littlemavis

Little_Mavis' rants and musings


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Grammar School

My next instalment of school life in olden days.

If you would like to see the earlier posts, they are Infants, Juniors and some background.


Before I start, I want to make it crystal clear that I do not support the reintroduction of grammar schools. This is simply a description of what it was like as a South Yorkshire working class girl attending such a school in the 1960s, It was a good experience. I probably didn’t take quite as much advantage of it as I should have. It may also give some insight as to why some people in power, who would have attended somewhere similar and who gained from it might be nostalgic about them and support them. I also suspect that the intake of this school was more working class than those in leafy suburbs. It was a mining area, solidly Labour then & pretty much so now, apart from UKIP inroads. “Posh” kids were the exception, not the rule so I don’t think I felt the alienation that some in similar positions felt. My brother went to the local secondary modern and did just fine. He got Grade 1 CSEs & a couple of O levels. He did practical subjects that the grammar didn’t offer and got an electrical apprenticeship straight from school.

I came out with 9 O levels and 5 A levels and was the first in my (extended) family to go to university. I can’t say I made the best of a good education, but many of my classmates did. For us, it was a success. I completely understand that it wasn’t the same for everyone, but you can’t ignore the fact that for people like me, it worked.

So. 1965. I passed my 11+, along with a good proportion of my classmates and was sent to the local grammar school. The school I went to was an old fashioned grammar school with a twist. I think I’m going to make this in two parts. First, describing the school itself and then my personal experience of it. I’m not sure how it compares to other schools today. I only attended the one and the school my children went to was a comprehensive that had been built in 1950s as a grammar school but was becoming rather dilapidated.

I haven’t worked in a High School except for short times on supply so have very little idea of what is standard, either for normal high schools or grammar schools.

Our very first visit was on the day we started after the summer holidays. No visits to get to know the place, just “Turn up at 8:30 on Monday”. We were all sent into the hall and were allocated into 6 classes, 30 per class. There were proper cloakrooms to hang your bags and leave your outdoor shoes and we had a classroom with proper desks with lift up lids that we kept our books in. The teachers came to us, except for things like science, art, domestic science & PE.

We did exams twice a year and our report books included our mark & our position in class for each subject.

The school building was very new. It had its first intake in 1964 when we were in year 6 so had, what was then considered to

mgs

Typical 60s built school. Since demolished and replaced.

be state-of-the-art facilities.

For PE we had a boys’ and a girls’ gym with a sports hall between, tennis/netball courts, huge playing fields with multiple pitches for hockey, rugby and football, a rounders pitch, a full size running track and long jump and high jump pits. We also had a swimming pool. Well, to be honest, it was more like an oversized water tank in a greenhouse.

We had dedicated labs for Physics, chemistry and biology, art rooms, domestic science, both cookery and sewing music and woodwork and metalwork rooms.

We also had a kind of tiny farm with rabbits and guinea pigs. I’m honestly not sure what that was for.

After the first year, we were streamed. The top third (no idea how this was done) were put into two classes which comprised the Latin stream and, were taught Latin alongside other subjects. I imagine we were considered those most likely to go to university. Within those two classes we were further set for science only. We did have to choose between (I think) art & domestic science for girls and art & woodwork for boys. There was no thought of girls doing woodwork or boys taking DS.

The teaching was pretty formal, they told us stuff, we wrote stuff down, we learned things and discipline was, well, not especially strict actually. Some teachers expected you to stand when they came into the room but not all. Some wore gowns, most didn’t. Boys were caned for some misdemeanours, girls weren’t.

Every year we had an “Arts Festival” which was an inter-house arts competition which included creating & performing a small play (multi-year) reciting poetry, playing instruments etc.

great hall

The College hall from a more recent photo found on FB

The school had an annual Gilbert & Sullivan production with both (sixth form) students and teachers performing roles and a school play, again sixth formers. The two I was involved in were The Beaux Stratagem and The Petrified Forest, so it covered a decent range.

Girls played hockey, rounders, netball, boys did rugby, football, cricket. Boys also did cross country. We girls lobbied to be allowed to also, but the head was against it, he didn’t want girls “running round the countryside with bare legs”. He was eventually persuaded that we could run a circuit of the school fields, which is what the junior (years 7 &*) boys did. We soon discovered it wasn’t all that much fun, especially in the mud. We had inter-house sports and played against other schools. Often first and second teams.

The head was rather eccentric. He built an aeroplane in the woodwork block as a school project – I believe it is still flying today and help “High table” on the stage in the college hall where about half a class would have lunch with him while we chatted politely. I remember him as always having food stains on his tie.

The sixth form was in a separate block, though it shared science labs and was not a standard school sixth form. It was, as far as I know, the first sixth form college.

