Personal memories from Autumn 1965 to Easter 1967
I was the only member of the family to actually attend, and it should definitely be borne in mind that I was only 5 and 6 at this time, and it was long ago, there may be inaccuracies.
The school was organized into 2 classes, the little ones and the big ones. The little ones had a big room running the width of the building, with high ceilings. We had tables at one end and a big boiler. The other end held the kitchen and our dinner tables. A door opened onto the roadside, which only Mr Goater the vicar used.
The big one’s had a room more like a normal house, it had low windows that you could see the playground through. In-between was the door to the kitchen of the head teacher’s house.
I was fascinated by the house and the big ones’ room. I loved it when I got the chance to take a message, and tiptoed past the kitchen door, spying the big wood table and the aga,
No-one ever went through that door. It was probably the biggest rule. When, as a teenager, I babysat for the Ford children, I felt quite nervous stepping into the kitchen, so strong was the prohibition.
I also loved the studious air of the big ones’ classroom. When the head teacher came in one day and said she was looking for a big child to move up, I sat up so tall in my desk I nearly burst. Of course she didn’t pick me, I was the youngest child in the school and it wouldn’t have been decided on height. I know that now. But it was a crushing disappointment.
Mrs Workman cooked our lunches, served them to us and washed up and went home. The two teachers retired to the head’s house and had lunch and then sat in the garden. We were supervised by the oldest girls.
Sarah Pepper was agreed to be in charge, she took care of us when we fell over, she made the boys behave, and she organized skipping games.
In the modern age it is quite astounding that care and supervision of 18 children was in the hands of a couple of 11 year olds. Yet I don’t remember anything bad ever happening.
Sometimes, on sunny days we got out big mattresses where children more coordinated than me did somersaults and cartwheels. Occasionally we would walk down the road to a pond, which is no longer there.
I have very few educational memories. We used to sit at individual desks and take our work to the teacher when she called us. We had to read pages of a dull reading book. It had an orange cover, I used to read my page to her, then go back to the Observer book of wildflowers from the nature table.
The nature table was a great delight. Since most children lived on farms and were deeply in touch with the passing seasons it was a futile feature, but for me the careful drawing of the catkins and sticky buds and feeling the textures of the plants were a source of joy.
We also had bulbs in the curved glass jars. These needed weekly observation and then we were allowed to plant them for transfer into the head’s garden.
The library van used to come, possibly monthly, and we would line up and choose a book for the classroom. This was very exciting, although as I was a regular visitor to Dursley library, and we had a lot of teachers in the family, I always had books at home.
Another visitor was the savings lady. We would pay in money and our books were stamped and dated. The day when she wrote 6/6/66 and I first discovered the fascination of unusual date numbers remains one of my strongest memories. I don’t know what happened to the savings.
At Christmas we were all in the play. I was an angel one year and King Herod’s page the second. This was a demotion on every level. Angels had tinsel and wings, whereas the page wore a brown beret. Herod didn’t even have a big train to mess around with. We were allowed into the “house “for this event, and went upstairs to the bathroom.
The toilets were outside and were reached by going past the coal bunker. They were dark, and cold, and spidery and scary. After Aberfan I was terrified every time I used them. I had heard that children had died because a coal tip had fallen on a school, and I would run past that coal bunker, my heart pounding, lest it fell on me.
The school closed at Easter 1967. We went to church and were all given a New Testament. I sat up in bed that night trying to read it, but gave up puzzled by the language. After the holiday I was at a school were 40 children were in each class, where we were stratified by age and a big girl would never have spoken to me, and where adults managed our play.
After several decades as a teacher, I can see that our little school with 2 teachers and 18 students was not viable, that the teaching methods were outdated and we had few resources. But there was learning to be a community, and a freedom that stems from children being trusted that was magical in its way.
Very few of the village school transferred to Woodfield so I never saw my first classmates again but I definitely learned important lessons from all of them.Judith Scott (nee Holloway)
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