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What After School?

What were we going to do when the exam was over and our five years at school were finished? A minority of boys were staying on and becoming 6th-formers to take the equivalent of the present day A-levels. Then it was 'inter', the intermediate stage of a BA or BSc, which was necessary for getting into a college or university. A number remained for six months and took the Civil Service Clerical Officers' examination. That was increasingly popular in the late thirties - someone described it to me as 'the finest thing a young fellow can do these days'. The school instituted a 'Civil Service 6th' form specially for it, and there was a longer course for the Executive grade. We had a few boys who came from the Central schools at 14 to take matric with a view to college or the Civil Service.

But the majority of us were going to be on the labour market looking for jobs. Despite the unemployment problem for a Monoux boy to fail to get a job promptly was a disgrace; he was said to be 'letting the school down' and a parasite. It had to be an office job - manual work meant that you had wasted your education and sunk into the lower section of the working class. Three or four boys, including a close friend of mine, grabbed opportunities of jobs and did not stay to take the examination.

There was not much outlook for other bents or ambitions. I went to the art room after school one day to finish a picture I was painting. Alfred Hayes. the art master, did not mind you doing that, he always pottered about the room until quite late. While I sat working, he said to me from the far end: 'What are you doing when you leave here, Barly?' Looking for a job like everybody else, I said. That was wrong, said Hayes in his brusque manner-he was a little military-looking man. He had meant what art school was I going to; it was unthinkable that I should do anything else. and I had better speak to my parents at once and fix it up. I was astounded. I had never known that I would be considered good enough for an art school. As far as I knew, you had to be well-to-do because your parents would have to support you; that made it out of the question, and I never said anything about it. But Hayes did not offer any information, or return to the subject.

It occurred to me that I might be able to get a job in a studio. John Cohen, Frank Bishop and I went to the Juvenile Employment Bureau, which was in the Old Monoux School in High Street. We saw the man in charge: Frank wanted to be a librarian and John an architect, and I said I wanted to become an artist. The man told the three of us to forget it. He said thousands of college graduates were walking the streets. qualified for such jobs and unable to get them: none of us had a chance. The best thing for us was to pass our examination and search the Daily Telegraph for clerical vacancies.