History of York High School

History Foreword

Ron Dugmore

Ron Dugmore

The history of York High School is an attempt to show in a relaxed and informal manner how the school took root in its early years and how well it is growing.

Those currently at York should find the history of the early years quite interesting. It was a humble beginning, a starting from scratch, a do-it-yourself sort of experience. But it was fun. Working unselfishly together generated a sense of appreciation and a special feeling which York pupils share when they get to reminisce.

For those who were at York in the early years, if you’ve not been back you won’t recognize your “alma mater”. Alterations have been done, wings have been added and the trees you planted have grown tall. Though the prefabs are still there, the school and its grounds are in magnificent shape. York has in every sense grown into a vibrant, modern school with a reputation for excellence. The fact that York was rated as one of the top 100 schools in South Africa says it all.

This wonderful achievement is thanks to all the staff, pupils, parents and friends who have been part of York for the past 40 years. This “history” cannot do justice to all who contributed so much.

Perhaps you’ll be a York’s 40th birthday when we can look back with some nostalgia – and forward with great confidence.

RON DUGMORE
(Founder Headmaster)

In the beginning

“Does George really need an English School?”
“Language Apartheid”
“Single Medium Education Defended”
“Dual Medium 95% Afrikaans”

These were some of the headlines in local newspapers in the early 1970’s. Parents of primary school children in Knysna were calling for an English Medium Primary School. A move had been made as early as 1967 when the George Convent (for girls) closed its High School Section for the establishment of an English Medium High School in George. Opinions were divided as to whether separate schools for English speaking pupils was necessarily a good thing.

ScootersJohn Hartdegen, outspoken editor of the “Het Suid Western”, wrote in 1973 “The steady drifting apart of the two language groups needs arresting rather than accelerating. How can children from these different societies ever hope to understand each other when they are systematically kraaled off into different schools and raised in isolation from each other?” A Knysna primary school parent (English speaking) wrote “Morning assembly is exclusively Afrikaans, and at school events, English is used so sparingly you would think it was rationed.” An official of the Department of Education explained that “the Department does not favour the principle (of dual–medium schools) where there are not equal numbers of pupils in both language groups. Once the balance is disturbed, the larger group tends to overwhelm the smaller.”

This was the case at the Outeniqua High School where English-speaking pupils were very much in the minority. Parents of English pupils at the time were quick to agree that academic standards at the school were excellent but many felt their children were being denied a traditional English education. It was simply impossible for a staff, however dedicated, to cater equally for the English minority groups.

The closing of the Convent High School section in 1967 led to the formation of a Committee to negotiate with the School Board and the Provincial Administration for an English Medium High School. It was pointed out that many pupils – boys in particular, were being educated at other Cape schools. The Board replied that “the time was not ripe”. The Interim Committee must have begun to realize that a new school, like Rome, was not going to be built in a day!

Bob Cawood was the Chairman of this first Committee and serving with him were Ken Smith (later to become York’s fist School Committee Chairman), Felix Harris, Gordon Moir, Paul Nevay and Peter Wiggett. The Committee decided to lie low in 1968 and then in April of 1969 approached the School Board to re-consider their earlier application. The Board decide to carry out a “thorough investigation on the statistical aspect of the English pupils in the Southern Cape.” In August the Interim Committee received a copy of the Board’s letter to the Director of Education which concluded that “the number of English-speaking pupils in the George District did not warrant the establishment of a High School.”

Almost a year later, in June of 1970, the George School Board advised the Interim Committee that the Executive Committee of the Province had approved in principle the establishment of an English Medium High School at George for approximately 30 pupils from VI – X. The matter of accommodation was receiving attention. A site in York Street which had been set aside for education some ten years previously was suggested to the Department by the School Board.

