I started school in 1955 when I was four years old. At that time there were 28 children in the school, many of them walking a mile or more to get to school, some being taxied in from the remotest farms. Cars from the garage in the town five miles away were hired by the local authority to ferry kids to school. I can remember, as a four year old, being seated at the front of the class with the other new pupil. The oldest children, ten and eleven, sat at the back of the class.
The day started with a hymn and the Lord’s Prayer. We then remained standing and recited the alphabet forwards and backwards, all the times tables up to 12 X and the weights and measures we were expected to know. And example is the distances one began with ‘1,760 yards to a mile, 880 yards to half a mile, 440 yards to 1/4 of a mile, 220 yards to 1/8 of a mile, 3 feet to a yard . . . ‘
The youngest children learned to write with pencil, progressing eventually to pen and ink. The pens were wooden barrelled dipping pens. The desks had a circular depression which held a china ink well and a groove to stop a resting pen rolling down the sloping lift-up lid of the desk.
There was an ink monitor, one of the older children, whose duty in the mornings was to collect the inkwells from the desks in a tray with depressions in it. Yesterday’s ink was rinsed out. Fresh ink was made from an ink powder mixed with water. Always blue-black, not blue or black. The fresh ink was then poured into the inkwells, the tray was carried around the classroom and fresh, full inkwells placed in the circular recesses.
The toilets were outside. They were the kind with a wooden bench seat and a bucket under the hole in the seat. I HATED them! I lived nearer to school than most of the other children and used to squeeze through the hedge at the back of the school and run home to use our bathroom instead. A proper toilet block was built during my last year at school. It was a separate building, so we still had to go outside, but the toilets were flush ones and there were sinks and taps.
We had a radio in school, a huge dark brown Bakelite one. We used to do something called Music and Movement, a BBC Schools programme which was broadcast twice a week in term time for twenty minutes in the morning. We loved it! We never did any other PE or Games lessons, inside or out. Sometimes, on a fine day in summer, the whole school would be taken on a ‘nature ramble’.
There was great excitement in April 1961 when the school purchased its first television in order for the whole school to be able to watch Yuri Gagarin become the first human being to be launched into space.