Archive for the ‘School story’ Category

Life at the Dean School in 1953

Prompted by the recent story about the Old Alresford school in the 1960s, Godfrey Andrews has sent in some of his memories about free school milk and school dinners, at the Dean School in Alresford. He started there in 1953.

Free School Milk

Free school milk, in terms of a third of a pint, usually in a small glass bottle, was first introduced as a part of the 1906 Provision of School Meals Act:  it was identified as one of the foods that could alleviate poor nutrition, considered one of the principal hindrances to learning. This asked local authorities to provide free school meals, but by 1939 less than half were doing so. After WW2 the 1946 Free Milk Act reinforced the provision of the milk to every child under 18.

All the reports suggest that Harold Wilson stopped this in 1968 for secondary school pupils, and then in 1971, Mrs Thatcher stopped it for children over the age of 7 when she was Education Secretary, earning her the label of “Milk Snatcher”. However I was at secondary school, and under 18, in Leeds until 1964, and it had stopped there in around 1962. Maybe it became optional for older students, and I just didn’t go and get it!

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A picture of the school from the website, which is from a Hampshire Chronicle newspaper article around the time of closure of the Dean School.

At the Dean School

Here, in 1953, the milkman called each morning to deliver the free school milk. Godfrey was the milk monitor in one class, and during the cold winter months used to have to bring the milk crate for his class into the classroom, putting it next to the stove for an hour or so to thaw it out a little. At the Dean School each classroom was heated by a ‘turtle stove’. Coal was fed into the small door/flap on the top and ash removed from the door/flap near the base. The school janitor would keep the coal shuttle topped up.

School lunches at the Dean School were similar to those in Old Alresford, in that the hot lunches were delivered to the school each day, in the late morning. Arriving by van it would be wheeled across the playground, in large insulated containers and in to the main hall. The ‘dinner ladies’ would then take over the task of serving the food to the children. Unlike in Old Alresford, lunch was never served in the classrooms. Everyone squeezed into the one main hall, the same hall that was used each morning at the start of the school day, for morning assembly. So it contained all the pupils, all the teachers and a piano – which was used for the morning hymns. The whole of the school, including a duty teacher, would sit together to eat the main course, a pudding and a glass of water.

Godfrey says that of course every morsel of food had to be cleared from the plates. If you left anything you would be punished by missing out on playtime. Many a time he remembers seeing pupils in tears when they could not manage the meal. No one brought a packed lunch or sandwiches with them, it was probably not permitted.

A video held in the Alresford Museum has some scenes at the Dean School, when the headmaster retired, just after the war. The pupils are mainly seen in the main hall, but a classroom scene shows the children using pieces of chalk to write on a small personal blackboard for working out sums: Godfrey mentions that just in the first year’s class, in 1953, they used these personal blackboards and chalk for their workings. From that year onwards the whole school then used textbooks and pens/pencils. The first year teacher in 1953 was Mrs Scammel, who stood at the front of the class and taught using a large blackboard.

Old Alresford School in the 1960s

Mike Whitley, 50 years ago, was a student teacher at King Alfred’s College, Winchester. As a part of this course, in Autumn 1963, he spent one day a week at Old Alresford Primary School: then in 1965 he did a full-time teaching practice there, for half a term. Recently he was asked to do a presentation at Winchester University about student life at the College back then, so he dug out old photos and memories, and has been kind enough to share those relevant with us. Some of these photos can also be seen, perhaps in greater detail, on the photo memory website,

The two colour slides below show the old school building, taken from across the road, and some of the children in the school yard, at the lunch break playtime. The cars are those of the teachers.

Old Alresford CE Primary School, Hampshire

Old Alresford CE Primary School, Hampshire

Teaching practice

The photo below was on a December afternoon in 1963, and shows the afternoon PE football game, refereed by the class teacher, Mr Adams, in the field below the Southdowns National Children’s Home, which was almost next door. At this time, 45 of the pupils at the school were from Southdowns, a large proportion of the school total of 103 children. The others came from Old Alresford, and on the school bus from Wield. Mike was attached to Mr Adams’ class in 1963 (Class 3, the lower juniors, aged 7 and 8): while the boys played football, the girls had needlework indoors!

Old Alresford CE Primary School, Hampshire

In the spring term of 1965, Mike did a 4-week teaching practice period, working in the head-teacher Mr Lavis’s Class 4, which contained 24 upper juniors aged 9-11 – so this included some of his previous students. The Class 4 weekly timetables in 1965 are shown below, which Mike comments are rather formal compared to current practice!

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The school and its procedures

The old school building dated from 1846, but three further classrooms were added in stages after WW2, the most recent completed in 1963. The permanent teaching staff numbered 4, with the rector coming in to take the RE class. A peripatetic teacher, which in 1963 was Mrs Lavis, came in on Thursdays, so that he could concentrate on his administrative duties that day: she also acted as the school music teacher. Classes 3 and 4 were described above, Classes 1 and 2 were the infant classes, which also included a few of the younger 7 year olds.

The school AV equipment comprised a radio, a record player, and a film projector. As can be seen from the timetables, the BBC played a major part in the daily schedule for Class 4 at least! The students were divided into three “Houses”, or teams, named Raleigh, Drake and Nelson – interesting they had a naval flavour! Pupils won or lost house points for good or poor work or conduct. Each week a trophy went to the highest scoring house, and there was also a sports trophy. The school had no communal hall or dining hall, the children ate their school meals in a couple of the classrooms: also some of them went home for lunch. The meals were delivered from a central kitchen serving all the smaller schools, brought out in insulated metal containers.

In those days, free school milk was distributed every morning, in 1/3 pint bottles: Mike can remember the procedures with milk monitors collecting the crates and distributing the bottles, even with straws. He says this ended in 1971, so soon very few will remember the practice. One of the older classrooms in Old Alresford had a blackboard and easel, but most of the classrooms were equipped with roller blackboards – a modern, more efficient invention for presenting info to the kids.

Mike Whitley particularly commented on the effect of the large percentage of the children being from Southdowns, in that the school was very successful in gaining the confidence of all the children, and maintained a very happy and family atmosphere. The panoramic photo below, created by Mike from pictures taken on 5 December 1965, shows Southdowns on the left looking down on the school, just above the end of the pile of sticks: it is taken from the top of the field to the West of the road.


Transport from Winchester

The group of around 5 student teachers sent to New Alresford travelled by a special coach from King Alfred’s College, and were dropped off near the Bell Hotel, before going on to schools towards Alton. From here Mike and a colleague walked down Mill Hill, and across the watercress beds to Old Alresford, and the others went to the Dean school, and maybe also to Perin’s. If they were kept late at Old Alresford school, they would miss the coach pick-up and have to take the train back to Winchester, though occasionally they saved the fares by hitching a lift (Mike comments that even as students they were dressed respectably, invariably wearing college scarves and carrying a rolled umbrella and briefcase, so the car drivers seemed happy to stop!). In February 1965 Mike took this photo of those cress beds from the footpath, made into a panorama.


Other Old Alresford views

Two other pictures were supplied by Mike from the 1960s, one of the cottages at the north end of Old Alresford, from the top of the field again, and one of a dilapidated thatched barn – which he cannot locate, but it may have been along the road through Old Alresford, or along the path up to Mill Hill. Can anyone identify it?

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(C) All the photos used above are the copyright of Mike Whitley. The photo below has been supplied by, showing the school and the Basingstoke Road at around the same time.Old Alresford 046.jpg