To WRITE about Goldings dispassionately demands of me a determined effort not to let disappointment about recent events colour
what I write. Nevertheless I feel I must take the opportunity afforded by the only journal likely to publish this personal account, to
enlighten, so far as I can, its circle of readers who have perhaps felt bewildered by the School's closure. It should be recognized at the
outset that no one is likely to know the whole truth concerning the events and deliberations which led up to the closure, for those
employed in residential work, whatever responsibility they bear, are not admitted to the inner counsels where decisions are made.
A gulf exists between the Committee of Management and those who live with and care for the children, so each side can know only
half the story. This, I believe, is a growing weakness in Barnardo’s structure, there being very little opportunity allowed for staff
consultation. This was not so serious in former times, when a more intimate family relationship existed within the organization and
members of Council and Committee of Management were in the habit of visiting homes and making direct contact with the children
and residential workers. If experience at Goldings is any guide, it has become very rare for members of the Governing Bodies to visit
residential establishments, except for ceremonial openings or formal meetings. It has always been possible to express one's views to
the Committee of Management through the principal administrative officers, which indeed is normal procedure. If, however, the
members of this Committee wish to be informed adequately concerning the problems which are being faced and more especially what
is being thought where the work is done, this procedure needs to be supplemented periodically by direct consultation with residential
staff. I have emphasized this point at the very beginning, because I think things would have turned out differently if earlier consultation
had taken place. During nearly twenty-two years of holding an important post in residential work I was before the Committee of
Management twice, once when I was appointed and a second time shortly before the decision to close Goldings was announced.
When I was invited to attend the second meeting mentioned above, I thought this was to discuss the form that Goldings would take in
the future. I knew that the Committee had before it a report, which though admirable in many respects proposed that the education of
our boys would be undertaken principally by local schools, groups of twenty, thirty or forty to be distributed among the schools in the
locality prepared to accommodate them. I was concerned to advise against this programme, as it appeared obvious to me that our boys
were no more likely to succeed in local schools than in the schools from which they had been removed, and such a policy would, I felt,
create disunity within the home. I think I was in a good position to judge of such matters and that Goldings staff would agree with me.
I made a plea at this meeting that a delegation should make a direct investigation into the circumstances at Goldings before an important
and probably irreversible decision was taken.
What I have so far written does not necessarily mean that there were not cogent arguments for closure, but from my personal knowledge,
I take leave to doubt whether the reasons given, either to the press or to individual inquirers, were the true ones. First of all it was said
that we had failed to keep the School up to strength, despite energetic recruitment efforts. We at Goldings know, that resulting from the
only genuine effort at recruitment in the post-regionalization period, the School was quickly filled and we had a short waiting list. It must
be admitted that rather a high proportion of the boys taken in during this crash programme presented us with exceptional difficulties, a
point which I will return to later. In the last six months prior to the announcement of the closure, admissions were severely limited by
design, in order to have more manageable numbers during the expected transition period. We had ample evidence of a growing demand
for places by Local Authority Children's and Education Departments. Inability to fill the School could not therefore have been a valid
reason for closure. The other explanation given was that Barnardo's intended to replace Goldings by a few smaller establishments,
offering similar opportunities, to be created in the various areas nearer to the boys' homes. There is no evidence so far that this is an
earnest intention. If it were so, it seems obvious that the right course to have pursued would have been to acquire suitable premises or sites,
continuing Goldings for a year or so, whilst transferring boys and willing and suitable staff as occasion offered. Such an arrangement would
have caused the minimum upset and anxiety for boys and staff.
It is speculation, but more likely to be true, that the great and mounting cost of conducting the School justified the Council in their
decision to discontinue this branch of Barnardo work. There have been a number of times in the past when the cost of running Goldings
has given rise to misgivings and it has only survived because of its proved success. Without going into details, or repeating what has
been said elsewhere, it must be stated that in 1945 the home amenities and school buildings fell a long way short of any reasonable
standard for a residential school. Despite very considerable capital investment during the intervening years, 1966 found Goldings still
inadequate in certain respects as a home and school. The dining arrangements for the boys, for example, have never been such as to
prepare them for taking meals in private houses. This was one of the projects which had to wait its turn, but plans had at last been
prepared and approved for separate dining rooms for each School House. Accommodation for resident staff, although much improved
in the past few years, still needed attention and plans were afoot for this too. Extensive additions to the Gymnasium were needed to
include showers and changing rooms and also we needed a new sports pavilion. Whilst drawing attention to defects, one must not forget
the many favourable aspects of the place. The mansion, unashamedly mock Tudor of nineteenth century origin, has undeniable grace
and charm, and the beautiful parkland surrounding it has been lovingly tended so that its occupation over forty-five years by large"
numbers of teen-age boys has left it quite unspoilt. This one fact in itself is a tribute to the character of the boys who inhabited Goldings.
