Tag Archives: School

Scrap Book Project – Hillmorton County Junior and Infants School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti  and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.

The picture above is from about fifty years before I went there but it looked very similar in 1960.

The classrooms smelt of furniture polish, dark blue ink and chalk dust and in the long corridors there was an ever present odour of carbolic soap seeping out from under the wash room doors.  There were two entrances, one said boys and the other girls but these were from a previous time when the sexes were carefully kept apart.  This was no longer the case by 1960 and with segregation a thing of the past we were free to choose whichever was the most convenient.

These pictures are of my grandchildren visiting a similar school at Beamish Village Museum…

School Days Beamish Museum

I rather liked going to school!  The day started as early as possible with a bit of a play on the way there and then there was fifteen minutes of activity in the playground behind the building, two playgrounds one for the infants and one for the juniors.  At the back of the playground were the outside toilets with no roof and completely exposed to the elements.  I think it is possible that the girls had inside facilities, I can’t remember, but for the boys it was the most primitive of arrangements.

School washroom facilities

After the whistle blew we lined up and took it in turns to march inside to hang our coats and bags in the cloakroom.  In winter there were several rows of identical duffel coats with gloves on strings dangling through the empty sleeves and underneath in neat rows, wellington boots with puddles of water seeping from the compacted ice in the soles that was melting and spreading over the red, cracked quarry tiled floor.

The Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks and he generally led an assembly with a hymn and a prayer and a short address.  He was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive.  I just enjoyed being at school, especially the play times, and wasn’t terribly bothered about the learning bits in between so I think he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.

I met him years later when he came knocking on the door collecting for the RNLI and I think he was genuinely shocked when I told him that I had been to University and had a nice office job with good prospects at the Council.

Map of Europe School 1960s

For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs, classroom assistants or additional support mechanisms of course and the class was set out in a strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia.  I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard.  I was a late developer!

I can remember two other teachers, first there was Mrs Bull who taught year three and had a ferocious look that made our knees knock with fear and then Miss Roberts who taught year four and was a bit of a pin-up who made our legs turn to blancmange when she looked our way.  Oh and Mr Etherington, who always had a cold sore and a drip on the end of his nose, I think he took the top class in juniors but I can’t be sure.

Beamish Museum School

After morning lessons there was break time with more play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council.  The 1946 School Milk Act had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience.  In the summer it stood outside in the sun and it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today, and in the winter it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.

School Milk

No one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk whether it made them ill or not.

More late morning lessons then lunch break with a quick dash home for lunch and return as quickly as possible for more recreation in the playground.  Afternoon lessons and then it was soon all over and we were released onto the streets to make our way home.

Outside the school at the end of the day there were no rows of cars clogging up the streets because everyone walked to school in those days.  And we weren’t kept inside, in a state of paranoia until we were collected either.  There was no need to worry, you see, children knew instinctively to keep away from the strange people in the village and there were not nearly so many cars on the road at that time to knock us over.

The friendly little Hillmorton County Junior and Infant School was demolished sometime in the 1970’s and a featureless replacement was built at the top of Watt’s Lane.  They built some houses on the site and my sister Lindsay lived in one for a while which surprised us all on account of her previous history of serious allergic reaction to anything to do with being anywhere near a school building.

Scrap Book Project – The First Year of Secondary School

1965 was a mixed year for me when it came to passing exams.

As predicted by my junior school headmaster I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore (or Duncemore in my case) but to compensate for that I did get my Leaping Wolf certificate in the Wolf Cubs and passed my Elementary Test for swimming a whole length of the swimming baths and that was quite something let me tell you, the certificate was signed by the examiner, Mrs Dick, who was a fearsome creature, Councillor Pattinson, the Chairman of the Baths Committee and Jim Duffy, the Town Clerk no less!

Who needed the eleven-plus? Not Me!

Dunsmore school

Life at secondary school didn’t get off to a brilliant start, I have to say and in my first year at Dunsmore I was in form D.  To put that into perspective that is form D out of A to D; A and B were grammar streams, C were the hopefuls or maybes and D were the hopeless and the write-offs, so, just to be clear – it was the bottom form!  A and B studied Latin and Grammar and joined the chess club and form D did metal work,wood work and Engineering Drawing and smoked Players No. 6 behind the bike sheds.

