Ruth Harper (Teaching) 1990s

St. Kenelm's C.E. Primary School, Romsley
Centenary Celebrations
1915 – 2015

Memories of Mrs Ruth Harper - Part-time Teacher from 1988 - 1998

 

In 1988 the long serving headteacher, Mr Ben Ruddick, decided to retire. At the time I was working in the Playgroup with Mrs Margaret Bayfield and giving weekly recorder lessons to groups of school children (I used to play with them until I realised that when I stopped playing the rather unpleasant squeaky noise also instantly ceased!)

Mr Ruddick asked if I could cover his class (Top Juniors) whilst the interview process to appoint his successor was taking place. As an infant trained teacher then working in a playgroup this felt quite daunting; to be facing a class of nine year olds was going to be a new experience for me; made even more interesting by the inclusion of our own son, David, amongst the children involved. Happily I survived the experience with very few scars although I am not sure whether that applied to children too. I was able to view the candidates at first-hand as they were shown around the school. Some stood nervously by the door whilst others walked into the room with a smile and engaged some of the children in conversation. Amongst the latter was Mrs Maureen Burns, who (happily for me) was later offered the post of headteacher and fortunately accepted.

From that day began our close working relationship as I agreed to cover Maureen's two afternoons per week administration time by teaching History, Geography and Music to her class. How she managed to run the school and teach virtually fulltime I shall never understand but this was pre-Ofsted, pre-National Curriculum, pre-SATs days so maybe things were a little simpler then. And the Local Education Authority still dealt with many of the administrative tasks now placed on the shoulders of the headteacher and governing body. Nevertheless, being a teaching head was no easy task and I was pleased to be able to support Maureen in a very small way.

Maureen slowly introduced changes to the running of the school and to the curriculum but in the early years she was working with Mrs Hutchinson and Mrs Powell with their years of experience as to how things should be done and so she wisely trod very carefully. One contentious issue was the annual whole school trip to Weston-Super-Mare – a hugely popular day out come rain or shine where children, parents and friends all travelled by coach to the seaside and spent the day on the beach, in the swimming pool at Tropicana or, on my one and only experience of the event as a parent, in the cinema watching "The Return of the Jedi" surrounded by children of all ages as the rain was bucketing down outside. Never again! (The previous year I had sent our daughter, Claire, on the trip on her own without a swimming costume or bucket and spade because my previous teaching experience had taught me that "parents were not included in educational visits"! "Mum, I was the only one who couldn't go swimming in Tropicana!" Still remembered to this day!)

Maureen, like myself, felt that with the various changes in education due to be introduced a trip to the seaside, in an era when nearly every family had at least one car, was not the best use of school time. This caused a great deal of discussion and finally a compromise was reached whereby the lower two classes went to Weston as before but the Top Class went on a more "educational" trip to Malvern. On the hottest day of the year we clambered halfway up one of the hills to visit an ancient well accompanied by the constant moaning from several of the children (including our son) stating that they would much rather be paddling in the sea and riding on a donkey. Even the prospect of the farm park visit later in the day did not stop the complaints! I believe that was the last time the school went to Weston in school time. Mrs Hutchinson retired to be followed after a couple of years by Mrs Powell. I was asked to teach Reception fulltime for one term whilst Mrs Hutchinson's replacement, Mrs Denise Finnie, completed her contract at her previous school. I loved every minute and I suppose it was that experience that started to convince me that my first love was for the younger children. Later I covered the Lower Juniors' class for two terms whilst Mrs Powell went on a course.

When things returned to normal again I continued to cover the two afternoons for Maureen whilst working three mornings per week downstairs with Margaret Bayfield in the Playgroup. We took part in the Annual Cluster Schools' (local first schools) Music Festival each year and I had great fun preparing the class for this event. I am not sure that our musical ability shone through but we certainly starred in the dramatic portrayal of the songs. We (Class 3) were fortunate to be invited to take part in the mid-1990s in the opening of the new well-site in St. Kenelm's churchyard. We wrote and performed a musical interpretation of the legend of St. Kenelm around the well and even had our picture in the local newspaper. The height of my fame as a music teacher! However, I soon realised my musical inadequacy when Mrs Julie Greenwood, choir member and musician, was appointed as a part-time teacher in the school. She took over the music training and conductor role and I just played the piano. I loved being the pianist for the school productions that took place at the end of each term, such as the Easter and Leavers' Services and of course, the Christmas plays. Nowadays the children's singing is usually accompanied by recorded backing tracks, but those were great days.....for a pianist!

Mrs Maureen Burns left the school in 1988 following the birth of her daughter, Susannah, and Mrs Hazel Gommersall was appointed in her place. I continued to cover the two days' administration time but it was soon evident that with the onset of Ofsted inspections, the new National Curriculum, SATs, etc. (in no particular order), two afternoons were hardly sufficient time for a headteacher to run a school, albeit still with fewer than 100 children at this stage. Mrs Gommersall required more support and I was unable to commit to more hours as I did not want to relinquish my Playgroup role so I tendered my resignation as part-time teacher.

The role of Clerk to the Governors became vacant at around the same time and I applied for the job........but that's another story!

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