☰ Norfolk House Alumni - from an ex-pupil, current parent view point! by Barry Shaverin

Norfolk House Alumni - from an ex-pupil, current parent view point! by Barry Shaverin

Posted on: January 30th 2015 | Category:

My son Aaron is now in Year 2. He’s the second Shaverin at Norfolk House – I was also a pupil there, leaving in 1982.
On my first visit to the school with Aaron, a few things that haven’t changed at all jumped out – that mosaic floor in the outer hallway, and the hand bell that the school still uses today is the same – hearing that ring again after so long was an odd experience. On the open day we went to, my wife was a little concerned that so many rooms, people, objects and activities were packed into such a small, tall building, but to me it seemed perfectly fine – I’d already experienced it working.
Also the houses – we had Wellington, Nelson, Clive and Wolfe – all but Wolfe remain today. These house names and the bell are legacies of the then Headmaster, known as “The Master”, William Howat. He was a naval officer before taking over at the school (he retired in the eighties), and naval themes were everywhere - the room at the top of the school was called the Crow’s Nest, we did parade marching whenever we had to move groups of pupils, and so on.
The list of differences today is much longer. The most obvious – now it’s co-ed, back then, boys only. Today, ice skating, then boxing - four boys would stand as corners with a rope around them, while two others fought. This used to be squeezed into the rooms that are now used for Year 2.
We studied Latin right the way through from Reception (now I understand, only in Form 6); we wore shorts year round; the teachers wore long gowns. They would often smoke during class – cigarettes and pipes, and The Master used to take snuff.
There was no golden time – instead, order was kept with a system of detentions, a gym slipper (if you were slightly naughty), and a cane (if you were really naughty). The slipper even had a name – Algy. The Master would say very quietly during assembly, “Head Boy, bring me Algy”, and then a few minutes later a small boy was ritually beaten with it in front of the school! What a difference from these days!
There was no lock on the front door – and boys drew straws to buy sweets at lunchtime from Muswell Hill Broadway. The loser would make a dash for it, while the others kept watch for teachers. There were no locks on the windows either – a boy called Damien Jacobs put a stop to that though, by climbing out and taking a walk, aged five, on the first floor ledges. He survived, and is now an estate agent in Belsize Park!
Obviously this is a list of the more extreme differences. It was a great school and I enjoyed it. I never fell foul of Algy, the boxing was optional, and the rest was just how it was in most schools in the 70’s and 80’s. But it’s fair to say that it’s a much better school now.

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