LIVERPOOL, England—Covering much of one wall of Paul Richards’s office at the Calderstones School is an impressive collection of thank-you notes. Many are from students Richards, in his role overseeing the equivalent of the American junior and senior grades of high school, has successfully prodded into college.
This is not as easy of a job as the pastoral campus in these comparatively affluent surroundings suggests, teeming as it is with earnest-looking youngsters in neat school uniforms. A comprehensive school (the American equivalent of public school), Calderstones takes students from inner-city Liverpool, whose neighborhoods a Church of England charity reports include five of the 10 poorest in the country. Thirty-seven percent come from families with low incomes.
Those once included a teenaged John Lennon, who named the band that would eventually become the Beatles—the Quarrymen—after Quarry Bank High School, as the Calderstones School was called when he went here.
Like him, some will never get much further in their educations. “Certainly on the road to failure … hopeless,” one of Lennon’s teachers wrote in an end-of-term report, widely reported much later by the British tabloids. And while he was narrowly accepted into art school, he dropped out before he finished.
But a growing number of low-income students do end up moving on successfully to higher education, thanks to not only Richards and his faculty but also to an impressive and expensive amount of work by local universities. That’s something to which many colleges and universities in the United States devote far fewer resources, and at which they have been much less successful.