I found this extract in a book which explains it quite well. There was no uniform in the sixth form and although we did not call teachers by their first name we did have a more informal relationship with them. We had a sixth form common room and free periods, at least, you did unless you had foolishly decided to take four full A levels.

mgs sixth form from Education 16-19 In Transition by Eric MacFarlane

From Education 16-19: In Transition Eric McFarlane

I’m sure there are things I have forgotten here but since I’m planning a further post on actual experience this is just meant to be a brief outline. I’m not sure it’s substantially different from many comprehensive schools today. I’ll write again about my personal experiences.

 

 

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Girls’ Juniors

So. Junior school?

This is my post about infant school. And here, some background

Since my first school was infants only I moved at 7 to a school which had a mixed infants half and a Girls’ Junior half. (The boys went to a different school about half a mile away)

Garden-Street-School-Uploaded-by-Matthew-Spencer

 

This was uploaded to FB by Matthew Spencer

 

The building was much older, Old enough for my mum and aunt to have gone to the school as children and my aunt is now 89.

(I found this photo on FB) Stone built and the stones blackened by many, many years of

the residue of the coal fires used all over town. In fact, for many years I thought this was the natural colour of stone as it was so ubiquitous.

 

 

The playground was concrete or tarmac and we had no playing field or grass of any kind.

garden-street-playground

Uploaded to FB by Dean Cheetham

There was an outdoor toilet block to use at playtimes. I cannot remember if we had indoor toilets. The classrooms in the junior block were arranged around a large hall which could be divided into 2 or possibly 3 by folding partitions. There was one class per year. Also, no maypole!

I have a vague recollection that the classes were arranged in an odd way. We did a term in the first class then moved up at the same time every year, finally coming back to the teacher we started with.

Desks were arranged in rows and were wooden with lift up lids and inkwells. These were wooden holes in the desk into which small (ceramic?) inkpots made were inserted. I don’t remember when we started to use ink, but we had blue painted wooden pens which we dipped in the ink to write and we inevitably ended up with blue ink-stained fingers. We were taught italic rather than cursive which means I now have an odd style of writing that is neither one thing nor the other.

What did we learn? Well English and maths, obviously. Though Maths may well have been called Arithmetic. In Geography, I learned that tea came from India and Beef from Argentina. I may have learned other things but nothing else has stuck. I assume History, though I remember nothing at all of that. We did knitting. I started with a dishcloth in yr3/4, than a hot water bottle cover and finally a stripy cardigan. I was very slow and took so long over my hot water bottle cover that I was last to choose the wool for my cardigan so it was turquoise and orange stripes. We also did needlework, or basically, embroidery so I could/can do chain stitch, daisy stitch., blanket stitch, stem stitch. Odd that I remember that but not the history. I expect I did more embroidery at home.

We did Singing Together from the radio so I still am able to sing some very odd tunes such as “Twankydillo”  and I imagine we did PE, though I can only remember country dancing and learning to waltz.

The headmistress was Miss Varney who became ill and was replaced by Mrs Swift. I remember it was though vaguely odd that a headmistress could be married.

Mrs O’Donaghue (Yr 3) Was quiet & pleasant and had the joy of dealing with me being sick all over my desk. That’s all I can remember.

Miss Hayes (Yr 3/4) had permed blonde hair and those strange upswept glasses that were popular in the 60s. She seemed stern and got very cross with me once when she told us we would finish off our arithmetic before doing needlework and I pulled a face. She threatened me with extra maths instead of needlework which would have suited me just fine as it was actually the needlework I was pulling a face at. Never assume you know what is going through a child’s mind.

Mrs James (Yr 4/5) was a motherly figure, who read us Just So stories and Puck of Pook’s Hill and was disappointed in me for getting a couple of maths questions wrong.

The year 5/6 teacher was Miss Davidson. Tall, stout, stern and wonderful. She also taught music and I remember her being very, very insistent that we should be singing “O Lord” and not “Oh Lard” in hymns. To this day I cannot stand poor enunciation. Looking back, I can see that the school was her life. We were her last class as she retired the Christmas when we were due to move into the top class and into another school as our buildings were going to be demolished. She cried, we cried. We knew where she lived and carried on visiting for a few years to chat and drink orange squash. We used to do weekly tests in the class and sit according to our results, top at the back, bottom at the front. The very idea makes me shudder now.

At Christmas we used to learn the parts from the gospels used in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College and I can still recite them from memory. (Also poems).

We still had the 11 plus back then and did regular practices, though I can’t remember there being the type of pressure there is now with either the current 11+ or SATs. The school actually did very well.

The Christmas of year 6 the juniors moved to another school.