Just as at junior school I was hopelessly misunderstood by the teachers so these were not happy days.

I fell in with the back of the class trouble makers and consequently made slightly less than zero progress in my first full year and was doing best in report book entries and detentions.  I’m afraid I just didn’t find school very stimulating and I was about to set out on frittering away what might otherwise have been five productive years.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy school, just that I found it a bit of an inconvenience.  Not as bad as my sister Lindsay however who when she was fourteen went down with the longest recorded case of tonsillitis in medical history and stayed off school for eighteen months until they didn’t recognise her any more and told her not to bother going back.

Lindsay age 6

On the positive side I did pass my second class swimming certificate in 1966, which involved  a bit more than just swimming a length so it wasn’t a completely wasted year.

Scrap Book Project – School Milk

Not from the scrap book today but a response instead to a night out and an orgy of reminiscences and conversations that began with ‘do you remember…’

When we were young milk was delivered to the house everyday in bottles to the front door by the milkman Brian Anderson who owned the village dairy and thanks to the 1946 School Milk Act crates of it were also delivered daily to schools across the country.

After morning lessons there was break time with play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council.  Although children from poor families had previously enjoyed free school milk the 1946 School Milk Act introduced by the first woman Education Minister Ellen Wilkinson had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience.

The problem was that the milk arrived at the school gate first thing in the morning and in the summer it stood outside in the sun until lunch time and by then it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today.  In the winter when the temperature dropped below zero it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.  No one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone to drain the bottle through a cheap paper straw and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk.

Each bottle had a silver foil cap and the teachers encouraged us to remove these carefully rather than poking our finger through the top for two reasons – first they were sharp and you could end up with a nasty cut and secondly because the school used to collect them for charity collections – at our school usually the RNLI.

Free school milk was discontinued in 1970 by the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and which earned her the unflattering nickname of ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, but I think she was called far worse than that later on!

Actually however she only stopped free school milk for eight to eleven year olds because Harold Wilson’s Labour Government had stopped free milk for secondary schools two years earlier in 1968 (but you’ll notice how ‘Wilson, Wilson Milk Snatcher’ doesn’t have the same newspaper headline appeal) so perhaps Oxford University was a bit mean when in 1985 it prevented Margaret from receiving an honorary degree because of her history of education spending cuts.

Free school milk is still provided to children under five and it costs £50m a year but no political party has the bottle to discontinue it for fear of bad publicity and electoral consequences.

Learning To Read

I have always had a love of reading and books, even as a child.  Some of the early books that I had were an eleven part junior encyclopaedia, a book called Picture Stories From The Bible and a collection of children’s Ladybird books. Ladybird Books closed on 30th November 1998 and this memory has prompted to think about learning to read.

Until I was five we lived in a variety of houses in Leicester and in 1958 we had moved home from Ledwell Drive in Glenfield to Chislehurst Avenue in Braunstone and in September 1959 it was time in life to go to school.  The Ravenhurst Primary School was about a five hundred-metre stroll across rough land waiting for houses to be built on it and I used to walk there with my friends John and Michael Sparks who lived on the other side of the road.  The teacher’s name was Miss Bird and her classroom had alphabet pictures on the wall, ‘A’ for alcohol, ‘B’ for beer, ‘C’ for cider and so on and it was here that I started to learn to read using the ‘Dick and Dora books’.

In the 1950s, Dick and Dora were supposed to be average kids, living a typical English life with their parents and their pets, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. (I have written on this blog about my dislike of dogs and you will notice here that even in a children’s book the dog has a name that implies that it will bite you.)  Their unexceptional and almost idyllic middle-class existence of playing in the garden and once a year going to the seaside was the basis of a series of books designed to teach children to read.

I liked Dick and Dora but I didn’t get long at Ravenhurst School because after only a couple of terms we moved to Hinckley where I went to the Grove Road Church of England Primary School and very soon after that moved to Rugby and went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants school where they had ‘Janet and John’ books instead which were very similar and taught four to seven year old children how to read by progressively incorporating and repeating key words in the development of reading skills.

With three schools in the first year I wasn’t get a good chance to settle in and I blame this for holding me back and making me a disappointing pupil for the first ten years or so of school.

