St Bede’s College, Manchester And Its A Level Results

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a former pupil of St Bede’s which deserves publishing.  Paul Taylor was in the 1964 intake, leaving in 1971.  He had the unique experience of serving under three Rectors, the Infamous Monsignor Thomas Duggan, The doubtful and secretive Monsignor Geoffrey Burke and the genial and precise Monsignor Eric Riley.  Paul is a regular commentator on my blog and one of these days we will meet up.
Subject:- St Bede’s and its 2011 and 2012 ‘A’ level results
Like a dog with a tasty bone, this is one subject I love coming back to again and again.
After recently unearthing a report in the Guardian regarding 2011 ‘A’ level results for Independent Schools, which rated Bede’s in the bottom third of those in the Greater Manchester area, I came across one from a diametrically politically
opposed source, The Telegraph, which gave the 2012 figures.  Whilst not being strictly comparable (the Guardian’s gave the pass rates of A – C grades, the Telegraph’s those who obtained A/A* grades), once again the 2012 figures put Bede’s in the bottom third, 10th out of 13 for the Greater Manchester area.  Please don’t blame me for these figures – I didn’t compile them, I’m merely the messenger.
No amount of bullshit, spin-doctoring or PR flannel can disguise the fact that the College is not academically performing well, compared with its rivals.  Only 7% of pupils nationally attend fee-paying schools, over 90% of the population are unable to afford them.  However, of these 7% fee-payers, they comprise 50% of the Oxbridge intake for an average year, a figure consistently maintained over recent decades.  That in itself tell a story, one we need not go into here.
Let’s cut to the chase here.  Most fee-paying parents send their children, if they can afford it, to the best school they can, in order to get a better academic education, better ‘A’ levels, get into a better university, get a better degree and a better-paid job.  The money is not being spent altruistically, hard business reasoning is being enacted here.  This £10K or so per annum will reap many times more yield in later life.  With all of the above, I don’t have a problem.  However, quite how the recent antics at the Alma Mater – namely historic sexual abuse and denial, part-time football students, unseating of a headmaster, to be replaced by the alleged organiser of said putsch, recruiting of newly-qualified teachers, some allegedly on short-term contracts, to replace more experienced teachers, appear to prospective parents – that’s another matter.
It can be understood from the above why Bede’s is struggling to fill its quota each year, why it is struggling to attract both sufficient numbers and academically gifted pupils into its hallowed halls.  The current course towards the iceberg shows no signs of being avoided.  What to do next?  A good start would be to remove the dog-collar infested Board of Governors and replace them with people who have at least some idea of how both a school and a business should be run.  Attention should then be directed towards the senior management at the school and serious questions asked as to which direction the College should go.  The fact that the effective removal of a headmaster by senior staff, who then took over the reins, the senior positions thus created and then filled were not even advertised, leaves a somewhat unpleasant impression to an outsider, one that all is not well at the school.
