littlemavis

Little_Mavis' rants and musings


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Infant School

Infant school was a very different place when I was small.

My first school was Park Road Infants. This seems to be the only building left standing of the schools I attended.

feb8001-2I’m trying to remember what it was like but it’s a long time ago now. I think I would have started school in 1958 and things were different then. You may also need to take my memories for what they are, just memories. I haven’t checked the accuracy of any of these. My parents are dead and I doubt there are any accessible records.

The school was infant only and had 2 classes per year (I think) and possibly a nursery class. My first teacher was Mrs Swan who had long beautiful auburn hair and I remember as being kind. I remember nothing of the lessons we had, though I still have a few of the books my parents kept. If I can track them down, I’ll include photographs.

I’m not going to try to make this chronological, more a stream of consciousness recollection. I’ll note things down as I remember them.

Shape

The school was essentially classrooms off a single corridor. The hall stuck out the other side and the headteacher’s room was in the middle.

This is from memorypark-road-plan-jpg

And this is the school now

park-road-school

Teachers I remember

Rec     Mrs Swan

Yr 1    Mrs Gelder, Mrs Batty

Yr 2    Mrs Seagrave

Head  Miss Fletcher

 

General memories

  • No uniform. I don’t know of any primary schools that had uniform then.
  • The school day was generally 9am to 4pm with 1½ hours for dinner. Lots of children went home for this.
  • We had to put our heads down on our arms on the desk after dinner for a while
  • We sat in rows. At desks. I can’t remember what we kept in the desks. I don’t remember playing. Except at playtime.
  • We were given halibut oil capsules to take with our milk. They tasted vile
  • We had a maypole & learned dances  like these. It had red, blue, yellow & green ribbons. Boys held blue or green, girls held red or yellow.
  • We had a May Queen, though I only remember this in the first year I was there. I have a photo somewhere I’ll dig it out.
  • There were cupboards at the back of the hall with things to play with. I think we only got them out for wet play which was in the hall (maybe). These included wooden stilts like these or others made from Golden Syrup tins with strings through, hula hoops etc.
  • I seemed to spend a lot of time in year 1 standing behind the blackboard as a punishment for something (I really can’t remember the details but I think it was to do with disagreements with another child)
  • The year 2 teacher took a slightly different approach & punished the other child too. I remember being very pleased about this – I suspect, though again cannot actually remember & I’m basing my conclusions on what happened when I was older – I was asked if I hit her & I would have said “yes”. She was asked the same & said “no”. My downfalls over the years have often been because of my ridiculous level of honesty.
  • We learned to read with Janet & John books – no idea if it was phonics. I just learned.janet & John
  • We did an infant nativity. I was Mary. I had to sing a solo. I remember the headdress being hot, itchy and uncomfortable. I kept taking it off then putting it back on again so I’d look like Mary. I cannot remember the song. At all.
  • And at the end of three years, they sent home a report.

infant-report

I feel it is important to note that I actually only got one question wrong in Maths (¼ mark) They docked me a whole point because I spelled my name wrong at the top of the paper – I was excited!!

That’s it by the way. That’s all my parents got to inform them of progress.

Is it better now? What was it like when you were in Infant School? Can you even remember?

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Who’s to Blame?

It’s quite interesting really. When I was at school, back in the dark ages, my performance at school was definitely considered to be entirely down to me. And I mean entirely. If i didn’t do as well as the teachers thought I should it was put down to my being lazy, or not listening, or being too chatty. Luckily I mostly did OK so I didn’t get a huge amount of grief until the sixth form. To be fair, at that point, I think they were mostly right. I assumed I’d be able to do A levels easily (as I had O levels) and found I couldn’t. Because we didn’t have fancy stuff like AS levels then I didn’t realise this until I did incredibly poorly in my mocks I’ll try to track down some of my reports and you can see the comments I got. There never seemed to be (to my knowledge) any hint that a teacher hadn’t delivered enough, or that I might be bored because the lessons were boring. They told us stuff, we wrote it down, we learned it, we did exams. No Internet, just notes, textbooks and past papers. My Physics teacher back then didn’t even chase us for homework. He told us, right at the beginning of the course. “I’ll set it, you do it, you hand it in, I mark it. If you don’t, you’re the ones who lose out, not me.” He did warn us, at regular intervals what would happen if we didn’t work “You’ll fail!” (Imagine that said in a Welsh valley’s accent & that’s what Mr Edwards sounded like – I was very fond of Mr Edwards)

Anyway, I went to uni, worked my way through a couple of careers (Information Scientist, Export Sales Admin, General Sales Admin, Programming, software support) and eventually fetched up in teaching, by which time the pendulum had swung and somehow I was responsible for my students’ results. I was a bit resentful of this. Surely the students bore *some* responsibility? Especially when I was teaching post-16. By then we had been mostly expected to just get on with it in preparation for university.

I left teaching a few years ago having most definitely been blamed for some students’ less than stellar results. That’s not a euphemism, they generally passed, the results just weren’t exceptional, just not as high as for some other staff (this was in teacher marked qualifications btw, not exams) but they were honest. I’d have been happy to let any examiner come & moderate the work.

Now, I don’t know when this change happened beyond it being somewhere between when I left school in the early 70s & started teaching in the late 90s but the pendulum does seem to be starting to swing back. The schools with an authoritarian no-excuses ethos, mostly academies? Are definitely trying to put the onus back on the children. They are ranking children again (and yes, I used to know my position in class after every exam or test & when I was in high school in every subject) and they are (from what I’ve read) shaming children for poor performance. Now this is never nice for the kids.If they struggle and are doing the best they can, no amount of shaming will help. Ever.If they are lazy because they don’t care it won’t make any difference and they may well make failure a badge of honour.If they are able, and conscientious or competitive, they may regard anything less than perfection as a failure. Sometimes this is fine. Sometimes it will drive them over the edge. (I’ve seen this happen with very able A level students)

It’s not just about developing resilience. A lot of this is down to your basic personality and some children who would otherwise be healthy, happy and successful will simply not thrive under this type of regime.

So. What’s it like now. I get the feeling that we are moving back towards blaming the kids and/or their parents. (Maybe the teachers who want this aren’t used to being blamed for the lack of success because they weren’t blamed when they were kids) But, I can’t say I’m happy about this. When I was young it was our responsibility but there wasn’t such emphasis then on academic success. It was considered perfectly reasonable to be “practical” or “good with your hands” rather than being academic. This is a big issue just now and one that I know both Sue Cowley and Disappointed Idealist here and here have blogged about.

Surely there is a happy medium somewhere in all this. Isn’t it time we accepted that education is a joint enterprise involving teachers, students, parents and the state. We all have a stake in it and we should all be doing our bit. We need to value all sorts of contributions and maybe trust each other a bit more.

To be honest. I’m not holding out much hope just now. The pendulum may continue on it’s swing. I just hope we don’t damage too many children in the process.