The School in in the seventies

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Peter Dauncey had just been appointed to the headship of St Peter’s Johannesburg when Ted Rivett Carnac suffered his fatal heart attack in August 1969. Dauncey had to choose quickly, and luckily for WPPS elected to stay on and became head.

Dauncey understood the needs of the prep school boy, and initiated several new incentives to encourage those boys who were not naturally academic achievers. He introduced the merit system, which acknowledged good manners, responsibility and all-round achievement, and added effort symbols to the mark orders, removing the focus solely from marks. He employed Nonie Fort, who had taught at the school previously, to start a remedial department, the first in a prep school in South Africa.

The end of 1973 saw the celebration of the school’s Diamond Jubilee. Events included a cocktail party for old boys, attended by some of the original 26, a “Jubilee Jaunt” sponsored walk, and a dinner dance hailed as “The Ball of the Year”! A three-day exhibition of arts, crafts and academic projects, masterminded by senior staff member Lawrie Davies and attended by over 1000 people, was testament to the variety and quality of the work of the boys and staff.

One dramatic event of the year was a storm in July, which blew off a 300-square-foot area of the corrugated iron roof of Mount Royal, depositing the whole lethal section in Newlands Road. Mercifully no one was injured, but the rain poured into the dormitories and the boarders had to camp in the hall and the library.Dauncey was concerned about the shortcomings of some of the teaching facilities, and asked the Board to consider raising funds to develop new classrooms around the existing pavilion. Before this could be finalised, part of the Buxton Home property on the opposite side of Newlands Rd came onto the market. At once a major fund-raising drive, “Project Province”, was launched, and by July 1976, the necessary funds were raised, and the property and the conversion of existing buildings started.

The seventies were turbulent times in South Africa, and inequality in education became a burning issue. From 1973, the chairman of the Board Edwin King and Board member John Bridgman had been in constant correspondence with Anglican Archbishop Selby Taylor to pursue the request to the government to allow independent schools to open to all race groups. They saw the exclusion of children on grounds of race to be in direct conflict with their Christian beliefs. The wheels of government turned slowly but at the end of 1977 permission was given to church schools to accept “suitable applicants”. In January 1978, Akif Gani and Michael Matolengwe entered Form 2: a significant step forward for the school.


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