It was 1953. The war had been over for nine years and Jim began his time at Impington Village College. It seemed strange to him that although he was a “child of the war” he had absolutely no memory of it.
Jim Pratt was born in Milton in the same house his mother died in last year at 99 years of age. His brother John was three years ahead of him so Jim had the comfort of an older sibling in his corner if he needed it. As it happens he didn’t.
Looking back, Jim acknowledges that he enjoyed a privileged upbringing. The teachers at IVC seemed to have been there forever and, unlike now, were held in a degree of awe. At least one lesson of “PE” per day, assembly every morning and corporal punishment in the form of the cane if administered by the headmaster, a Mr Davey. If you were brave enough to annoy the French master, Mr Noel, you could find a squash ball winging your way at 100mph. Jim also remembers that he had an English teacher who developed what can only be described as uncontrollable rage at any misdemeanour. Jim later learned that the teacher did his training at IVC and was given a “hard time.” He definitely made up for it! Apart from that, he was a decent bloke and an excellent teacher! The lovely Miss Jean Sharp, Mathematics, was a favourite of Jim’s – although he didn’t pay much attention to the subject at the time.
School trips were never more exotic than a week in a Youth Hostel in the North of England but when you realise many of the students then had never strayed far from their home village, anything outside of the county was an adventure.
As Jim understood it at the time, the idea of village colleges was to equip boys and girls with the knowledge and nous to fulfil their lives in a rural community. Careers advice was rudimentary – “Do you want to work in an office or try for an apprenticeship?”
Jim was top of his class (the “A” stream) for the first three years. After that his peers caught up with him directly proportional to his inability to apply to himself to the studies. In fact, the biggest difference twixt then and now is that students were not taught how to study. Leaving age was sixteen back in those days. The year after Jims intake, the College extended this to eighteen. It is only fair to say that if a student displayed academic brilliance, a place could generally be found in a Cambridge Sixth Form. Jim was found not fortunate enough to be of the brilliance required.
He left in the summer of 1957 and started gainful employment at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge as a junior technician with the Medical Research Council. Jim retired twelve years ago as a National Sales Manager for Abbey National, now part of Santander – work that one out! When he secured the job with the Medical Research Council he paid his old junior school headmastress a visit to tell her the good news. She was shocked and said, “No, no! You’ll be working with machines. You were born to work with people!” As it happens she was quite right. It took a good few years of working with machines before Jim found his niche in the heady world of finance – working with people. Sad to say, Jim is now 74 and still has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up!
A Piece of Advice
“Think on young people; strive to attain the academic excellence you need to give yourselves the choice. People or machines! Also, consider what Mahatma Ghandi said – whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is important you do it”.