31 JANUARY 1970, Page 26

Out of step

Sir: As a housemaster, I enjoyed Mr Bruce Lockhart's 'Afterthought' (17 January) on school dances, which evoked vivid memories for me.

My 'middle-aged schoolmaster heart' used to sink just as Mr Lockhart describes when the innocent request for a House dance came at a prefects' meeting. I used to fight a delaying action with every weapon I had, but however much I disliked the idea, I considered it a reasonable request, and when pressed I acceded to it.

The boys' enthusiasm often exceeded their willingness to organise the affair, but three times a dance took place.

The first was quite a friendly occasion which in some strange way my wife and I managed to enjoy. The second resulted in my laying down strict conditions for the third. Since the third I have refused to countenance another. I explained before- hand that, whatever the boys were permitted to do at home, this was my home, my wife and I were going to be their hosts, they would be our guests. I told them that I considered a dance to be for dancing not for petting; that the girls would enjoy it only if they mixed and the boys did not inflict themselves on one girl for the whole evening. And I explained that it was un- seemly and unfair to regard the girls simply as bits of flesh to cling to. They seemed to understand.

It was however quite useless: the third dance was the worst. I acted purely as referee and did what I could. I warned several of the players, and sent one off for obstruction.

Since then we have had discussions, tennis, hockey, tea, wine and cheese, with girls; and the boys can invite girl friends into the House and entertain them in their studies. But never another dance. I regard their behaviour as my responsibility: whilst I am in charge I am the one to set standards, though I am glad to discuss them. When the young grow up and have the respon- sibility in their turn, they will be in a position to set standards, but not now.

R. A. Stobbs 9 The College, Malvern, Worcestershire

Sir: While appreciating Mr Bruce Lockhart's dilemma (Afterthought', 17 January) in seek- ing a compromise between 'contemporary standards of relaxed enjoyment and a school- master's conception of civilised good manners', I am not sure that the two are so irreconcilable as he suggests.

Most teenagers are, surely, as they have always been, reasonable people not all ob- sessed with sex and lust, and prepared to accept certain rules both in school and at home.

There must be a curious relationship be- tween children and parents if the drink cup- board has to be locked.

Heather Austen

Cokesford, Tittleshall. King's Lynn, Norfolk