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U3A Writing: No More School, No More Stick

...On weekends we had to wear our school uniforms until 3.45 pm when we were allowed to change into our ‘weekend clothes’ for the rest of the day...

Hazel Dracup tells of the rules and routines of boarding school life some 40 years ago.

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Boarding school life in the early 1960’s

Between the ages of 12 to 18, I attended boarding school some 200 miles from where I normally lived.

At 7.30 each morning, Matron would come into the dormitory and put the light on. She would pass by each bed and make sure we all knew she was there. We would then get dressed and strip our beds and fold each sheet and blanket tidily over the chair. We would then go down for breakfast.

Occasionally we turned over in bed when Matron had gone, but we were woken up by our fellow room-mates. One or two were persistent offenders and we would sometimes get fed up of having to wake them up and leave them in bed to teach them a lesson. This might mean they got into trouble as they were sometimes late for breakfast.

Breakfast was usually cereal or porridge followed by scrambled eggs or bacon and egg and toast and marmalade. On Sundays, it was always a boiled egg. After breakfast, we would go back to our dormitories and make our beds paying particular attention to ‘envelope corners’. If these were not done properly we were in for it!

We would then go into the main hall for morning assembly, stopping on the way to look to see if there was any post for us that morning. We sat in pre-arranged places in the hall to await the arrival of the Principal. He would arrive dressed in his flowing gown through the side door of the stage in front of us, when we would all stand up and proceed with the day’s assembly.

Following this we went into our classes. Each Monday morning, first lesson was always a form period with our form teachers. We had to write our letters home, it was a way the teachers could make sure that we wrote our letters home at least once a week.

We had a break for 15 minutes mid morning, then dinner was served at 12.30pm. It was always a main course followed by a pudding. We were back in school at 1.45pm for the afternoon sessions, the last two lessons after the final break were games related, each year having their own day.

The bell for tea went at 4 pm, the boys and the girls went to our respective manor houses. Tea was two slices of bread with marmite, chocolate spread, sandwich spread to name a few of the fillings. On Tuesdays only, we had a sticky bun or doughnut.

After tea we had a short break then back into our classes for ‘prep’ this was the boarding schools equivalent of homework. This lasted until 7.00pm (except Wednesday when it finished at 6.30 pm due to Scouts and Guides). As we got nearer to sitting our ‘O’ Levels, we found studying taking over what was normally classed as our free time.

Supper was usually soup or macaroni cheese or similar. After supper we would relax in our respective common rooms till bed time. Each year would have its own appointed bed times with lights out half an hour later. Matron would switch the lights off.

Weekends were different - the times of the meals were the same. Saturday morning often meant chores, which we hated. Sometimes games took place. If we were lucky enough to be on the school team, it meant travelling to Basingstoke, Marlborough, Henley, Andover as well as nearby Newbury for away matches.

One particular year Saturday morning’s lessons were experimented with but this only lasted one year. In the afternoon we were free to do our own thing. Sometimes we went shopping in Newbury or go to the pictures when we reached the senior classes. After tea we were allowed to watch television until bedtime if we wished.

Sunday mornings meant going to church, the non-denominations went each week. The Church of England pupils because of their number went fortnightly to the 11 o’clock service at the parish church -the girls one week and the boys the next. If you were confirmed you went to the eight o’clock service every week. This meant getting up at 6.30 am and walking the two miles to the church… and back in all weathers. However this meant you had the rest of the morning free.

In the afternoon we went out for walks for a couple of hours. We had to go in groups of two or more and we had to indicate on a form on the notice board who was going with whom and where we were walking to Presumably so the staff would know where to send the search party to if we failed to arrive back at 3.45pm!

On weekends we had to wear our school uniforms until 3.45 pm when we were allowed to change into our ‘weekend clothes’ for the rest of the day. We were allowed a small number of such clothes and any thought unsuitable were confiscated till the end of term!!

The routine might sound restricted by today’s standard. I returned on a visit to the school in 1996 and was surprised how much more freedom the pupils today have in comparison. We were not allowed out of the grounds except with permission from the Principal or his Deputy in those days.

There were many unauthorised events that took place for instance girl’s midnight feasts near the end of term, secretly buying food on Saturday shopping trips and taking place in the cellars of the manor house, tiptoeing past the teacher’s bedrooms which were situated near our dormitories. My years there were memorable and I can recall a poem (author unknown) that went like this which we used at the end of term:

--- more days of sorrow
--- more days of pain
---more days in this old dump
And then we’re free again
Free, free, free, free
Out of the gates of misery
No more school, no more stick
No more blooming old Arithmetic
No more English, no more French
No more sitting on a hard old bench
No more PE no more games
No more calling all the staff mean names
No more worries, no more lines
No more paying all the daft old fines
Hip, Hip, Hip Hooray
We are off on a holiday

On the last Thursday of term we would assemble together at 3.00pm for the end of term assembly where all the prizes and house competition results were announced.

The next day we went home by train from Newbury to Paddington station in London at 7.30am, then in my case crossing along with a few others by tube to Kings Cross for the 10.20am train to Wakefield or our long deserved holiday - not having been home 13 or so weeks….. until the beginning of the new term when it would start all over again.

Hazel Dracup
May 2008


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