1955 - 1987 The New School

Shelagh Ryan

On 27th April 1955 the infants moved into the new school. It must have seemed wonderful. Acres seemingly of space but … no telephone, dustbin, doormats, scales, letterbox. When the County Fire Preventions and Precautions Officer arrived to inspect the school’s firefighting equipment he had a wasted journey. There were none. Worse still was the fact that all the fire hydrants had been buried underground and a lawn then laid on top.

A boy with his head through the bars of a chair and his hands on the outer bars looking pensive as a saw is being wielded by a hand to cut through the barsThe lack of a telephone caused all sorts of problems. A salesman trying to interest Mrs Johnson in Educational Material suddenly found himself in the role of ambulance driver when a child hurt herself. Another time, a passerby had to be sent for a boy’s father to come to school, with a saw, as his son had got his head stuck through the bars of a chair.

A telephone finally arrived but now the lavatories were blocked up and the heating was giving trouble. Moles attacked the playing field and in 1956 the builders came back to start extending the school. There had been a nasty smell hanging around for some time. Mrs Johnson felt that the air was ‘impure’ and did nothing for a while. Eventually it got so bad that she got the builders to have a look and they found that half the drains had not been fitted!

Mrs Johnson felt that the children would benefit from trips out and so she set in train some fund raising events. Their first effort, a Bring and Buy Sale raised over £17 and a trip for the school to the zoo was organised. More fund raising for a Christmas party and entertainer followed and the Parents Association was born.

In 1958 Miss Clues of the Girls School retired and the Boys and Girls schools were amalgamated under the headship of Mr Bowles. There were 160 children.

On November 6th 1960, eleven years late, they held a centenary celebration.

The heating continued to give problems and in 1963 was accused of causing radio interference in the area!

A wireless to the right of a six vertical bar radiator with steam coming out of the radiator and various aerials on three of the bars

They were still lacking room. Classes were being held in the dining room and two classes occupied the Hall. Things could not go on as they were and in November 1965 the decision was taken to bus an entire class down to Chalk Dell school every day. Needless to say, the parents were not very happy about this but the plan went ahead anyway.

In 1967, the ‘Chalk Dell’ class was able to move into two classrooms in the new extension at Bengeo. Not their equipment, just the children. Work was started on a new separate Infants school as the building was full. There were four Infant classes and half the juniors in it! They shared the playground as well, as the Infants playground was now the Junior school car park.

The move into the new school took place during the summer holidays of 1968. Due to the fact that neither of the two master keys fitted any of the outside doors, the cleaning staff of both schools were left with just three days to get the school fit for habitation. It says a lot for their dedication that they managed it. Work still needed to be done on the building. None of the cupboards had locks or even handles and, as usual, the drains blocked up.

Mrs Johnson was to enjoy her new school for less than a year. On July 19th 1969, she died at home. Mrs Hood the deputy Head took over temporarily until Mrs Outlaw took over in January 1970. There were 240 children in the school aged 5 to 7. Mrs Outlaw’s first task was to equip the new building and a succession of vans arrived carrying reading books, musical instruments and office furniture. Each head mistress had initiated at least one major change and Mrs Outlaw was no exception. Her idea was to have the new children to come into the school, with their mothers, the term before they were due to start. They met their new teacher and explored their new classroom. The days when a screaming bewildered child was thrust at a total stranger and then left for six hours in a strange environment were over.

The school was converted to North Sea gas in September 1970. The old jokes about it all came true when the kitchen staff arrived to find all the appliances full of water.

The school building was now three years old and a fungus was growing in a classroom wall. There was still not enough room and in 1972 a mobile classroom was added to the amenities, and another in 1974.

There was a fine piece of irony in December 1975. On December 1st it was discovered that the school had been broken into, yet again. Two days later, two children received prizes for their entries in a Crime Prevention competition. Perhaps they should have been put to work on the school.

1977 was Silver Jubilee year and the children had a special Jubilee day at school. There was maypole dancing, a picnic tea and each class put on a show. Every child was given a Jubilee glass. This established a precedent and in 1981, fore the Royal Wedding, they again had a special tea and were allowed to wear red, whit and blue to school. Celebrations for Prince Andrew’s wedding went completely over the top with an entire week of events, topped off with a special cake baked by the kitchen staff cut by two children dressed as a bride and groom.

The school had always laid on trips out, starting with church services, visits to the Hertford Pageant and Mrs Johnson’s trips to the zoo. Now they were becoming an extension of the work done in the classroom with trips to museums, working farms and nature centres. In June 1983, there was a once in a lifetime trip for the entire school to Stansted Airport to see the Space Shuttle. Followed, of course, by much class work on space!

The school itself was given a more welcome aspect when in the winter of 1986, Mrs Shaddock, one of the parents, slowly turned blue painting a delightful mural along the front of the school. Now the friendly atmosphere of the school spread to the outside.

In July 1987 Mrs Outlaw retired. When the man from the Council audit department came to ‘sign off’ the accounts, A man with a bag pointing at the head teacher surrounded by small childrenhe confessed to having been a pupil at the school when Mrs Outlaw first arrived. She felt she had come full circle.

Mrs Patey took over in the September and yet another chapter in the history of the school began.

This page was added on 16/12/2023.

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