Soham Grammarians - Going comprehensive
Some Press coverage

Soham Advertiser, November 2, 1967: ‘Comprehensive’ plans at Soham
Ely Standard, December 28, 1967: SOHAM OLD BOYS' DINNER 'A WAKE'

Cambridgeshire Times, July 25/26 1968 [Extract from a report on the Senior Prizegiving]

Cambridgeshire Times, December 4/5, 1969: Comprehensive Education finds favour at Ely; rejected at Soham
Newmarket Journal, December 11,1969: 152-6 vote against proposals: Soham’s ‘no’ to comprehensive education plan
Newmarket Journal, December 11 1969: Re-assurance from Soham VC ‘head’

Cambridge Evening News, Saturday, January 10, 1970: All-in scheme ‘could deter light industry’
Newmarket Journal, Thursday, January 15, 1970: Opposing views on Soham education
Newmarket Journal, Thursday, February 12, 1970: Soham Head slams new proposals
Cambridge Evening News, Wednesday, April 29, 1970 [Mr Lawrance appointed Warden of Soham Village College]
Ely Standard, April 29, 1970: Parents' last minute protest on education
press cutting, April 1970, source uncertain: Angry parents must explain
Cambridgeshire Times, July 9/10, 1970: Parents renew fight against all-in schools

Cambridge Evening News, June 16, 1972: End of term - and an era
? Cambridge Independent Press, August 17, 1972: OLD BOYS CLUB IS TO CLOSE AFTER MERGER

Soham Advertiser, November 2, 1967: ‘Comprehensive’ plans at Soham

Proposals for the organisation of comprehensive education in the Soham area are to go before Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely County Council on Saturday. If they are approved they will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The council’s Education Committee want Soham Grammar School and Soham Village College to combine to form an 11-18 mixed comprehensive school. And they want to make Burwell Village College an 11-14 mixed comprehensive school with transfer to Soham at the age of 14.


Ely Standard, 28 December 1967: SOHAM OLD BOYS' DINNER 'A WAKE'

Grammar Schools are being killed by their own success - Master

"The Grammar Schools are being killed by their own success, a success based on that very separation and favour which have aroused the envy of others. It is all in the logic of history, the demand for golden eggs rises and the goose is killed."

It was with these words that Mr TL Riley, MA, guest of honour at Soham Grammar School Old Boys' Dinner on Saturday evening, wrote the obituary of his life's work. A life spent teaching; teaching at Soham Grammar School for over 30 years until his semi-retirement this year.

He looked back with regret:
"I have been a lucky man. To have spent my career as a teacher in this place - with the people I have known here - and during the great period of the Grammar Schools from which I was among the first to profit, and whose rise and end have been in symmetry with mine."

But his optimism for the future was prejudiced:
"My time at Soham shows the same symmetry. The School was under threat when I came here (it was planned as a Village College); I can almost hear a fat posthumous chuckle from Henry Morris who looks like getting his way at last".

He then made his remark about the Grammar Schools being killed by their own success. However he was not confident that their successors had such qualifications for suicide. "You can be sure that the comprehensive idea will be moulded and adapted. You have to trust the people who will handle it to make the best of it, so far as they are allowed. The opportunities will still be there, if not quite the same and perhaps not concentrated under this roof."

He likened the occasion to a wake with the corpse lying in state amid the 100 Old Boys present. There was an air of sadness as he continued the metaphor - "But I shall not be helping to organise the funeral. and I am glad of that. What would have been pure regret at retiring from full time teaching at Soham Grammar school is modified by that fact."

He ended his speech on a happier note by describing enthusiastically the changes that had taken place within the school in the last year. He also thanked the club for its gift of a cheque and chair.

It was an evening for recollections. The president of the club, Mr AJ Covell, making the toast to the School, recalled the character of the School in the early 1900s. The School had had two great headmasters in the present century, he said. The first had been Mr Platt who had built up the School and was the founder of the Old Boys' Club; the second was the present Headmaster. He recalled his school days under Mr Platt: war years when football was played with lady referees and botany was done on bicycles. Returning to the present he congratulated the School its achievements.

