School days

One of the questions I ask my students is ‘was your education interrupted by moving?’ The question forms part of a self-report checklist prior to a SpLD assessment. What does the question actually mean though?

Schools are organised differently from LA to LA. In some areas you’ll only move once, from primary to secondary. Other areas may require 2 moves, the ages of which are variable. My old middle school ran to age 11/12, but in the neighbouring county, it’s 13/14. I’m sure it’s a similar story with moves from infant to junior or however the schools are organised.

Is one move ‘optimal’? Does 2 moves disadvantage? How about 3 moves, 4 moves? At what point is education ‘interrupted’? Hubby reported that he moved frequently, being a RAF brat ‘n’ all. Actually, he moved countries, he moved schools less frequently than I did. My school history reads like this:

  • Playschool & infants (1969).

This was attached to the infant school, so I guess I was 4 and the class would now be called ‘reception’. It was right down the corridor at the end. I wonder with hindsight if we were placed there as it was closest to the outside Victorian loos? Outdoor loos were the norm, many of the Victorian terraces that serviced the school would only just be having their box rooms converted to an indoor bathroom – how posh. Our classroom was spacious with a piano in the middle. We were divided up and given small tasks to do. I remember quite clearly learning ‘w’ words on flash cards & not understanding that the word I was stuck on was ‘what’, I thought the teacher was asking me to repeat my question….

Like many kids at the time, I already knew the basics of reading before starting school. Perhaps because we had less distractions & no money? Watch with Mother was one of the few TV programmes aimed at us kids and there were these strange buildings, what were they called now? Oh yes, libraries.

We got posh loos at my school not long before I left – a mobile block! Still outside but how fantastic? Great days.

  • Infant school (1971)

We moved when I was 6 to a brand new estate. The school hadn’t been completed so along with all the other new kids on the estate, we got squeezed in to the school up the road. We were definitely overcrowded.

  •  Primary school (1971)

Our brand new school opened, this time an all-through primary I believe, rather than an infant school. The surrounding land was moor land and we kids were always over there. I fell into the stream once and squelched back home to mum, who drained my wellies out & removed those little snails you get in ponds and similar.

While there, I read the entire library of Wide Range Reader books but luckily a new reading scheme was brought in. I can’t remember its name, but again it was organised by colour names & I think magenta was one of the highest. I had just about devoured the lot before we moved again.

  • Not sure school! (1972)

Dad had bought a small shop, but the previous tenant refused to leave. We had to live with my uncle until the eviction went through, so presumably I went to school by his. I only have one memory of sitting on the carpet in a classroom, surrounded by bookshelves.

  • Back to infant (1972)

A customer of my dad’s had rental properties and one around the corner had been vacated. He offered it to my dad so we moved in. I was a bit put out that I was back in infants. The English teacher offered me a book and gently asked if I could read it. It was a Wide Range Reader red book. I had to explain that I’d read the lot a year ago and had moved on. I spent the rest of the year’s English lessons in the corridor making clay dinosaurs. Luckily I had a range of books at home and a library just down the road.

  • Middle school (1973)

Oh happy days. No challenge at all but who cares? It was a fun school (well, for me anyway).

Dinner was a semi-formal affair where we sat at tables for about 10. We were served by the dinner ladies for our main course and dessert was a big bowl of something placed at the centre of the table, for us to serve ourselves. Sago, blamange, semolina etc all on the menu – yummy! We learned a musical instrument more or less straight away. I chose the violin. We had 2 orchestras and a choir. We also had a science lab – all wooden benches and Bunsen burners. I don’t ever remember doing science in there, but we did do pottery, enamelling, woodworking….

Loads of sports were also on offer, but girls weren’t allowed to play football until this was challenged. An older girl really wanted to play footie and she made her opinions known! It paved the way for all of us to play. She went on to play for the county and possibly higher.

We had a bird hide too, it was built by my brother’s year. It was on the edge of the playing field by the woods and we got to go down there often. It was organised by our Deputy Head, music teacher and keen twitcher. He still writes a column for the local paper. Some idiots took a match to it about 5 years later. What a waste.

When we needed a new mobile classroom, us kids who had run out of academic work to do were given a paint brush. In the summer of ’76 we were there, covered in paint and singing along to ABBA. It irritates me now that too many schools are falling into disrepair, but the kids aren’t allowed to roll up their sleeves.

I didn’t quite get to do all 4 years of middle.

  • High school (1977)

Like the change from infant to primary and back to infant, I moved areas which operated a different system. We’d moved house in ’76 and my parents decided to move me a month or so before the summer holidays in ’77 so that I could ‘make some local friends’. I didn’t. No kids in my school year lived in the village. I didn’t much like them anyway and they didn’t much like me. Nothing personal, we were just poles apart. I was independent, I was used to doing everything for myself and even worse, I was in to Punk, big time. This was a Grammar school, the kids had parents who were teachers, professors and other posh people. These kids were mainly brought up in one previous school, went home and did homework and dressed well within the rules. I made a mockery of them – according to this senior leader who still wore her black academic gown…. She wasn’t wrong. I bent the uniform rules about as far as you possible could, so mockery was an apt description. I was also thoroughly bored and disengaged. I didn’t do a lot, but up until we had to do literature O level, I still had my books. Analysing them killed off interest in all things fiction. I stopped reading for pleasure.

The house move also brought with it central heating!!! Woweee, no more clothes left at the bottom of the bed, ready to change into on the cold and frosty mornings before daring to get out of bed.

So that’s it, 7 schools, or was it 8? My Grammar shared a site with a Secondary Modern. In September 1977 the two joined up and became a Comprehensive. Just as I was getting used to one school building, I had another to learn. Class numbers were changed and lessons shared between the two sites.

Was my education interrupted though?

What effect did all these changes have on me and were they negative? Are my experiences fundamentally different to others who moved about? To me, changing schools became quite normal. Did I need protecting? Counselling? Something else? I’ve read research and reports suggesting attachment problems but I’ve been with hubby for 30yrs, married for 25. How about delinquency? I don’t think so. Academic achievement? Maybe you’ve got me there. I only have 3 degrees (albeit gained later in life). Next?

So how much do our kids need protecting, are we protecting too much? The government talks of ‘building character’, but is character an attribute that is interchangeable with resilience? Resilience is something I have by the bucket load, but character? I don’t know what that means…….

I feel no sense of disadvantage through these interruptions, if anything, I feel empowered. Am I odd?

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