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U3A Writing: End Of Term Report

Margaret Parton's school days almost ended with her being expelled.

Not exactly comments on an exam.

These comments arise, I believe, not from a term’s work but from an incident just before the end of my school life, and occurred on a dull, wet November afternoon.

About 50 girls including me had travelled to the Carnegie College playing fields for hockey practice. However, the pitches were too wet on which to play and so we were to enjoy a walk back to our college in the pouring rain.

So a crocodile procession of girls, in twos so as not to straddle the Headingley pavements too much, set off towards Leeds City Centre, with our two mistresses in front leading the way.

Needless to say, this column of girls lengthened somewhat, and suddenly eight of us found ourselves not seeing any of the others up front. Yes, we were the tail-enders.

What had happened to the others? On the spot we came to the conclusion that they must have boarded the tram back to school. After all, it was raining and our gabardines were soaking wet.

Consequently we caught the next one, but no sooner had we paid our fares than we spotted our schoolfellows still walking down Headingley Lane. Again quick thinking was required, and we decided to remain on the tram and proceed as before.

Yes, they had seen us too. Realising our dilemma, we duly reported to our headmistress, Miss Hillary, on our arrival back at school, explaining what had happened. Thus, we collected our satchels etc. and, along with the others who had also arrived back, we went home. Miss Hillary seemed to accept our explanation, and no more was said.

However, the two teachers must have told a different story (no doubt to cover their own backs, as my father later revealed.) After all, there was no one at the back of this procession – contra to supervision of pupils regulations of the time.

Thus, during school assembly the following morning we eight girls were told to go immediately to the head’s study. So what now? Indeed here we learned we were to be expelled for two or three days as a punishment the following week.

What a bombshell. Only a few minutes before I’d been on the platform doing the day’s scripture reading, and I was still clutching my Bible. I smiled inwardly at this scenario.

I was shocked at this decision. After all, we’d gained nothing from what was a genuine mistake on our part. Moreover, if I had wanted to get home earlier, I could have cut across the railway crossing at the edge of the playing fields and arrived home much earlier.

But I was convinced we eight miscreants had done the right thing, and ranted and raved to my dad at the tea table that evening about what I decided was a miscarriage of justice. As usual Dad listened, as I was on my soapbox and doing a good suffragette parody (his words – not mine).

After discussion Dad believed I had a good point and understood why I felt so aggrieved. After all, expulsion was a serious matter and would have appeared on my final school report, which I was due to receive in a few weeks’ time. As we all had employment to go to, I said I would not return to school, and I told the headmistress so. I was so angry, bitter, but above all deeply hurt.

Therefore, the following morning I asked to see our headmistress, which was granted – again immediately after school assembly. Consequently, I again entered her room, Bible in hand after reading the day’s scripture. But this time my knees were weak and wobbly, hands clammy and heart thumping. I felt a physical wreck.

But with Dad’s words of encouragement ‘to defend my right’ and his promised backing, I suddenly felt strong enough to say that we eight girls felt that we’d been unfairly treated. After all, we’d gained nothing and had told the truth.

To my surprise she listened to me, said very little but made notes. Feeling better, I excused myself and went into my first lesson.

Now to the point of this missive. At break time we disgruntled eight reprobates were summoned to the head’s office where we were informed that after further consideration Miss Hillary had decided that we should all attend school as usual the following week as our expulsions were withdrawn. No further explanation was forthcoming, and we all put the incident behind us.

After all, we had our school Christmas activities to concentrate on. We did not have exams at the end of the Christmas term. Therefore, two or three days before our last school day we were handing in and checking books, sorting files and cleaning typewriters etc. However, two of us were given the task of naming, addressing and placing school reports in appropriate envelopes in the secretary’s office.

Consequently, we two were having a good scan at the comments on them all, particularly the head’s comments at the foot of the dossier. After all, we were all entering the world of work, our schooldays now behind us, and Miss Hillary had written on everyone’s more or less the same blah-blah, such as ‘So-and-so has been a good student etc. etc.’- ending with ‘and we wish her well in the future etc.’.

Therefore I was feeling somewhat nervous about her comments on my report. What would she say, if anything, about the events a few weeks before? And would it be good enough to earn me 5/- (a fortune in those days) that Dad usually gave me as a reward for a term’s hard work and a good report.

Thus I read it in disbelief. Following the usual comments by different teachers and the aforesaid remarks by the head, Miss Hillary had also written as a tailpiece on my paper, ‘Margaret has initiative and should do well.’ This expression did not appear on anyone else’s report.

Needless to say, I felt content and even more so when Dad said, “That’s my girl” and gave me 7/6 because I’d had the bravado to stand up for what I knew to be the right.

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