The Headmaster, Mr E Armitage, replied to the toast. With reference to the coming of comprehensive education at Soham and the re-shaping of catchment areas, he urged those Old Boys who wished it to press the authorities to allow their sons to go to the School and thus preserve a family link. This he said was a statutory right which the authorities would, in the end, grant. It would preserve a proud tradition.

The toasts to the Oueen and to the guests were proposed by the club chairman, Mr J Chapman. Mr HS Yeomans proposed the toast to absent friends.


Cambridgeshire Times, July 25/26 1968 [Extract from a report on the Senior Prizegiving]

And it was in no way pessimistically that he looked forward to the proposed comprehensive plan: “The Minister of Education, with whom plans for the future of this school and of the Village College and of Burwell Village College have been deposited, has not yet given his decision. The proposal is that the Grammar School and the Village College shall merge into one. There is no question of either school being absorbed by the other. There has been no takeover bid by or of either school. Each school will have something to contribute to the new school.”

“I have tried to show this afternoon what is the spirit and the quality which we shall be prepared to share with our friends across the fence with whom we already most amicably share a swimming pool and the occasional mowing machine.”


Cambridgeshire Times, December 4/5, 1969: Comprehensive Education finds favour at Ely; rejected at Soham

The latest proposals for comprehensive education in the Ely and Soham area, announced last week, were given mixed receptions when the first parents' meetings were held on Tuesday. At Needham's School, only eleven turned up; all were in favour and the scheme was welcomed by the headmaster, Mr TB Walker.

At Soham Grammar School, however, a turnout of nearly 200 rejected the proposals, which were attacked by headmaster Mr E Armitage in a half-hour speech. The Soham meeting decided that the proposals - which would bring sixth form classes there to an end - would give local children less opportunities than the present system.

It was agreed that Mr J Hayhoe, who presided, should inform the County Education Department of the decision taken by an overwhelming majority.

The Grammar School head, expressing strong disapproval of the proposals, said they would put children in the villages surrounding Ely at a strong disadvantage compared with those in Ely itself. He pointed out: "No boy or girl from the surrounding villages will be able to attend Soham Grammar School or Ely High School after September 1971 [sic]. They will have to attend the Littleport Martin School or the Soham 11-16 school. I submit that the education which will be available at the new 11-16 schools will not be as varied or as deep as the education now available at Soham Grammar School or Ely High School.”

Mr Armitage said that children attending the new 11-16 school at Ely would be part of the larger 11-18 school, with a sixth form attached. Therefore the children of Soham, Haddenham, Sutton, Fordham etc will be at a disadvantage compared with Ely children. It would mean that children who had attended the 11-16 schools at Soham, Littleport and Witchford would be obliged to change to a new environment and be taught by new staff whom they would not know and who would not know them.

"In the experience of every teacher, parent and child who has had to do it, no child likes changing schools," Mr Armitage age said. He foresaw that 16-year-olds, wishing to study for A level exams and faced with a change of school, would opt for Cambridge Technical College with its permissive atmosphere rather than the Ely Central Sixth Form, but he doubted whether many parents would consider their children ready for technical college at 16.

Another to hit out at the proposals was the Vicar of Fordham, the Rev RJ Cole. Commenting that there was no proof that comprehensive education was better, he asked: "Why should the present -system, which is tried and established at Soham, be smashed?"

Only 11 parents heard Mr TB Walker say at Needham's School, Ely that every child in the area would eventually gain from comprehensive education. Under the proposed scheme, he said, Needham's will be amalgamated with the neighbouring High School to become a mixed comprehensive school with an age range of 11-16 to which pupils living in the present Needham's School catchment area would transfer at 11. This combined school, one of four in the Ely/Soham area, would have 760 pupils on roll in 1971.

One of the major revisions of the plan is the concentration of sixth form provision in one central sixth form in Ely. Explaining the proposed system to parents, Mr Walker said he hoped the sixth form would be available to every boy and girl whether brainy or not so brainy. He added that Ely was very lucky to have this sixth form on their doorstep.

