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Retirement of Mrs Jean James from Badsey School

Mrs Jean James, who has been a teacher at Badsey for 34 years, retired on 20th July 2001. The following is an interview conducted by Maureen Spinks. It is one of several features about the History of Badsey School.

Q. Why did you go into teaching?

A. I was the oldest child in my family, and had always felt I had responsibilities – looking after the younger children, Sunday School teaching, etc. It just happened. I was the first person in my family ever to go into Further Education.

Q. Where did you train?

A. I attended Hereford Teacher Training College, which is closed now; I did the three-year Cert Ed course. I was in the first group to do the three-year course; they didn’t have enough space for us in College, so I had to go straight into teaching practice in Monmouth!

Q. Was Badsey the only school you taught at?

A. No, I began teaching at a small three-teacher school in Shropshire (I was born in Welshpool, on the Welsh borders). I spent two years at the Shropshire school, and then moved to Badsey. I started the same day as Pat Gorin and "Mac" Magowan (George Magowan, father of impressionist Alistair Magowan). I married Dick James soon after moving to Badsey and have been here for 34 years.

Q. Have you always taught the same age-group?

A. I started at Badsey with the bottom Juniors (7-8 year-olds), in the very same classroom that I teach in now. I had that age-group and classroom until Hugh Chaplin became Head. He then asked if I would teach the older children, so Mrs Gorin and I took the two top classes (the school went up to age 11 in those days), but for the last few years I have taught 8-9 year-olds.

Q. Has this always been your classroom?

A. I started in the room where I have ended; staff of 30-odd years ago were very territorial and did not like moving. When I first started, there was glass all along the wall looking out on to the corridor. I remember Joan Dipple, the Acting Head, coming to check in amazement when she saw I had rearranged the tables and chairs into groups rather than straight rows! I then moved to the room next-door for a time (where there were 48 children), but then the outside classrooms (terrapins) were built and I was there for the whole of their lifetime. The terrapins were meant to be temporary classrooms, but they were there for 23 years; they were situated near the outside toilets and cycle sheds (close to where the pond now is and where the new classrooms were built in 1993). The terrapins had their own heating system between the two. I became very fond of my terrapin classroom and was initially very upset when I had to come back to the main building and my old classroom and to teach a younger age-group. When the new block was being built, there was quite a lot of excitement when the temporary classrooms arrived, as they were brought by crane and lifted over the school.

Q. What was the feeling in the school when education was reorganised in Wychavon and you lost the top class and became a 5-10 school?

A. The parents were really against it at first. There were lots of meetings in the Hall, but, as often happens, they came to accept it. I was teaching the ten-year-olds then.

Q. What has been your involvement with sport in the school?

A. I used to be involved with all the sport in the early days, also taking the football until Mr Hughes arrived. I actually qualified as a football referee. My husband, also, was very involved with sporting activities and was a football referee and administered local football at Stratford (in his younger days, he played for one of the Badsey teams, and his brother, John, was goalie). When the older children were still at the school, we used to do a lot of sport, including hockey. Up until a few years ago, if you looked at the Evesham hockey teams, you would see that many were Badsey girls. The one thing I wasn’t any good at was swimming, so Maurice Harvey’s wife used to come along and help me. She used to wear this dress with huge pockets to take all the children’s watches, etc.

