Bell tolls for school tradition

FOR centuries the school bell has punctuated the daily lives of hard-working pupils. But what happens when you ring time on such an ancient tradition?Staff and pupils at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds decided to find out by switching of all bells to mark the end of lessons.

FOR centuries the school bell has punctuated the daily lives of hard-working pupils.

But what happens when you ring time on such an ancient tradition?

Staff and pupils at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds decided to find out by switching of all bells to mark the end of lessons.

The idea, the school claims, is to prevent the rapid rustling of books into bags and the rush out of the door at the sound of a bell.


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Despite initial confusion - and some pupils turning up late for lessons - head teacher Geoff Barton said it was part of an overall programme to make school life more civilised.

He said: “We thought 'let's turn the bells off' so you don't have an industrial method of control.

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“Initially, there was some lateness for lessons though we've now seen an improvement.

“All bells should go eventually and it should work more like a business or an office.

“In the past the bell would go and all the kids would start packing up at the end of lessons.

“I think we have all been a bit like Pavlov's Dog in that the bell would go and we would respond.

“The people who missed them first of all were the students, many of whom have spent years abiding by bells. They have been part of school culture.”

Now the only bells heard are to mark the start and end of the day, the start and end of break times and to mark “tutor hours”, where pupils spend time with their form tutors.

But the long-term plan is to hang these bells up as well.

Speaking about the overall intention of making school life more civilised, Mr Barton said more and more pupils were eating proper meals.

And Mr Barton wants to make sitting down to eat a more pleasant experience - more like dining out at a restaurant, though without the wine.

To achieve this, the school will be buying in proper crockery plates rather than current plastic variety and laying out proper tablecloths. And, he said, there would be live music once a month in the school's dining hall.

It is possible that the school will become a completely bell-free establishment sometime next year.

Asked whether the Grove Road school would draft in a Nobel prizewinner to mark the end of all bells at the school, Mr Barton said: “What a good idea.”

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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