The Eighties Classroom

I loved growing up in the Eighties. Such an awesome decade. I was six as the Eighties were just starting to happen so was lucky to have most of my schooling in this decade.
One of the reasons I became a teacher was because I loved school and my teachers in the Eighties. I feel I had a calling and have put my heart and soul into this career for twenty years. I so agree with this quote. It says it all, pure and simple.

I have fab memories of Wilthorpe Infants and Juniors and was so upset when I left. I loved the creativity and the fun of learning. We weren't blighted by tests and levels and teachers weren't teaching to tests in a robotic manner when they wanted to do their own thing just one afternoon! I vaguely remember a few little tests at the end of the year like a spelling and an IQ test but that's about it! We were still ready for Secondary school without all that testing.
It is easy to look through those well used rose tinted glasses as an ex pupil, but I based my experience on wanting to then go into teaching. I remember we worked very hard on academic subjects and we wrote quite a bit. Fair enough, the differentation box might not have been as detailed on the planning. Was there even a box? We learned through fun though and investigations. I'll never forget in our last year at Juniors just being told we were studying transport and we could pick our own topic within this, research it and produce our own brochure. I chose transport through time and painstakingly drew each transport on a piece of A5 and wrote a few sentences about each one. The amount of effort and love I put into that self led project was amazing and as I write this now, I'm sitting back in that classroom lovingly drawing James Stephenson's invention, The Rocket Locomotive and smiling because I was happy. The amount of skills learned such as research, organisation and presentation covered was great too. Can you imagine Year 6s being able to have free run on a self led project like that? Well, pre Sats anyway! Oh hang on. There might be 5 minutes in between Literacy and Numeracy test practice one day a week!

I loved lessons in school and my teachers. I remember though, going past the Junior staff room at break and dinner and the room was just filled with smoke! You could make out certain shoes. It was hard delivering a message because you didn't know who was who! Something else that wouldn't happen now! I remember the last Smoking Staff room while I was teaching was about 12 years ago. It was a tiny room in the eaves of the old school and it was like the tardis. How did that many staff fit in?
I am very nostalgic about my school days. I loved Nursery school and Infants. I remember being in the Recorder group and we had the most amazing music teacher. I played descent and tennor but struggled getting my little fingers to cover all the holes! We worked through the Red and Green school recorder books every week. I was mesmerized with the tub of cleaning solution the recorders sat in each week. I've been on the other side teaching recorder groups and cleaning them with the Milton fluid!

I remember being so stuck in Maths with brackets that I pretended I needed the toilet. When I got there, they had flooded so I raised the alarm, saved the day and got out of that Maths lesson!
Technology was still developing back then and we used to all go as a class to the TV room once a week. We were so excited to watch How we used to live and Stig of the Dump. This was when computers at home were the Vic 20 and Commodore 64. I always felt special when the big BBC computer would be rolled outside the classroom on a trolley in the Juniors for two of us to sit at.

Our schools were on two sites and the playgrounds were massive. To a 6 year old anyway! The Infants was on a slope and we'd love playing Hopscotch and chasing games. The dinner ladies were lovely and we'd play skipping games with them.

Onwards to the Juniors and we then inherited a massive field too! We loved playing out here, or just laying on the grass watching the clouds go by. We'd sit making daisy chains for our beloved teachers or playing the paper choice game. Farmer, Farmer and What tine is it Mr Wolf were great games too. If we were feeling energetic, we'd sometimes join the rowdy games like British Bulldog 1,2,3. We used to love doing handstands around the side of the school. We had no fear back then! We'd double and triple up on the handstands!
It wasn't all play though and as I stated earlier, we did work very hard. Obviously discipline ways have changed for the better. I'll never forget two certain pupils who were always candidates for the dreaded 'slipper'. Each school year had two or three people like this. I always remember the mum of one of them, called in yet again, closing the main door and walking to the Head's office with her high heels clicking. She wore a leather jacket and looked like Tina Turner about to burst into song, "What's love gotta do, gotta do with it?"
She amazed me this woman. I saw her years later, when we were at Secondary school and she was still rocking the fab Tina Turner look.
This harsh discipline side obviously needed to change and I remember listening to Pink Floyd's 'No dark sarcasm in the classroom', wondering what sarcasm was and wondering why they were building a wall. Years later it made so much sense.

I loved the structure of school back then. Mornings for academic learning and afternoons for topic based learning and applying the skills learned in the mornings. We covered wonderful History and Geography topics, making fantastic Art and Sculptures at the same time. We got messy! We had fun but we still learned! We loved it when our teachers went off plan. We weren't aware this is what they were doing but looking back now, they had the confidence to! If someone mentioned something that took us totally off track, We went with it! "Oh yes! There was a poem ...." We'd then read the poem and even act it out!