The facilities for recreation and games were the envy of the local schools. The shortcomings in respect of buildings and equipment have
not in the past prevented the creation of an atmosphere in which a very great number of boys have overcome severe handicaps of
childhood and with the help of the School made a success of their lives. Most worthwhile work is done in the face of difficulty, so lack
of this or that facility has never been a good reason for giving up the struggle for achievement.
I now come to the changes effected at Goldings since Barnardo's decided to regionalize their organization. It is here that words have to
be weighed with special care, to be fair to all concerned. Viewed from Goldings, this major policy progressively and fundamentally
changed the nature of our work. From this time onwards, recruitment at Goldings from within Barnardo's was affected in volume and
nature. The volume diminished and the proportion of severely disturbed boys increased. It would not be at all fair to say the boys were
worse than in former times. A higher proportion needed professional skilled help and guidance, which is quite a different matter. The
effect of diminution of recruitment from Barnardo's meant admitting an increasing number of boys from Local Authority Children's
Departments, resulting in even greater need for trained workers. This is in no way a criticism of the boys or the Local Authorities.
Why else should they turn to us for help? We found ourselves with a reputation for rehabilitating very disturbed boys while they were
a small minority of the whole, and became involved in a struggle to convince 'the powers that be' that the nature of our task had changed,
so the forces at our disposal would also have to be revised in a thoroughgoing manner if we were to retain the same level of success.
This was the race we came very near to winning, but ultimately were seen to lose.
We have always had a few excellent houseparents, who might have left us for higher paid posts, and this situation has also existed in
the classrooms, where certain individuals have persevered, in the face of increasing difficulties, out of sentiment or loyalty to Goldings
or Barnardo boys. During the past two or three years, in both of these departments of school life, the few dependable and persevering
people have been left to struggle without adequate support. No one is likely to deny that, as Headmaster, I brought this situation
repeatedly and forcibly to the notice of the Goldings Committee and the principal administrative officers of Barnardo's. Alas, it was
not until the spring of 1966 that effective action was taken to remedy these known weaknesses. At this time it was agreed to offer
appropriate remuneration and conditions of service to attract and retain people qualified to teach boys in need of special help and also
men with training and experience on the home staff. The number of new appointments during the succeeding term was quite small,
but the effect of their support to the old dependables was immediately felt. After a time of constant strain and anxiety, we seemed to
come out into the sunlight and we were back in the uplands of success. A Government 'squeeze', the tragic death of Dr. Hill, Treasurer
of Barnardo's and a firm supporter of Goldings, the need for further capital expenditure and higher running costs, all these circumstances
occurring together, were, one feels, the real causes of the sudden change of front. Now we have to accept it as irrevocable, however sad
it is to witness the dismemberment of a fine school, with a wonderful tradition of service to boys. In these times, when experimentation
in education is greatly needed, especially for the benefit of those not doing well in larger establishments, the greatest loss which has
been suffered is the new technique of co-operation between academic and craft teachers, which we had painstakingly developed over
the past three years. No doubt we shall see our programme and methods adopted in other schools, for it was a highly successful venture
and given a fair run with adequate staffing would have brought renown to Barnardo's.
In saying farewell, I address myself to the boys of Goldings and to my many friends on the staff. It would be hypocritical to pretend
that there were not some boys whose behaviour was a source of constant anxiety for me. If I had not been worried, it would have
meant that I did not care for them, but when all the truth is revealed, any fair-minded person is compelled to acknowledge that even
the awkward squad are more sinned against than sinning. As for the majority of Goldings boys, both now and in the past, all they
have ever needed was opportunity to develop their talents and they have done the rest. Their achievements have been most impressive
and my mind is filled with happy recollections of them. Goldings has always been blessed with loyal and conscientious staff, many
having put in half a life time at the work. Amongst comparative newcomers, too, there are men and women whose work for Barnardo
boys will be sadly missed. I thank you all for your unfailing loyalty and support. It seems truly like the breaking-up of a family, for
that is how I have always thought of the Goldings folk. I am happy to know that many of you have improved your circumstances,
sad though the parting was. I trust you will all eventually find success and happiness in your new fields of endeavour and that some
of us, some time, will have the joy of meeting up again.
R. F. WHEATLEY
Goldonian March 1967