Welcoming the introduction of comprehensive education, Mr Walker described it as "an extremely exciting scheme". He anticipated that within five years, Ely would have a magnificent comprehensive setup. Mr Walker allayed parents' fears that grammar and secondary pupils might not mix and would refer to each other as “that lot”.

He envisaged no problems regarding integration or examinations. Needham's pupils already take GCE ‘O’ level and CSE examinations. The only real problem he could foresee was during the transitional period. "We must ensure that the pupils' work does not suffer during the changeover”. He suggested that a reduction in the pupil/teacher ratio might overcome this initial problem.

On integration, Mr Walker told parents that in public, grammar, secondary or reformatory schools there were always the snobs. He assured parents that 95 per cent of the pupils at Needham's and 95 per cent of the High School would mix well. Mr Walker said that some people found comprehensive education difficult to stomach because old established schools were disappearing. But he feels comprehensive education will be a wonderful asset to Ely in the future, and the parents who attended the meeting felt so too – only a few had questions, none of which attacked the proposals.


Newmarket Journal, Dec 11 1969: 152-6 vote against proposals: Soham’s ‘no’ to comprehensive education plan

Soham has said ‘no’ to comprehensive education. 'No’ because parents and visitors at a public meeting at Soham Grammar School on Tuesday last week, called to discuss such education, agreed that it would not give their children such a good education as they were getting now.

Mr E Armitage addressed the meeting, as headmaster of the Grammar School and told the gathering that he would welcome comprehensive education "where it could be shown that it would provide as good education as the selective system it would replace”.

Mr Armitage first assured all parents present with children at either Soham Grammar or Ely High schools that they would be allowed to finish their present courses. He added, however, that if present proposals, for comprehensive, education were allowed to proceed unhindered, then from September 1971 the two schools would cease to exist as they are now.

"No boy or girl from the villages all around our area," said Mr Armitage, "will be allowed to attend either school at least until the age of 16.” The smaller schools, he continued, would therefore grow in size, and children attending them would certainly not able to learn such a wide range of subjects as they are able to at the moment. Simply because these smaller schools do not cater for such subjects as German, Latin or some of the separate sciences.

“So my submission," said Mr Armitage, “is that the education which will be available at the new 11-16 schools will not be as varied nor as deep as the education that is now available at Soham Grammar School or Ely High School”.

He added such a situation would never arise to school children in Ely itself, where the younger pupils would be part of the new and larger proposed 11-18 school with a sixth form attached.

Thus Ely would have a great advantage over Soham and other villages, since pupils from there would be graduating into the sixth form better prepared to cope with the advanced subjects than would the others. With only one sixth form school in the area, it would seem that the Ely school children would remain at the same school for their seven years, with the same staff and without ever having to change their environment, routine and teaching staff.

'In view of this," the headmaster continued, "don't you think (I certainly think) that many children who would otherwise have stayed on at school to continue their education, will think twice? Changing schools can set things back by six months. It won't happen to Ely children but it will happen to those from Soham and the surrounding villages.”

He said that he thought that whilst Ely school children would no doubt be encouraged to stay at school, many from surrounding areas would be tempted into the permissive atmosphere of local technical colleges at the age of 16.”

“I am bound to say,” Mr Armitage concluded, “choosing my words carefully, that under the present proposals the children living in Ely gain all along the line. They and they alone will have the education offered to them that our two main schools at present offer to the whole neighbourhood. If these proposals go through, and a parent from one of the villages concerned in these proposals came to me for advice, it would be, 'Move to Ely by September, 1971'."

After the headmaster's speech, [the] Chairman of the meeting threw the meeting open to questions. One worried parent expressed concern about his - son who would be in his first sixth-form year when the proposed changeover could take place. He was told, however, that such pupils would probably be moved in their first sixth-form year, to avoid their missing any important studies.

Mr Norman Sykes, adult tutor at Soham Village College, told the gathering: "All I have heard is a good argument - and a very good one - for the upkeep of Soham Grammar, School. If we are going to have comprehensive education thrust upon us, let's have a really good proposal for such a system. All I ever seem to hear is moves to maintain our present system. We must change, that is obvious, so let us make the best of the change." Mr Sykes was advised by the headmaster not to propose "change for changes sake".