Interim Committee

Back Row: P.Nevay, P.A. Wigget, V.K. Smith Front Row: F.R. Harris, W.G .Cawood (Chairman), G.Moir

There was no further progress in 1971 and the Interim Committee awaited further developments. Mr Chris Heunis, MP undertook to arrange a meeting with Mr Kritzinger, MPC to formulate a programme of action. Unfortunately the Committee was informed that the English High School project was to be shelved owing to the Cape Provincial Administration’s freeze on capital works. Before meeting with the School Board to discuss this, the Committee, in consultation with English speaking parents from Outeniqua, decided to suggest an interim measure. This would involve separating the ± 150 English pupils at Outeniqua and housing them with their own staff in the old Manie le Roux building. A letter was written to the Board in May 1972. By November, as there was still no reply, a meeting was arranged with Mr Kritzinger, MPC at the Gelderland Hotel on 20 February 1973. By now the patience of the Committee and the parents was wearing thin. The argument by the School Board that the Manie le Roux building was more suited to a Clinic was unacceptable as it had been designed as a school in the first place. Mr Kritzinger promised to investigate, asked the Committee to “cool” feelings of the English parents and dumped the matter in the lap of Mr Lubbe, Member of the Executive Council. After supporting the School Board’s view, the MEC decided that the new school must be built as soon as possible. He was prepared to place the project on the A-List. Planning could start.

On 5 May 1973 the Committee met with Mr PW Botha, MP for George. Though this was a provincial matter he promised to see what he could do. The Committee was still determined to keep the Manie le Roux option as a temporary solution and the School Board again warned the Committee that “the use of the Manie le Roux should be carefully considered in the light of the progress being made for a new school.” By July 1973 the School Board HD decided that the whole project had become a matter of urgency and sent a deputation to Cape Town to tell the Director of Education so. On their return the Interim Committee was given two alternatives in regard to the new English School.

1. An Industrialised prefabricated school building to be completed by January 1975 or
2. A conventional school building by the beginning of 1978.

The Committee settled for the 1975 option.

In December of 1973 all English-speaking parents of pupils in Stds 5, 6, 7, and 8 met the Committee in the Anglican Parish Hall. The meeting supported the idea of the industrialised building at an earlier date and the Interim Committee was re-elected en bloc. Mr Nevay explained that it would be this Committee’s responsibility to liaise with the Department in the establishment of the new school. They would have to investigate subject options, raise school funds and make recommendations re name, badge, colours etc for the new school. One of the sources of real concern was the Department’s opinion that very few English-speaking teachers would apply for posts.

First York PTA

Back row: R.L. Simpson, A.J. Mostert, D. Cuff, A.S. Perkes, E. Wiggett, W.G. Cawood Front row : M. Fraser (Chairman), R.M. Dugmore, J.E.F. Ackerman

1974 brought an additional problem. The Committee learned that the school would not include Std 9 and 10 pupils. A petition was signed by parents of Std 9 and 10 pupils at Outeniqua High asking the Department to reconsider their decision. This was refused and official approval of the new English (Grade H2) school was received in a letter from the Board. The school would open on 1/1/75, it would cater for pupils in Stds 6, 7 and 8 only and the staff would consist of seven teachers – the Principal, a Vice-Principal, a Senior Assistant, plus four teachers. The Principal’s post was to be advertised and no more English pupils would be accepted into Stds 6, 7 and 8 at Outeniqua High.

The panels are laid

The panels are laid

Concerned about the welfare of English pupils in Stds 9 and 10, a letter was sent to the Director of Education on behalf of English parents requesting that Outeniqua Staff numbers not be reduced so that these pupils could continue to be taught in an English stream in 1975 and 1976. Letters of thanks were sent to Mr Kilpert, Headmaster of Outeniqua, Mr BA Jansen (Circuit Inspector) and Dr MC Stander of the School Board.

The matter of a School Hostel had yet to be settled. There was no question of a new hostel being provided so it was agreed to make

Another prefab

Another prefab

use of one of the Outeniqua Hostels – the GJB Volschenk. Its central position was anything but ideal. Still, beggars could not be choosers, and the Committee was determined to make the best of it. A letter was written to the School Board suggesting expropriation of erven near the School for a future hostel.

