Untold Stories – Timelines
Part of telling the wider story of Radley across 175 years will be through a number of visual timelines. Each one will take a look at an aspect of the College, from music to sport to Chapel, drama and food

Radley 175 – then and now

As we begin a year (or more) of celebrations for our 175th birthday, hear the story of the first one hundred years of Radley College told by Radleians in 1947. ‘Radley Retrospect’ – the Centenary Pageant – was written and performed by pupils and staff.

Part 1 – 1847 – founders

Part 2 – Financial disaster

Part 3 – Wars

Part 4 – Centenary

Sweets were still rationed but the prefects clubbed together to buy a box of chocolates for HRH Princess Elizabeth when she had tea with them for the Centenary

The cover revealed

Cover Story
We are pleased to reveal the cover design of our upcoming 175th anniversary book, Untold Stories.This book, to be published in March 2022 to coincide with the anniversary of the historic meeting of the founders in Turl Street, can be preordered at an early purchase discount price here

Infirmary, sanatorium, medical centre

In our latest video Clare Sargent, Archivist and Alex Gilley, Lead Nurse, chat about the Untold Story of the history of medicine at Radley.
Watch the video here

Sacred music

Continuing our series of videos previewing some of the ‘Untold Stories’ of Radley that will feature in our upcoming 175th anniversary book, Clare Sargent talks about the place of hymns at the College, including a rare recording for the BBC of Evensong at Radley from 1956 here

Untold Stories: The College Roll (and not a chicken one!)

The sense of one community coming together is one of the key aspects of Radley that the book will examine. To celebrate this unique community, the anniversary book will include the opportunity for all boys and staff to be listed in the College Roll of its 175th year.

You can also catch up with Clare Sargent talking through the ethos of the book in a preview video here

My Virtual School – rain

4 June 2020. Today it rained (just a few minutes) for the first time in 10 weeks. Some councils have urged people to water any young trees in worry over the drought. Threats of hosepipe and paddling pool bans have been greeted with derision, some exhorting us to ignore anything which might result in more restrictions on how people live their lives. Being rational is not popular just now.

Lockdown begins to relax. A new directive last week: we can now meet in groups of up to 6. A welcome change on the hottest week of the year. Picnics everywhere. People swimming in the river. Suddenly the frenetic activity of constant movement, walking, jogging, running, cycling has given way to sitting. And, sadly, to a complete reversal of how we honour the countryside. Everywhere has been glowing, pristine and untouched. Now rubbish is swept into the current. Burnt rectangles in the grass and piles of tipped-out charcoal reveal illicit BBQs. The dog, wet from a refreshing early morning dip in the river, investigated a tent on the Abbey meadows. Two bodies entwined inside.

MacDonald’s reopened yesterday for drive thru orders. The queue of cars caused Abingdon’s first traffic jam in 10 weeks. Innocent husband expressed shock that it was only 10.30 in the morning – not lunch or dinner! The same still there at 3.30 in the afternoon. The return to normality isn’t encouraging so far. An advert from a party company ‘Order your end of lockdown party equipment NOW!!!! (but don’t use it yet)’ didn’t encourage either.

Everyone is travelling further and further to escape the confinements of lockdown. Now we meet very few on our usual walks. But the hum of activity is increasing. The deep, deep silence and stillness of 4 weeks ago is fading. The golfers are back on the golf course; little private planes are flying.

School has just completed the half-term holiday. Much needed by all. Teaching and learning via screens is immensely draining. Some year groups in primary schools have started back, amid great controversy. So far, reports seem to be good – particularly from the point of view of the children allowed to interact with their friends again. And for some parents finally given freedom for an hour or so. Some prep schools won’t make it back. News for the private sector is bleak for those which were only just surviving. Some are exploring a new business model: reports that Eton’s online courses have been accessed by more than 26,000. And confirmation for us that the boys won’t be back before September – it’s a long, long haul.

The hedgerows  are full of poppies, daisies, roses and honeysuckle. In Waitrose carpark, still queuing patiently, the blossom has gone and the cherries are turning red.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – coronavirus changed it

26 May 2020. My photography group’s challenge for this week is ‘coronavirus changed it.’ So far there are photos of empty motorways, families holding hands on glass doors, shopping queues, the chains on a school gate, deserted beaches, neighbours sitting on their garden walls to chat, people learning new skills. I have two potential entries: a totally empty deep blue summer sky or a car parked on the verge, almost engulfed in un-mown grass and weeds.

Prompted by dire warnings from the AA I checked my own car. It has been parked at school since 20 March. A nearly flat tyre and low on engine coolant but  (just about) a live battery. A slow drive around and around campus to re-charge it and get the brakes working until I was pulled over by one of the gardeners to ask what I was doing. Then parked it again. Another thing the virus changed – the two car family.