However, Mr Sykes argued: "Are we going, to simply have it forced on us or are we going to prepare ourselves for what is going to be forced on our children in, say, 10 years' time?"

Mr Roger Lane, scout master in Soham, referred to a letter he had received from MP Mr Francis Pym which said that the whole question must be thrashed out locally and a decision made by local people.

The Rev R Cole, vicar of Fordham, asked what guarantee there was that the new system would be any better then the present one of selection. “Let it come if it must,” he said, "but let it come when we are ready for it. Why smash a good, centuries-old system?"

A member of the Local Education Authority, who said she had intended to come to the meeting simply to listen, said: "There is no need to be alarmed by thinking that the LEA is trying to rush this topic through. If you need, and ask for more time to discuss it, such a request would be met with very reasonably."

However, by this time the gathering had made its mind up, and voted by 152 to six, that the proposal for the Soham-Ely area as set out in a circular already received, be rejected on the grounds that the" educational opportunities are not as great as those already provided." The result of the Vote will be forwarded to the County Education Officer.


Newmarket Journal, December 11 1969: Re-assurance from Soham VC ‘head’

[extract] Fears that the proposed reorganisation of education would put some limitation on the variety of subjects at GCE O-level were firmly dispelled by the Warden of Soham Village College, Mr PH Riggulsford, in his address at the annual prize-giving last week.

He said: “I wish to reassure parents that this is extremely unlikely to happen. The notion that there may be some limitation is based on supposition or conjecture. What I am talking about is based solidly on facts.” …. The Warden listed 19 subjects which were available at the college …

Cambridge Evening News, Saturday, January 10, 1970: All-in scheme ‘could deter light industry’

Light industry may be deterred from moving to Soham if county proposals on comprehensive education - involving the closure of Soham Grammar School - are carried through, says the headmaster, Mr E Armitage, writing in the Soham parish magazine.

Mr Armitage says the cry "encourage light industry to come to Soham" is a frequently heard one, but supporters of the education proposal do not realise they would probably adversely affect the popular aim of attracting light industry to the town.
"Do those who support the present proposals on education reorganisation for the Ely Soham area think the closure of the grammar school will encourage firms to consider Soham as a suitable place to build?" he asks.

Mr Armitage recently hit out at the proposals for comprehensive education, which involves a centralised sixth form at Ely, in a speech to about 200 parents at his school. In the parish magazine he says: "We must encourage change when it is beneficial, but proposed changes are disadvantageous, not only for the children of Soham, but for every child in the villages in the Ely, Soham area.

"It is sincerely my belief that the present proposals will not provide as good an education for all children as they now have. The proposals must not be steam-rollered through simply because of the fear of the big stick the Government is prepared brandish in the faces of those who live in the less well built country areas."

The warden of Soham village college Mr PH Riggulsford writes in the parish magazine that the Ely area would be unable to support two sixth forms if the county proposals are carried through. "An amalgamation of the sixth forms in Ely, would produce a larger number of pupils in one centre than any school has at present," he says.

"As for the location of such a central sixth form, regrettable as it may seem for people in Soham, Ely is the natural transport centre and local girls already travel there."


Newmarket Journal, Thursday, January 15, 1970: Opposing views on Soham education

When it comes to comprehensive education, two Soham principals are in strong contrast to each other. Village College warden Mr PH Riggulsford and Grammar School headmaster, Mr E Armitage differ violently on the merits of such a form of education.

Mr Riggulsford is of the opinion that an amalgamation of the college and the grammar school in Soham would be a good idea since the area could hardly support two sixth-forms, and a central one at Ely would be ideal.

Such changes, says Mr Armitage, however, are disadvantageous not only to Soham children, but also to children from the surrounding villages. He argues that only children [in] Ely will get an uninterrupted education from the age of 11 to 18.

“It is my belief,” the headmaster continues, “that the present proposals do not provide an education for all children as is now given to all children.”

