David Porter

1959-1967 Politician. www.davidporter.co.uk

David Porter, former Member of Parliament, English and drama teacher and head of Performing Arts in secondary education, political organiser, experience in public speaking/performing, writing on line and off, editing, trouble shooting and examining/assessing.

I started at Lowestoft Grammar School from Roman Hill Juniors in September 1959, three weeks later than my peers, because we had the first family holiday ever my father had been able to afford in France and Italy. It set me back months in terms of the school work. It was frowned on then; today it would be very unsatisfactory.  I was put in class 1D and we had our tutor room/main teaching area in the Isolation Block, where the drama areas are now. Then, the Lowestoft-Yarmouth train line ran just outside the window, providing light relief every so often.

My first shock was to find that boys were called by their surnames, girls by their first names. My second was being thrown over a hedge between Isolation and the main school. My third was that you could be put in Detention on a Saturday morning (I never was!).

Only classes A-C were allowed to learn Latin, which only bothered me when it came to applying for university to read English. You had to have Latin in English Universities. I applied to Welsh ones but I got into the performing arts rather than pure English.  Pretty average I was in most things, with the extremes of good at English, poor at Maths. I quite liked new subjects to me like French, woodwork (girls did home economics), history and art. Sport, I loathed and dreaded. Being made to run round the field twice because I was always last was cruel and unnecessary.  There was no curriculum drama but I was involved in the drama society and in my final year took lead in Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community. Debating political and current issues was up my street and I was a regular at the school debating society.

A common punishment was to be made to stand on the line facing the clock and the door to the Headmaster’s study, in the old hall. He would periodically appear and ‘deal’ with ‘the usual suspects’ lined up. The habit gradually died out and I always felt when the school main entrance was into the old hall rather odd to be accessing through the Head’s study.  Uniform was strictly enforced in school and out. In my early days youngsters would be searched out and punished if a member of the public reported seeing one or more not wearing their school caps on the bus!  Concessions in the 6th form were that we were allowed to wear a black blazer rather than the distinctive maroon one and dispense with the cap!

Teachers who stick in my mind fondly were Norah Gooddy my form and English teacher who taught me to love words; Des Hallas, geography; Olive Craik who let me do German with 4th formers when I was in the 6th Form (I thought it might get me a girlfriend!). I recall larger-than-life eccentric characters like Fred Dowson, the demon chalk thrower and ‘KZ’ the woodwork teacher who bandaged my thumb when I sawed into it one lesson to save me going to the hospital.  I didn’t do that well at my O levels, which came just a few weeks after my father’s death. Nor in my A levels, as I’d got bitten by the drama bug. A third year in the Sixth helped a bit, by when Ken Hayes had arrived as Head of English and he inspired me in the broader arts.

I am proud to have been at the school and to have learned the hard lessons it taught, typical of those times. Much of what I have described that seems pointless, pedantic and hurtful was just how it was then. Sometimes, discipline is actually a good thing, even though young people have to push against it in different ways. And so they should.  I am grateful to my broad, deep and wide education that prepared me to go on to drama college, to set up a children’s theatre company, to teach at the then new Benjamin Britten High, to go into politics, to become MP for my home area of Waveney, to return to teaching at Kirkley High and to do the A level/GCSE examining work and writing that I do now.  I don’t think anybody who knew me as a boy then, either teacher or fellow student, would have dreamed I would become an MP and establish careers in a variety of different fields.

I think the lesson is that if you have a dream, work hard, do your homework, listen and learn and go for it when you feel the moment is right.   David Porter www.davidporter.co.uk