As I write this I am heading back home from school.
It is one I attended as a teenager and of which I have mixed memories, hence some nerves on my arrival earlier today.
When there I never appreciated the beautiful old building in which we had assemblies and were taught. Too busy surviving as a confused teenager. Now I returned as an alumni who is fascinated by the building’s architect Charles Barry junior.
My final year subjects were history, French and economics. The first two were strong personal preferences and because I wasn’t allowed to do maths with them (shocking but true), I opted for economics which my older brother had recommended to me.
I continually regret not having done maths after age 16 and this in part inspired me to work later in life in maths education policy. An achievement of which I am proud is that we managed to convince the English Government of the importance of as many teenagers as possible doing post16 maths.
I did meet the head teacher but we didn’t discuss education. As it turns out the school is celebrating 400 years since its foundation as a place for poor scholars to study. Part of the celebrations was a lecture a fortnight back by Caroline Shenton on Sir Charles Barry, who like his son had been surveyor to the vast Dulwich Estate. During today’s research I took a photograph of an original 1830 letter of reference from Edward Cust allowing Barry senior to gain his position. Cust had previously chaired the selection panel which had chosen Charles to design and build the seminal Travellers Club in London. He would go on to be one of the judges who selected Barry’s design for the New Houses of Parliament, declaring no personal interest in the outcome.
Such was the way of the world and it still continues to this day. Who you know is more important than what you know. I don’t agree with it but would be foolish to ignore the benefits.