Mr Riggulsford, however, argues (in the first edition of the St Andrew’s Church Soham magazine), that the future lies in such a form of education, and tells its readers that he has recently accepted a post as headmaster of a comprehensive school in Bristol.


Newmarket Journal, Thursday, February 12, 1970: Soham Head slams new proposals

The headmaster of Soham Grammar School, Mr E Armitage, sharply criticised the new proposal for secondary schools in the Soham-Ely area at a teach-in on comprehensive education last week. He said that the new schools would not be expensively staffed and would not work. Parents heard his and other headmasters' views and those of representatives of the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely Education Committee at the teach-in at Soham Village College.

Mr George Edwards, the Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, who gave details of the new scheme, said that Burwell Village College would be excluded from the Soham and Ely area, and that sixth year provision would be concentrated in one central sixth form at Ely. Soham Grammar School and Soham Village College, which are on adjoining sites, would be amalgamated to form a mixed comprehensive school, age range 11-16, to which pupils living in the present village college catchment areas would transfer at 11 plus. The school roll would be 760 in 1971.

Mr Edwards said that sixth forms required expensive equipment and resources. More than one sixth form in the area would limit these resources, but provision could be made at the central sixth.

The central sixth, he said, would belong as much to Soham as to Ely. There would be a common body of Governors who would ensure equal opportunity for the schools. If the Education Committee and County Council approve the proposals they will be implemented in September, 1971.

He said they wanted the observations of parents which he would report to the Education Committee. He said that the 1966 re-organisation was abandoned as a result of the opinion of parents, teachers and governors at such meetings.

Mr Armitage said: "I'm all for the comprehensive system at the proper time. The scheme at present is a mess. If you add the size of my sixth year and that of Ely you get 154. I prophesy that if this scheme goes forward the sixth year at Ely will be down to 100 or even less."

He said that he did not think getting rid of Soham Grammar School was a change for the better. He did not think the new schools would be as good as the grammar school or the village college.
He said that the new schools would not be expensively staffed and therefore would not work.
He added that at present children with ability could be transferred from secondary schools to grammar schools. Under the new system they would not be able to move until they were 16.

Mr Armitage said that the villages would be losing out all along the line to Ely which would have a fine, fully staffed school where children of any ability would be looked after from the age of 11-18. He said he wondered how pupils from the villages would get on with Ely pupils at the transfer age.

Mr Armitage said: "Not to have warned people would have been a dereliction of my duty. Whitehall has decided, the Education Committee and county council have agreed (in, principle). The machine is stepping in."

Great help
The warden of Soham Village College, Mr Peter Riggulsford, said that over 60 per cent of local authorities were going comprehensive. Like decimalisation, it would not be liked, at first, but later it would be a great help. "We've reached the stage of irreversibility. We have the buildings and they must be used," he said.

He said that the villages would not have inadequate schools. "Grammar school education would get to all parts of the area. With a federation we would all know what was going on. We would not be able to support two sixth forms in the area. Comprehensive schools are coming, let's look to our resources and arrange for it."

Under the new system, he said, there would be four large schools instead of six small schools. The larger numbers of pupils at each school would mean that teachers could specialise and get paid more. He said that the area should go comprehensive or teachers would move elsewhere.

In a vote taken at the end of the meeting, there were 55 for the proposals and 49 against.


Cambridge Evening News, Wednesday, April 29, 1970

[photo caption] The senior mathematics master at the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys, Mr Albert Lawrance, who has ban appointed Warden of Soham Village College. He is to take up his duties later this year.

Mr Lawrance, who is 41, was educated at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys and Nottingham University, where he gained a Master of Science degree in mathematics. Later he taught in Coventry and was head of mathematics at Soham Grammar School from 1952 to 1964.
Mr Lawrance is married and lives at Littlecroft, Harston.

Mr Lawrance succeeds Mr PH Riggulsford, who has been the warden for nearly seven years.