From July 1974 a frenzied scramble ensued to have things ready for the opening of the School in mid-January 1975. Mr Ron Dugmore, who was Headmaster of Union High School, Graaf Reinet at the time, was appointed as Headmaster. Relishing the challenge of starting a school “from scratch”, Mr Dugmore told prospective parents at a meeting in the Denver Hall in September, “We will be responsible for making the first rules and establishing the traditions of this new school – and this is a wonderful thing!” Contrary to Departmental expectations, applications for posts had been phenomenally good. There were thirty-five applications for the Vice-Principalship alone.

In the meantime it was very obvious that Murray and Stewart were having a battle to finish the School Building in time. Staff had to be interviewed and appointed, furniture and stationery requisitioned, school uniform (interim and permanent) to be decided upon, funds to be raised and a name to be chosen for the Department’s approval.

Already the spirit of the school was beginning to stir. Who will forget the first fundraising effort, a quiz show called “The English Inquisition” at which Frank Wastell said “I think a dhole is a mole with a cleft palate”? Or Jeff Ackermann’s great variety show which played to a packed Civic Centre? Sixty five suggestions had been received in the “Name the School” Competition and the unanimous choice was “York High School”. The winner of the competition was Susan Smith, daughter of Ken Smith who had been so very involved in the struggle to see York established.

People ask, “Why York?” It was certainly not an attempt to link it with George Rex or a Duke of York (whoever that may have been). York had an “English” ring about it, the School was situated on York Street and the short, strong name was eminently suitable for a school.
Once the name had been decided upon, it was a natural progression to include the York Rose in the badge with two oak leaves below for the oaks growing outside the entrance on Meade Street.

The motto, in English not Latin, came a little later. “Take Root and Grow”, suggested by Mr Harry Gundry, were the words used by 1820 Settler the Rev HH Dugmore on the occasion of his Jubilee address to the British colonists celebrated in Grahamstown in 1870. The fact that the first Headmaster of York was a direct descendent of HH Dugmore is happy co-incidence.

Over the years the school has gained an enviable reputation for quality shows under the banner “York Entertains”. The opening day, 17 January 1975 was the first show. The only problem was the stage set was incomplete, there were no proper costumes, the players were an unknown quantity most of the props were missing and the script was (almost) completely unrehearsed.

1975

Frantic Rush at New School – (news article)

Gill Dugmore and fellow gardeners

Gill Dugmore and fellow gardeners

GEORGE: Builders at the new English-Medium High School worked overtime this week in their rush to get the building ready enough for the 160 pupils who were expected to enrol at the school yesterday. This is the only English-medium High School between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and will probably be called the York High School. The buildings are far from complete and the contract manager for Murray and Stewart, Mr Roy Portway, told me on Tuesday that they would not be finished before the end of February. The 10 main classrooms were finished in time. All day on Tuesday pupils at the school were helping to carry in their desks. Workmen were still at it until 2 am on Tuesday and later into the night that same day to get the assembly hall fit for the school’s inaugural assembly yesterday morning. But Mr Portway said he did not expect the hall to be finished until the end of this month.

Double Time

The Principal, Mr Ron Dugmore, and his staff of seven were frantically trying to sort out desks, books and other supplies as well as dealing with the enrolment forms for the pupils. Of the specialised classrooms, only the domestic science room is finished, but floor tiles will have to be laid in the woodwork room, the two music rooms, the assembly hall and the two science laboratories. Mr Portway told me that 105 workers had been employed on Monday simply to clean the cement splashes off the window panes of the E-shaped building and sweep out the classrooms. For the past six months men on the site had been working 12 hour shifts, putting in 80 hours a week, double the normal time. One of the hostels of the Outeniqua High School, Huis Volschenk, has been turned over to boarders of the new school. The hostel can house 60 pupils and Mr R Simpson, the school’s Vice Principal, and his wife are in charge. Vacancy The school will start this year with two classes in each of Standards 6, 7 and 8. Eight teaching posts have been filled and a ninth post is open for a biology teacher, who can also teach English. School uniforms have not yet been approved, but Mr Dugmore said he did not want to rush this as it was a very important decision. The building of the school which can accommodate 300 pupils has cost R560 000.00. The buildings are made of precast concrete, with the concrete panels being manufactured on the building site. The school stands on six morgen of land. When the first pupils made their way across the rubble from Meade Street into the new school yesterday morning, it was the culmination of six years of negotiations by English-speaking parents in George to get their own school.

