Tuesday, 21 June 2011

School report

I've just been to the school for an informal parents evening which turned out to be a very sociable, happy occasion with a great deal of praise and good news for my offspring. It made me both proud and envious of the education my children are having.

R7's teacher is an absolute delight. Almost as tiny as her pupils, bright and smart, she has taught R7 on and off since the nursery class and the adoration between them is mutual. There are no SATs here so R7 has been assessed discretely and found to be above the standard required in everything.

Meanwhile in year four H9 is taught by the new headteacher. H had done well with her previous teachers but Mrs C seems to 'get' H9 and H9 respects that and is inspired by it. The children learn not be subject but by child-led exploration (with guidance) so they don't know they are doing geography or science or whatever, it's all mingled into an education that is exciting and engaging. H9 again is above the expected standard in all subjects, even in maths which she tries to pretend she's not good at (but is).

It's all a far cry from my own schooling which was the primary school to age nine, middle school aged nine to 12 and high school for the rest. I loved my tiny rural primary school, which for me was about writing stories, being unbeaten in every school race, singing, dancing and hanging upside down on the climbing bars comparing the frills on my knickers with my friend Louise.

Then something went wrong in middle school. I encountered a bottle blonde harpy called Mrs Richards who took a dislike to the eight-year-old me (my birthday's at the end of August so I did everything a year younger) and made aspects of my time at that school quite uncomfortable.

Of course I don't remember it all clearly now but incidents included me being sent to join the remedial children for extra schooling in English (the remedial - awful word - teacher sent me right back into my class insisting there had been a mistake), falling behind in maths, failing to live up to her sporting expectations (I remember her standing over me with a clipboard, screaming at me because I couldn't jump far enough in the long jump).

I remember maths exam after maths exam when I got almost perfect marks and she wouldn't put me up to the higher set. Eventually when I just completely stopped getting any question wrong she said: "I suppose I'll HAVE to put you up to set one," and sent me there - in fury and bad temper - on the last day of that school year.

She prevented me becoming a prefect and stamped all over any enthusiasm I had for school sports. She had her favourites. I wasn't one of them. After four years of that treatment I thought I was a fairly average pupil academically, hopeless at sport and quite a rubbish person to boot.

Then we moved up to the high school and took tests to be selected for streaming. On day one at the high school I still remember looking at the code 3D1A and thinking there must have been some mistake. I was in the top sets for everything. Mrs Richards dislike of me - and to this day I still wonder why - pervaded the my school life. She knocked my confidence and I never put myself forward for any of the sporting teams (despite wanting to - I loved hockey and netball) and I wanted to do cross country running too (the last time I ran at school I beat the entire school team).

Of course I then went on to college and university, won a couple of best student awards and got my degree and made it happily into journalism and writing which is all I originally wanted to do anyway. The Mrs Richards effect wasn't terminal but she is the teacher I remember most and for all the wrong reasons!

Teachers have a great deal of influence over the pupils in their charge. It's a happy accident and a privilege that H9 and R7 are in the school they are in and I'm glad they are there (even if that fact they are entirely taught in Welsh has had its moments of difficulty - but only for me, not them). The early years of education are vital and if there's ever any whiff of a Mrs Richards in my children's education I'll be right there, ready for a fight.


  1. Your girls are very lucky, and I'm sure they will be grateful later on, when they realise how it could have been. I went to a tiny country school (now closed) to start with, then a town primary, which I loved. Luckily I had some really good teachers there.
    My father died in the first month that I was at grammar school, and I lost some vital early work, but more or less enjoyed my time there.
    One teacher I did not like is still alive and well, so I'm not saying anything about her!

  2. Such a sad experience you had with Mrs. Richards, Mags. Teachers can make or break a child's school experience.

  3. Yes, teachers are so influential - fr good and bad. I'm sure mine would astounded that I write.

    On subject of which, I wrote piece on the blog set in Preseli hills yesterday. Wonder if I passed your farm - must have been near.

  4. It's lovely to hear that your delightful girlies are flourishing, but, gosh, I want to warthog Mrs Richards for knocking the stuffing out of Little You!

    For the record and, for new readers to this blog, I'm happy to say that Mags has more than overcome the Mrs Richards effect! She's clever, funny and multi-talented and a loyal friend to boot!

  5. I love the sound of the education your daughters are getting and, like Chris, wanted to jump back in time and wallop Mrs Richards good and proper! I had a maths teacher who told me she had seen more intelligent things than me under a stone. I was about fourteen and despite the fact that I was in the top set for everything and went on to academic and job success, it is the shame and anger I felt at that comment which is the most vivid memory of school life. I love the fact that your daughters' teachers "get" them. That's wonderful.

  6. the veg artist - It's wonderful to see how much they love their school and their teachers. Long may it last!

    Rob-bear - It did teach me a lesson of sorts, sometimes life just isn't fair or reasonable.

    Mark - You would only have passed my farm if you were lost (that's what usually happens)!

    Chris - Aw, thanks! You made my day. xx

    elizabethm - Some people just aren't suited to teaching are they? Can we go back and wallop your maths teacher too?!

  7. I am shocked Mags, child abuse plain and simple. Glad you had the strength of character to rise above it and move onwards and upwards in your life. Maybe the saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," applies here?

    You are so clever, funny and beautiful. As are your children. xxx

  8. There are some people who should never be teachers and your Mrs Richards was definitely one of them. Mine was called Mrs Attwood. She liked to make a fool of children and to crush any spark of individualism. What a relief that your girls have such excellent teachers and schooling and are blossoming.


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