Threats of the cane and other forms of corporal punishment were enough to terrify children into silence in the ‘good old days’.
Not so today’s little ones!
Tales of wallopings from years gone by were shared with youngsters at Colgate Primary as part of the celebrations to mark the school’s 150th anniversary – and they found them “fascinating but hilarious”.
The school, in Blackhouse Road, dedicated a whole week to celebrating its century-and-a-half milestone, including a tea party with 20 former pupils and a Victorian day during which teachers and children acted as they would have done more than 100 years ago.
Headteacher Kate Powell said children and staff threw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, adding: “The teachers were really fierce and scary, the headteacher was horrible and the children were so respectful. It was such fun.
“Even at lunchtime when they are usually so full of life and noisy they were all quiet. They really got into the role playing.”
From Monday July 13, the school started every morning reading from the old log books and were given an insight into the harsh reality of school life for their peers of a century ago.
Mrs Powell said: “One was a punishment book which recorded things such as slaps on the face and the cane. The children thought it was fascinating but hilarious at the same time.”
Another big difference reflected in the logs was the fact Colgate was seen as ‘unsatisfactory’ in 1920 because the school was a mess and the furniture in a poor condition.
Nothing like today’s school, which was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.
Once the Victorian day was over, the school moved on to the tea party, on Thursday. Former pupils had been contacting the office for weeks, sending old photos and tidbits of memories.
Twenty of them joined the current children for tea and cake; reuniting with former classmates and sharing tales of school life in the 1940s and 1950s.
Mrs Powell said: “It was amazing because some of them were meeting for the first time since coming here.
“They were able to find themselves in the old register and in the photos, so it was really special.”
Pat Stillwell, who attended Colgate in the late 1940s and early 1950s, gave a talk in assembly before fielding questions from the children such as ‘what were school dinners like?’ and ‘what were the toilets like?’ The important things!
Eleven-year-old Libby Burns, of Willow Class, gave a speech as the school’s Prime Minister, explaining to the visitors what it was like to be a pupil at Colgate today.
As they sat in a 100-year-old hall, and re-traced the footsteps of generations of children who attended Colgate, one thing which some of the pupils found hard to conceive was the fact they themselves were now a part of the school’s history.
When you are not yet 12, plans made for next year seem a ludicrously long time away, so the concept of Colgate youngsters in the year 2115 looking back on today with a mixture of fascination and amusement was hard to grasp for some.
As the youngsters broke up for the summer, Mrs Powell said: “The children have been so engrossed in soaking up all of the facts they have been able to experience and find out about. I just think it was such the right thing to do.”
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