The above newspaper report appeared on 16 January 1975 and gives a good idea of the state of “unreadiness” at the start of the school year when the George School Board officially handed over the school building. Dr MC Stander, Chairman of the Board, paid tribute to all those who had worked towards the establishment of the school and Mr RA Jansen, Regional Inspector, thanked the men and women of the Outeniqua High School who, over a period of 75 years, “had given unstintingly of themselves to educate the English-speaking youth.” In thanking the Department and the School Board, the new Headmaster, Mr R Dugmore, said that it had been particularly noticeable that the whole community had spontaneously supported the school and this argued well for the future. This was the first of many functions that York boys and girls experienced sitting on the cold Hall floor.

The first school day was a memorable one.

First York Staff

First York Staff

Because there was still no school uniform as yet, pupils had been asked to wear grey skirts or flannels, white shirts and a plain jersey for the cold. One bright-spark moved amongst his colleagues asking each in turn, “Are you new too?” The desks, all 272 of them – had arrived on Christmas Eve of 1974. The School Board had been unable to organise any labourers, so the Headmaster and his three young sons had personally carried them into the Showground Hall where they were stacked for the holidays. Now they were being shunted into the classrooms by the 158 Std 6, 7 and 8 pupils. Though the opinion had been expressed that the English section at Outeniqua High had been difficult to handle, the new York staff found them to be very subdued and reluctant to participate in class discussions. Only after pointing out that questions and opinions were very welcome provided it was done in a polite manner, did it improve.

No pupil, no parent, no member of staff who was not part of that first year at York has any idea of how stimulating it was. Everything was new. It was a joint venture. Because the school lacked many things, everyone was prepared to work hard and unselfishly towards achieving what was needed. Other schools, George business firms, local sports clubs – all came forward to offer the use of their facilities. The PW Botha Technical High School in particular, being a close neighbour, generously allowed York the use of their tennis courts, cricket nets, athletic field and rugby pitches. Hockey was played on Club fields. The first cross country route followed a track towards Pacaltsdorp and then back along the uncompleted national road – a distance of 5 kilometres. Outeniqua High School and Die Bult generously provided fields for matches. Later George Suid Primary and Kruinsig allowed the school the use of their swimming pools. Budding squash players could be seen pedalling out to the George Squash Club courts at the old aerodrome. By the end of the year, five young York pupils had won provincial colours in various sports.

There was a cultural explosion in that first year as well. Fuelled by the Ballet Schools and the experience of the Arts Theatre, a Drama Society was soon arranging the first “York Entertains”. Parents helped the staff to start a Hobbies and Art Club.

The Outdoor Club encouraged pupils to build their own canoes. The SCA organised a Prayer Workshop and a Bible Week. “Under the Oaks”, a student magazine, was born. Of particular significance for a new English-medium school was the organization of a Taalfees to celebrate the centenary of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners. Four hundred and fifty guests were invited.

The Interim Committee was replaced by the first School Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr Kenneth Smith. Fund raising was very important and served to unite parents, staff and pupils. The first PTA under Malcolm Fraser’s leadership launched a series of ingenious fund-raising schemes. One of them was to send each parent a R10 note and challenge them to double it. This raised R2 365. (Only one parent made off with the R10!) A mobile tuck-shop was inaugurated, the well-known Mini-Bazaar, shared amongst the classes, soon became a regular feature. Inter-town Quiz shows were organised and a variety concert by local performers was held at the Civic Centre. All these funds went to buy curtains, crockery, stage equipment, library books and to start the building of a squash court. To brighten up the corridors, local artists were asked to donate a painting or sculpture for display at the school. Gifts of expensive prints were gratefully received. The first series of photographs highlighting the School year was mounted on a corridor wall. Today there are 24 more. Pupils were encouraged to plant trees and to look after them, and parents began to create a garden.

