I WAS somehow saddened to read in a recent edition of your paper of the appearance of some snakes and other reptiles at St Ivo School.
To me it was an example of how education has changed and become dominated by league tables and prescription of curriculum by political leaders who try to compare it with running a business. But it also brought the memories back of something very special.
St Ivo Entomology and Natural History Society was the jewel in the crown of the school for nearly 50 years. It was formed in the mid-1950s by the biology teacher Henry Berman (Fellow of the Royal Entomology Society) and was internationally recognised as an example of good practice and education in the care of a whole variety of fauna.
When St Ivo expanded, a tropical room was built and, even after a major fire in the science laboratories, where every one tried to rescue the animals, this was replaced.
ENTSOC, as it was known, was run by the pupils. It had its own committee, which consisted of the leaders of the various groups, for example mammals, insects, arachnids and reptiles. Each group had an assistant leader and a team that was responsible for the welfare of that particular group of animals.
They were all expected to study a wide range of animal biology, collect insects and to take internal tests to rise through the ranks of their particular interest. They also had the responsibility of looking after them during the school holidays.
I can remember when the society had snakes, lizards, stick insects, rats and mice, possums, bird-eating spiders, all sorts of toads and frogs, terrapins and turtles, an alligator, lots of cuddly animals and even bred locusts for the anti-locust research centre.
The list is almost endless, and all this was done in an activity period, breaks and lunch times. The pupils were dedicated and made to feel responsible.
There were times when there were over 50 members. Mr Berman and his wife Joan used to organise collecting expeditions during the summer holidays, some of them abroad.
This was true education, and many of the members of ENTSOC have gone on to have careers in animal and human care.
I gather that the last of the animals were found good homes about two years ago, but what a pity that an institution of this quality has disappeared because of the restriction and limitations put on it by modern educational practice and, of course, health and safety.
There is no doubt in my mind that the lessons learned by all the ex-members of the society will be remembered fondly and stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Mr Berman retired completely in about the year 2000 and should be very proud of the legacy he gave to his ex-pupils.
I am proud to be the owner an ENTSOC badge and certificate awarding me honorary membership.
DAVID (Chunky) CHAMBERS