I cannot begin to tell you what an important blog post this is for me. You see, the author of Telling Tales Out of School, Chris Lowe, was my head teacher at Prince William School (PWS) in Oundle where I attended until 1979. And as Chris reminded me recently in an email, I was the first PWS student to go off to university to read English so both Chris and the school have a very special place in my heart. (Chris also said he remembered me as a ‘rather engaging teenager’ but I don’t know how true that is!) Those who know me well will be aware that I still see my English teacher of the time, John Rhodes, very regularly too as he had such an influence on my life.
That makes Telling Tales Out of School special enough, and this weekend sees me attending the fiftieth anniversary of my old school’s incarnation after the comprehensive system was brought in to education in England.
However, the most important aspect of Telling Tales Out of School is that all proceeds from the book go to charities enhancing the lives of young people. In particular, Telling Tales Out of School supports the James Rutterford Trust. The James Rutterford Trust was set up in memory of a former PWS student tragically killed in a car accident. It was one of the trustees, Jenny Blount (tour de force behind this weekend’s reunion and my former French A’Level teacher with whom I still keep in touch) who invited me to review Telling Tales Out of School. I could not have been happier to do so.
It’s not just me reviewing Telling Tales Out of School. Here are a couple of folk Chris also taught, whom you might just recognise, sharing their thoughts:
Former PWS student Nev Fountain, writer for the BBC Dead Ringers and Have I got News for You and News Quiz, and also staff writer on Private Eye:
The ultimate survival guide for Teachers. Funny and Informative. A titter on every page!
And a comment from Colin Sell, the pianist on the BBC long-running panel game spoof I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue:
Telling Tales Out Of School is full of splendid anecdotes of pupils and teachers told by a Man Who Has Been There. Chris Lowe’s Telling Tales Out of School is an enduring, chucklesome treat for anybody who’s ever been to school – in any capacity. A bedside, witty, dip-into-it must!
Telling Tales Out of School is available for purchase here.
Telling Tales Out of School
Chronicling the tales he had collected throughout his career in education started as a lockdown pastime for Chris Lowe. The end result is Telling Tales Out of School: fifty tales to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Prince William School, Oundle. The Tales are all based on true events or stories told to Chris by fellow teachers: stories about growing up, about learning, teaching and coping together.
All proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the James Rutterford Trust, which is targeted at families who need financial support to enable their children at PWS to take part in school activities, school trips, to provide equipment to aid their study or to support out-of-hours school activities.
Please visit tellingtales.bigcartel.com for more information about the project and to buy Telling Tales Out of School.
My Review of Telling Tales Out of School
A collection of fifty school based stories.
What fun Telling Tales Out of School is. I read the stories in the order they are presented and although they have a unifying Chaucerian style pub chat between Marcus Brampton and his friends in the telling, they would equally well reward dipping into at random because they stand alone and create memories in the reader of their own school experience. Indeed, much of my own teaching past was brought back to life vividly through these tales, as were some of the youngsters I’ve taught, giving a universality to the book. Telling Tales Out of School is a book that will appeal to anyone who has had any contact with education in any form!
I loved the style employed by Chris Lowe in Telling Tales Out of School. There are literary references that I enjoyed spotting but this is by no means an ‘exclusive’ book only for those with a literary background or who attended the author’s school. Rather, the style is flowing and engaging and the more memorable and appealing characters are the rogues and miscreants (not just the students either) between its pages. The authorial voice is very reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse, especially in the direct speech which has the effect of bring characters to life incredibly vividly. There’s so much humour here that I found myself snorting aloud at some of the incidents and comments and again having memories of my own school life and teaching career brought flooding back. This has the effect of making Telling Tales Out of School both entertaining and incidentally quite poignant because it reminds the reader of who they were, their past life and of people and moments they had forgotten.
There’s a visual quality to Telling Tales Out of School that I hadn’t expected. When I picked it up I wasn’t aware that there would be cartoon style drawings by Chris Ellard and Steve Lancaster that are as witty and appealing as the text and complement it perfectly. However, it is the writing that creates images in the reader’s mind so evocatively and I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at a pantomime style donkey in quite the same way again! Indeed, I think Telling Tales Out of School would make a fantastic set of short television plays because there’s humour, action and fabulous dialogue just begging to be used.
Wit and humour aside, Telling Tales Out of School has a more profound impact too. Not only does it support a charity, the James Rutterford Trust, but Chris Lowe’s tales illustrate our need for human connection, showing how false assumptions and preconceptions can be wide of the mark. Here, through the persona of Marcus, the reader is gently taught that compassion, understanding and not a little wiliness and cunning can go an awful long way in improving the lives of others. I finished Telling Tales Out of School most royally entertained, but also somewhat humbled and moved. In a curious way reading Telling Tales Out of School has restored my faith in human nature.
Telling Tales Out of School is a smashing meander down each reader’s individual memory lane and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really recommend it.
About Chris Lowe
When Chris Lowe retired in 1999 after 29 years as principal of Prince William School, a profile in the Times Educational Supplement said he was the longest serving secondary head of a single school in the country, and “might also be the most famous head in the world”.
During his career, Mr Lowe sat on the board of the Royal Opera House, was president of the UK Secondary Heads Association, and visited 43 countries as one of the founders of the International Confederation of Principals. He was awarded a doctorate, a fellowship, a professorship in Australia, and a CBE by the Queen.