Conor Pope: Bullying was, if not actively encouraged, not tackled at school

The threat of mindless violence was never far away in the institutions of old

School rules: frivolous subjects like music and art were eschewed in favour of Latin. Photograph: iStock

School rules: frivolous subjects like music and art were eschewed in favour of Latin. Photograph: iStock

The strained looks on the faces of all the grown-ups made me fretful as I stood in the gloom of an autumn evening and waited my turn to pass through the doors from darkness into light. I’d arrived for an open night at a secondary school I’d like my daughter to attend in what I thought was good time and in good spirits but still found myself at the end of a long and anxious line.

Excited children peered through brightly illuminated windows and shouted what they saw to their waiting parents. They marvelled at Bunsen burners flaming in the science lab and cookers making cupcakes in the home economics room and a drum kit being mercilessly beaten in the music room. “They’re making volcanoes in art class,” one child said. “Can we go here, Dad? Can we?”

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