 

What am I reading now?

The First Day of Secondary School

1965 was a mixed year for me when it came to passing exams.  As predicted I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore (or Duncemore in my case) but to compensate for that I did get my Leaping Wolf certificate in the Wolf Cubs and passed my Elementary Test for swimming a whole length of the swimming baths and that was quite something let me tell you, the certificate was signed by the examiner, Mrs Dick, who was a fearsome creature, Councillor Pattinson, the Chairman of the Baths Committee and Jim Duffy, the Town Clerk no less!

Who needed the eleven-plus? Not Me!

Life at secondary school didn’t get off to a brilliant start and in my first year at Dunsmore I was in form D.  To put that into perspective that is form D out of A to D; A and B were grammar streams, C were the hopefuls or maybes and D were the hopeless and the write-offs.  A and B studied Latin and Grammar and joined the chess club and D did metal work and wood work and smoked Players No. 6 behind the bike sheds.

Just as at junior school I was hopelessly misunderstood by the teachers so these were not happy days.  I fell in with the back of the class trouble makers and consequently made slightly less than zero progress in my first full year and was doing best in report book entries and detentions.  I’m afraid I just didn’t find school very stimulating and I was about to set out on frittering away what might otherwise have been five productive years.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy school, just that I found it a bit of an inconvenience.  Not as bad as my sister Lindsay however who when she was fourteen went down with the longest recorded case of tonsillitis in medical history and stayed off school for eighteen months until they didn’t recognise her any more and told her not to bother going back.

On the positive side I did pass my second class swimming certificate in 1966, which involved  a bit more than just swimming a length so it wasn’t a completely wasted year.

Hillmorton County Junior and Infants School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks and attached lift up seats. The classrooms smelt of furniture polish and chalk dust and the in the corridors there was an ever present odour of carbolic soap seeping out from under the washroom doors.  There were two entrances, one said boys and the other girls but these were from a previous time when the sexes were carefully kept apart.  This was no longer the case by 1960 and with segregation a thing of the past we were free to choose the most convenient.

I rather liked going to school!  The day started as early as possible with a bit of a play on the way there and then there was fifteen minutes of activity in the playground behind the building, two playgrounds one for the infants and one for the juniors.  At the back of the playground were the outside toilets with no roof and completely exposed to the elements.  I think it is possible that the girls had inside facilities, I can’t remember, but for the boys it was the most primitive of arrangements.  After the whistle blew we lined up and took it in turns to march inside to hang our coats in the cloakroom.  In winter there were several rows of identical duffel coats with gloves on strings dangling through the empty sleeves and underneath in neat rows, Wellington boots with puddles of water seeping from the compacted ice in the soles that was melting and spreading over the red quarry tiled floor.

The Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks and he generally led an assembly with a hymn and a prayer and a short address.  He was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive.  I just enjoyed being at school, especially the play times, and wasn’t terribly bothered about the learning bits in between so I think he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.

I met him years later when he came knocking on the door collecting for the RNLI and I think he was genuinely shocked when I told him that I had been to University and had a nice office job with good prospects at the Council.  For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs or additional support mechanisms of course and the class was set out in a strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia.  I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard.  I was a late developer!

I can remember two other teachers, first there was Mrs Bull who taught year three and had a ferocious look that made our knees knock with fear and then Miss Roberts who taught year four and was a bit of a pin-up who made our legs turn to blancmange when she looked our way.  Oh and Mr Etherington, who always had a cold sore and a drip on the end of his nose, I think he took the top class in juniors but I can’t be sure.

After morning lessons there was break time with more play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council.  The 1946 School Milk Act had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience.  In the summer it stood outside in the sun and it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today, and in the winter it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.  No one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk whether it made them ill or not.

More late morning lessons then lunch break with a quick dash home for lunch and return as quickly as possible for more recreation in the playground.  Afternoon lessons and then it was soon all over and we were released onto the streets to make our way home.  Outside the school at the end of the day there were no rows of cars clogging up the streets because everyone walked to school in those days.  And we weren’t kept inside, in a state of paranoia until we were collected either.  There was no need to worry, you see, children knew instinctively to keep away from the strange people in the village and there were not nearly so many cars on the road at that time to knock us over.

