Friday 22 May 1987

…After lunch the Woodbrook lot had to go off to Cobden again*.
Today it was about bullying.
We had to watch a video about a bully and a victim.
It was a good film but left me feeling queasy.
There is to be no cycling proficiency test this year, so I am not going to qualify…

And I never did.

I was quite cross about this, but I don’t mention any reason for the test not taking place. It had done so every year at my primary school for at least as long as I’d been there. Traffic cones, cardboard traffic lights and chalk drawings of a road junction were an annual occurrence in the playground. Not this time, however.

Maybe the local authority couldn’t afford it anymore. Cycling proficiency tests were funded by the government from 1958 until 1974, when responsibility was devolved to county councils.

It’s now called Bikeability – “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”. A bit more of it in the 20th century wouldn’t have gone amiss.

However my lack of qualification hasn’t stopped me using the cycle hire scheme in London. Take that Boris Johnson.

*The Woodbrook/Cobden visits are explained here.

Tuesday 19 May 1987

…Another day with none of the teachers here.
Only Mrs Davenport [the school secretary] and the dinner ladies knew what was
going on.
The supply teacher made us design coats-of-arms and
make models using balloons…

This kind of stuff would become off-limits once the National Curriculum was imposed. I usually felt irked by any sort of disruption to the school routine caused by teachers being away and lessons being changed. But given how things currently stood, this time I was really rather glad.

Besides, everyone knows it’s the secretary and the dinner ladies who call the shots in primary schools.

Monday 18 May 1987

…Back to school today and because of last Friday morning we all had to
sit by people we hate…

Throughout my time at school I was regularly struck by something.

It was a blackboard rubber.

No no, it was by how childish teachers could sometimes be. They would accuse you of being immature or juvenile, then promptly go into a sulk, act out of spite, or behave in a thoroughly selfish fashion.

You can’t help being immature and juvenile when you’re 10 or 11. You can help being that way when you’re an adult. Or rather, you can better disguise being that way when you’re an adult. Why was our teacher failing to do this, and in the process just making all of us even more fed up?

It was around this time that I remember mentioning to my mum and dad how unhappy I was becoming in class. All the events of the last few months had crystallised into a persistent dislike and distrust of my teacher, feelings I also believed to be mutual. Nothing ultimately came of it, as I was leaving in a few weeks’ time anyway. But had I been in the year below, I think I might have ended up switching schools. It was certainly discussed over the kitchen table.

Saturday 16 May 1987

…The day of the school fair.
[Our teacher] was in the stocks, which meant a chance to get him back for all
the shouting yesterday.
Out came the buckets of water and on they went over his head.
The maypole dancing ended up a BIG LAUGH.
The top of the maypole fell off and landed on a parent’s head.
It was put back on, but then all the ribbons fell off.
It ended a shambles – HA HA HA…

When you’re 11 years old, revenge is a dish best served piping hot.

Friday 15 May 1987

…This morning we had our trip to the Great Central Railway.
Everybody was behaving a bit stupidly and I must admit I did too.
I don’t know whether I went a bit mad or something, but at one point when
[Our teacher] asked if we were all having fun I shouted out “NO” in a comedy voice.
When we got back to school he went beserk.
He was shouting at people, splitting them up and moving them around the room.
Luckily the Woodbrook children had to go off to Cobden school for another talk,
so I missed most of it…

Something was definitely up with my teacher – and had been for some time.

Admittedly this was his first proper job after qualifying, and he was only in his early 20s. But if this was how he was starting to behave after just one year’s experience, heaven knows what he’d be like after five or 10.

Luckily I wouldn’t be around to find out. Woodbrook was the name of the secondary school that I’d be starting in the autumn. Cobden was the location for a series of “getting to know you” sessions run by Woodbrook teachers to which all the prospective intake were invited.

“Big school” was sidling rather menacingly into view. I had more things to be bothered about than observing the correct etiquette while on a heritage railway.