Memories of School: The Second 100 Years Margaret Michalski
Great Horwood School Pupils and teachers c.1935
We think this photo was taken in about 1935 but, if you know when it was taken or you can identify anyone in the photo, we'd love to hear from you.
School Life The Ridgway sisters Nora [Reeve], Margaret, Pat [Hogston] and Valerie [Hancock] attended Great Horwood School at various points between the 1930s and 1950s. They remember that when Margaret and Pat started school the then Schoolmistress, Mrs Spriggs, made two little blue velvet dresses for them as they were the first twins she had had in school. They also remember that when Kathleen Griffin was Head Teacher and lived in the schoolteacher’s house, she would invite small groups of children to her house after school to watch her television. This was a real treat because very few households had televisions at then. Long-time Great Horwood residents Madge Bailey and Neil Mason were also teachers around this time.
Great Horwood School teachers and pupils, 1959. The teachers are Joyce Coleman (left) and Kathleen Griffin, the Head Teacher (right).
Gill Wood attended the school during the 1950s. She remembers Mrs Griffin rapping children’s knuckles with a ruler if they were naughty. During the late 1960s, caning was occasionally used but ceased in 1970. Some pupils from the 1970s remember wearing a red and grey school tie but school uniform was not officially introduced until the 1990s.
When the Ridgway girls attended the school, the whole school was still taught in the 1861 building. Valerie remembers the rows of wooden desks, each with an ink well and pot that was filled daily by the ink monitor from a large brown ink bottle. The children got into quite a mess with the ink. She recalls, ‘sometimes if a child thought you were better than them, they would make a blot on your page with their pen, which would be circled by the teacher, and you would be in trouble but you could not tell who did it, as you would get into even more trouble’.
Interior of the 1861 school building on Comic Relief day 1995. Apart from the furniture and heaters, the main room had not changed very much by that point.
In 1954 the school’s first water toilets and a playing field were welcome additions. The school building was heated by coke stoves which often smoked, and sometimes it was so smoky that staff and pupils could hardly see across the room. These stoves were not very efficient and, during winter, classroom temperatures could still be below freezing. Valerie remembers that during cold weather the rows of children were rotated several times a day so that everyone had turns sitting in the front desks, near to the stove. Oil stoves were installed in 1964. During the installation, the children were taught in the Village Hall and the schoolteacher’s house.
The current main school building was built in 1968. The school became a Combined School at this time and, that September, the first children moved up from Thornborough School, taking the total of pupils to 188. In October 1969 the children evacuated the building and the Fire Brigade was summoned as clouds of smoke billowed from the staff room. The school wireless system had overheated and burnt out, causing the Formica shelf to smoulder. In 1973, two more classrooms were built adjacent to the new school hall.
Jonathan Hadlow and Andrew Hodgkinson in the new school building, making a working model lighthouse, c.1970.
An outdoor swimming pool was built in 1972. Money was raised by sponsored walks, jumble sales and school concerts. Keith Mould remembers his son, Neil, taking part in a sponsored walk at the airfield, walking the equivalent distance of Great Horwood to Whitchurch. All children had swimming lessons during the summer term. Damon Parker attended the school in the 1970s to 1980s. His most vivid memory of school is swimming on cold days - the freezing walk in swimming trunks to the chilly pool. The pool was opened during the summer holidays for two afternoons a week with a parent rota for testing the pool and supervising the children. During the life of the pool, all children left Great Horwood School able to swim. However, the pool was dismantled in 1995 because it needed a new liner and there was no money available to buy one.
The Ridgway sisters remember Mrs Griffin arranging trips to the seaside at Southend and to Wicksteed Park. The children brought in whatever money they could afford each week so that, by the time the trip took place, they had paid for it. They travelled by coach and, if there were not enough seats, children sat on little stools in the gangway. They stopped at pubs for toilet breaks and the bus drivers often drank more beer than they should. There was always a sing-song on the way home.
Amy Lovegrove attended the school during the 1990s. She also remembers school trips and other special occasions, including dressing up in period costume for outings to Claydon House and Canons Ashby, a residential trip to Shortenills Environmental Education Centre, and re-enacting a Civil War battle on the school field.
The front of the current main school building, VE Day 50th anniversary celebrations, 1995.
In May 1990 children from the two senior years took part in a production at Claydon House called The Claydon House Project. This was in collaboration with the Royal Opera House and was a wonderful opportunity to participate with professional performers. Most past pupils remember performing in school plays. In 1984 the whole school took part in a production of ‘The Tinderbox’. Mary Lovegrove remembered that former Deputy Head Joyce Coleman kindly made her daughter Victoria’s soldier costume for this production.
Soldiers in the 1984 Tinderbox production.
Generations of parents have enjoyed attending school productions and the school church services that are held at Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival. Pensioners in the village appreciate receiving Harvest Festival boxes of groceries that the children bring in, and have also enjoyed the younger children’s Nativity play, followed by mince pies and a cheering glass at Christmas.
In the 1950s children mostly went home for lunch, but some meals were cooked in Winslow and brought to Great Horwood by taxi. In 1968, a kitchen was installed in the old school and meals were cooked on site. Most children ate school dinners and dinner ladies supervised them during their meal and, afterwards, in the playground. When the cookers needed to be repaired, the County Council decided that this would be too expensive and meals ceased to be cooked on site. They were then cooked off site and delivered daily to the school until this in turn ceased, and the children brought in packed lunches each day. Past pupils have mixed memories of school dinners but the late Mary Ellis-Gruffydd, a former teacher at the school, felt that it was sad when school dinners were discontinued because some children seldom got a hot meal at home.
Mrs Gruffydd with her class, 1977.
The Ridgway sisters recall that during their time at school there was no free milk but they had Horlicks. Two monitors made the Horlicks. They were always pleased if they were chosen because they did the washing up and missed lessons. From 1953, free milk was delivered. This ceased during the 1980s but was later reintroduced.
Nowadays, under-fives can receive free milk. Children up to age seven (end of year 2) receive free hot school meals, which are prepared off-site and brought into school. Parents of the older children are able to pay for hot meals for their children or provide a packed lunch.
In the 1950s the subjects taught were Maths, English, RE (taught by the Rector), Geography, History, PE, Sewing and Painting. French was taught in the 1960s and 1970s, discontinued for a time and then reintroduced in 1989.
Lining up to race, Sports Day, 1976.
In the 1950s and earlier, the Eleven Plus examination was different to today’s verbal reasoning tests. If you passed the general knowledge/I.Q. ‘Prelim’, you then sat written English and Maths papers. The Ridgway sisters recall that Nora passed the 11+ but she did not go to grammar school because the uniform was too expensive.
Computers were introduced into the school in the 1980s. Traditional blackboards are long gone as all classrooms now have interactive whiteboards connected to the teachers’ computers.
The children benefit from a whole range of equipment and resources funded by the Parent Teacher Association, which organises many school fund-raising and social events. The Parish Council has also generously funded equipment and projects that the school would not otherwise have been able to afford.