What I remember the most is the creativity and the spontaneity of these times. In the afternoon, if it was sunny and we'd worked our little socks off, we'd go out and play rounders for half a hour. The teachers would join in, not thinking of the shed load of paper work waiting for them on their desk! Or we'd all go off into the Hall for an extra sing. I loved the songs we sang such as A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam and Waltzing Matilda. They've stayed with me and I've 're visited them when I've taught singing.
There seemed to be more visitors back then too. Perhaps budgets were better then. There seemed to be a lot more glue sticks around too! We used to have parents in helping with painting and sewing and so on.
I also remember very vividly the gorgeous school dinners. We all went for seconds! I loved the meat pies cut into squares with two dollops of creamy mash. Pudding was definitely the best though. I loved treacle pudding or jam roly poly pudding and custard. So stodgy! Very rarely seconds in those! It took me ages to find another jam roly poly as good - The Fountain Inn but it shut down a few years ago. We loved the dinner ladies and sometimes helped them put the tables and chairs away. A few of them were our neighbours. A good reason to behave at dinner time! I used to have school dinners as a teacher but they just weren't the same!

I loved my teachers and still remember that lovely feeling when my favourite teacher, Mrs Goodyear gave me one of her special smiles or put my work on the wall. I adored Mrs Bowler who used to float down the corridor looking like Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac with her long skirt and little ankle boots. She had gorgeous hair and a sweet smile, like Olivia Newton John. She used to make her own chokers and to me, she was the epitome of cool.

The school discos were ace and I used to love the 80s music played. We'd always have a tuck shop and we'd sit eating our Space Invaders and 10p mix ups. These were swilled down with little bottles of fizzy pop that would make you burp rather loudly. We'd dance to Black Lace Agga Do and Superman! The girls looked like Mini Madonnas in their leggings, lace tops, ankle boots and beads. Everyone would be dancing to Thriller too. I remember the TV trolley being rolled into the other fourth year classroom and rows of children waiting to see the video of Thriller. We thought it was so scary!
The Summer and Christmas fairs were fab too and my love of the tombola stall has stuck to this day! Ending in a 5 or 0! The wooden games and skittles always came out too. Summer fair days were always sunny days but our summers were proper summer's back then. We'd go to the park opposite the school on our way home and play on the playground. The slide was so high and the ground concrete. Something else that wouldn't be around today!

There were paddling pools in this park and we'd have a quick paddle on the way home. Sometimes, we'd call off at Woofindon's or Whittacker's shop for a 5p or a 10p mix up. I loved Fruit Salads and Black Jacks. We'd spend ages working out what we wanted and got to 8 or 9p then struggled on that last 1p!  On a hot, sunny day, the Calypso was the best thing to buy! 

I loved my last year before Secondary school made us properly grow up. I had a fantastic best friend who I've tried to get back in touch with. Unfortunately, we parted at Secondary. She always wanted to be a nurse and me a teacher so we got that bit right!
We were inseparable that last year especially and did the fancy dress together at Scout Dike. I absolutely loved it here. Everyone still speaks of it now, especially Peg Leg, roaming around and tapping his wooden leg on the window. My best friend and I were always doing handstand and making up little dance routines. I love to see my daughter doing the same now. I adored this girl; she was so confident and funny.
We also went to visit London in the third year and I still have the photos of my friends and I on the coveted back seat! We all shared a room with bunk beds and it was such a fab weekend. I also have the photo of all our teachers who went with us, perhaps outside the Tower, all smiling in a line, so pleased to be spending their weekend with us! We went to see the show Barnum with Michael Crawford and that was amazing! I was prone to nose bleeds at this time and maybe due to how high up we were seating, I had one in the interval. Unfortunately my £1 note got stuck in my tissues and flushed away. I was distraught but my best friend got an Ice cream for us both so I quickly recovered!
We would put productions on at school and I remember being picked to be Nancy in Oliver. I was so excited but not very confident on the Bill Sykes scenes. I was replaced by another girl and was so upset. It took me another five years to give it my best shot and Ioved playing Nancy in our last year at Secondary.
I remember having time off school when I was eight due to breaking my arm. I was taught in hospital for a bit but missed my beloved school and friends. I went in to visit one afternoon and the welcome I got was lovely. Everyone wanting the gory details and queueing up to sign my pot! It waa very painful but the worse part was the nurse having to cut my brand new Worzel Gummidge tshirt up so they could operate!
PE and Games were fab and we were always out on the field playing Rounders or on the playground playing netball. I loved playing Centre or Wing Attack. Indoor PE was barefoot, in vest and pants and I loved my Holly Hobbie and Victoria Plum matching sets! This brings back a memory of a friend whose PE report one year consisted of three words: Heavy and Timid! One thing, teachers would not get away with that now and secondly, how ludicrous putting those two words together! Reports were very concise and to the point. My English used to say, 'Very good.' But at what? Writing? Chatting?
I loved English the best and was an avid reader. I'd devour Enid Blyton books and loved reading in the old style Round Robin. We'd gather around the teacher's desk, mentally working out which paragraph was going to be ours to read. One of our teachers, who practically never moved from her desk would smile at me like a wise owl and nod serenly when I persevered with the longer words.  Towards the end of my career, I was more like a constipated parrot, trying to listen to the reading, tick the boxes, work out what was happening in the Role play area, remember who'd just gone to the toilet and check Blue group were reading silently or discussing last night's telly! I loved the class reader and hung on the teacher's every word, especially The Magic Faraway Tree and The Magic Wishing Chair.