Ely Standard, 29 April 1970: Parents' last minute protest on education

Last-minute protests by a group of parents who object to the system of comprehensive education planned for the Ely and Soham area have been sent to the County Council, the which makes its final decision on Saturday.
Mr Edgar Seal, of The Cotes, Soham, wrote to three local MP's on behalf of parents living at Ely, Soham, Littleport, Cambridge and Witchford. They wanted the MPs' views on the re-organisation plans before the weekend.

One of the three, Isle of Ely MP Sir Harry Legge-Bourke, told the "Ely Standard" on Tuesday,
"I am satisfied that every reasonable opportunity has been given to parents to put their views on the scheme. If they don't like what they get it is their fault for not bothering to attend the various meetings called to discuss this. But I have sent Mr Seal's letter to the County Council with a request that it is considered before a final vote is taken on Saturday.”

Describing attendances at some of the public meetings held to discuss the changes as "lamentably poor," he said that 5,500 copies of a letter describing the revised scheme and sent out last December in the Ely, Soham and Burwell areas had produced only 58 letters and five telephone calls in reply.

The proposals to which Mr Seal and other parents object include the turning of Soham Grammar School and Soham Village College into a single, mixed comprehensive school, with an 11-16 age range.

Witchford Secondary Modern School and the Martin School, Littleport, would, become separate mixed comprehensive schools, with the same age range.

Ely High School and Needham’s School, Ely, would amalgamate to form a mixed comprehensive with an 11-18 age range. This school would also provide the central sixth-form for the other schools in the federation.

Mr Seal, a smallholder who has an 11-year-old son at Soham Grammar School said, "We are not against comprehensive education itself, but we are against this scheme. We don't think it is workable or satisfactory. Ely are getting the best of the job. Their pupils will have a straight run through, whereas Witchford, Littleport and Soham will be the underdogs with no sixth-form.”

Mr Francis Pym, MP for Cambridgeshire, whose constituency includes Soham, said that a meeting of parents of Soham Grammar School had overwhelmingly rejected the proposals. “This is a very important factor, which perhaps ought to be decisive,” he said.

“On the other hand, one cannot escape the position that the governors of the grammar school voted in favour of the proposals but by a narrow majority. It must also be recognised that the teaching profession is overwhelmingly in favour of the change on its merits."

Mr Pym said that while he personally regretted the changes for Soham with its fine history and traditions, he felt the local education authority ought to decide what was the most appropriate secondary education in its own area.


press cutting, April 1970, source uncertain: Angry parents must explain
From a Cambridgeshire teacher [presumably of significance to SGS as it was in the school's cuttings folder]

It is high time that the parents who are getting hot under the collar about the Ely-Soham school reorganisation proposals either declared their interests or made their objections clear. It is just no good basing objections on the proposed numbers of pupils in each school and imagined lack of staff. Why? they will no doubt ask. The answer to this is simple.

We have in existence all over the country, and certainly in the Ely-Soham area, comprehensive schools now; only they cater for the age group from five years to 11 years. Many of these schools are very small indeed, yet none of these parents has raised a peep of protest.

I challenge them to answer, why they think that numbers matter in secondary schools yet not in primary and infant schools. The same educational arguments apply to both age groups.

I ask these parents to state what they think their feelings would be if there were selection at seven-plus. Would they still be concerned at its proposed abolition over the size of schools and range of subjects offered? It is strange that the abolition of the 11-plus should bring out these fears; since, quite obviously, the parents have condoned and supported "bad" organisation and "inadequate" numbers in the age group five to 11 years.

They are surely not going to counter this by saying that secondary education is more important than primary and needs better organisation and better teaching.

They say they are not against comprehensive education, yet they must know that it is utterly impossible to form two large schools in the area. There are no buildings. Why not form one gigantic primary school for the Ely-Soham area of more than 1000 pupils? Would this make primary education better?
A teacher


Cambridgeshire Times, July 9/10, 1970: Parents renew fight against all-in schools

The parents' group which is fighting the Council’s comprehensive education scheme in the Ely-Soham area has again come out against the plans which were approved two months ago. This follows the Conservative Government's announcement that it will allow authorities to reconsider keeping the 11-plus if they wish to do so.

