I do not remember my first day at school that memory is long gone, but I do have snippets of being at infant school aged about six.
Manford Manor junior school was a large school, which appeared to be slightly sunken into the ground because to get to the school playground you had to climb two slopes either side of the school building. I could clearly see the playground, school and caretakers house from my back garden that is how close I lived to it. However, the infant school was tucked away in the farthest part of the school grounds, pushed against the smallest corner of the field, as if built as an after thought.
The junior school had a large rectangular playground that could easily accommodate three netball courts and the field was another three times that size. Whereas the infant school playground was much smaller and semi-circular in shape. The building was L shaped and the playground reached both ends of the building. On the small area of grass beside the playground sat three concrete pipes. The kind you would imagine finding on a building site. They varied in size one being long and thin, lying on its side so small children could crawl through it one end to another. The other two pipes were placed on their ends. One was very wide and not very high. A small five-year-old child could easily step into the pipe to play. The other pipe was taller and narrower. You would have to be a very tall six year old to get into that one. I remember feeling extremely clever the first time I climbed into that pipe, with a little help from a friend. However, I had to be helped out when playtime was over.
There were benches randomly placed around the school playground. We used them to stand on when singing songs like ‘I’m the king of the castle’. We also used them as ‘home’ when playing games like tag and kiss chase. Jumping off to run away from the boys, screaming and giggling, but not running too fast that we could not be caught. Screaming with disgust at being caught and kissed on the hand, arm or cheek, inwardly loving the attention of being popular enough to be kissed.
Break times also always involved tuck. We would have our pennies ready for it. We would get an apple, some biscuits or best of all puffs! I loved the salt and vinegar flavoured ones, tiny little puffs of corn that crumbled so easily that half the bag would be a small pile of crumbs that always managed to attach itself to our clothes for the remainder of the day. Our tuck was also followed by milk in miniature bottles, shaped like the pint bottles you had delivered to your doorstep in the mornings only a third of the size. Yet they were big enough to fill you up enough to last you until lunchtime.
Normally after coming in from the playground after lunchtime we would hang up our coats on our named pegs. If we were lucky enough to be one of the selected children, we got to stay in the cloakroom and play dress up. There was a big wooden box filled with floppy hats and oversized dresses and shoes that would keep us children entertained for hours.
Classroom work must have been just as much fun as dress up because I do not ever recall dreading working in the classroom, or remember any traumatic experiences from this time. One memory of being in the classroom was when I was six years old. We had one big long table that had chairs either side for the children to sit in. we would have to face side ways to see the teacher who would stand at the very end to give us instructions for that lesson. One day I recall our teacher, Mrs Thomas telling us to put down our pencils as we had a special visitor come to visit us. We all turned to the door and in walked my mum and with my newborn baby brother. All the children were excited about the new baby, it made me feel proud, and of course, at that age it made me feel popular too.
Assembly’s once a week on a Friday were also an important part of the school week as all those children that had a birthday coming in the following week were asked to stand up in front of everyone next to the head mistress. They would all get the number of sweets to match their age plus one extra. A pretend cake would also be taken up front with lighted candles, then the whole school would sing happy birthday to the children. Then one of them would get to blow out the candles. Assembly time also turned out to be another special time for me one week. I was sat crossed legged on the floor. I noticed the little boy next to me tying his shoelaces. I was amazed at how clever he was. I told him that I was unable to do that and so he proceeded to show me how, the way he had been taught. We sat there for most of the assembly undoing his laces and then attempting to tie them up. I was wearing buckles on my shoes and he was kind enough to allow me to practice on his shoes. Finally, thanks to that little boy I conquered the art of tying shoelaces.
One of my favourite lessons at school was maths. I very clearly remember being taught units and tens using coloured bricks. These bricks were engraved with notches, making them look like they were loads of little bricks stuck together. The biggest one was etched with nine grooves so it looked like a block of ten bricks. We would have to match this bricks length with smaller ones, so a nine block with a one block, an eight block with a two block and so on. I remember sitting for ages matching up the brightly coloured blocks to make multiples of ten. I used to think it was a great game and little did I realise I was doing maths.