Quo vadis?  I’m glad it’s not my problem to sort out,  I personally would list it under the heading ‘ An Intractible Problem’, one needing considerably more ability than the current holders of office at Bede’s seem to have.  Perhaps recruiting a Superhead’ might not be a bad idea.  Just a thought, a decent leader might make a difference.
Paul Taylor
N. O. T.
Well thanks Paul for that succinct appraisal of where we are at.  The Telegraph have recently published the Independent schools A Level Results for 2013 or at least 405 of them, 50 schools have not entered the process including Manchester Grammar School but we will talk on what we have.
Of the 405 Independent Schools listed St Bede’s came in 293rd place, above them locally in place order were:-
Manchester High School for Girls
Withington Girls School
Chethams College
Stockport Grammar
Bolton School – Girls
Bolton School – Boys
Cheadle Hulme School
Kings School Macclesfield
Alderley Edge School
Oldham Hulme Grammar School
Stoneyhurst College
Bury Grammar School
Below the St Bede’s level were:-
Bridgewater School Manchester
Beachhouse School Rochdale
North Cestrian Grammar School in Altrincham.
Clearly parents lucky enough to have the wherewithal to pay for private education have plenty of choice on where to spend their circa £10,000 per annum.  They are going to look at the above 12 schools first and that is why Bede’s find it hard, shall we say impossible, to achieve their annual quota.  These days results talk and altruistic reasons like a Catholic ethos ring no bells with most parents in this money talks world in which we live.  A few years ago St Bede’s stood proudly up there with the likes of Withington High School for Girls, Stockport Grammar and Bolton School but now are producing results 50% lower.  Something terrible has happened and parents realise and are shying away, there are plenty of better choices.  The halcyon days of Byrne have gone presumably forever and that for parents of children in 6th form, who bought there way into Bede’s six or seven years ago, must be very painful indeed, seeing £60,000 or £70,000 worth of fees trickling through their fingers and not able to grasp back a single penny.
For parents of the future and even for parents of the now, why not save your money put it in a piggy bank and give the resulting cash to your child when he or she needs it at nineteen years of age,  Here is a list of local state schools I have picked out from this years results who achieve far better than St Bede’s does, there are obviously more for the assiduous parent to glean:-
Altrincham Grammar School for Girls
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys
King David High School
St Ambrose College in Altrincham (same abuse problems but far better results)
Winstanley College in Wigan
Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar
Tytherington High School in Macclesfield
Stretford Grammar
Congleton High
Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield,
Wilmslow High
Holy Cross College in Bury
Poynton High
Sandbach High
Aquinas College in Stockport
Haslingden High
Knutsford Academy
As can be seen a great choice for parents who want a decent free education.  Personally I do not see how Bede’s as much of a chance in its present format and I really do feel for the parents and children who have been sold a pup.  Their only hope is to get in a super-star head but that will not be done while the cloying tentacles of the Salford Diocese are wrapped round it, sapping the air and blood from its almost lifeless body.  Revolution in thought, mind and deed is necessary but I do not think it possible with the likes of Brain and Quinlan holding the reins.
Thank you Paul Taylor for your views above and I wish the best of luck to all parents caught up in this whirlpool of lethargy that St Bede’s has become.