The truthfulness of blogs has been in the news. An aspect of our virtual world – who knows where anybody is in reality? We meet and teach and work wherever we happen to be, and we can disguise that. Does it matter? Somehow if somebody says their blog is about life in one place is it less true if it was written somewhere else? Surely all bloggers self-censor? I know I do. Little omissions, gaps in the text, conscious of the reader. No blog is a personal, locked diary hidden under a pillow.

Today the hedgerows were full of wild roses. And the moon a perfect crescent. But I’m not saying which hedgerows or what time I saw the moon.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – bored

22 May 2020. Our first trip to a shop together since 23 March. Essential shopping at the supermarket can only be done by one person, and I do it to minimise risk for husband. He has ventured to the pharmacist twice for medication, each time encountering a wait of just three other people. So today was his first experience of shopping in lockdown as we went to B&Q to get light fittings for our new house. His first experience of being herded into a queue behind barriers, of markers on the ground to space us out, of a sanitised trolley given to us by a masked assistant, of hand sanitiser as we enter the shop. B&Q insisted we each pushed a trolley as the most effective way of enforcing social distancing – ‘sadly, a lot of people don’t respect it.’ Watching him get to grips with this alien way of doing things reinforced how normal it has become. Everyone else was impatient of him trying to work out what to do.

A teenager was hanging around the entrance. A staff member who had finished her shift but really did not want to go home. Overhearing the conversation as her colleagues tried to encourage her to do some work and be paid overtime or to go home, it became clear that home was the last place she wanted to be. She could not bear being shut in with her family any more. So was prepared to stand for hours in a place where there were  different faces. That was all she wanted. Different people.

The groups of teenagers getting together are growing. Sitting along by the river, or on the far edge of fields. Just sitting in a group of a dozen or so. One friend reported that her teenage daughter had met up with friends for coffee for the first time in weeks. Such a relief to get her out of the house. The rest of us are busy tutting. We have become crowd-counters. Is that a family of nine or two whole families together? Tut, tut. It should be just one other person from another household. An impractical restriction. I can meet up with a friend to walk our dogs together, but if that friend brings another which of us has to leave? Or are the teenagers counting themselves as a chain-gang of one plus one plus one. The larger groups are certainly causing hassle on narrow paths.

But the relaxing of restrictions means that the dog can go out with his friends with his dog walker tomorrow. His depression at not playing was becoming quite as hard for us as for any parents with a bored teenager. He won’t enjoy the compulsory bath when he gets home.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – letters

20 May 2020. A letter from my mother-in-law this morning. She has written to us at least twice a week for as long as I have known her. And not just us. She writes constantly to all her friends, sadly fewer now as she has reached her 90s. Always meticulous in spelling and grammar in a clear copper-plate learnt in the 1930s. She writes about her day, small doings of the dog or family, how they are managing to source fresh food to be delivered, annoyance at a plane in the sky, fretting about getting flour to bake cakes to give away, tired of lockdown.

Letter-writing has had an unexpected revival among the young as well. A need to connect in a more permanent and meaningful medium than texts or screen-time. Maybe a sense that the outside world has been delivered in a physical form through the letterbox. And that somebody cared enough about you to spend time over that communication. I wonder how anyone gets hold of stamps.

My friend Richard’s birthday this morning and his wife posted a photo of his birthday cards. Neatly arranged on a tray, still in their envelopes, with a thoughtfully arranged letter-opener and bottle of antibacterial, household cleaner. Definitely a set-up for a crime novel. Our letters go through much the same process. They sit on the side for a a few hours after delivery, waiting for the virus to get bored and go off somewhere more exciting. The letterbox, inside and out, gets sprayed with a rather pleasant pink grapefruit scented household cleaner. I do resent the few bits of junk-mail which still get through, particularly on behalf of the poor postman.

A colleague had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today. Another relic of the past and, again, a sense that time and thought has gone into this communication, rather than the knee-jerk responses fired out on social media without concern for the sensitivity of writer or reader. He writes about the growing inequality in schooling. He is right. We are managing to provide so much to the boys, but we are aware that so many children are disadvantaged by online learning – there is no spare computer, no private space, no reliable internet. The gap is widening.