Q. I believe you have served under five different Heads. Tell me about them and their different management styles.

A. Maurice Harvey was the person who actually appointed me, but I never taught under him as he was ill. Joan Dipple was Acting Head when I joined (she had been brought in for a term or so, and was from Mustoe, near Kidderminster). Mr & Mrs Harvey had lived in the School House, but after retiring through ill-health, they lived in the bungalow by the church (where Mrs Bettridge now lives). School House was left empty for a while, but then the Chaplins moved in. Hugh Chaplin was the Head for quite a long time. He was from Cromer in Norfolk, but met his wife, Mary, when they were both in India in the services; they were married in Poona shortly after meeting. Mary Chaplin was the Secretary at the school. Hugh Chaplin, too, retired through ill-health. I remember that I had broken my arm in the Easter holidays, and had had to return to hospital for an appointment, so Mr Chaplin took my class. He was taken ill that night and never really recovered. The Chaplins were the last people to live in the School House; they moved to Stratford and lived in a house belonging to the Shakespeare Trust, where Mrs Chaplin still lives. Miss Smith was Deputy, but did not want to take on the responsibility of Acting Head, so Doug Treharne took over the day-to-day business of running the school. There was also someone else who took over the role of Acting Head for about a term. Then Trevor Clark was Head from 1981 to 1988 when he went to Redditch, and I believe he is teaching in Bristol now. Fiona Gardener was Acting Head for a term until Gerry Hughes was appointed in 1988.

The style of each of the Head Teachers was very different. Someone once asked me how I could bear to stay in the same school all that time, but really with each new Head, it was like changing school. Maurice Harvey had come with the evacuees from Birmingham during the war and stayed on to be Head; he had a kinder face for the school than the previous Head. He was an exceptionally nice man, and a great laugh, as was his wife. Hugh Chaplin was very traditional, went home for lunch, didn’t come out of his room. Trevor Clark was a Cockney and called everyone by their first name, which for me, took a bit of getting used to at first, but then I warned to him enormously. In many ways he was not a traditionalist, but it was he who introduced school uniform. He knew it was going against a lot of his beliefs, but he recognised that it was what parents wanted. Trevor Clark was a breath of fresh air in the school. To the children, he was like God; never had they had a Head who was so in touch with the children. He was a show person in many ways. Gerry Hughes, too, is very in touch with the children. He knows every child, every parent in the school. He is very caring Head and very good to work for.

Q. I believe the House system was very strong for a time.

A. There were four houses, named after the surrounding hills: Cotswold (yellow), Malvern, Abberley and Bredon. I believe Maurice Harvey introduced the House system, as he came from a secondary background. The House system, when I joined, was very strict, with pupils getting points not only for work and games, but also for behaviour. Sports Day was taken very seriously, with Miss Smith working out all the points for the Houses. There were a lot of trophies that various clubs and individuals in the village had given, including one which was a large Art-Deco type trophy with Mercury on the top, which had been given by a Head of Prince Henry’s, who had had a son at the school. The House system was largely discontinued during Trevor Clark’s day. Certain groups in the village were not that happy about it, particularly if they had given trophies, but there were other compensations, as the children adored Mr Clark.

Q. Tell me about Miss Norah Smith. Like yourself, she was rather an institution in the school.

A. Miss Smith joined the school in 1938; she had taught somewhere else before Badsey. She had a tremendous influence on the school during her 37-year career there. Not being married, she seemed to have a lot of time to devote to school affairs. She was Deputy Head for a long time and the main age-group she taught was 6-7 year-olds; her classroom was the one where Miss Anderson is now situated. Miss Smith was very friendly with the Harveys, and Mr Harvey, who had a wicked sense of humour, used to introduce her by saying: "This is my chief mistress." She lived at The Pool House with her parents; her father was Head of what was then St Andrew’s School in Evesham (now Hampton). She then moved to a stone cottage near the blacksmith’s in Chapel Lane, and now lives in Seward House.

Q. What about school dinners?

A. School dinners were served in the Hall and the kitchen was where Mrs Jones’ classroom is now situated. All the teachers ate in the Hall with the children, and each of the staff took turns to do dinner duty. The meals were excellent. One of the staff, "Mac" Magowan really enjoyed his food, and always positioned himself at the end of the table ready for any extras. Before the Hall was built, the children ate in what is now Miss Didlick’s room. If you look in some of the cupboards in Miss Didlick’s room, you will find some of the tiles from the original kitchen.

Q. You must have seen many different literacy and numeracy strategies over the years.

A. I feel that things have not changed so much here at Badsey as at other places. Creative Writing was the flavour of the month when I first started, but we always did all the other bits as well. We gave children a firm foundation in spelling and grammar, so when the National Curriculum was introduced, it wasn’t too much of a shock to the system.