I have loved teaching and was lucky to still teach when there was more spontaneity and flexibility. I was so lucky to have old school mentors. Teachers work blooming hard but the system has just changed too much. I remember this lovely vicar lady who was also a supply teacher. When we'd worked all day, she'd pop her head round my door and asked if we fancied a good old sing song. Of course! On sunny afternoons, we'd pop outside and take it all in. Just sit and absorb nature. Then we'd go back in and write a poem using our senses and pencil sketch the massive tree in front of the window.
I have taught Sats and we still managed to balance creativity. This was about 17 years ago now though. We worked with levels back then. I waa very lucky to work with a fantastic Year 6 team where myself and the other teacher planned really well together. The children worked their socks off but we always made sure we had time for PE and Art especially. We'd have class rounders, bench ball and tag rugby, which they loved. I worked very closely with the Head of Art at the local Secondary and she came and delivered a Poetry and Art project, culminating in a massive, painted jungle mural. My friend's mum, an artist, also came and we delivered the Art lessons together. We had such a marvellous time! I learned new skills from her and love Art myself now! It was fab when the kids would stare in wonder at my pictures and paintings. I loved it!

We actually entered our Year 6s into a DT competition called Operation Rennovation which was fantastic but now with Sats, The Year 5s would probably get all the fun. It was in partnership with Barnsley college and a group of us spent a day at the construction site learning all sorts of new skills such as: bricklaying, plastering, wallpapering, tiling and painting. We had such a good laugh and a fantastic experience that day. My favourite was the bricklaying and we wanted to continue it afterwards. Back at school, we planned and made our own large house which had to be environmentally friendly and have disabled access. It also had to take health and safety into account. Overnight, children who weren't necessarily engaged in Maths and Science we're now home designers, excitedly discussing the pros and cons of which material to use. It was amazing! The day at the Town Hall, proudly displaying our house with other school children to the Mayor was brilliant too. Again, children who weren't as verbal in class were suddenly the spokespeople of the group, confidently explaining to the Mayor why they chose to fit the wheelchair ramp here instead of there.
I was asked as a pretty new teacher to give a speech about Sats at the NUT general meeting. I was very nervous but felt very passionate about it so I did it and was very proud of myself. I still feel the same today and I'm anti Sats. I'm not against testing, but not on such a scale where teachers feel pressured to teach to the tests. Even down to Year 1 with the phonics test where we are driven all year with the percentage of children who need to get a pass score of 32. What happens if they get 31? Are they a Phonics failure? Surely there has got to be a better way of doing it? For the sake of everybody. Parents included. My daughter said the other day that she would love to go back to her Year 6 class. You won't hear many saying that. She was very lucky to attend a school that took Sats seriously but also balanced out the creative curriculum with constant revision. And the Year 6 teachers were job sharing. It can be done!
I may need to go to Specsavers and swap these rose tinted glasses but surely there is a better way forward for the next generation of kids. I love Shonette Bason Wood who delivers Dough Disco teaching and Spread the Happiness training for Early Years. I'd love to see her as our Education Minister. In fact, Liz Million, the amazing cartoonist and author could job share this with her. Now that would be fun! Add the Scummy Mummies to be Head of the PTA association and now you're talking!


  1. Very nostalgic! Keep blogging. You should write a book!

  2. Thank you. Funnily enough. We were just talking about that! Love nostalgia.

  3. Fab blog! It made me reminisce about my school days too. Mostly happy, lots of fun, great friends. Occasional fall outs, but nothing major. It doesn't feel as many years ago as it is.

    1. It only feels like yesterday! So glad you enjoyed it!


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