures, words and music the glory days of the school. I was hesitant about putting these pictures into the public domain as they have been kept to myself for so long, some of them for 25 years. But it would not be fitting for them to remain in darkened corners of a draw gathering dust, and so they will see the light of other eyes, the disappearance of the contents within them tempered by the knowledge that I am also not alone in sadness or the grief of their loss and that of the history that made them important. My own position also becomes more focussed and clearer in their projection.
A song about loss sums up these emotions perfectly by Linkin Park called “One more Light.”
Someone made a hash of the on screen lyrics in this youtube moment, but the sunset video and the lapping waves imagery combined with the song itself are quite emotionally beautiful.
“Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there…”
I hope that you have enjoyed this journey with me to times past, and that you can find anything that you want to if you look back into the light, whether that be in a crackling fireplace or on a starlit night, even perhaps seeing people with different eyes in twilight and in a different light to that which you expected or thought of them in darkness.