02 March 2015
I cameacross this
recently on my computer perhaps it might appeal to some staff and students
of his time as head teacher in the 1960s
MIKE WYLIE- his time at W.B.S.
Long before Mike
Wylie arrived at Windsor Boys School at the end of 1963 we were aware
of an impending revolution. All we knew with a degree of certainty was
that one sacred cow was to be slaughtered: Saturday morning prep was
to be abolished!! Wow!!
the nervous musings of senior staff affected the newcomers, of whom
I was one.
In the first few
weeks it was relatively low-key. We heard from the Scotsman Deputy Head,
Brian Hodgson, of how he had had to plead for not another twelve hour
meeting the morning after Hogmanay, and this should have been a warning
to us all. And after the first Heads of Department meeting, the Head
of Geography, Ernest Kopcke, emerged to announce;
Talk about a new broom! He's a bloody vacuum cleaner!
Nonetheless at first we were fed with a simple diet the staff sitting
at the back of the hall for assembly, for instance; stronger meat followed
with the creation of The School Council, which exacted rates from the
houses according to the nature of their facilities, the Headmaster,
M.Wylie, acting as Clerk to the Council, a pupil, R.I.Stone becoming
the first Mayor and then an incredibly long list of enactments being
recorded in a short space of time: e.g. a car being made available for
school use, house bicycle races being run, grade punishments (whatever
these were!) being introduced, and tea dances (the dansant) with W.G.S.
at 3.P.M. on Saturday afternoons, sans alcohol, of course, and even
The revolution was
relentless. Not just those teachers who had inadvertently admitted to
him that they enjoyed card games, but boys too, were immediately commanded
into both contract and then duplicate bridge; house points were introduced
so that there could be a cock-house; Wednesdays were frequently designated
to be Fridays that is, until Activity time when there was always some
confusion; the service of Compline became compulsory for the whole school
on a Wednesday (unless it was Friday) Evening. After an uncertain start
the singing of the plainsong
Before the Ending of the Day
Creator of the World we pray..
became a loud but unforgettable experience, I would think, of every
old boy of W.B.S. of that time.
Then came the curriculum
changes. His Rhythm Setting was a startling yet curious innovation in
WBS, but eventually, in Mike's later HMI days it was to become standard
practice in many schools, an antidote to those who preached rigid streaming.
Mike described the operation in verse, concluding that it was
a timetable whereby the staff, the boys and the subjects
Vibrated together in an alternating pattern
Through a set of rhythms
If we were to seek an end to all our woes
It would be in just such graphic prose.
No one understood
the meaning of such verse, of course, and I suspect we were not meant
to. There was much that we, or certainly I, failed to understand at
the time about Mike Wylie. Because his many innovations were accompanied
with a twinkle in the eye, sometimes accompanied by at least a seven
hour meeting with senior staff of housemasters or heads of department,
we suspected, enjoyed, and yet were infernally frustrated by his humour!
When, having experimented with a school council, he announced his idea
of creating an elected staff council which would, on paper at least,
reduce his own authority to almost nothing we found the concept too
difficult to grasp.
If this council takes over all your authority, asked a teacher (Tony
Fox) who had only recently been appointed, then what would you actually
The idea of Mike Wylie having nothing to do was, of course, inconceivable.
Always he wanted to experiment with new ideas. But his unique achievement
was that he valued the individual above anything else and in doing so
recognised that sometimes he could be wrong.. In the Summer edition
of Concordia of 1966 he wrote that his impressions of life at W.B.S.
were sometimes mistaken. He hankered, he said, after a perfection which
is not only unfulfillable, but ought not to be fulfilled.
Mike left after
only a few years at the school. Inspectors came from the mainland and
saw a man of great intellect and warmth. That warmth was felt by the
boys he taught and with whom he had many contacts; amongst his many
achievements which impressed them was being a headmaster who was also
a qualified referee in football. The same warmth was felt by those teachers
who knew they were appreciated.
So Her Majesty's
Inspectors snatched him from us. On the occasion of the service of thanksgiving
for his life held in a church perched precariously on a cliff top in
north Norfolk near the bungalow where he and Joan spent their last years
there were a number of former H.M.I. They recalled his achievements.
On one of the most significant, the COSMOS courses he helped to set
up, one HMI spoke to me of his creativity, his goodness, his wealthy
of talent. He was the Inspector said, just too innovative to become
the chief HMI even though most of us thought he should have been!
But it was significant
too that the main speaker at the service was John Fielding, the padre
of W.B.S. for those few years that Mike Wylie was the head teacher.
And teacher and leader Mike truly was. He viewed with some contempt
the world of American style management, of targets, of OFSTED objective
measurements, of SATS or league tables.
In his interview
for Concordia in 1966 he accurately predicted that England would win
the World Cup. He declared his love of motoring, except where automatic
cars were concerned (They change gears at the wrong time!!) He thought
that eventually he might become a politician I believe he knew George
Brown quite well On becoming prime minister he would then have enacted
his great ambition to provide for a really substantial young age pension,
from 18-25, and then work until death.
A bit tongue in cheek, perhaps!
I saw Mike in hospital
not long before he died. He was tired, but irritated that he could not
now go on being creative. We spoke about a common interest we shared
in canal travel.. He wanted to go on working, which to him meant fulfilling
all he wanted to do. A year or two earlier, after a serious illness
he had rejoiced:
I'm alive!! I'm alive!!
With Mike Wylie, as with other great and good people, it is true that
his being alive will always affect those who had the good fortune of
being involved with him.
Mike Capey (C63-70)