Q. Was the school much affected by the teachers’ disputes of the 1980s?

A. The school was not much affected. The disputes caused me to change from the NUT to PAT. I don’t agree with strikes, so I changed unions, as the cardinal rule of PAT is not to strike.

Q. What special events have happened at the school during your time?

A. The main one was the school building’s 100th birthday in 1995. We had a Victorian Day and everyone dressed up in Victorian costume. We also had a helicopter which flew over the school and took photographs. The children were placed on the field to make 100, photos were taken, then the helicopter landed, the children were able to talk to the pilot and have their photos taken beside the helicopter. Up until the early 1980s, we also used to celebrate the school’s birthday on 21st June. When Hugh Chaplin was ill in hospital, we sent blue and yellow carnations to him on the school’s birthday. The school also used to have a big involvement with Badsey Flower Show during Maurice Harvey’s day, with set entries.

Q. What have been the low points of your teaching career?

A. The low points have been all the paperwork and planning that has to be done, particularly nowadays. And I don’t like the way things are going with all the talk about targets and the way we seem always to be teaching for tests. I think it’s very narrow and too pressurised for the children.

Q. And the high points?

A. The most enjoyable time was when we used to teach Topics. I felt I contributed a lot by getting people to go out into the village and to undertake projects. It was under Trevor Clark that I was first given the freedom to do that. But undoubtedly, the best thing has been the school itself. All the time I have worked at Badsey, it has been a small, friendly school, like a family. We’ve had our ups and downs, like any family, but it’s still a really marvellous place. Why, only this morning, I had a letter from Sheffield. I thought, "I don’t know anyone in Sheffield." But it turned out to be a letter from Alison Stirling’s parents, whom I have never met, wishing me well. People have been so kind.

Q. And what do you have lined up for the future?

A. Dick and I have a house in the Murcia province of Spain, on the Mar Menor. We plan to spend a relaxing time there, using it as a springboard to visit areas such as Provence, Portugal and, of course, the cities of Spain. It will be an advantage not to have to cross the Channel! I shall also enjoy playing golf on the lovely courses in that area

The following are two photographs taken at Mrs James’ retirement party for staff and former staff at "The Wheatsheaf", 19th July 2001.

Mrs Jean JamesMrs Jean James with Mr Gerry Hughes (Headmaster), Dr Peter Phillips (Chairman of the Governors) and Mrs Maggie Hughes (Headmaster’s wife)
Left: Mrs Jean James, Right: Mrs Jean James with Mr Gerry Hughes (Headmaster), Dr Peter Phillips (Chairman of the Governors) and Mrs Maggie Hughes (Headmaster’s wife).

At a Final Assembly held on the afternoon of Friday 20th July 2001, Mrs James was presented with gifts from the staff, pupils, parents and Governors of Badsey First School. As a special touch, the whole school joined in singing the following song, to the tune of a favourite primary school song, "From a tiny ant":

From a Badsey school, from a Badsey school,
To a swimming pool, to a swimming pool,
From her marking to a magazine,
From her marking to a magazine,
From a Fiesta, from a Fiesta,
To a siesta, to a siesta.

Care for Dick, it’s up to Jean,
Care for Dick, it’s up to Jean,
Care for Dick, it’s up to Jean,
Care for Dick, it’s up to Jean,
All of us will think of you,
It’s up, it’s up, it’s up to Jean.

From the English rain, from the English rain,
To the sun in Spain, to the sun in Spain,
From Honeybourne to fantastic!
From Honeybourne to fantastic!
From a bungalow, from a bungalow,
To a grand chateau, to a grand chateau.

Care for Jean, it’s up to Dick,
Care for Jean, it’s up to Dick,
Care for Jean, it’s up to Dick,
Care for Jean, it’s up to Dick,
Both of you will think of us,
It’s up, it’s up, it’s up to Dick.

Author: Anon (but rumoured to be the Head!)

Final Assembly

If you have memories of your time at Badsey School whilst Mrs James taught there, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Updated 18 August 2002.