Classroom Memories

The photo shows Davina’s late husband with Mr Fisher helping out with the building of the swimming pool

Davina Brightley looks back on her thirty-five-year career as a teacher in Whittlesey. After training at the City of Leicester University she started at the Junior Mixed School in September 1956 under Mr Reg McCarthy who flew Spitfires during World War II.

She says: “The main junior school was in the old building in Broad Street. The infant department was next door and the head was Miss Bailey. I started in the old girls school in West End, which had three classrooms. Other junior classes were scattered about the town housed in chapel halls.

“In West End there were three teachers, Mr Norman, Mrs Eason (deputy head). And myself. The classrooms were heated by old fashioned combustion stoves fed by coke. The stone was protected by a fireguard, not the best of heating. The children sat in twos at old fashioned desks with lids. “Toilets were outside, across a concrete yard.

The yard was used as a playground and for all PE in the school. We had one cloakroom  which contained pegs, a washbasin, and a store cupboard. Games were played on Sir Harry Smith School field, football, hockey, and netball etc.

“The children made their own way to the field and helped to carry the sports gear. There was nowhere to store it at the field, and it had to be brought back to school. If it rained there was no shelter and we lived on hope.”

Davina remembers the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret being married in 1960 at the time of the opening of Alderman Jacobs School, named after a local farmer who owned a dairy in the town and served on the education committee. His son Ron Jacobs was a rugby player, playing for England, and later farming at Thorney.

The Royal wedding was celebrated with a public holiday for: “All except the teachers and some strong boys, as much help was needed to help with the removal to the new Alderman Jacobs School.

“It was bliss to be working in such luxurious classrooms. Ladies were not allowed to wear fashionable stilettos because of the new floors. When Mr Fisher became headteacher the swimming pool was built. All parents helped in one way or another and this helped to keep the costs down.”

Davina completed thirty-one years’ teaching, including five years part-time and supply, in 1992.

She says she enjoys meeting former pupils: “I am a Whittlesey person and grew up here and I found it very useful to know the parents as well as the children. It gives me a great deal of pleasure when ex-pupils come up to me and say hello. I feel very proud to have had a hand in their education.”


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