Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Pat Jenkins, 2010
Moving Up the Hill
The New South End Infant School

Satff in 1982
1982 (l-r) Back Row: Barbara Bayes, Pat Jenkins, Ellen Godfrey,
Gill Burridge (Ancillary)
Front Row: Peggy Bishop (Secretary), Betty gwynne,
Pat Catlin (Head), Rita Hall (Deputy), Pam Cave.

The great day finally came. In Autumn 1973, we packed our equipment and moved to the long-promised new building on the same Wymington Road site as the Junior School. To my regret, I wasn’t allowed to take my big old desk, but had to have a nice little new one, which didn’t hold half as much, and was nothing like as good to perch on.

We all liked the arrangement of the school, which was organised in three suites of two classrooms each, with a carpeted “quiet area” in each room, and shared “wet bays” for painting and other messy activities. There was space for sand and water trays for the Reception children. We liked the floor-to-ceiling windows, the fresh paint, the built-in cupboards and the general feeling of light and space. We were not so keen on the staff room, which was tiny, with no room to work, and we looked with suspicion at the flat roof. We were right to do so, as it leaked almost from day one and was perpetually being mended. The children soon learned to run for the buckets any time it rained.

We missed the cloakrooms at the old school. There was no such thing here. Each class had a strange rack on wheels, rather like an open sided box with stumpy pegs on the inside. If the coats were wet when they were hung in it, they stayed wet. There was no peg space for shoe bags which all ended up in the bottom of the rack, as did most of the coats, scarves and hats. As we all know, children are not good at hanging up their coats and even adults had trouble actually getting things to stay put on the tiny pegs. Eventually the useless things were abandoned, and pegs were fixed around the wetbays.

We all loved the grounds. There was at last space to play, and such interesting space. We had two ordinary asphalt playgrounds, and lots of grass with trees and hedges to explore. The beautiful shady trees and the grass made perfect spots for lessons out of doors. Mini beast hunts, searching for wild flowers, and bird watching, became great pleasures.

Almost the best thing was the hills. Grass covered mounds, not very high unless you happen to be five years old, they were just right for rolling or running down. My classroom overlooked them, and one day, to our horror, two men with diggers arrived and started to level our precious hills. The children were aghast, and I flew down the corridor to Mrs. Catlin’s room with the terrible news. She dashed out, tackled the men and our hills were saved.

Dinners were cooked on the premises. There were no packed lunches then. Mrs Tapp, our cook, was a gem.

For the first time we had a hall with large PE equipment. There were ropes, horses, big climbing frames, all of which had to be assembled or carried out before the lessons. The County PE adviser came to show us how to use them. She insisted that all the equipment should be put out and put back by the children. No doubt she was correct, but did not take into account how long it took them to carry it, assemble it and put it away again, or the effect on the nerves of the teachers.

Surely the worst thing that can happen in a school is the death of a pupil. C. was a happy, much-loved child and her death from choking on a crayon was an almost unbearable event. Thirty five years later I still think of her, especially in the weeks before Christmas, and I am sure that my ex-colleagues do also. The inquest totally exonerated the school from blame, the Coroner saying that no first-aid could have saved her, but this was small comfort to us.

Outside the Reception class area was a big paddling pool and a sand pit. To begin with, the pit was filled with builder’s sand which turned all the shorts and knickers bright orange, but we soon managed to buy proper sea sand, and the yellow stuff was replaced. The children loved the sand and the paddling pool, and it was a pleasure to see them so happy. However, it did make a lot of work for the teachers, as the pool had to be painted first, and then emptied and scrubbed out regularly. The sand had to be raked and covered at night, and the sand toys washed. We were grateful to some of the mums who came and helped. They also helped to dry and dress some of the younger children.

I doubt if the pool and the sand pit would pass today’s health and safety regulations. There is little time in school for such frivolous pleasures now. But if there had been a S.A.T.S. test in happiness, our five to seven year olds splashing in the water would all have scored top marks.

Pat Jenkins

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the Education index
Click here to e-mail us