Many people in George believed that a mixed hostel would never work. Forty four boys and girls moved in with Roy and Dee Simpson in charge and the York “family” was born. The aim was to create a relaxed and informal atmosphere while still maintaining strict discipline. This happy atmosphere and family feeling has been a cherished tradition to this day.

The first Annual Prize-giving, with Bert Pfuhl as guest speaker, was a proud occasion for the fledgling school. In this Annual Report Mr Dugmore said “Most important for a new Headmaster is not inheriting a traditional way of doing things. We have had the opportunity of building up our own traditions and the foundations we lay will set the tone for the years to come. I feel this tradition must aim at turning out boys and girls who work hard, who can think for themselves, who are honest and God-fearing, well-mannered and considerate. They should be self-disciplined, interested in things cultural, physically fit and mentally prepared for the important role they will have to play in the world today. It seems rather idealistic, but the higher we aim, the more we shall achieve.”

The year ended on a sad note. With shock and a sense of great loss, staff, pupils and parents of York High learned of the death of Mr Kenneth Smith in December, barely a year after the founding of the School. The Kenneth Smith Memorial Trust Fund established by his family for deserving Matric pupils will always remind us of the significant role Ken played in the founding of York High School.

On our own

Graeme Pollock

Graeme Pollock

Graeme Pollock

In 1992 York High School was 17 years old, had taken root and was growing, and in midyear changed Headmasters from Ron Dugmore to Graeme Pollock. The major strengths were very evident – a positive focus on the individual in his/her own right, the need to concentrate on the welfare of others, and a forward-looking perspective in everything we did – and the weaknesses were those shared with most educational institutions at that time – lack of real support from the existing Education Department and an uncertainty as to what would happen in education in the country in the view of the political changes in our country that were becoming more urgent by the day. It was obvious that the dreams of a new school near Heather Park would not materialise and therefore the focus was switched to consolidating ourselves and our facilities and focussing on the direction/s we should take to deal adequately and proactively with the future as it would affect us all.

1993 and 1994 were years of great physical difficulty as we went through a period of renovation and additions to the school buildings and the hostel. It was so well described by Linda Nienaber when she wrote: “The corridors were crawling with painters, carpenters, plasterers, disgruntled staff looking for classes, “lost” pupils pretending to look for staff, bespectacled architects and frantic secretaries …..” But the new-look York High was worth it! The Governing Body, who had put in an outstanding effort in their negotiations with the Department in terms of selling the site near Heather Park and utilising that money in addition to an amount provided by the Department for the renovations, had moved the role of Parent involvement into a new era. A school always blessed by parents with a “hands-on” approach, they looked now to the “soft” issues within education – the need to bring all participants into partnership in managing the school. One of the first steps that was taken was the introduction of TOC (Theory of Constraints) training for many staff members and then pupils.

In 1996 the major changes in our country were reflected in the changes in the Education system proposed by the new Education Ministry and created a very different milieu for all ex-Model C schools. Realistically finance would be very heavily channelled towards those sections of our community most affected by previous government policies. The re-structuring of teaching posts and the rationalisation of teaching personnel created many tensions within the teaching profession and, sadly, many great teachers were lost to the profession. York did not escape unscathed and yet this difficult time brought out the best in the York family – the Right-Sizing Committee addressed its task in a transparent and objective manner and, at the same time, parental support, both moral and material, was very evident.