45 thoughts on “St Bede’s College, Manchester And Its A Level Results

  1. Here’s a view of the iceberg: it’s on Weaste Lane. I believe it’s an interesting mass of masonry or perhaps concrete foundations. It used to be De La Salle College. It’s what will happen to St. Bede’s.

    I was a pupil there. AFAIK there was no sexual abuse, just physical abuse.

    1. Thanks Peter for that view of the future. As regards sexual abuse, I’m not sure you are right. I have had e-mails from ex-pupils regarding same. I have not published them as De La Salle old boys need to sort it themselves.
      Paul

      1. I was there from 1957 to 1962. Had there been any sexual abuse during that period I suspect I would have heard. I have several times asked and no-one has mentioned it. We have all mentioned the physical abuse.

        This proves nothing. I might be deaf, or thick or both. I might also have been (and still be) so physically-repellent that no paedophile would give me a second glance.

        Some of us lunch on the 12th of October. I’ll ask again.

  2. I’ll see the pile of rubble myself tomorrow as I drive past it to do some work at Hope Hospital.

    I believe De la Salle became some sort of 6th Form College shortly before closing, is this correct?

  3. Hello to Peter Farrell-Vinay. Can you tell me if you ever hear from a Peter Mcgloughlin (or Macloughlin) who went to De La Salle from 1952 to about 1959?? We were pals together in the same street in Castleton until he went his way and I went to Bedes!! (We both went thumbing it round Europe – fine days!) It would be great to contact him again if you could ask your colleagues at the lunch club. Many thanks. Paul I hope you don”t mind me using your Blog for this but I have tried to trace Peter without success and to read the comment from De La Salle I thought it may be worth while trying. And that De La Salle is now a pile of rubble is most disturbing. Could this really happen to Bedes? My best to one and all. David Andrew

    1. And that Peter is from the wilds of the Ukraine, David Andrew, one of my oldest and dearest friends from the blog. So you had better find Peter McLoughlin. Pronto. This blog is beginning to become a lovely catholic family. Old Bedians, Old Salesians and Old Ambrosians all talking together although scattered round the world

  4. To: Peter Farrell-Vinay

    Apologies for that, my ignorance of Salford and its environs is showing. However, one might argue the teaching of hairdressing and catering would be of more practical use to the living than learning Ancient Greek and Latin, as some of us did at Bede’s and some may have done at De la Salle. The point regarding the academic levels of the above is duly noted, in latter days it wasn’t exactly training students for Oxbridge.

    I’ve not had a particular roving wanderlust myself, born in Newton Heath, moving to Blackley, Higher Blackley, Moston and, for almost 30 years, Whitefield. Not exactly widely-travelled in terms of residence then. I’ve never been as far east as the Ukraine, I once worked for 5 months in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, the furthest east I’ve ever resided.

  5. To David Andrew

    We’re not talking Weaste with Bede’s you know. If the Demolition men come a-calling to Wellington Road, Whalley Range, they’d quickly flatten the place and no doubt build some rather expensive flats on the site. South Manchester is now the in-place to live, dontcha know!

    As for the playing fields, don’t tell me some money-grabbing developer hasn’t already got plans for them already.

  6. There is just one point I would like to make – the majority of the schools you were comparing to (MGS, Manchester, Alty Boys/Girls, Ambrose, Loretto etc) are single sex and/or secular. Just because you are not as keen on the Catholic Church as you used to be, doesn’t mean that other people do not factor the ethos of a school into the decision of where to send their children. As I have (I think) mentioned before, I got into both Ambrose and MGS, but my parents decided to send me to Bede’s instead (I might well have gone to Ambrose if my brother hadn’t had a terrible experience there). If you take the starting point that you want your child to go to a mixed Catholic school, the options become more limited. Bede’s, BTH, where else?

    Just something to add, while we are making comparisons. It may not matter quite as much as it did a decade ago, but to say it is irrelevant I believe would be an overstatement.

    1. Benedict,
      It is obviously irrelevant as Bede’s cannot now fill its quotas. They are struggling for numbers even when some, I am led to believe, are on 90% discount.

  7. Paul, don’t apologise. But recall that to be a hairdresser you must have clients with hair. This rather leaves me out. As for catering … I have a theory that there is an inverse relationship between the density of cooking programmes on a nation’s TV and the quality of the catering of that country. I have only ever seen a cooking programme once on Italian TV.

    I did Latin at DLS and it was invaluable when I went as a consultant to Italy. (I also did woodwork and that was equally invaluable when I was a student and pretended to be a shuttering carpenter in the Long Vac.)

  8. @Paul Taylor, the Bede’s buildings are grade II listed buildings and so could not be done away with on a whim, even if Salford Diocese wanted to.

    1. Benedict,
      The buildings on Alexandra Road might be listed and turned into a lovely apartment block including the hall with a bit of architectural know how but the rest of the crap could be knocked tomorrow without any loss. The playing fields are the finest example of development land in South Manchester just right for a zealous developer. The Diocese can only see sponduliks in all of this.

  9. To all people of a logical persuasion, let us think in reasonable terms, not as if the world was a fair place – unlike dear Benedict.

    Excuses, excuses, excuses for failure to attract sufficient fee-payers at the right price. Ever the apologist, this man surely has a career in politics, able to spin away even the most abject of failings visited on the Alma Mater.

    Stop trying to justify comparative academic failure and tell us how having a completely dog-collar ridden Board of Governors is going to make the College appear even Christian, instead of exclusively Catholic?

    Let’s get this right to begin with. Bede’s is not exclusively Catholic and hasn’t been for years, it’s not a bar to going there if you’re not a left-footer, so that’s one excuse shot down in flames. Just look at the tables of ‘A’ level results, these cannot be spun away, they are facts. People paying £10K per annum in fees will look at these results and conclude their children will probably prosper better elsewhere, so they have voted with their feet.

    The antics of the abuse-deniers at both the Diocese and the College, the unseating of a headmaster, the part-time football students, the recruitment of teachers on short-term contracts, the leaving of several experienced teachers and non-replacement of some point to only one conclusion – the place is in decline. Sadly it would be a delusional mindset that sees the current position as hunky-dory.

    This is the real world, welcome to it.

  10. To Paul Malpas

    Thus speaks a true businessman, hard-headed and logical. Last week an old church in Middleton, Grade II listed, unoccupied for decades, collapsed and fell down. It’s now being demolished completely.

    This won’t happen to Bede’s (God forbid), but I agree the front part on Ally Road South would make a lovely apartment block (nice view of the park – pity about the one side of the building they forgot to do in terracotta stone). Mind you, they could rectify this architectural flaw when they redevelop as you suggest. The eyesores of the Beck (1950s) and Henshaw (1930s) buildings have no architectural merit whatsoever, so they could be bulldozed and some rather more modern apartment blocks built there. Other areas adjacent could be ripe for development, if not listed. I’d guess less than 30% of the building area at Ally Road South is listed, 70% not.

    Now as for the playing fields, an estate agent’s dream – location near new tram service, proximity to shops, restaurants, bars, blah, blah, blah. Just a few pavilions to knock down and goalposts to remove. Start worrying when the blokes in sharp suits carrying tape measures pay the place a visit. I’m ever the optimist at times -there’s always round little hurdles like planning permission, I think I’ll contact Nick Bowles, the current Housing Idiot minister, who wants to build everywhere and anywhere, and suggest this.

    You have been warned! Just think of the moolah the Diocese could make on the deal. Then can someone explain how this not been considered an option, as I for one would be amazed if it hadn’t.

  11. To Peter Farrel-Vinay

    At my age I’m glad to still have most of my hair, but fair point re cooking programmes, which aren’t much use since most people in the UK seem to want to eat takeaways and pre-prepared meals.

    I will also concede that my Latin knowledge has helped me in my struggle to master another Romance language- Spanish, which is quite similar to Italian. My command of French, despite only learning it at Bede’s from 1964/69 and an A level done at night school 1996/99, is far greater.

    On that note Peter, muchas gracias, mon ami, and ciao.

  12. Di niente Paul,

    I don’t know the Bede school history but there appears to be an attack of cognitive dissonance here. If the institution is seen as collapsing, only a radical overhaul with a strong and evidently competent head will save things.

    It is tempting to see the Diocese and Governing bodies saying to themselves “we’ll muddle through somehow”, refusing to accept they are in denial until some accountant points out the horrid truth and the phrase “you’re past the tipping point” is uttered. At that point there will be much soul-searching and educational recruitment agencies will be scoured. Alas, all those who could have made a difference will already have written off St. Bede’s as a basket case.

  13. The spivs would love it! Get a trendy “name” architect to extend the Alex road front with a cheesy pastiche. Restore the Aquaruim as a pool, convert indoor playground for squash. Two or three ten -storey “executive” blocks round token greenery in playground. The “William Bonney ghost ” staircase would add spooky mystery . A grateful bunch of “spivs” would of course showcase a certain Monsignorial office/lair as a sort of Black Museum to the man who made it all possible………
    p.s. presume Cenacle thrown in to clinch deal?

    1. Well there you see the advantage of St. Bede’s. De La Salle’s architectural context by contrast derives from:

      “Weaste” (Old French for “waste”)
      Engels (Who worked in a factory down the road when not either riding with the Cheshire or subsidising Karl).

  14. Dear Mr Farrell-Vinay. My cousin was a De La Salle Brother and taught at Waste. Brother Vincent Amedy-anyone remember him? Brother Columba did produce a notable Marxist-Prof Terry Eagleton. Also the utter phoney -Anthony Wilson.

    1. I knew Terry. His great mate Kearns played Macbeth. I was prompter. Eagleton was Vth I was III. He wrote a sadly, accurate account of his time in DLS called The Gatekeeper. I was in the Free Trade Hall and hear Columba slag him off with faint praise as he announced Terry’s scholarship to Oxford.

      Even my mother, hardline convert that she was, felt Columba was unfair.

  15. Paul. I left a question on the St Roberts page. Not sure if you will have seen it. It’s about locating a statue that was in that church.

  16. To Brian Lefley

    We were always taught at Bede’s to think for ourselves, and whilst your imagination may have gone into slight overdrive, the main thrust of your argument is fairly compelling.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘developers’ hadn’t already run the rule over the Alma Mater in the way you describe, the prospect makes perfect business sense for the College as a nuclear option. Should the inevitable axe fall, the Diocese will be quids in, with the sale of Ally Road South site and the playing fields generating funds far in excess of any foreseeable profit the College might make for decades, as currently it’s only Sheik Mansour’s generosity keeping it afloat, as otherwise it would be trading at a loss.

    Yes folks, that’s the reality of the current situation at Bede’s – not dead, but currently on life support.

    P. S. Bede’s also had its own media phoney – step forward one Terry Christian, with an accent so contrived as to put Daphne Moon’s risible attempt at a Manc accent in Frasier in the shade, or worse still, Dick Van Dyke’s unbelievable cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins.

  17. To Paul Taylor. Touche re Mr Christian.As to my florid imagination surely experience tells us that in Mr Cameron’s “Ruritania” all bets are ON! Perhaps Sheik Mansoor could buy it and turn it into condominiums for his football drones?

  18. @Peter Farrell-Vinay, you remark that had there been any sexual abuse at De La Salle when you were there you would have known about it. I was at St Bede’s from 1964 – 1971, and I neither saw, heard nor experienced the slightest trace of sexual abuse or anything remotely resembling it. Even looking back with the benefits of a lifetime’s experience, I can’t see anything that would suggest that any sexual abuse was going on. But as Paul Malpas has demonstrated, fairly convincingly by now, appearances can be deceptive. It may have been the same at De La Salle.

    I’m not surprised that they left me alone – I would have been too much of a handful. But I’m almost certain that they left all my friends alone too, and completely certain that they left all my close friends alone. That must mean that they were very careful and selective about which boys they went for. Presumably – and I’m only guessing here, but it seems a reasonable guess – they deliberately targeted those boys who might have been less able than average to stand up for themselves. It must also mean that those boys who were abused generally kept their mouths shut – an understandable response, but not one conducive to exposing what was happening.

    And incidentally, I wasn’t “deaf, thick or physically repellent”, to borrow your phrase, and I’m sure you weren’t either.

    1. Dear Linda,

      You are right: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. However, a former classmate, later a County Child Protection Officer – a post which caused him a nervous breakdown – never came across any suggestion either.

      Certainly some of us were gay and I will ask one of them in October if he knew of any sexual abuse. But none of us was able to stand up for ourselves against the physical abuse, so you might reasonably conclude we were equally defenceless against the sexual one.

      Must ask: are you really called Linda? Were you, er known by that name in St. Bede’s? I know a very hetero male engineer called Tracy. The experience seems to have left him with a slightly aggressive outlook.

  19. I agree 100% with the last posting. Fortunately, around the time I also attended Bede’s the ‘Reign of Terror’ of one Monsignor Duggan was coming to an end. Most of his abusing was carried out between 1950 to the early 60s, so thankfully we just missed out.

    Think about Stuart Hall. Ever the reputation at the BBC as a ladies man, it was never mentioned his preference also for young girls, it certainly came as a shock to me.

    I hope Mr Lefley doesn’t have any more imaginative ideas, I can’t argue with the logic of most of them, someone actually might want to put them into action.

      1. On further checking …

        At some point either during WW-II or shortly thereafter, the Christian Brothers closed an entire school “somewhere in Ireland”. The brothers were then redistributed among other schools. Word got out and De La Salle pupils in Pendleton developed the habit of never being alone in the same room as one of them.

        The advice never reached me and was never necessary.

        However a former classmate reminds me of a former DLS pupil called Ambrose Street who had been an Augustinian and taught German at various schools in Manchester. In rather quick succession.

        Was he ever at St. Bede’s?

  20. The trouble with these sex abuse cases is that it has taken decades for them to come to light in many cases. Bede’s is in a weak position legally re Tommy Duggan as it has already, to a limited extent, admitted that abuse actually did take place by him during his tenure, from 1950 to 1966.

    Furthermore, just to prove it wasn’t an isolated incident, they let it happen again, Billy Boy Green came to the Alma Mater only 7 years later and allegedly remained undetected during his 15 or so years there, only finally being convicted around a decade after leaving Bede’s.

    It doesn’t need a legal genius to put forward a case that from 1950 to the late 1990s, at least two pederasts were able (off and on) to roam freely, undetected, for virtually almost half a decade at the College. The authorities at the school are going to have to explain how this could have happened.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to have had one pederast operating at Bede’s was a misfortune. To have had two, was downright carelessness. For the latter case, I would substitute the phrase ‘depraved indifference’, in allowing it to happen again. Clearly steps to prevent this were not taken, broom and carpet sweeping seemed to be the only solution.

    At least no-one has succeeded in repeating their attempt to air-brush this abuse from the College entry in Wikipedia, as apparently someone tried to do a year or two ago. That someone would try to do such a thing tells you all you need to know, I would suggest.

  21. Apologies for a correction – in paragraph three, it should read half a century, not decade. If only the abuse had been for 5 years – we can only wish it were the case.

  22. To Peter Farell-Vinay Thanks for the ‘Peter McLoughlin’ comment. But I did not hear from him. Perhaps it is the wrong one. My computer has been on the blink and I may have missed it. I can provide my email address if necessary. Thanks again David Andrew

  23. Peter (Farrell-Vinay) I have tried to email you at the address you gave but it has been returned as ‘undelivered’ by my hotmail address. I have tried the one you gave for peter mcloughlin and I will await with bated breath.. My email is: sliema15 at hotmail.com I think my computer is cured now but who knows!!! Many thanks David Andrew

  24. Sorry Frankie-even the West Midlands Police couldn’t link your “taking a dive” with the Caped Nonce. You were born and departed before dear Thomas was conceived. Nice if it were true!

  25. Just a quickie with regards to Paul taylor and his libellous slur , interesting that nobody I ever went to St Bedes with or any family member ever accused me of having a fake accent , as for being a ‘media phoney’ , I’ve met plenty , I’ve not to my mind ever met Paul Taylor nor does he know me in any way although I’m sure he’ll pretend he does. I suggest if he has a comment to make regarding my ‘Phoneyness ‘ or fake accent , I’ll allow him to explain himself and we can record it for posterity

  26. I stumbled onto this and it took me back. To introduce myself PM, I attended St Bede’s 1971 through to 1978 as a boarder. I was in the same year as yourself Terry, although you were a day pupil, from my recollection you always had that delightful accent ..no ? We also had John Maher in our year, of ‘buzzcocks’ fame. So PT I do think you may be mistaken, Even then TC never stopped talking and was always entertaining.His accent hasn’t changed since then. I suffered the reign of Mons Riley and then the following rector who’s name escapes me, I can picture him, which can’t be a good thing. He did teach me Latin at one stage. Also there during my time was the convicted Fr Green.

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