Patrick did Chaucer with us - and modern poetry, which surprisingly was much less interesting. I have never read anything by Ted Hughes or Thom Gunn since 1965, but I can still quote the first paragraph of Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale"! Patrick also introduced us to philosophy when he set us an essay question: "Why is a rose beautiful?" - a question I had never previously asked myself.
BUT, I do not remember EVER being taught public speaking. I don't seem to recall doing presentations to the class: learning how to modify one's speech according to audience and content; learning how to look around an audience, to look people in the eye, to give particular emphasis to particular words. My memory may be faulty, but public-speaking as such was not on the curriculum.
NOR do I remember anyone EVER being criticized because of the way he spoke, whether about accent, diction, volume or whatever. As for accent, I never thought about it at the time but it seems to me that the way one spoke was a kind of individual human right; one had the right to speak the way one was brought up and/or liked. That was of course well in line with WHS's belief in individuality: boys were encouraged to be different, to pursue their own interests - whatever they were - and mostly in their own way.
But nor do I remember any particularly distinctive accent - or criticism of any such. I don't remember anyone being teased about their accent. And what accent WAS that? Well, many of us came from London families - and most just ordinary and rarely posh ones - AND of course from families with parents in the armed forces stationed in Germany, Hong-Kong, Aden and elsewhere.
My memory may be faulty - and things may have been different in other WHS generations than mine. However, given the importance of public-speaking I actually think it was a bit of a blind spot in our curriculum - but there is never time on any curriculum to do everything one would like to.
Philip Beck (now Beck) - Hansons 65 - 72: “RAFbrat here - my family didn't like the London accent I picked up in the junior years; had to work hard to lose it again .....”
Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls 58-65: “Roger that .... Jolly good show, Old Chap. Funny you should mention it. I never noticed anyone's accent sticking out while I was there from 58 to 65. The vast majority of us spoke Southern British English as I recall - and I don't remember any Cockneys! I suppose the ILEA mandate didn't allow them to advertise for boys from Cornwall, Gloucester, Yorkshire or Newcastle!
Bill Bourne - Corners 57-69: “My mum said I stopped speaking 'nicely' after being at Woolverstone.”