From nightly homework to an “elasticated” cheese pie – Xaverian College in the 1960s


Devon Finley-Reynolds, Reporter


Xaverian College has had a long and varied history, stretching back from 1862 up to the present day. Xavazine caught up with the Principal, Tony Knowles, to discuss his experiences of being a student here, before returning to teach Economics. Many years later, in 2016, he became Principal. 

Xaverian is in my DNA”, says Mr Knowles, reflecting on a lifetime at the College. Joining in 1962, he spent eight years as a pupil, taking O-levels (now GCSEs) and A-levels. Mr. Knowles explains that Xaverian was a grammar school which only taught boys, but in 1977 it became a sixth form college also teaching girls. Students worked just as hard as they do today, and homework was given every night and was due the next day. However, “in sixth form you were given seven days” to complete it, which Mr Knowles says “taught self-discipline” as you had to find the time to complete the work yourself. 

But some things were different. Punishments included the cane, and one PE teacher even gave the slipper to the last student to get changed. The victim would have to “choose the weapon” – this being a trainer from the spares box. Mr Knowles also told us “there was a cheese pie, it was horrible” featuring “elasticated cheese”. He agrees the food today is much better. The buildings have changed significantly, with Costa housing the Music department, the old canteen being a gym complete with a stage for performances, and Marylands only being used to train the Brothers who ran the College. The first years were taught in Ward Hall to keep them away from older students and they finished at 3:45. 

 From our conversation, it’s clear that while “In some ways, it was very different, in other ways it was the same.” Mr Knowles was proud that there is still a “sense of belonging and a sense of community”. One thing which hasn’t changed is that in the 1960s, just like today, Xaverian started at 9 and ended at 4. So next time you’re walking around college, spare a thought for all the students who came before you (especially the ones who had to eat that awful cheese pie).