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News > OP updates > A truly life changing gift

A truly life changing gift

John Woodley (OP 1949) recalls how the determination of Headmaster Mr Stork changed his life
10 Nov 2022
OP updates
John Woodley (centre) in 1949 when he was captain of the 1st XI
John Woodley (centre) in 1949 when he was captain of the 1st XI

In Opus I read with interest and some nostalgia, the accounts by recent PGS school leavers, as to how their expectations and career options have been enhanced by the bursaries that enabled them to attend PGS.

I am aged 92, which means that I grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Times were hard for all, but particularly for the unskilled manual classes. There was, of course, no Welfare State. It was also a time of acute class consciousness. There was no concept of social mobility – the poor were expected to “know their place” and, by implication, stay there.

Thus, it was when, aged 11, I was awarded a scholarship to PGS. It was kindly explained to me by my parents that “people like us don’t go to grammar schools”. The award was, therefore, declined. The then Headmaster, Mr Stork, refused to accept the decision and asked to meet my parents. When it was explained to him that, even with a full scholarship there was no money for uniforms, books and the other requisites of a grammar school education, he made available further bursaries to meet these costs.

Those bursaries enabled me to have an education which opened up horizons that, at that time, I didn’t know existed.

Seven happy and fulfilling years at PGS were followed by Cambridge and a career in the administrative civil service, initially overseas and later in this country. The availability of bursaries was, for me, completely life changing. It not only assisted materially, but encouraged a love of sport and music that, over a long life, have brought so much pleasure.

I am deeply grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made and to those school benefactors whose generosity provided the bursaries that made those sacrifices worthwhile and enabled me to attain life choices and a career that would, otherwise, have been unattainable.

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