We shared a determination not to allow our very high standards to drop – rather we would do all in our power to grow even further. The parent body willingly endorsed the need to substantially increase school fees in order to employ teachers ourselves, thus alleviating the greatly elevated teacher/pupil ratios and allowing us to set upper limits to the numbers of pupils in a class. In addition, there is an ongoing investigation into how best to accommodate subject areas as demanded by the newly introduced outcomes-based education, Curriculum 2005, with Typing giving way to Computer Studies as the first adaptation to our subject choice and the addition of a photography component to our senior Art classes. Focus was now brought to bear on the structures and policies governing our school, with new look Vision and Mission Statements providing goals and direction for the school for the immediate future leading up to and past the new Millennium. (Incidentally, it is extremely interesting to note the deep-rooted similarity between Ron Dugmore’s mission as expressed in his address to the very first Prize giving audience and that developed after the school had attained its majority!) A further development ensued when two staff members, Francois Moll and Sandy Holtzhausen were sent overseas to the USA to attend a course on TOC in Education, which skills they brought back to enhance its application at York and to share with other schools in the community.

1997 will be remembered as the year in which the challenges in Education in South Africa became a reality. New Governing Bodies were elected, including for the first time among their ranks pupil representatives, educators and non-educator staff members in addition to the parents, and a realistic culture of learning had to be developed requiring pupils to accept greater accountability for their own progress. A great deal of work was put into developing policies and structures that would allow the school to function in a democratic and inclusive manner, e.g. the Classroom Code of Conduct developed jointly by staff, pupils and parents, and the Limits of Authority matrix which defines roles and responsibilities. Our strategic planning involved detailing objectives and actions; identifying resource needs; and formulating policies based on a set of common values, so that we might play a leading role in education in the Southern Cape. High ideals? Yes, certainly. But we must not be deterred by the prospect of not achieving our dreams. As Peter Reinhold once said: “What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first step to something better.”

The decision to enter ourselves in the 1998 Sunday Times Top 100 Schools competition was possibly our statement of self-confidence – we knew that our thinking was along the right lines , that the education we offered, built upon the sound foundations of the past, was of a very high quality, and that our pupils who involved themselves in school life were achieving at a very high level in many areas. How pleasing it was to find our confidence justified when we were named as one of the Top 100 schools nationwide. Perhaps a look at one section of our entry for the 1999 Top Schools competition will give some insight. In answering the question “Describe why you consider your school excellent”, Rob Gee wrote: “York High, the only English-medium state school between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, has provided an outstanding educational programme and achieved excellent academic results, despite in no way being able to “sift” its pupil applicants, losing 6 staff members to the rationalisation programme, and having to cope with a sizable number of families unable to pay school fees. Also there is no University on our doorstep as a resource centre and a relatively small business community which must support close to a dozen high schools in the George area. We have achieved excellent academic results (10% A aggregates last year and no matric failures over the past 5 years). We offer an all-round programme of educational/ sporting/ cultural/ service/ environmental experiences second to none. Our pupils are committed to and involved in leadership and service at all levels – we have an outstanding outreach and service programme. At the cultural level we have produced musical and dramatic events of a very high standard, and on the sports field we have a very pleasing level of pupil participation, provincial achievement and a number of our pupils earning national colours. We are fortunate to have a highly qualified staff and a concerned parent body which has enabled us to maintain a busy and effective programme. Our programme is learner-centred, and driven by an enthusiastic team of pupil leaders, staff and parents. York High School has a reputation as a fine school and it is our vision to be the centre of academic excellence in the Southern Cape. We believe we are almost there.”

Where to from here? Well, over the past 25 years we have taken root very deeply and grown remarkably, thanks to the influence, encouragement and support of so many diverse individuals and groups. As we enter the new millennium, there will be many new challenges facing us. Expectations, opportunities and realities will all change. We cannot remain the same – if we stop growing, we stagnate and die. As John Ray said: “He that stays in the valleys shall never get over the hill.” York High has built a fine reputation through previous generations of pupils. That reputation must be built even further so that the school is attractive to good pupils in the future.

