The story of Galore Park
By Natalie Bailey
02 Mar
We caught up with the founder of Galore Park, Nick Oulton, to find out his motivations for launching Galore Park, a publishing house which would later become the market leader in textbooks for pupils studying at independent schools.

As the rain continues to pour down on our heads, the wind howls around our ears and I find myself up against another publishing deadline, I sometimes look back to that summer’s day, back in 1998, when Galore Park was born.
I had just been appointed Head of Classics at a school in Guildford and had recently had a discussion with the Headmistress about which textbooks I would be using when I started in September. ‘Modern textbooks are all pretty dire,’ I said. ‘Glorified comic books, stripped of anything remotely difficult.’ However, I wasn’t really prepared for her response: ‘Well, write your own – and it had better be good.’

It is true that when the National Curriculum came into force, in the 1980s, the quality of textbooks changed. All the educational publishers started publishing for the new curriculum, which, to a pompous purist like me, new to teaching, seemed to involve dumbing down pretty well everything. Latin and Greek were spared, thank goodness, but history and modern languages seemed almost unrecognisable from the subjects I had learned at school. Science seemed to change its name (to something about materials and their properties) and maths involved learning new and utterly bewildering ways of doing simple things with multiplication and division, making them no longer simple at all.
So I took up the challenge and decided to write my own Latin course, So you really want to learn Latin, based unashamedly on the way we used to be taught in the ‘good old days’! I worked with my old friend and teacher, Theo Zinn, who was teaching well into his 80s and, as the former Head of Classics at Westminster, had a truly awesome knowledge of Latin and Greek. We would sit up, long into the night, discussing whether the ‘o’ of ‘ego’ was long or short, and why a Roman would not have been able to say in Latin ‘the man in the moon’. Stephen Anderson (another awesome Classical scholar), then Head of Classics at Winchester, was drafted in to give the book a third tier of critical editing, and the resulting three-part course set the tone for future Galore Park textbooks: light in tone, accessible, yet ruthlessly strict about not dumbing down.
Two years later, with courses commissioned in English, maths, French and Spanish, I gave up the day job and concentrated full time on Galore Park. We brought out books for schools willing and able to teach beyond the increasingly narrow National Curriculum, which included all the prep schools in the country preparing pupils for independent school entrance exams at 11+ and 13+.
Parents found that these books provided what they needed to help their children with revision, and so a series of revision books and practice exercises followed. Finding help as a parent can be quite a problem. My own view, as a father of two daughters, is that parenting is a tremendously difficult job, and every bit of help we can give parents as they cope with the stresses and strains of educating their children has got to be a good thing. I am working at the moment on a series of books for parents at for exactly that reason – it’s not easy, not least because everything seems to change as quickly as we can learn it!
I am older and wiser now – well, definitely older – and I am prepared to concede that all this change in education was not the complete disaster that it seemed to me at the time. But I am sticking to my guns over one thing: children like learning, and any attempt to remove things that we adults consider to be too difficult for them is a terrible mistake. For example, if an understanding of Latin verbs requires a proper understanding of the principal parts on which they are based – and it does! – then they need to be taught the principal parts, whether all of these are on the syllabus for an exam or not. If to learn to translate out of Latin one needs to be able to translate into Latin, then that is what we do.
So, as I send off the manuscript of the new edition of my Latin course, due for publication in the summer, I am glad to report that, whatever is happening in the educational landscape out there in the big, wide world, at Galore Park we are still publishing high-quality material for pupils who really want to learn.

Tags: 13+, Common Entrance, Galore Park, Latin

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