Really good news. At last my nephew has made it home after weeks in isolation in a solitary cabin on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. One very happy family.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – a boarding school, not a school with boarding

19 May 2020. A colleague sent me his response to my last post. A debate worth having. Here are his thoughts.

‘Like a lot of people, I’m rather enjoying some aspects of life in lockdown. My academic teaching seems to be going well – boys are making great progress, on the whole, although life can be tough if they are in the wrong time zone; or are at home alone because their single parent is still going out to work; or they are just not a particularly self-motivated boy and need the structures of daily life at Radley to help them keep on top of their workload. Still, I’m finished every day by 6.30pm at the latest, which is unheard of in more normal times.

I’m finding I have more time for living. I’m often guilty when I am physically at school of manufacturing work to fill the gaps – if I’m there, I feel I should be working. At home I’m more likely, if I have half an hour free, to go and do some gardening (finally, I’ve got on top of the weeds in the garden); chat to the children between their online school experiences; cook lunch; read a book. Yet I’m still managing to teach, including some entertaining individual music lessons across multiple timezones and in some surprising places.

But I am really worried about the education of our boys, even so. Dons are working hard, boys are progressing through their subject syllabuses; but that has only ever been part of what we do at Radley. The whole justification for the full boarding experience (what former Warden, Angus McPhail, called ‘a boarding school, not a school with boarding’) is that it provides time for the boys to do other things together. Sometimes this has even been quantified as 30% of a don’s commitment – whether that be sport, music, drama, clubs, or social activities like form evenings or Caledonian Society.

When I see colleagues finished for the day at 3.00pm, out for a walk with their families,  I am glad for them; but I worry about where that time has come from. Education is about much more than sitting in a classroom, physical or virtual; and boys are missing out on so much of that education at the moment. They can attend choir rehearsals, of a kind, and record individual parts for a choir piece in their lonely bedrooms, but they can’t sing together; they can learn notes and lines for the musical this November, but they can’t act together; they can do solo fitness efforts and even compete on Strava, but they can’t be a team; they can make paper planes and film them for a competition, but they can’t learn the real value of leadership out in a dark wood at midnight on a CCF Field Weekend.

Should we bring the boys back to Radley? Yes, there will be risks; but there are always risks. COVID-19 has been yet another reminder that humans are bad at assessing risk; we tend to underestimate risks which are familiar and which we feel we can control, like driving, and overestimate risks which are unfamiliar and out of our control, like flying in an airliner, even though the latter is many times safer. COVID-19 is the same; the government’s campaign message has been so successful it has left us scared of our own shadows.

Meanwhile, teachers are excoriated in the press because the teaching unions are asking for schools to be ‘completely safe’ before they reopen. They don’t represent me, and I’ve decided the time has come to quit my union when my subscription runs out, and go for legal insurance instead.

No school is ever completely safe. Life is not completely safe. In my time teaching at Radley, boys have been run over outside the school crossing the road from the bus, but we don’t ban them from travelling into Oxford, all the same. Boys are injured playing rugby under supervision, or kicking a football around on the pitches after prep.’

So many contradictions in our lives at the moment, and so many opinions and options. We may be locked down, but our minds and speech are still free.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – picnics in the park

17 May 2020. As lock-down starts to be unlocked we have more freedoms to move around. Exercise is now unlimited and the rules on activities outside the home have been relaxed. Today the Abbey Meadows were full of people sitting. Just sitting on the grass. Most in small family groups – parents with young children and a dog. A few couples. A few clearly two friends who have met up for the first time in weeks. Sitting at least 2m apart. Happy just to sit. All quiet. Very little conversation. Just sitting in the sunshine, a blessed relief after the relentless need to keep moving with exercise. Fewer cyclists today. But a lot of the groups had arrived by bicycle. They were propped against trees or the park benches.

Every so often a new family arrived on the scene. Invariably father walking ahead, talking incessantly on his phone. Mother herding children and dog behind him. The family would choose a spot, maintaining an appropriate distance away from other groups and away from the path, and settle down among the knee-high buttercups. A study in Central Place Theory and Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Many friends in teaching are becoming depressed and upset by the assault on them by the media. The role of the Unions in negotiating a safe physical return to school by pupils is being described as ‘squabbling.’ Teachers are branded cowards. Others are raising it to the level of class warfare – Eton won’t go back before September but the youngest primary children can be tossed to the virus like guinea-pigs on 1 June. And so on.

At school, the Geology Dept are teaching about fossil molluscs by means of Guylian chocolates; the Year 9s are all building pin-hole cameras from whatever is lying around at home, whilst the Year 10s have accessed a telescope in Liverpool via the internet and are photographing distant galaxies from their living room sofas. The Fifths (Year 11) whose GCSEs were due to start within a few weeks have an entirely new programme of learning and want to know ‘why isn’t all education like this?’

The rush to get every pupil back into the old way of school may throw away our one opportunity to rethink education.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent