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Peter's Coincidental History of HollyBank (Peter Frankland) PDF Printable Version E-mail

Peter's Coincidental History of HollyBank

Peter Frankland
August 2007

The following piece was written by Peter upon the 60th anniversary of the founding of modern India and Pakistan coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the founding of Hollybank!

With all the current media attention about the sub-continent, it's re-occurred to me (after almost 40 years) that teacher training in Huddersfield is around the same age as life in the divided India and Pakistan. I know that there are some differences in the two models, but we did have our MacHatma, the Idealist, our Father of the Education, the Moses figure and giver of the thousand and ten commandments, and the survivor of numerous assassination attempts by County Councillor Jinner Lawton. We had our caste system, carefully crafted by some early disciples, and against at least 1009 of the commandments.

There were the untouchables, the harijans, the tribals, who were unfit to drink coffee with the higher SCR-caste; an exceptional few were allowed to join SCRs but only after walking on the hot cinders of the FE fires. A few of our Brahmin caste (the lawyers, the medics and the engineers) continued to remain a-loof, and frequently a-laugh. Some of the senior disciples (the CRH-ists in particular) displayed their faith through Friday prayers, often at a distance. It took the SCR-caste 35 years before a contentious vote agreed to admit some lower caste just-touchables to the morning coffee rituals. Many had the wary wisdom to decline the opportunity which the (get-your-hands-off-me) sweepers never had.

In terms of foreign policy, the College drifted against the tides of the sub-continent: it expanded into the (mainly) eastern territories of England, with a left-wing empire based on co-operation and providing accessible services to the touchable (even embraceable) castes who walked through the FE fires, and uplifted all citizens. This empire made money, as all good empires do. Some of us followed in the steps of the MacHatma, and were rocketed to outer space on the assumption that our unique experiences would provide provocation and models to solve problems in those distant places. These were prophetable times.

After little more than a quarter of a century of creative institution-building, the college became eminently edible by a ravenous and empty-bellied Polysaurus. The meal was swift and complete. The 1010 commandments were reduced to one, our Leader was led off into retirement, our community was drastically departmentalised, and our reputation disrespected.

Doom might have been afoot in these digested times but for the ideas, attitudes and practices created by the departed MacHatma, and which remained with some devoted, inspired and otherwise persuaded disciples. There was the grown-up curriculum, that focused on professional specialist competence and life-long development and allowed for students to negotiate their coursework, which had been the inspired basis for all assessments from the beginning from the beginning of Holly Bank. Small group learning and individual tutorials formed the main learning experiences with pre-service and in-service students, at all levels, and these were supported by first-rate library and practical self-learning facilities.

The college (and its successor departments) continued to work closely and responsively with government and regional bodies, and involved FE colleges in all aspects of its management, R&D work, and in quality and assessment procedures. Open co-operation with FE colleges to support their staff development needs and practices started in the 50s, formalised in the 60s, expanded in the 70s, solidified in the 80s and rationalised in the 90s. MacHatma (and Huddersfield's city fathers) welcomed overseas students to the college in the early 60s, and so began his, and the college's, rise to a significant reputation on the world stage, and to influencing technical teacher training developments in Asian, African, South American and Caribbean countries.

Many of these institutional features were unique in teacher training, nationally, and challenging to the Polysaurus, but they have formed the foundation for subsequent pioneering innovations with CNAA, the first University CAT Scheme, the growth of professional courses in more recent times and, no doubt, external and foreign policies to this day.