The school year was in full swing and we had all begun to adapt to this new way of schooling which seemed alien to what we were used to.
I had my struggles with the subjects but even some of the other kids were finding it a little hard to adapt.
We were class 8 out of ten and we had started senior school with the new system of numbers.
It was a lot more simple before you would say the first, second, or third year but some genius in the city council had decided to change this.
We were now part of year seven as this was our 7th year of education.
How it worked back then was you had to go to school until year eleven then after year eleven you could leave school legally at sixteen.
If you were one of the clever kids you would likely stay on and do A levels which would then get you into university.
That wasn’t an option for me at the time so I figured I would do a separate course in the sixth form instead of A levels.
I’m glad I didn’t as most of those courses are not worth the paper they are written on.
Most employers and universities will recognise the A levels or Access course equivalent but because the government tried to sneak in so many of these new pointless qualifications many people just ignored them.
It was typical short-sighted behaviour from the government as in their mind it was better to keep people in school learning something and in theory, it would help people gain employment.
In most cases, this didn’t work out as most employers would not be clued up on this ever-changing system.
I’ve no problem keeping children in school if they would be taught a skill like carpentry or even useful life skills such as how to do your taxes.
This was quickly swept under the carpet as the schools could pass the book to the YTS.
The YTS was the youth training scheme that in theory provided apprenticeships for young people as there was a huge shortage of skilled labour in the UK in the 70s, 80, and 90s.
The YTS stepped in but came under heavy criticism as they were using school leavers as cheap labour.
Many children including a couple of friends of mine were introduced to this when they left school and were put on a three-year training program.
This could be any blue-collar work from being a plasterer, mechanic, panel beater, joiner.
The people on this scheme were paid around thirty pounds a week under the premise of getting a good job when they finished.
Unfortunately, many of the training providers cut corners and treated the young adults like slaves.
Then there were a few deaths across the country on the scheme as health and safety back in those days were none existent.
This led to protests and walkouts from many schools in the mid-1980s.
This led to the YTS being made the responsibility of local councils which then led to more cuts as many school leavers were not finishing the course which meant fewer opportunities all around.
My friend Paul Evers was six months away from becoming a panel beater and he got tired of the shit jobs which came in thick and fast.
In hindsight, he should have stuck it out for another six months but when we are young we don’t listen to reason.
I haven’t seen Paul in about ten years and he’s recently come off Facebook.
He is working and has seven kids if I remember correctly he’s a cool guy and I went to his wedding in 2002.
Unfortunately, he and Amanda are no longer together but they spent years together.
Whatever he’s up to these days I wish him well as I always got on with him and sat next to him in English class in years ten and 11 with Miss. Blohm.
Reading this and looking back at the time it’s scary how few options that I had and I’m glad I was ignorant to this as that would have been a lot to get my head around.
The education system has improved a lot since then and they do teach how the world works and functional skills for living life but back then it was who has the best memory in the exam hall then you were set free into the real world.
So it’s best to introduce you to some of 7.8 as I’m in touch with a lot of them through social media.
I will start with Barry Byrne as he was expelled about halfway through the year.
I never heard from him again but looking back he should have been in a special school.
All I know is that he lived in care and had been in dozens of foster homes due to his behaviour.
He was a funny kid but he always took things too far.
When there is one child like this the rest of the class starts acting up.
His cards were already marked with the teachers as his sister Terri had been expelled for stealing Miss. Scott’s purse.
Barry’s behaviour got worse as the year went on and he decided that he had a crush on Natalie Byott.
Normal people would say something like hey I like you but not Barry.
Every time she would be stood outside class he would start hugging her and making screaming sex noises.
He seemed to have an obsession with sex which is a little worrying looking back we would be in a lesson and he would just start screaming like he was in a porn film.
We thought it was funny but for the teachers, it must have been uncomfortable, to say the least.
I remember we were sat in religious education and Harvey knocked on the door walked straight over to Barry grabbed him by his blazer and dragged him out of the class.
Barry waved at us all as he was dragged out and we never saw him again.
It turns out Natalie had quite rightly had enough and told her dad who came up to the school and went ballistic about it.
You can’t blame him imagine your eleven-year-old daughter telling you that some dirty bastard was doing that.
I think if that was the modern-day it would likely make the national papers.
I’ve often wondered what happened to him as he fell off the radar completely.
We weren’t exactly best mates but it would be interesting to see if he sorted himself out or what’s happened the past thirty years.
I think it’s fair to mention Paul McVeigh as well. If my memory serves me well I think he left towards the end of the first year or it could have been the second year.
He was a nice lad but we gave him a hard time because he was a little slow.
He didn’t deserve that and he was alright when you spoke to him.
He would sit in the corner of the room playing with toy cars.
He had a lot of the same difficulties that I had only his were much more severe.
In a way, he was lucky as he was sent to a special school so he would have got some help with his work.
Thinking about it that’s a pretty ignorant statement from me because judging the state of the schools then it’s likely the special schools were not much better.
I’ve got Paul on my Facebook but we haven’t spoken in years.
He’s got a couple of kids and lives with his long-term girlfriend but that’s all the information I’ve got on him.
The group I hung out with the most was Ian Black, Billy Collins, John Farrell, and Mark Allison.
Ian has been an electrician for years and still lives in Liverpool with his girlfriend.
The last time I spoke to Billy was years ago and he was working shifts in a paint factory.
He was OK with it as he was making mega-money so I guess everything has its price.
He’s a bit like Ian Black where I will bump into him every few years and have a ten-minute chat with him.
We never fell out we are just all just doing our own thing now and I’m glad things are well for both him and Ian.
I bump into Ian’s mum and dad in Sainsbury’s once in a while and I like that as Pauline and Arthur were always lovely to me and they always take the time to say hello.
