From an interview by Pamela James 1975, printed in the Risdene Echo in Dec 2004
ELSIE MARION CHILDS (Mrs Hensman) was born on 2nd December 1883. She first went to school at the age of two and a half - to an establishment known throughout Rushden as Mrs Wagstaff s School. From there she transferred to the school at South End and then, at the age of ten, to Alfred Street.
The young Elsie's first teachers at Alfred Street were Miss Ladds and Miss Jacques. Mrs Hensman remembers her English lessons as dealing with grammar, the eight parts of speech, picking out nouns and verbs etc and the writing of compositions. For arithmetic, the children mainly worked from cards and did work involving simple proportion or the imaginary buying of shopping.
With a view to becoming a pupil-teacher Elsie Childs became a candidate on probation in 1896 but, as she was under-age, was not officially recognised as such until 1897. Whilst a probationer Mrs Hensman had to do odd jobs for teachers such as collecting and filling the inkpots, inking the blackboard and sorting out the knitting!
In 1900 Mrs Hensman became a first year pupil-teacher attached to Miss Jacques. As a pupil-teacher Mrs Hensman attended school from 8am to 9am where she received lessons from the headmistress and after the school-day most of her evenings were devoted to homework. Lessons given by pupil-teachers were referred to as "Criticism Lessons" and, as the name implies, were watched by the teacher and then criticised. Before the lesson, however, careful preparation had to be done - the aim had to be given, the matter and the method detailed and this preparation was shown to the teacher. Mrs Hensman recollects that her first lesson was on "rabbits". During her time as a pupil-teacher Mrs Hensman showed great initiative in starting a cycle club for the girls.
Mrs Hensman became an assistant in 1904 and after taking a correspondence course, became a certificated assistant in August 1905.
Mrs Hensman remembers Alfred Street as having a good name in the town and of various businesses applying to the school for girls when they had vacancies. The library was well-stocked and if any subject was given more emphasis than others it was English and especially the writing of compositions and the appreciation of poetry. In needlework the girls in the upper-school made such things as chemises for their mothers, underclothes and nightdresses. Skills such as crochet and lace-making were also taught. In the lower-school the girls did a lot of knitting, making such things as stockings and babies' bootees. During the First World War, however, the girls knitted khaki socks for the soldiers.
After her marriage in 1912 Mrs Hensman remained on the staff until the summer holidays of that year. She did, however, return on 19th May 1913 as the headmistress and remained as such until the girls' school merged with the boys' school.
Mrs Hensman clearly remembers the County Scholarships that could be competed for. As there was no High School in Northamptonshire at that time the successful candidates transferred to the Dame Alice School in Bedford. Northamptonshire provided twenty-four places - eight for the Rushden area, eight for the Kettering area and eight for the Wellingborough area.
After leaving Alfred Street in 1914 Mrs Hensman taught at several other schools in Rushden until she eventually retired at the age of sixty-three.
Mrs Hensman enjoyed her school career. Although she admits to have being very strict she never used the cane but relied upon her tongue! Although Mrs Hensman was ninety-one on 2nd December 1974 she still teaches on a voluntary basis at Rushden Hospital where she instructs patients in handicraft. Sometimes children are admitted to the hospital and they, too, are taught by Mrs Hensman.