Web Page No 2216
2nd December 2015
Top Picture: Typical blackboard and easel of the 1950’s
Second Picture: Frozen Milk
Third Picture: Prof. Jimmy Edwards administers the cane to Taplow in an episode of the TV series ‘Wacko’.
Off to School
We all have strong memories of our first few days at infant or primary school, although nowadays most children tend to go to pre-school, so it is not such a shock to the system for them as it was for the children of the 1950s!
In the 1950s there were no state pre-schools or nurseries, although there were a couple of elite private education facilities, the prep school. But for most of us children just turning 5 years old, our first day at school was the first time they had been on their own, away from home. Our mothers did not work so for many children this was also the first time they had been apart from their mothers. Consequently the first day of school was a very tearful event for both child and parent!
I remember starting infants school in the Methodist Church Hall in Station Road, Drayton. My mother and I walked along Central Road with Keith Conlon and his mother. However we soon discovered that Keith and I could happily travel to school on out scooters which our long suffering parents brought home again after we had gone in and brought them back after school for us to ride home again
Having got over the first pangs of separation, school life soon fell into a predictable routine. School milk was part of this routine, uniformly detested by all children. In Post War Britain school milk, a third of a pint per child, was introduced in schools to supplement the child’s diet. In 1971 school milk for the over-sevens was withdrawn by Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education – for this she was dubbed 'Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher' in the press. During the harsh winter of 1962-3, or the big freeze as it became known, it was a common sight to see the small crates of milk outside the school gates with the shiny bottle tops standing proud above the bottles on a column of frozen milk. Of course the only way to defrost the school milk was to place it by the radiator, and then the poor children were forced to consume watery, lukewarm milk. And forced they were – “milk is good for you child, you WILL drink it!” we were told.
Infant school was a world of blackboards and chalk, sand trays and crayons, singing and a little bit of learning. Some schools tuned into programmes broadcast by the School Broadcasting Council and the wireless played a great part in the education of some school children in the 1950s; although I never ever remember listening to a radio programme throughout the whole of my school life.
Music and Movement was popular and it seemed to be a requirement that at least one of our teachers could play the piano. This form of musical expression and exercise was common all over the country and in halls everywhere, children could be found leaping and stretching to the commands given by the teacher. ‘Now children we are going to sway like trees in the wind’ would be the instruction and all the childrenwould begin to sway with their arms in the air. There was no ‘gym kit’ in primary schools so the children just removed their outer clothes and did P.E. in their vests, knickers or underpants and bare feet or plimsoles (usually purchased from Woolworths).
Singing was another common lesson and the class would sing lustily such traditional folk songs and sea shanties as ‘Oh soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me’, ‘A-Roving’, ‘The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies’ and ‘Oh No John’. However, when as an adult you examine the content and meaning of some of these old folk songs, whether they were indeed suitable for very young is another question!
Visits from the school nurse would break up the daily routine but I have spoken about ‘Nitty Norah the Bug Explorer’ before! There was also the polio vaccine, given at school to every child on a sugar lump. Measles, German Measles and Mumps were not vaccinated against; most children contracted these diseases in childhood. German Measles, can affect unborn babies if contracted in pregnancy so if a girl caught German Measles, it was not uncommon for her mother to throw a party for the rest of the girls so they could also catch the disease.
Class sizes in the 1950s and early 1960s were large, often over 30 children to a class, as these were the ‘baby boomers’, children. There were no classroom assistants, just the teacher so discipline was strict. It was quite common for a disruptive child to be rapped over the knuckles or on the palm of the hand with a ruler.
In the 1950s reading, writing and arithmetic (the Three ‘R’s) were very important, as was learning by rote. Times tables were learnt by chanting aloud in class and poetry such as Wordworths’ I wandered lonely as a cloud’ would be learnt by heart for homework. Neat hand writing was seen as very important and practiced daily (mine never improved much!). Nature study was popular and often the only science taught at primary school.
Being just post war there was also a strong sense of being British; of singing traditional folk songs and learning about the history, geography, flora and fauna of Britain and the Commonwealth. But this was also the age of the 11-plus, a series of tests and exams which included writing an essay, a maths paper and reasoning papers all designed to test a child’s IQ. This was always a contentious method of school selection, the 11 plus system did make it possible for pupils to travel to attend places at the grammar schools as these were allocated according to the results of the tests and not on the ability to pay.
We have all now experienced the school experience ourselves and many of us have suffered along with our children as they progressed through their school life and now many of us are experiencing it all over again with grandchildren. It never seems to go away!!!!!
Keep in touch
News and Views:
On this day 2nd December 1960-1965
On 2/12/1960 the number one single was It's Now Or Never - Elvis Presley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 2/12/1961 the number one single was Little Sister/His Latest Flame - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Ipswich Town. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25.The big news story of the day was Sunday Night at the London Palladium (ATV)".
On 2/12/1962 the number one single was Lovesick Blues - Frank Ifield and the number one album was Out of the Shadows - Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 2/12/1963 the number one single was She Loves You - The Beatles and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was 119 killed in Montreal jet crash.
On 2/12/1964 the number one single was Baby Love - Supremes and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 2/12/1965 the number one single was The Carnival is Over - Seekers and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news of the month was that Mrs Mary Whitehouse formed the National Viewers Association