A well-attended meeting of parents held last week at Chippenham Park House unanimously passed a resolution that the current comprehensive scheme for Ely and Soham should be rejected.

The sub-committee will have before it Circular 1070, which withdraws the Labour Government’s famous Circular 1065 which told education authorities that they must prepare schemes for comprehensive education.

A spokesman for the county Education Department told the "Standard" on Monday, “The circular will be considered and could have far-reaching effects on future decisions on the reorganisation of education in the county.” He added, "The circular allows authorities to withdraw from comprehensive schemes if they wish."

The county’s proposals were approved on May 24 when an amendment that there should be two sixth forms - at Soham and Ely - instead of one huge group at Ely was defeated by 31 votes to 22.

The plans include creating a single mixed comprehensive school, with an 11-16 age range out of the present Soham Grammar School and Soham Village College.

Witchford Secondary Modern School and the Martin School, Littleport, would become separate mixed comprehensive schools with the same age range.

Ely High School and Needham's School, Ely, are due to amalgamate to become a mixed comprehensive with an 11-18 age range. This school would also provide the central sixth-form for the other schools in the federation.

The parents feel that the Witchford and Littleport schools will not be large enough to be viable comprehensive units. In a statement issued after their Chippenham meeting they said, "In a comprehensive school admitting fewer than 180 pupils a year, each teaching group would inevitably be weakened, for each would necessarily include pupils of widely differing abilities.

"The likely result is that the academically able would not be extended and the slow learner would have insufficient attention.” They also say that the Ely School with its 11-18 age, range would have a sixth-form group as part of the school instead of being a separate unit providing advantages to all children.

The parents' third point is that the basic curriculum offered in the three smaller schools (Witchford, Littleport and Soham) will be more restricted.


Cambridge Evening News, June 16, 1972: End of term - and an era

More than 450 governors, staff, pupils and former pupils of Soham Grammar School will walk in procession down Soham High Street to the parish church on the last day of the summer term - the last day of the grammar school with a history stretching back almost 300 years.

In September the school and Soham Village College merge as part of the Soham-Ely comprehensive scheme. The new mixed school for 11-16 year-olds will keep the name Soham Village College.

The school's headmaster, Mr Edward Armitage, commented: "Ever since we started on our last year as a grammar school we have doubled all our activities. We really mean to go out with a bang and make a bigger impression than ever before."

On July 28, the last day of term and of the school itself, a commemoration service will be held in the parish church. Old boys from the school, founded in 1686, are expected to flock back for the service, and Mr. Armitage said the church, with seating for 700, could be filled to capacity. With 385 boys at the school, plus governors and staff, at least 450, would be there, he said.

The address will be given by the vice-chairman if the governors and Rector of Cheveley, the Rev MF Williams.

When the comprehensive scheme is introduced on September 12 Mr Armitage will become director of the sixth form centre at Ely. He has been headmaster at Soham since September 1945.


? Cambridge Independent Press, August 17, 1972: OLD BOYS CLUB IS TO CLOSE AFTER MERGER

Soham Grammar School Old Boys Club has decided to disband after the school joins the comprehensive Ely Federation of Colleges next month. The decision came at the club's annual meeting when it was felt that the club would be left out on a limb once the present grammar school disappeared.

The club's assistant secretary, Mr Leonard Jefferson, said: "The main point is that there would be no school to be associated with. The aim of the club was to assist the school and it makes a mockery of the whole thing if the school does not exist."

The Old Boys Club will disband on September 31. In its place it is hoped to launch a diners' club consisting of old boys who will meet annually.

Soham Grammar School is due to merge with the neighbouring village college to form the mixed 11-to-16-year-old comprehensive, keeping the title Soham Village College. The Club's dinner organiser, Mr Owen Bethel, said: "There is no point in carrying on without the parent body because there, will not be any new intake of old boys. The plan is to disband the club and carry on with the diners' club until the number dwindle and it all becomes pointless.


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sources: via Mrs May Armitage and Chris Jakes
created 3 Oct 12