First days at school are often the most memorable and for some of the people who shared their memories with us these first days were spent in the Nursery with Mrs Alvey (Keeble).
Last week two of our year five researchers, Jayden and Selvina, interviewed Jenny who taught at North School Nursery for an amazing 39 years from 1967 to 2006. During this time she worked with four of North School’s eight headteachers and set the school careers of 100s of children off with kindness & creativity.
Jenny joined the staff initially to work in the reception class when the school had only recently become North County Primary School. Before this the Infant and Junior Schools were separate with different headteachers. In 1966, headteacher Mrs Flood retired after 18 years in the Infants and the two schools merged with Mr Bezzant as head. Over that summer holiday the Infant School was freshly decorated, and new school bells and telephones were installed. A new staff room was created off the Junior Hall and the Heads’ study was moved from the end of the hall to the tower. Between the Infants and Juniors were three steps where the ramp is now, so you really did ‘go up’ to the Juniors.
When Jenny moved into the Nursery in 1969 children came for the whole school day, 9am to 3.45pm. They had lunch at school which was prepared and eaten in the Nursery, and then a sleep or at least a rest for those who couldn’t nod off. Many people remember the fold out camp beds that were bought out in the afternoon for an hour and which were taken outside on hot days. Children also had to bring a flannel and toothbrush with them to school and if they got really messy there was even a bath!
A major change came in 1971 when the nursery day was split into two sessions, from 9.15 – 11.45 and 1.15 – 3.45. Splitting the day up meant that more children could attend with 25 in each session, but it made the beds and bath unnecessary. Both found uses as popular playground equipment. One of Jenny’s favourite memories is of the old school bath that inspired so much imaginary play. Still there in the 1980s and 1990s the bath was a firm favourite with one group of boys nicknaming it ‘the doddy’ and using it as their spaceship.
Jenny also told our researchers about some of the exciting projects and themed days they had in the Nursery. There was a summer display at Poplar Garden Centre in Marks Tey and one day in 1986 when everyone in the Nursery and Infants dressed up as clowns and went to Castle Park in their outfits for a picnic.
In the 1990s, the nursery garden was redesigned with new equipment and play areas. A soft play surface was created and the sandpit brightened up. The mayor and mayoress unveiled a new sign, which can still be seen above the Nursery entrance today.
Our researchers were keen to understand what a typical day in Nursery might be. Jenny explained that at the start of the session all the children would come in and sit down on the rug for registration and would find out about all the things there were to do that day. Then they would be busy painting, playing, reading, being outside and dressing up. There would be a snack which they sometimes had all together and then towards the end of the session they made their way back to the rug. Sometimes this was a magic carpet that took them off on adventures, other times it was a place to sit and watch Jenny’s puppet, Frederick the mouse who entertained the children while they waited to be picked up.
Thank you to Jenny for sharing her memories and donating the photographs to the school archive.
If you have any memories or photographs to share please be in touch with us, we’d love to hear them! You can add your memories to the CXXV website: https://www.northschoolcxxv.com/?page_id=34