Saturday, 6 October 2012

My dad's memories of St Peter's RC School, Ladywood

St Peter's RC Church, Ladywood
Here are some more of my father's childhood memories which he posted on the Old Ladywood website (see website link below or in side panel):
I have read of a number of Ladywood schools, which have received a mention on the website, so may I add my 'pennorth' regarding St Peters RC, Broad Street, the school at which I received my full time education.

My dad Geoffrey in 1950
Aged 13
By any criteria it was a modest unpretentious little establishment, instructing boys and girls from the age of five to fifteen. There were about a dozen classes accommodating over four hundred children. Infant classes were conducted on the ground floor. The second floor consisted of one long room, which served as a hall for morning assembly and prayers. This room was dissected by a number of sliding partitions which when drawn across, would divide into separate classrooms for junior and senior pupils. During the nineteen forties heating in the building was very sparse, each class was equipped with a cast-iron stove, stoked up with coke. The caretaker Mr. Draper, a dependable man, would regularly tend to this task. In the fifties all stoves were replaced with hot water radiators, which were much cleaner and efficient. Playtime breaks were taken on the small size playground; older members of my family have told me that this land had formally been a graveyard. Nevertheless, every year the annual sports day took place on that minute patch of ground. On those occasions the teachers would provide a variety of homemade cakes, and sweet lemonade, which were much enjoyed.

Head Mistress, Miss S Clements, ran the school in an exemplary manner; discipline was firm but fair. Miss V McIntyre, Head of the infant school, ably supported Miss Clements, and she also taught music to the older children. The regime was not over strict, but I cannot remember any serious disruption in the classrooms, or any exclusion of pupils taking place. No indiscretions ever took place behind the bike shed; there was simply no room for a bike shed.
The altar inside St Peter's
Sporting activity was encouraged. The school boasted an excellent swimming team, a moderate soccer team, and despite the efforts of sports master Mr O’Connor, a pathetic cricket eleven. The girls supported an enthusiastic netball team, presided over by Mrs Lester. During sewing lessons, she also oversaw the design and making of sports attire for the lasses.

The school severely lacked vocational aids, after it became state aided in the early fifties, woodwork lessons were laid on at St Thomas’s school, on Granville Street, and a science class was arranged at nearby Nelson Street school.

The dedication of the masters deserves to be mentioned. Whatever the weather, come rain or snow, they would accompany the lads every week, on the long trek from the school, to the swimming baths in Monument Road.

Those stalwart individuals were: - Messrs. O’Connor, Paddon, Griffin, and Mr Munton. In these millennium years, when sports training in schools is so scarce and competition often discouraged, it does seem strange that in those times a weekly bus was made available by B’ham City Transport, to take the boys for half day sporting activities, at the Metchley Lane playing fields.

St Peters was not noted for its academic achievements, but this was long before such measures as SATS, and OFSTED were introduced. I do remember some of the brighter pupils gaining admission to Aston Commercial School.

A procession at St Peter's RC school in 1952. My dad Geoff is one of the older boys
at the back furthest right helping to carry a statue of the Virgin Mary

In later years I happened to meet one of my old masters, he was almost apologetic regarding teaching levels at the school. Apologies unnecessary Mr ------, in spite of limited funding available and inadequate resource, you instilled the standards and values that matter.

 And so at the age of fifteen years, unsure, unqualified, and without aspirations, we were discharged into the world of industry and commerce. Of course, the Careers Officer interviewed each child with a view to placement, prior to leaving. I recall the most popular job, sought after by my pals, was lorry driver’s mate. I shall always be grateful to the memory of Miss S Clements, who guided me in the direction of an indentured apprenticeship, with a local engineering company. The Head wrote on my leaving certificate “An extremely intelligent boy, who has done well as school Captain”. In retrospect, I feel that with the class of 52, myself included, the teachers had a very lean year.

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