School days that can’t be repeated

How times have changed: The cast from Grange Hill
How times have changed: The cast from Grange Hill
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Determination. Perseverance. Responsibility.

That’s what they taught me at junior school.

I remember one lesson well; wobbling across the playground, tongue clenched between my teeth, concentrating on my task.

Namely, delivering the duty teacher’s coffee without sloshing it all over my Clark’s T-bar sandals.

It was an honour to be asked. It meant you were already deemed to be in possession of D,P and R. I’d no idea I was actually an unpaid skivvy seriously in danger of being scalded by steaming Nescafe topped up with a spoonful of Marvel.

I recalled this playtime mission after tapping into Mums Net. Muriel76, was reminiscing about the day her entire class were marched to their teacher’s home so she could check how her new bathroom was progressing.

She asked: What were the weird things your teachers did which they would be fired for today?

I told my social worker friend about Muriel76’s “school trip”. “It just couldn’t happen today. The plumber wouldn’t have been CRB-checked,” she cried.

“A risk assessment would have to be done for each child. And every parent or guardian would have had to fill in a consent form...”

In short, I said (you do have to cut these social workers off or they start going on about sense of worth and a child’s wants and needs) a teacher’s bathroom would just have to wait until home-time.

SWF did recall a similar tale, though; of sieving to a fine loam the flowerbeds of her junior school in Doncaster.

The teacher didn’t even have the decency to pass it off as a lesson in horticulture. She’d lost her contact lens and the swiftest way was to employ half a class of 10-year-olds in the finding of. For an entire day they scrabbled in the dirt, thorns snagging hair, handknits and wind-whipped cheeks.

She also recalled a male teacher insisting she went bare-bottomed all day after wetting her pants in class (she WAS younger than ten at the time). And of having to do P.E. in vest and pants when she forgot her games kit.

She said these days, such things would be deemed as deliberately shaming a child, which could lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders and self-harming.

Ye gods, it’s a good job she never had the misfortune to wee herself on a gym day.

On the theme, colleagues proffered many a tale. The one I liked the best was of a chain-smoking sports master who used to leave his cig smouldering on the vaulting horse.

Such events were in the days when teachers had god-like status. If you’d told your mum you’d been sieving soil all day, she’d just have shrugged in her cardie. Come home on a summer day with a blistered forehead after lessons on the playing field and she didn’t threaten to sue school for potentially giving you melanoma. She just slapped a bit of calamine on.

Many remembered the violence, though. Blackboard rubbers, text books and desks got chucked at kids. And the vile character assassinations masquerading as school reports. Penned by cruel, uncaring smart-Alecs, they still smart. Far more than a dab of calamine can treat.