Working Lives

The School Health Adviser (2013)

Location: Stamford; Fakenham; Norfolk

Can you tell me when you left school, and where you were before you left school as well?

I lived in Stamford in Lincolnshire and went to Stamford
High School. I left school at 17 as I had already gained a place at Westminster
hospital to do general nurse training. The matron there said "don't do A
levels, just do a couple more O levels and you're in. Go and earn some money
for your books." So I did.

So then I got a job at a primary school as a teaching
assistant, as it would be called now, for a year, and saved my money by living
at home. In September 1965 I went to London. I remember they sent my trunk off
to London and they put me on the train and left me. I turned up in London and
had to find the right way to get to the hospital and to the nurses' home. And
then I trained in the Westminster hospital for three years to get my State
Registration. And then and extra year to do my Westminster Hospital
certificate, which was four years. Then I was a Westminster Hospital nurse. But
the training was proper nurse training then. We had a Matron, we had to start
off in PTS and you emptied bedpans for the first few months, and you worked your
way off, getting ticked off all the skills that you could do as you went.
Taking exams all the time as you went through. You had an absolutely brilliant
nursing training.

Which today is different? Then you started working as a nurse.

I went straight into the community then. I became a health
visitor's assistant in Hampstead, which was really good because we had all the
film stars and people like that. Their babies were all at our clinic which was
rather nice. And I did school nursing for Hampstead as well. Not as a trained school
nurse, but we used to go and test eyes and ears and so on.

And then I got married and we moved out to Hitchin, and I
had children, and then because of Cox and Wyman in Fakenham, we moved up to
Fakenham in Norfolk. By which time I had two small children, and the work I did
then was with Playgroups. I was a Playgroup organiser, a Playgroup leader,
Playgroup tutor, area organiser of the Playgroups, while I'd got small

And then in 1986 I got a proper job! I became school health
adviser for the Fakenham area. At that time I had about 17 schools and I was responsible
for vision and hearing, liaison between the schools and health education. I
also did the workshops for the HIV Aids, which was the big thing in the 1980s.
So I was trained up in HIV Aids and things like that. At that time the health
visitors, district nurses and school nurses were all based locally. So we all
knew each other and went out and did our jobs locally. And then things changed
as they do, and we got moved to Aylsham, so I did the Fakenham area from the
Aylsham office, and then they just kept giving us more schools. We then got
assistants, so we had staff nurses and nursery assistants and the work that the
actual school health advisors did got more and more management. We didn't see
the children so much, which was a pity because we used to know every child in
our area. But we did do a lot of health education and we did PSHE (Social and
Health Education) in all the high schools, and we saw every child at 13 and did
a health interview, looking at what they wanted to do when they left school. So
it was really good. Very very interesting.

I was thinking back to when you were in Hampstead, what kind of conditions the children had?

Well, they were fairly affluent. But school nursing in the
late sixties was more about vision and hearing and height and weight. Whereas
by the time you got to the eighties you were looking at behaviour problems,
family problems, child protection, those sort of things. Because the school
health service had progressed throughout that time to take in all sorts of
other things that happen in children's lives. It became more and more
interesting, but more and more challenging as well.

And then they moved the office to North Walsham. At this
point I decided I didn't want to drive to North Walsham every morning. So I
gave in my notice thinking "I'll get a job in Morrison's".

And you did?

No no I came up in Holt, with the Family Solutions team,
working with children with behaviour problems. So I did that for another six years
working all around North Norfolk. It was the whole of North Norfolk; there was
a team of six of us. All sorts of preventative work really – trying to get in
before children had huge problems so that you could help before it became a big

You've got a rural area there …

Yes. I remember talking to one young lad who lived in a
village, sort of on the coastal strip, when we did the 13 years interview, what
did he want to do when he left school? And he said to me "Well, I work with my
uncle now in the summer holidays, and I've got a girlfriend, and when I leave
school I'll have a job on the farm."

Well, sorted!

That's what I thought, marvellous. But he hadn't been to Norwich.

Never been to Norwich?

Yes. And this is in the last 30 years. Didn't know why he would want to go to Norwich.

You were telling me you are retired now.

I retired three years ago and I work with the Fakenham
Community Archive now, which is a group of ten people who are collecting digital
images from people, collecting stories, memories, lots of photographs. We have
a superb webmaster who has set up a website for us and we have a meeting once a
month where people can bring photos in or see photographs that we've got. We
just keep gathering things in. we get given stuff all the time. Really
interesting things. We were given a diary last year of a lad that was evacuated
to Fakenham in 1941 and we published it as a book. And this year we have been
given a box of photographs from the Community Centre in Fakenham which were
taken in 1974 and everyone had forgotten about. So we now have an exhibition in
the Church in May for these photos, because we don't know who they're of. It
was the Free Photographic Omnibus which was a student's project and he had a
double decker bus in Fakenham Market Place and took these photos and they were
shown at the Fakenham Festival. The photos were the important thing to him, not
the names of the people. So now 39 years on we are looking for these people.
They may be knocking around here.

That's why we do this, too. Because we are going to forget.

People just give us things now! They phone up and say,
"we've got such and such, Lyn, do you want it?" We have had a lady from East
Runton who was evacuated to Fakenham at the same time as the lad in our book
and her dad was a science teacher who moved up. So she was a baby in Fakenham
in 1941 and lived there for three years, and we've got her memories now which
we've got to type up of what she can remember about Fakenham as a toddler at
the same time as our lad in the book, evacuated to Fakenham. It just goes round
and round, it's brilliant.