The School Staff: Comings, Goings and Memories
The process of appointing teachers to Dolphin Lane Council School began with a circular seeking a suitable Head Teacher.
Mr George Harold Sutton was the successful candidate. The other permanent staff appointed were Miss D. Hale, the Chief Assistant Mistress, Mr G. Griffin, Mr W. Cheesman, Miss E. Jessop, Miss M. Folland, Miss L. Tyler, Miss V. Warry, and Miss D. Charles.
Miss C. Hamsher, Miss G. Knights, Miss I. James and Miss T. Edwards went to the school as temporary Supply Teachers but within weeks Miss Hampsher and Miss Knights were appointed as permanent members of the staff.
Mr and Mrs F. Westwood were appointed as the school’s first caretakers.
In the following months there was a succession of changes to the temporary teachers working in the school and some of the permanent staff also moved to other schools. With so many changes it was an unsettling time for the children and one that called for considerable management skills on the part of the Head Teacher.
In March 1931 Miss A. Davies, succeeded Miss Hale as the Chief Assistant Mistress and a few months later, when the school was informed it could also appoint a Chief Assistant Master, Mr J. Rapp was chosen from the ninety six men who applied for the post.
In the meantime, the local Education Authority had decided to make Dolphin Lane School into two separate autonomous Departments and Miss Hood, the Head Teacher of Clifton Road Infants School, was recommended as Head Teacher of the Infant Department.
When the Infant Department opened on the 4th July 1932, there was a reorganisation of the school’s existing staff with Miss Charles and Miss Knights continuing their teaching careers by joining the other teachers specifically appointed to the new school’s staff. The movement of these two teachers necessitated the appointment of two new junior trained teachers.
Miss Hood noted:
"The school was opened this morning. The members of staff are as follows –
Head Teacher Miss D. M. Hood
Chief Assistant Miss D. E. Hale
Assistants Miss D. M. Charles, Miss N. W. Hull, Miss G. M. Knights
Miss V. G. B. King, Miss M. J. Lewis, Miss M. A. R Parker."
As the years progressed there were inevitable staff changes in both schools. Mr Seal replaced Mr Westwood as the school caretaker; Mr Rapp was promoted to the Headship of St. Mary’s Council School and Mr V. Perry became the Senior Master.
A number of resignations, including resignations ‘to be married’, added to the staff turnover. Miss Tester, Miss Hamsher, Miss Wooldridge and Miss Tranter from the Junior Department and Miss Parker from the Infant Department were some of the young female teachers who left the profession for matrimonial reasons. The tribute paid to Miss Hamsher was –
‘Miss Hamsher came to this school on its opening, this being her first appointment. She has given consistently of her time and exceptional ability in all things concerned with the welfare of the school and the children who have attended. Miss Hamsher is leaving to be married and has the good wishes of all those who know her – staff, parents and children.’
Although it was wartime, Mr Sutton was extremely anxious about the range of duties expected of his teachers -
‘I feel very keenly the position of the staff in connection with the many extraneous duties which we are now performing. In all cases I believe the work is valuable and in every respect necessary, though it is certainly unfortunate that teachers specially trained for the purpose of teaching are called upon to perform duties for which their time is sacrificed.
The extra duties listed included School Meals: dinners – money and supervision; School Milk; School Bank; National Savings and Civil Defence.
As the difficult war years drew to a close there was a mini staffing crisis in the school. Two of the senior teachers, Mr Perry and Miss Folland, had pleura-pneumonia and were unable to teach for many weeks. Relief teachers were temporarily loaned from another school but Dolphin Lane was not alone in facing staffing difficulties -
The shortage of teachers is now acute and Heads are asked to try and help in this matter by recruiting anyone known to them with suitable qualifications.’
Mr Sutton noted he had ‘reached his 60th birthday’ but with no teachers he could call upon he would have to ‘take two classes in the Hall’.
At the end of March 1945, permission was granted for the appointment of Clerical Assistants in the city’s schools. The scale of pay was based on the number of children on roll -
‘Up to 100 5 hours per week 12/6 (today£0.62)
100 – 400 10 hours per week 22/6 (today £1.12)
Over 400 15 hours per week 30/0 (today £1.50)
This help, it was thought, ‘ is long overdue. …. The teachers may now be able to devote their time and attention to the job for which they are specially qualified’.
There was no delay in appointing Mrs G. Phillips as the school’s first Clerical Assistant. Her responsibilities were –
‘the collection and banking of Dinner Money and making returns, collection and preparation of accounts for Milk Money, collation and direction of National savings in the school, the School Bank – collection of money and control of ledgers, assist in other ways – checking train and bus tokens, milk return figures, canteen returns including free dinners.’
Two long serving teachers left the school in the summer of 1946. Miss Hood retired as the Head Teacher of the Infant Department and Miss Appleton moved to another school. Tributes, recognising the contribution each had made to the school, were paid to them. Of Miss Hood, it was stated -
‘During the fourteen years we have worked together we have agreed on the method of transition and the general aspects of Dolphin Lane to an extent, which will make her departure … a matter to me of great regret. However, such things must be and Miss Hood carries our regards and good wishes on her retirement. May she have many happy years in front of her.’
and Miss Appleton received this compliment -
‘She has been a very able member of this staff and her work for the Music in this school will long be remembered’.
