The Robert Clack Alumni Association had its beginning in February 2010 when 20 plus ex Robert Clack Students, led by Ian Pittaway met to discuss the notion of creating an Alumni Association. Sandie Shaw attended the inaugural dinner and agreed to be Patron. The full Alumni had its first meeting on 16th February 2012 and subsequently established the Robert Clack Development Trust with a six person board of Trustees. The trust has full Charity Commission approval and tax registration and will form the core of the Alumni fundraising activities.
Patron: Sandie Shaw MBE
I love Robert Clack school.
I was there in the early sixties
Here are some things I loved the best:
The school uniform. I was so proud to wear it. I washed and ironed my shirts myself and pressed my skirt. The tie was my favourite item of clothing – I still have it!
I loved learning, I still do. You never know how the things you pick up at school will serve you in the future. Education is not all about getting a job. Its also about enjoying your work and life and being able to take part in building a great community to live in. Its about finding out who you are, what special gifts you have as everyone has something unique to offer the world, and discovering what you want to explore further.
English literature was a favourite for me - especially Shakespeare and poetry. Reciting it in class gave me confidence in myself. This was useful later when I acted on stage or wrote lyrics and even later when I have given lectures and speeches in Westminster.
In French lessons it was embarrassing to pronounce the words out loud but without the basis of this language I would not have been able to pursue an international recording career in five languages. Neither would I have had the European background that has made it possible for me to represent artists interests in European Parliament.
Art classes allowed me to develop my eye for visual presentation, style and fashion – and to gossip with my friends - a very special art form.
I suppose Commerce was a strange subject for me to enjoy but knowing how to read a balance sheet has saved me a lot of money over the years..
I enjoyed domestic science. I still use one of the recipes I was taught, Cheesy Baked Potatoes. My grandchildren love it. My pastry and scones still get me admiring comments – Bake Off here I come!
Geometry and Technical drawing might appear an unlikely interest but it has come in incredibly handy with my latest project – a Grand Design which includes diverting a river!
On the down side - I didn’t like hockey but netball was not too bad as I am tall and close to the net. The worst part was the shockingly awful sport kit we had to wear back in the day. It was so embarrassing. And I really hated exams. It made me so anxious. If only I knew then what I know now as a clinical psychotherapist I would have learned how to handle it better. I would also loved to have had a Headmaster like Paul Grant. But who wouldn’t?
However the most valuable thing I learned was how to get along with people different to me and to work as part of a team. We all depend on each other to make the world go round nicely…
I am deeply honoured to be the Patron of the Alumni of Robert Clack and to support such a wonderful school, its pupils and staff.
Sir Paul Grant – Former Headteacher Robert Clack
Ian Pittaway – Class of 1974
Mick Fox MBE – Business Manager Robert Clack
Melissa Pepper – Class of 1998
Gary White – Class of 1977
Michel Jeffery – Class of 1963 (resigned November 2017)
Sir Paul Grant was born on 16 May 1957 and raised in Liverpool, the oldest of 7 children born within an 8 year period. He is very proud of his working class background.
Sir Paul went to the Salesian College in Bootle. In 1975 he went to Hull University to study History and graduated in 1978. The next university year saw him complete his Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Durham University.
He studied successfully part-time for an MA in Education History and Management, and obtained his further degree in 1996 from the University of London.
His teaching career began in North Yorkshire in 1979 with one year's secondment in 1986 to Australia. By 1987 he was in East London as Head of History and Head of Year at Saint Bonaventure's School in Forest Gate, Newham.
Sir Paul Grant was Headteacher at Robert Clack School between April 1997 and August 2017. He originally joined Robert Clack School in 1990 as the Head of Humanities. The school, at that time, was moving through the most challenging period of its history with very low examination outcomes and very poor pupil behaviour creating an appalling reputation. There were well advanced plans for closing the school down. However the Humanities faculty which Sir Paul led continued to go from strength to strength with outstanding pupil progress in a school haemorrhaging pupils, teachers and community support.
This striking pupil progress had come to the attention of the Governing Body and the Local Authority, and they asked him to replicate this success across all subjects and across both sites of the school. What happened next has been the subject of much study by government, academia and has entered local folklore given that Robert Clack serves one of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK.
In June 2004, December 2007 and March 2011 Robert Clack School was designated by OfSTED as an 'outstanding school'. Robert Clack School now has over 2,000 pupils on three sites and is featured in the prestigious Good Schools Guide. Since 2012 it has taken on the responsibility of full-time education for 15 and 16 year old Academy students at West Ham United.
Sir Paul was knighted for services to local and national education, appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London and was bestowed the Freedom of Barking and Dagenham in 2009. In June 2012 Sir Paul was appointed Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Education at the University of Hull and Visiting Professor of the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Anglia Ruskin University.
Ian Pittaway left Robert Clack in 1974. He went on to Hull University to study Law and then qualified as a solicitor. Ian is now Senior Partner of a Law Firm in the City of London which specialises in pensions law.
He has very fond memories of the school and, in particular, the Music Hall productions we put on. Great fun with teachers and pupils all working together under Mr Clifton's inspired guidance. Happy days.
Robert Clack gave Ian a terrific start from humble beginnings – for that he will be very grateful. It is important to him as an alumnus to try and give something back to the school and, in particular, to help the next generation fulfil their potential in the way that his school – and your school too – did so well. So time to help the current crop of pupils!
Mick Fox Mick was educated at the Barking Abbey Grammar School and from there went on to obtain a Degree in Mathematics at the University of Nottingham.
He joined the then Robert Clack Technical School in 1969 as a teacher of mathematics and, as his career progressed, held a variety of posts within the school. In 1984 he was appointed Deputy Head Teacher and he held this post until his retirement from teaching in 2006.
On his retirement from teaching he took on a part time role as Business Manager which he retired from
In July 2005 he received the MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his services to education.
Mick has many fond memories of his teaching career at the school and has found it very interesting and rewarding meeting so many ex-students through the Alumni Association.
Melissa Pepper (formerly Wagstaff) left Robert Clack in 1998. She went on to study for degree in criminology and criminal justice at Portsmouth University and has recently completed a part time Masters degree in social research methods. Melissa's career started as a government social researcher in the Home Office. She is now working as a researcher for the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, the body that oversees the work of the Metropolitan Police Service.
Melissa's favourite memories of her time at Robert Clack include sing songs on the coach on the way to netball rallies, school trips camping in Gilwell Park, in a youth hostel in Germany and an epic A Level history field trip to Trewern, and the best chocolate doughnuts in the world from the school canteen!
Gary White left Robert Clack in 1977 after his A Levels. He then went on to work in as a trainee accountant with Save and Prosper Group and held a couple of other positions in the industry before qualifying as a chartered certified accountant (ACCA) during the 1980’s.
After spending 12 years in industry and commerce, Gary set up his own accounting practice in 1990 which he ran for 10 years before joining up as a partner with a Chelmsford based firm of accountants, taking his clients and staff with him, where he works to this day. Gary is now a senior partner in the firm, CBHC, with offices in Chelmsford and Romford employing around 50 people, and acts for smaller and medium sized companies in terms of advising them on accounting, business and taxation matters.
Gary enjoyed his time at Robert Clack and still keeps in regular contact with a number of his old friends from the school. He was particularly keen on football then, and that remains to this day, still playing the occasional veterans game. His favourite teachers at the time were Mr. Howard, for accounts, and Mr. Fox for Maths. This was because both of them were very thorough teachers but also both had a very good sense of humour, enjoying some excellent banter with pupils.
He remembers also some great characters from that time and that many have gone on to have successful careers in business despite not always being academically gifted.