Di Rayburn – Coley

Coley School – Part 1.

Living almost opposite the school we were used to seeing the teachers pass by daily. They were always given lots of respect by both parents and pupils as they walked to the school gates.

When I started I was the third generation of my family to attend Coley School. I can’t remember my first day, but it wasn’t long before I would wake in the morning and ask mum what day it was. If she said Monday through to Friday, I would start to shiver and shake and try to stay under the bed covers. I’d be crying as we went out of the front door and hang on to mum’s coat tails grizzling as we stood outside the infant’s entrance while she desperately tried to quiet me down so I wouldn’t show us up.

After a couple of months she was at the end of her tether. In the end she went to the doctor’s. I don’t know what she thought he could do, but evidently quite a few mothers had been to see him about the same problem and the school had been approached. Our teacher Miss White was the problem. She was nearing retirement so could be classed as ‘old school’ and I suppose over the years had lost much of the patience needed to teach five year olds.

She kept a very sharp pencil in her hand as she walked around the desks while we were working. If she saw one of us doing something she didn’t like, she would jab the point of the pencil into their head a few times. She never did it to me, so I don’t know whether it was a light prod or a heavy jab, but as she walked around, the fear and anticipation was always there. Through the grapevine the parents were asked to be patient with her as she would lose her pension if she were dismissed and as she only had a short time to go, the parents agreed.

We learnt despite the fear, or perhaps because of it. I can remember the headmaster coming into the class and writing a couple of words onto the blackboard, and putting my hand up with John Patey because we knew them. One of them spelt excellent. .

We did the normal things children do in the infants. Made plasticine tadpoles, learned to read from Janet and John books, chanted the alphabet which was on a patterned freeze around the walls and acted Billy Goat Gruff in front of the other children.

I also remember the awful panic one day when I absent-mindedly put a crayon into my pocket instead of back onto the desk. The awful fear of what Miss White would do to me if she thought I was stealing.

One other moment in her class has stayed with me for 66 years. She decided for our singing lesson volunteers could sing a song to the rest of the class. There weren’t many takers but Peter Roberts got brave and duly burst into a rendition of ‘Roll me Over in the Clover’.

I have never known all the verses to that song, but instinctively guessed it was risky, or should I say risqué? Whatever, Miss White hurriedly ushered him back to his desk after he’d sung the introductory chorus.

Finally the relief that the school year was finished; a six week holiday that lasted forever, and to my and mum’s relief, the absolute bliss of going into Miss ClemMurphy’s class.

The first day of the new term in September 1950 was hot and sunny; our classroom had a door which led into the big shed in the playground and it was open, which I thought was the best thing since Hovis. Who could forget her lovely happy smile as she handed out new writing books with extra wide lines, and her writing the day and date onto the blackboard for us to copy into our new book.

And my pride that I could write it properly.

There are few days I remember with such complete and utter joy. That was one of them, and it was the start of my love affair with Coley School.

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