Ian’s brother Edward is doing well and he sees my mum all the time. He’s just about to move in with his girlfriend after years of saving for a deposit on a house.
Mark Allison has completely fallen off the radar but when we were in school it was always a mission to get him to hang out at the weekend or after school.
He loved his video games and you could not get him away from them.
I saw him in 2003 after I left the army and we chatted for five minutes and that’s the last contact I’ve had with him.
His sister Jayne is on my Facebook and I’ve told her many times to give him my number and he hasn’t reached out.
I’ve also asked for his number and Jayne has said she would ask him but has never got back in touch.
I am sad about this as he was a sound lad in school but I have to respect his wishes and hopefully, he will read this one day and reach out.
My door is always open and I know he must have his reasons to go off-grid.
Mark was a Chinese kid who was very well-spoken and came from a good family. He could play the piano and he was funny as fuck at times.
We had a good crew of friends and throughout school, we were all close.
We all went into different classes as the school years progressed but everyone’s form remained the same.
John Farrell works in IT and I haven’t spoken to him for years.
He’s probably one of the most naturally funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.
He’s had me crying laughing on many occasions and he wasn’t even trying.
I think to be this funny without trying you have to have Bond villain-type intelligence.
When we used to sit together we would be separated quickly as we would always disrupt the class.
John could get away with it though he was naturally clever and he left school, with As and Bs in his GCSEs without even trying.
He did A levels and almost got expelled as he fucked about a lot there as well but still managed to bring home the good grades.
Unfortunately, he came off Facebook a few years ago and I don’t know anyone who is in contact with him.
In around 2011 I was working nightclub security in a place on Hardman Street in Liverpool called The Magnet.
It was a nice easy place to work and for the most part, we had no issues.
I found a pair of sunglasses on the floor and took a picture and put it on Facebook as a piss-take.
Ten minutes later John pops up in the comments telling me that he was in the Magnet last night and he had lost his sunglasses.
What are the fucking odds I was gutted as I just left them downstairs but he wasn’t bothered as they were only cheap.
John was good mates with Len Hope but unfortunately, Len is no longer with us.
Len was a proper geek in school and went to university in London where he completely reinvented himself
He became an investment banker and was on crazy money for years.
Len got in touch with me in 2013 as he was joining the Territorial Army as an officer.
He asked me a load of questions about the training and how to get ready for it and we spoke on the phone a lot and he went through and passed all the training with flying colours.
The TA which has now been renamed the Army Reserves was primarily a weekend thing as well as going to barracks once a week.
Len liked it at first but it didn’t give him the buzz he thought he would get from it.
He managed to get to the rank of captain before he called it a day.
We would speak regularly even though he was in London and I was in Liverpool.
He went a bit heavy down the partying route for a while before he got himself back on track as he realised he wasn’t happy and then, unfortunately, met the woman who would be his downfall.
He met a girl from Sweden and they had a kid together and at first, all was well.
As time went on cracks developed in the relationship and sooner or later things became unbearable.
Not wanting to ruin a time-old tradition the first thing his partner did was stop him from seeing his kid.
This destroyed Len and he kept trying to put a brave face on things while going through the courts which were costing him thousands with very little going in his favour.
He went to try and talk to his ex one day at his former home which turned into a heated argument and the police were called.
Things were not nearly as bad as he thought they were and I even put him onto my solicitor Richard Darby.
Len was beaten and didn’t have any more fights left in him and he went to Thailand suddenly without telling anyone.
He was messaging me one day from Thailand and he wasn’t himself and after a while, it became very apparent what he was doing.
He had gone to Thailand to kill himself.
We spoke for hours and hours and I could not snap him out of it.
I have also lived in Thailand and I know even with a proper address it would be next to impossible to get the police to check on him or even the consulate.
I kept him talking as long as I could and tried to appeal to his better nature.
I felt like I tried everything and felt so helpless as even though I hadn’t seen him for years I know ill miss him forever.
It got to the point where we were video chatting multiple times that day but then he would be in tears then he wouldn’t make sense and then he would be hearing things that weren’t there like gunfire.
Slowly the chat stopped and the next day the news spread like wildfire that he was gone.
I was briefly back in touch with his sister on Facebook but she deleted many of us.
It’s understandable as to what would we talk about as nobody wants to bring up that elephant in the room.
I also didn’t want to be the one who told her we were in touch on his final day as that could set off another potential minefield and then it would rip open old wounds.
People who take their own lives must be in the worst possible place but when they do it the pain just passes to other people.
People often say that suicide is the coward’s way out but I strongly disagree.
I think it takes some serious balls to kill yourself. I’m not saying I agree with it but it’s definitely not the act of a coward
I think it’s important to mention Len now as there probably won’t be another opportunity down the road.
If he had waited it out he would have been ok.
Obviously, I’m only hearing his side of the story but whatever has happened children should never be used as a weapon.
Rest easy Len you are never forgotten.
Some other notable mentions from our form are Nouska Hanly who went to Oxford University and was a professional Ballet dancer for years in London.
She became the dance captain at the royal opera house.
Leanne Condfliff is a very successful driving instructor and lives with her boyfriend close to Gateactre.
Paul Smith has got two kids to his long term girlfriend Helen and he works in Liverpool Airport.
Martin Skelhorn works in IT and I bump into him or his brother Craig about once every ten years.
It’s nice to see him as he is one of the good guys and he now has his own family as does Craig.
Even though we don’t talk as much as I would like it’s good that I was always friendly with everyone and have kept in touch in a way.
I see what people are doing on social media and that’s better than nothing.
When we left school in 1996 nobody bothered with the internet and goodbye had a lot more impact than it does now.
This would be nothing compared to what the next few years had in store for us all.
One things for sure it was never boring.