Bob Glover

Bob Glover was the principal of Portslade School and Community College, East Sussex, where I was a pupil from 1972-1978. The eleven-plus examination had just been abolished and Portslade was the first true ‘community college’ in Britain – meaning it was a conventional school during the daytime and then opened its doors to the wider community in the evenings and at weekends – offering a range of evening classes, formal qualifications and sporting activities (we were the first school in the Country to have its own sports centre). To recognise this pioneering approach, it was formally opened by Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education, in 1973. It is now the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy.

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Dear Bob

Cast your mind back 40 years. To that day when the soon-to-be-great Mrs T swept in to our leafy part of Sussex to give us her Government’s blessing. I confess to not remembering anything about her on that day at all. What I do remember is you and your words…

You stood – in your regular brown suit – at one end of the sports centre, facing 500 excited young people. I’m not sure if I can quote you exactly but, as your words had such an impact on me – in fact, they really annoyed me at the time – I think I can get pretty close:

“It is my dearest wish that, in 25 years from today, none of the faces I see before me live any closer to this spot than 25 miles…”

I recall your arm sweeping across as if to envelope the audience with your words. And, as a naïve 12 year-old, I remember thinking: what is he on about? I’m a Portslade lad. I will always be a Portslade lad. Why would I want to live/be/go anywhere else?

I understand now that you were extolling the benefits of supplementing formal education with travel, moving away, seeing the bigger picture, avoiding parochialism, of expanding your knowledge, employment and cultural horizons. I have now lived in the beautiful and contrasting counties of East Sussex, Norfolk and West Yorkshire. I’ve worked for some great blue chip companies and smaller SMEs. I have been fortunate to travel nationally and internationally for my work and holidays. And I now appreciate exactly what you meant all those years ago, if mostly in hindsight.

Portslade school

This photograph captures the geography of my early educational journey:
the central area shows the grounds of what was then called Portslade School and Community College, with the sports centre, which Margaret Thatcher officially opened in 1973. In the bottom-left quadrant, you can just make out playground of my first school, Mile Oak County Primary.

So I guess I’m saying thank you for having that vision because, whether I knew it or not at the time, it shaped me, my views and approach. Back in those days I remember overhearing the opinions of some adults close to me that you were a ‘progressive’ head teacher, the word being delivered via a sneering, half-finished whisper, as if progression was some form of educational cancer. I now know that progressive means the product of breadth of thinking, engagement, travel and education and I thank you sincerely for paving the way for me and so many others under those banners.

Yours sincerely

Simon Bailey

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