Daily dramas of school life continue down the decades

March 03 2014

THE Blackhorse log books provide a social history, reflecting some of the changes over the decades, but head teacher Simon Botten said in many ways they also showed how school life was much the same as 50 years ago.

blackhorse school

blackhorse schoolTHE Blackhorse log books provide a social history, reflecting some of the changes over the decades, but head teacher Simon Botten said in many ways they also showed how school life was much the same as 50 years ago.

“Many of the daily dramas – minor injuries, staff absences, childhood illnesses, parents’ worries – are just like those we have today,” he said.

All schools were required to keep log books until some time in the 1990s. The one for the original Blackhorse Primary records how it opened on April 21, 1958, with 128 children transferred from Downend County Primary School. The head teacher was Alan Longhurst. By the summer holidays numbers were up to 157 and six years later they had rocketed to 528.

This led to the opening of the £45,000 infant school in 1982. It was an inauspicious start in a building that “was in a dreadful state, many rooms being incomplete or non existent”. Workmen made a “deafening noise” but eventually the job was completed and a telephone, typewriter and Roneo duplicator were installed.

During the 1960s, epidemics of mumps and measles were recorded and there were fears of an outbreak of impetigo. Two children were sent home because they had beads stuck up their noses. Regular hygiene checks and hearing tests were carried out. Staff trained in ita, a simplified spelling system in vogue in that decade but later discredited. They also feared adverse reports from HMI inspectors.

By the late 1970s, traffic was becoming a concern for parents and after a boy was knocked down outside the school in 1972, forty parents held a protest demonstration calling for road markings.

Another group protested two years later against the new Avon County Council’s policy not to allow ‘rising fives’ into school.

Very early on, school windows were broken “probably from airgun pellets”. Vandalism was a growing problem, with frequent instances of lead stolen from the roof.

Charity fundraising was strong. Two guineas was raised for children in Vietnam and links with Frenchay Hospital School, Frenchay Spina Bifida Unit, Vinney House, and Manor House were recorded, often accompanied by press photographs in the Gazette or New Observer.

In 1981, a grand midsummer picnic with songs games and sports was held to mark The Year of the Royal Marriage of HRH Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and also The International Year for the Disabled.

Numbers on roll were falling – on general election day in 1979 polling was held in empty terrapin classrooms at the school – so plans were made for amalgamation of the infant and junior schools.

This happened in 1982 and coincided with the retirement of Shirley Hall, who had been head for all of the infant school’s 18 years.

Early records of the merged school show a trend towards more children staying on the premises at lunchtimes, either with packed lunches or for school meals. They also note that “10 per cent of the total number of children in the school are from gypsy families. This compares with some city schools with a 10 per cent immigrant population.”

A PTA was formed in the early 1980s and children staged a production of Josaph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The theft of colour televisions was noted, as was an incident of a boy being bitten by a dog.

Later in the decade, handwritten entries in the log books were replaced by typewritten reports to governors.

These detailed national changes such as Local Management of Schools and the first years of the National Curriculum.

Head teacher Rosalind Pollard was appointed in 1990 and retired six years later. She wrote that her time at Blackhorse had been “the greatest period of change ever experienced in English education.”


Extracts from the school annals


April 13, 1964 . . . 

Term began today for the new Blackhorse Infant School. The school building was in a dreadful state, many rooms being incomplete or non existent. As the offices and staff rooms were not ready, necessary accommodation was shared with the junior staff. The Hall and the kitchen couldn’t be used and dinners were provided by the junior canteen staff. Corporate assembly was held in the junior school.157 infants transferred from the junior school to join 64 in the infants bringing the total on roll to 221

15 Oct 1964 . . . 

School closed for General Election

Dec 1970 . . . 

Nativity play cancelled in evening. Audience waited until 7.45 and then decided to cancel due to lack of lighting and heating because of electricity workers’ ‘go slow’

1975 . . . 

A boy climbed on to the roof of the school during the evening while the Beaufort Ladies Club was meeting. He was with several other boys who all seemed to have indulged in some horse play. [He fell through a skylight and hurt his head]

July 1982 . . . 

The school closes today after 18 years which have been generally happy years for both children, staff and parents

April 1983 . . . 

The infant children were entertained by the Bristol Theatre Group followed by a party where they had a piece of cake and a drink of orange squash. Prizes were given for the best fancy dress at this event. This day marked a point in the history of this building [25th anniversary] and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

June 1990 . . . 

The BBC television programme Casualty had arranged to film children and parents arriving at school this morning as they needed a primary school opposite a florist shop. This school, with the greengrocer’s in Dibden Road, was the best location they could find. So parents and children duly arrived, and re arrived several times, for best shots.. Four children, 4’ 9’’, had to be friends for the child actors, and came into school with them. Quite an excitement for the community and we got a contribution to school funds of £100

July 1996 . . . 

There has been a fast and endless flow of change, much of it antipathetic to the values people have held in primary schools[wrote retiring head Rosalind Pollard]