The friendly little Hillmorton County Junior and Infant School was demolished sometime in the 1970’s and a featureless replacement was built at the top of Watt’s Lane.  They built some houses on the site and my sister Lindsay lived in one for a while which surprised us all on account of her previous history of serious allergic reaction to anything to do with being anywhere near a school building.

Master Criminals and a Famous Robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery to date in British history and took place on the evening of 21st February 2006 from until the early hours of 22nd February. Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

This reminded me of another famous robbery that took place in 1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.

At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope because although I finished the third form in July 1968 still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream. This surely meant that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray with loose dovetail joints and a bent metal fire poker that was completely useless for its intended purpose.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and enjoyed larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new soaring academic status at risk.

This is what happened: every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again. Apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one liked going to assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down. The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly! Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books was discovered in our desks and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves. He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank. For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts. Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher:

School Milk

When we were young milk was delivered to the house everyday in bottles to the front door by the milkman Brian Anderson who owned the village dairy and thanks to the 1946 School Milk Act crates of it were also delivered daily to schools across the country.

After morning lessons there was break time with play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council.  Although children from poor families had previously enjoyed free school milk the 1946 School Milk Act introduced by the first woman Education Minister Ellen Wilkinson had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience.

The problem was that the milk arrived at the school gate first thing in the morning and in the summer it stood outside in the sun until lunch time and by then it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today.  In the winter when the temperature dropped below zero it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.  No one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone to drain the bottle through a cheap paper straw and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk.

Each bottle had a silver foil cap and the teachers encouraged us to remove these carefully rather than poking our finger through the top for two reasons – first they were sharp and you could end up with a nasty cut and secondly because the school used to collect them for charity collections – at our school usually the RNLI.

Free school milk was discontinued in 1970 by the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and which earned her the unflattering nickname of ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, but I think she was called far worse than that later on!

Actually however she only stopped free school milk for eight to eleven year olds because Harold Wilson’s Labour Government had stopped free milk for secondary schools two years earlier in 1968 (but you’ll notice how ‘Wilson, Wilson Milk Snatcher’ doesn’t have the same newspaper headline appeal) so perhaps Oxford University was a bit mean when in 1985 it prevented Margaret from receiving an honorary degree because of her history of education spending cuts.

Free school milk is still provided to children under five and it costs £50m a year but no political party has the bottle to discontinue it for fear of bad publicity and electoral consequences.

A Life in a Year – 30th November, Learning To Read

I have always had a love of reading and books, even as a child.  Some of the early books that I had were an eleven part junior encyclopaedia, a book called ‘Picture Stories From The Bible’ and a collection of children’s Ladybird books. Ladybird Books closed on 30th November 1998 and this memory has prompted to think about learning to read.

Until I was five we lived in a variety of houses in Leicester and in 1958 we had moved home from Ledwell Drive in Glenfield to Chislehurst Avenue in Braunstone and in September 1959 it was time in life to go to school.  The Ravenhurst Primary School was about a five hundred-metre stroll across rough land waiting for houses to be built on it and I used to walk there with my friends John and Michael Sparks who lived on the other side of the road.  The teacher’s name was Miss Bird and her classroom had alphabet pictures on the wall, ‘A’ for alcohol, ‘B’ for beer, ‘C’ for cider and so on and it was here that I started to learn to read using the ‘Dick and Dora books’.

In the 1950s, Dick and Dora were supposed to be average kids, living a typical English life with their parents and their pets, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. (I have written on this blog about my dislike of dogs and you will notice here that even in a children’s book the dog has a name that implies that it will bite you.)  Their unexceptional and almost idyllic middle-class existence of playing in the garden and once a year going to the seaside was the basis of a series of books designed to teach children to read.

I liked Dick and Dora but I didn’t get long at Ravenhurst School because after only a couple of terms we moved to Hinckley where I went to the Grove Road Church of England Primary School and very soon after that moved to Rugby and went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants school where they had ‘Janet and John’ books instead which were very similar and taught four to seven year old children how to read by progressively incorporating and repeating key words in the development of reading skills.

With three schools in the first year I wasn’t get a good chance to settle in and I blame this for holding me back and making me a disappointing pupil for the first ten years or so of school.

 

What am I reading now?