Working Lives

Physical education: teacher, lecturer, adviser (1960-2000)

Location: Thetford

Jo tells us about working within the education system as a teacher, lecturer and adviser.

I left school and went straight into teacher training and did a three year course in the Midlands. It was a course to train specialist physical education teachers with some English and some maths, so that you could work in a secondary school classroom. That was a sensible balance.

Teacher training

We did teaching practice at college in all three years of the course and within a fortnight of going to college we were placed in primary schools. It was daunting standing up in front of a class for the first time. So we just had two weeks of general lectures and they said, ‘You’ve got to understand what it’s like to work with children, because all you have at the moment is your own school experience. All of you have been in grammar schools and schools with high expectations for you, now you need to know what real life is like’. So that was very daunting.

I was in a primary school in Nottingham, which is a very different catchment area. Very poor children, some of whom at eight, nine and ten couldn’t read and I found that a real shock. That was when I was most nervous, the first teaching practice at college. But the children were all wonderful.

It was the first time that I had left home and it was a bit of a shock actually. But there was lots going on, student life with all sorts of activities, clubs. We had an absolutely full timetable, 38 hours a week and we never had free time. As it was a physical education course, two-thirds was practical physical education, so….that wasn’t too bad but it was quite tiring.

We did all the normal games that would be played in secondary schools, tennis, rounders, a little bit of cricket, netball, hockey, and of course we all had to gain our bronze life-saving award because we would all be teaching swimming.

That was my weakest area when I went to college because there were no real swimming opportunities in Thetford and certainly not in the school I went to in North Norfolk. I went to college as a non-swimmer. So it was tough as I had to go from a non-swimmer to getting bronze life-saving award in two years.

There were only two other people and myself who were non -swimmers so we used to keep together and share notes on how it had gone. And then of course there was athletics, long-distance running, throwing, jumping and a lot of dance, because dance in those days was considered an important element of physical education.

There was a movement which had come from Europe and America known as Laban dance, the name was the surname of the creator, who I think was of mid European nationality. It was a complete way of creating movement and disciplining movement. It parallels classical ballet training and discipline but with a much more fluid technique. I used to enjoy it thoroughly and taught it in the first two schools I went to. When I went to Nottingham from Sprowston I didn’t because I had lost faith in it.

My first teaching post was in Long Stratton in Norfolk, I was very lucky as it was a brand new secondary modern school. The children went to primary school, took the 11+ and those that did not get the 11+ came to our secondary modern. After two years the 11+ was stopped and it became a community school. All the children from local villages would come to us.

It was a wonderful way to start teaching because there were no discipline problems. Parents wanted the children to attend school, to get a good education and we really were part of the community. You could really teach and it really was most unusual if you had any discipline issue with a child.

I thought, well this has been lovely for three years, but I really ought to obtain wider experience, so I went to a secondary school in Norwich.

Sprowston Community School

So next I went to Sprowston Community School. It was a bigger school but again I was very lucky as it was brand new.  The old school had been in complete need of a rebuild and of course there were a lot of applications to go and work in a new school. The poor teachers in the old school were not guaranteed a job in the new one. They all had to compete. Many did gain posts and  I was lucky in that I got a physical education post there. Lovely facilities again. A bigger school and a few more behavioural problems, discipline problems but nothing major at all.

The move from Norfolk to Nottingham

I left Norfolk and moved to Nottingham and spent ten years in a mining community, Kirkby-in Ashfield, which was very different, a very closed community. You had to try and stretch the children’s expectations for themselves.

The boys went down the mine and the girls did what they could for jobs when they left school. It was almost a sheltered village lifestyle. I remember taking children to Nottingham to play in a tournament one Saturday. For some of them it was the first time that they had been to Nottingham, which was about 20 minutes away. The children were just amazed to see, from the bus, how big Nottingham was.

I remember one time, which I suppose is funny but it was quite alarming at the time. Every March I used to take the children down to Wembley for the international hockey match. It was a huge occasion, 60,000 at Wembley. One year I had so many children who wanted to go, over a hundred, that we went by train. They laid on a special train from Mansfield to Wembley station, on the high street and I had to have a lot of teachers for the one-to –ten ratio of supervision. At the end of the match we had to walk back to the station, a good 20minute walk, I had a system where each teacher would say, ‘Yes I’ve got all my ten’. This was great until one teacher said, ‘No, I haven’t got my ten, I’ve only got seven’. Time was ticking by, they went off in a crocodile and got on the train. I knew there was a lost children centre, so I asked a policeman where it was, it was underground at the stadium. One of my children was already there, she had wandered off and a policeman had collected her. She cried all over me, she was so worried about being underground. Two policemen came with the other two, but how to get home?

No problem at all they told me, ‘No problem we’ll write you a pass, and you can use that for the four of you on the Underground and the mainline train’. ‘How much does that cost?’ ‘It costs nothing , it’s part of the security scheme when we have international hockey’. And it worked, we got home only three hours after the original party got home. I was just so impressed with the arrangements. I think that the children had just been awestruck by the massive stadium and just got lost among all those children. I think that they actually got more out of the experience because they would not have been on the Underground if we’d all gone home on the train!

That was quite a funny experience, after it was finished and everybody was home safe. It was pre mobile phones – which would have been a godsend!

So, yes, that was a very fascinating ten years.

I then thought, right, I can’t get too comfortable in Nottinghamshire, so I applied for and got a lecturing post at Bedford Physical Education College.

From teacher to lecturer to adviser

This was a very different way of teaching. It was teaching students in the days just before degrees came in, but they were doing three years of training. I enjoyed it and it stretched me. You get used to teaching in your own way, so you had to present different ways of teaching to people so it made me think deep and hard. It was a good challenge.

I enjoyed the lecturing and then there was a government ruling, a paper, that said that teacher training colleges were not to expand teaching staff, in fact they were to look at possibly cutting back. It was, I won’t say ‘last in, first out’ but that was the situation. The principal was very good and warned me early. She said, ‘What do you want to do next? Do you want to go into lecturing, or do you want to go into educational advisory work?’ I said, ‘I haven’t thought about educational advisory work, I was going to stay in lecturing really’.

She told me that there were a lot of advisory posts being advertised as local education authorities were changing the nature of their advisory service. So I applied for one of these and that brought me to a post in Suffolk. The newly amalgamated authority of what had been West Suffolk, East Suffolk and Ipswich Borough which became Suffolk Education Authority.

That was very exciting. You were walking a new path with the Education Authority. There was plenty of money from the government to build new schools and improve the structure in education. So I came in 1978 and finally finished in 1989, I did ten years.

Leisure time

When I was working I used to try and keep a home together! Teaching physical education, obviously, you do a lot of after-school clubs and Saturday mornings were always taken up with matches or tournaments. I used to play tennis and hockey. The weekends would just go and suddenly it would be Monday morning again. Obviously you would go out for meals with friends. Great fun. Trouble was, most of your friends were in education and if you were not careful you would circulate socially amongst teachers all the time which was not good!

Changes and early retirement

Things changed enormously because of government influence. Whereas at one time as an authority, we could decide most policies and the schools were able just to teach to the external exams. Then all sorts of acts of parliament to deal with management of schools, governing of schools, financing of schools, came in. And our roles as physical education advisers changed out of all recognition. I was lucky enough to take early retirement, which I did with much relief.

Jocelyn (b. 1938) talking to WISEArchive on 11th May 2012 in Bury St Edmunds.

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