The town had a Grammar School and two secondary moderns. Comprehensive education was in its infancy and there was a comprehensive in the next town. The Grammar school was moving to a brand new building and as a knock on effect, the secondary moderns were amalgamated and moved into the grammar school buildings. One of them from an old stone building, which was also to be demolished, and the other from a newer building that we were moving into along with the local boys’ junior school. So, after three and a bit years in a girls only junior school at 10 and 11 were moved into a school with BOYS!!! It was all a bit of a shock to the system. We got over it quite quickly though and developed small, unrequited crushes then got on with our work.

adwick road school2The school was newer and different. Our class was housed in a separate classroom with its own cloakroom and toilets. We still had only a tarmac playground, though bigger and not on a slope and still no playing field. This was my first encounter with a stationery cupboard. A few of us were allowed the immense privilege of organising it, sorting all the books, paper, art supplies, pencils, pens, rubbers, rulers. It was bliss.

Our new teacher was Mrs Thompson who had lived in South Africa for a while.

Finally a couple of school reports to show how short they were back then. report-7report-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were only there for two terms before we moved on to big school. I, most of my friends and a few of the boys passed the 11+ and went to the (new, shiny) Grammar School, some who did well, but not enough to pass went to the comprehensive and the remainder to the secondary modern, the old grammar school)  just around the corner. I have to say, I never gave the kids who failed another thought.

Please feel free to add any memories of your own in the comments.


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When I were a lass

After my Infant School post I was going to move straight on to Junior School but I thought some background context might be useful.

This isn’t going to be a carefully structured, well-thought-out post, more random musings as I remember things.

I grew up in a small market town in South Yorkshire that was surrounded by pits. Back

cadeby

This is the pit where both my grandfathers worked

then, it was reasonably prosperous as such places go. (When I went back last year it was dingy and run down. I already knew that all the places I played as a child had been built on but there wasn’t really anything left. Every school I had attended had been demolished. But that’s all beside the point)

The vast majority (of men) were employed and it was normal for women to leave work after they had children. The jobs were mainly in mining, both my grandfathers and one of my uncles were miners, and there was a large locomotive loco (railway locomotive maintenance and stabling depot), though this closed in the mid sixties. My dad was a railway fireman. He started as a cleaner at 17 or so after leaving the local technical college and ended up, before he retired in the early 90s driving InterCity 125s. My mum went back to work in some kind of factory after I was born and I was looked after by my grandma. She gave up work after my brother was born four years later. For the first three or four years we lived with my grandma (My granddad died when I was 2 or so) in a council house but then bought a small terraced house.

The house we moved into was a terrace with three bedrooms a front room and a living kitchen. No bathroom (It had been built in 1924) and no heating apart from coal fires. I’m not sure if there were fireplaces in the bedrooms. For cooking, we had a built in coal oven in an enamelled range (rather than the cast iron ones that were still in some houses) ovenThe nearest I can find to what it looked like was this. We also had a 2 ring gas burner and a geyser for hot water. There was only a cold tap. Over time (don’t ask me when) we had a bath installed in the kitchen in the alcove next to the chimney. And a back boiler installed to heat water. My dad boxed it in with a lid to cover it when it wasn’t in use and when we had a bath we used a clothes horse covered in a blackout curtain to screen us off from the rest of the family.

There was an outside toilet, not too far from the back door rather than across a yard. We kept a paraffin lamp in there to heat the pipes in winter.

Again, over time a bathroom was added, with some sort of government grant, and eventually central heating, though that may not have been until after I left home. We had no phone (hardly anyone did. If we needed to we used the phone box at the bottom of the street), no fridge and the TV had 2 channels.

We played out a lot. You had to be careful where you played and often be careful how much noise you made as there were always people on night shift. As well as in the street, where it was reasonably safe to play because there were very few people in the street with cars, there was plenty of waste ground to play on. Having looked at old maps these tended to be places that had previously been used as quarries or clay pits though there was a big park nearby with hawthorn bushes along the side to make dens.

Kids tended to play out together in mixed age groups. The older ones looked after the smaller ones. Any adults around kept half an eye on everybody. Disagreements sometimes ended in physical fights without any serious harm done.

We walked to school from quite an early age, but there was far less traffic then. Lots of corner shops, in fact they were on pretty much every corner. Within easy walking distance of our house I can remember a couple of grocers, a post office, an off-licence (beer-off), a butchers, a newsagents a chip shop, 2 cobblers, a Co-op which was a big grocers where you could buy sugar or “best” butter by the pound.

We also had a “potato man” come round every Friday delivering vegetables with one side of his van open & laid out like a market stall. The milk was delivered by a woman pulling a sort of electric handcart.