Dean William R Inge once said: “The aim of education is the knowledge not of fact, but of values.” It is a sad truth today that more and more of the “old-fashioned” virtues are being cast aside in the name of expediency. Children are no longer being taught to respect other people and their property. It is easier to give in than to say “No”! And accountability is a word that seems to have dropped out of the English vocabulary. What can we as parents and educators do to stem the tide of selfishness and self-centredness? What can we do to stimulate the human capacity for compassion and caring in the youth of today? Truth, honour, integrity, compassion – these are words that need to be explored and internalised for they should be the very fabric of our society. We can teach the next generations of Yorkies the sanctity of the human spirit – the need for standards and values in our everyday lives.
We all have it in our power – parents, educators and learners – each to do our little something so that our friends, our families, our school and our country may be the richer for it. “Take Root and Grow” is our motto – one that is apt today and tomorrow when everything about us is in the grip of inexorable change.

Academic Excellence

Rob Gee

Academic progress at work

Rob Gee

Rob Gee

Several years ago the infamous “Good Schools-Bad Schools” debate broke out in Cape Town press. “Good Schools”, according to some editors and even certain misguided academics, were those schools who could boast the highest number of A-aggregates when the matric results were published at the end of December in the newspapers. “Bad Schools” were then, by implication, those who produced few or no A-aggregates. What the published lists, of course, did not (and still do not) indicate include percentage pass rates, percentage matriculation exemption successes, financial and material resources available to schools, pupil/teacher ratios and many other vital considerations.

So then, academically, is York High a “good school”? Undoubtedly – YES! Not only because 10% of our matric pupils achieve A-aggregates every year, but more so because for the past five years none have failed! Not only because our school was selected to be one of the Top 100 Schools in the Sunday Times survey of 1998, but because we have embarked upon an innovative academic programme that takes every pupil way beyond the limitations and limits of syllabus and curriculum. Take, for example, the 1998 innovation – “Real Life Education Week”. In one week in October, while our matrics are writing their final exams, every other pupil in the school is involved in an extra-curricular project. Our Grade 8s are involved in a Cultural/Historical/Environmental Study involving visits, excursions and worksheets in the Mosel Bay and Sedgefield areas. Grade 9s are divided into groups to undertake a fully integrated study of our town, George. Groups research the widest possible spectrum of areas including crime, religion, commerce, entertainment, architecture, industry, history, informal settlements and population. At the end of the week an exhibition is mounted and parents and community leaders can view the results of the research. Our Grade 10s go to Schoemanspoort past Oudtshoorn and study Karoo and Mountain ecology, birdlife and flora. They tackle abseiling, diving into mountain pools and hiking through the bush in the dead of night with no torch. The Grade 11s do four days of “job shadowing” in and around George, where they spend at least 5-6 hours each day observing, learning, questioning and getting first-hand experience in the areas of their chosen careers. YES, York High does have a sound academic policy and we do realise that life’s greatest lessons are often learned outside the classroom.

Despite the State’s woeful attempts to rectify educational imbalances in our country, through such ill-advised schemes as the recent teacher redeployment debacle, our school has absorbed the loss of 6 teachers at the end of 1996 and with the help of parents and their commitment financially to maintain and even lift standards, we now employ almost a dozen teachers, paid by the school’s Governing Body, some in a full-time and others in a part-time capacity, in order to maintain class sizes at a manageable level. Exciting developments have included the establishment of a computer lab and the introduction of Computer Studies in Grade 8 – 10, the after – hours “Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management Course”, our success in a wide variety of Olympiads and Science Fairs and our initial attempts at creating a bridging programme in English and Mathematics for our previously disadvantaged pupils.

Our Vision statement reads that we plan to be “the centre of excellence in Secondary Education for the Southern Cape by the year 2000” and in our mission we pledge to focus on “academic achievement, extra-curricular participation and the development of appropriate life skills required to meet any future challenge”.

While some may debate whether at the verge of the millennium, that our VISION has been achieved, none can doubt that the school, and its body of teachers in particular, have been faithful to the MISSION.