AS THE former headmaster of Yarm School suggests this week, that group of "indomitable mothers" who were the driving force behind the early years of the school were a pretty frightening bunch.

They clearly needed to be to support an enterprise which was so out-of-kilter with establishment thinking on education at the time. The comprehensive school was king and the weaknesses of a system which arguably has failed a generation were only just becoming apparent. Those mothers had to fight hard for their principles and to get the school established.

Today we have a Labour Government which recognises the value of schools like Yarm and tries to transfer its excellence to the state sector. Then the Labour Government was intent on destroying anything which seemed to represent privilege and excellence in its pursuit of the comprehensive dream. Establishing a selective grammar-style school in such a hostile climate cannot have been an easy task.

But it takes more than grim determination to make a successful school. The growth of Yarm has been cleverly managed in stages with the area's demand for private, selective, education driving its progress. It is a measure of the founders' achievement that the school has the air of the public school that has been established for centuries, not just 25 years.

Critics of private education would say that if you throw enough money at something, it is bound to work. That is a churlish point of view. Yarm School has become a successful school despite the fact that it started with precious little in the way of resources. The ethos of its education, and it is the same in many other private schools, is not to do with money but is to do with a sense of duty and care which does not always exist in the state sector.

Leaving aside the politics of education, the celebrations marking the anniversary of its foundation this weekend are about that ethos and care which have been so firmly established in a relatively young institution. The school is set fair for further expansion and development and we trust that "indomitable" band responsible for its genesis will enjoy the occasion and bask in a sense of true achievement