I spent a lot of time at the library in town and had pretty much read my way through the children’s library by about 11, not difficult if you’re getting through a book a day. You encyclopediaweren’t allowed to have an adult ticket until you were 14 so my dad let me use one of his tickets. You weren’t allowed to join until 5 (I think?) but although I was too young I proved I could read so they let me. I did have books of my own and I got a lot of information from Arthur Mees’s Children’s’ Encyclopaedia which was in 10 large volumes (most of Volume 10 was the Index) which I think had been published in 1920 something. At first I was only allowed Volume 1 but that got so tatty from my reading it my parents eventually relented and let me have the rest.

buntyI also was given comics by the boy who lived next door to my Grandma so I was well versed in boys’ comics such as Hotspur, Valiant and (possibly) Rover which was mostly text stories. At home I got Bunty (best bit was Bunty’s Cut Out wardrobe on the back page)

I went to Brownies at St George’s Church Hall. After the meeting we used to go to the nearby shop & buy a bag of crisps. When you bought them they had a small screw of blue paper with salt. I remember getting excited when you could first but cheese & onion crisps as well as plain. Other sweets Spangles, Penny Arrows (I liked the banana split ones), Kayli (sp?) A summer treat was frozen Jubbly.

Anyway. To finish, because I don’t really know how to finish. Things change. You don’t notice them all that much while it’s happening. I grew up,  went to university (family first), discovered a whole other world. Looking back I realised this way of growing up was similar for many, many years. The war may have speeded up development of some things but may have slowed down others. Going back now, I can hardly recognise the place. It has changed, both in the way places change over time and in a wholly different way because I think the heart has been ripped out of towns like that. It’s changed from a busy bustling town with a purpose to a collection of houses and run down shops with no direction. Apparently the HS2 line is scheduled to go right through a new housing estate there. That’s pretty awful for the people living there but I think the real damage was done years ago.


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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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Those Hazy Days of Summer.

rockley sands

Rockley park as it is now. Our caravan would have been where the car park is.

This blog isn’t about anything important. I wrote it after reminiscing about childhood holidays in the 50s and 60s when life for children seemed to be much more fun (honestly). This was touched on in a tweet by @JeniHooper referring to this.
When I was small we went on summer holidays to the seaside. My dad worked for British Railways (as it then was), he would have been a fireman then. We definitely still called them firemen way after being an actual fireman was what they did, but that’s beside the point. As an employee he got seven free tickets for his family each year. He was also restricted as to when he could take his annual leave so we tended to go on 2 single week holidays, usually to stay in a caravan, or occasionally a chalet, at a holiday camp. Having the transport paid for was, of course, a huge advantage. It made the holiday much cheaper and we could go as far as we wanted. This meant we often went to the south coast rather than just Bridlington or Cleethorpes like most of the families from our bit of South Yorkshire. One year we stayed at Rockley Sands in Poole. Our caravan was close to an inlet and right by the train line. For the first night, we all sat up in bed every time a train went past, by the second day, we barely noticed them. I’ve actually found where it is on Google Earth, though that part of the camp now seems to be a boat house.

Scan010012d

We also went to Penarth (Lavernock Point), Sandown, Brixham, Rhyl as well as northern resorts like Bridlington and Mablethorpe. I have hazy memories of various caravans, caravan camps and chalets.
Once we were there, we mostly went for walks or played on the beach. I honestly can’t remember bad weather but I do remember the cosy feeling of being in a caravan and hearing the sound of rain beating down on the roof so my memory must have edited out the boring days. If there was a swimming pool, I swan, or attempted to while my brother played in the arcades. He discovered that the pennies often got stuck at the top of the chute when they were paying out so he would go round rattling the bottoms to dislodge any of the stuck coins.

 

Scan020007d

A luxury caravan!

Of course, this was all before the days of plumbing, or even electricity in caravans. Showers were taken in a shower block, water was fetched from a tap nearby in a large container and lighting and cooking were by (calor) gas. We still had a cooked breakfast on holiday though and I still associate smoked bacon with summer caravan holidays. There was normally only one bedroom and the table generally converted into a bed. If you rented a chalet though you had a few more amenities.

What else can I remember?

  • Oh yes! Half an hour (okay, it may have been slightly less but ages anyway) of watching through the caravan window as someone tried, and failed, to put up a deck chair. It was like watching a comedy sketch.
  • Missing seeing the Queen Elizabeth from Sandown when my brother cut his head open while we were racing around a bench on the sea front.
  • Playing with two great danes belonging to the camp manager in Wales.
  • Other than that it was sea, sand and donkey ride

When I was about 15/16 my parents bought a caravan at Primrose Valley in Filey so the family went there and soon after I went to university. That’s a whole other story.

Paddling

Just look at the awful swimming costume I had to wear

Scan020008b

Sandcastles and a big hole

Scan020004g

This was on the Isle of Wight I think (Blackgang Chine maybe?)

Mary selection027

Cleethorpes on a very hot day. I’d guess about 1967

Scan010006c

This looks like Yorkshire and for some reason wearing my school blazer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I  just hope my children’s’ memories of holidays are as happy as mine are. And that yours are.