With Miss Hood’s departure, and less children in the school, the Education Committee decided that rather than advertise her post immediately it would consider the possibility of combining the two Departments. Until a decision was made Miss Hale was to act as Head of the Infant Department under Mr Sutton’s direction.
As music played such a significant part in the school’s curriculum, the departure of Miss Appleton meant a suitably qualified replacement had to be found. A young teacher, Miss J. Hughes, was found to be the ideal person for the role and she had the opportunity to build on the strong musical foundations that had already been laid.
At the end of September 1946 a letter was received from the Chief Education Officer. Mr Sutton concluded that as the letter was addressed to him, and he was the only Head Teacher present, he was now ‘in charge of the amalgamation.’
As soon as the time is opportune, I am convinced, those who control the educational organisation, should in the general interest take effective measures to see that teachers trained to teach should spend the whole of the time doing so.
A year later Mr Perry, Chief Assistant Master, completed … ‘Pensionable Service’ … and retired.
‘A very happy ceremony to mark this occasion... old and present colleagues sat down to tea and Mr Perry received many expressions of goodwill and many references were made to his loyal service in this school’.
A few weeks before his own retirement, in July 1949, Mr Sutton received news that Miss Hale, a long serving member of staff, was seriously ill in hospital. Sadly she never recovered and died two weeks later. An acknowledgement of her career was brief and simple –
‘she has always given exemplary service’.
With Mr Sutton’s own retirement imminent it was confirmed that Miss E. French, then teaching at Nansen Road Secondary Modern School, would be the new Head Teacher at Dolphin Lane with effect from the 6th September 1949. His final comment on retiring was -
‘ to pay tribute to all those who have so loyally – loyally and cheerfully – given help and advice’.
A new era for the school had begun. When Miss French took up her appointment as the Head Teacher, her staff consisted of - Mr Spencer, Miss Callow, Mrs Holder, Miss Folland, Mr Taylor, Miss Hughes, Miss Belman, Mrs Arnold, Miss Tawlks and Mrs Jones.
Miss French’s first major appointment, dating from the 1st December 1949, was that of Mr O. Hayles, as Chief Assistant. A year later Mr Palser joined the staff and during his career at the school he played an important part in developing boys’ team games and other sporting activities.
Mrs Holder, the longest serving teacher at the school, retired as Mr Palser joined the staff. Her career was summed up in a sincere tribute –
‘She has taught for thirty-four years without a doctor’s note, a very fine record. She has been a very loyal and valuable colleague who has given her services selflessly and freely to all school- work and activities. Mrs Holder has never spared herself and we shall find it hard to fill her place’.
As time progressed there were routine changes in the staff; some gained promotion and others transferred to other schools to further their experience. Among those who joined the staff was Mr Best. In addition to having musical ability he developed gymnastics at the school and, with Mr Palser, helped the boys to excel in both football and cricket.
Miss Hughes, who played a vital role in further enhancing the school’s tradition for musical excellence during her career, resigned her post in 1956 to get married.
In July 1959, after ten years at the school, Miss French left to become the Head Teacher of Summerfield Primary School. Her successor was Miss C. Stitt.
Memories of ex-pupils
Most teachers are remembered by name only and some not recalled at all. However, for a variety of reasons – perhaps their kindness, a reputation for being strict, or even personal good looks – other teachers more readily come to mind as these memories from past pupils illustrate.
‘He was a nice Head Teacher’ Eunice Essex (nee Nicolle)
‘… we all respected him. He was a very good Headmaster, always looked very smart in a grey suit complete with tie. … he always walked round the classrooms with a cane up his sleeve; usually the same few lads were recipients of this’.
Ena Hodgkisson (nee Foster)
‘… suited; fierce; frightening.’Sid Bardell
‘… then the Headmaster who we thought was quite strict and I remember he always walked around with a cane hidden behind his back. I hasten to say I am not condemning him for this, for we certainly had great respect for him and indeed all the other teachers.’Vera Foster (nee Humphreys)
‘I remember the Friday afternoon assembly in the hall and Mr Sutton, together with one of the teachers playing the piano, took the school for a good sing song.’Evelyn Reeves (nee Stevens)
‘I remember Mr Sutton as being very strict. I also remember going to his house …. to collect some paper, or some such wartime task, and he was quite charming.’John Bird
‘… was our wonderful Headmaster.’Eunice Bevan (nee Rainey)
‘… was white haired and rather frightening.’Gordon Parsons
‘He walked around the playground with a cane up the jacket of his suit and had a Monday morning caning session for boys who misbehaved. It would be called child abuse today but a bit of discipline did no harm and probably made us better adults.’Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
I have lovely memories of Mr Sutton. He taught us to sing ‘We are Dolphins, we’ and told us the story of Percy Pig.’Eunice Bevan (nee Rainey)
‘ … We used to sing a song – We are Dolphins we, as happy as can be …. I forget the rest but we used to love it when Mr Sutton had us all in the Hall on a Friday afternoon and we would sing it along with other songs.’
‘… he used to walk around with a cane in his jacket. He was very strict but fair. We all respected him.’Doreen Simons (nee Gower)
‘…. a small lady and she did insist you tiptoed and were very quiet wherever you went. She deplored noise.’ Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘I very much favoured her. She was motherly and had grey hair. She wore her watch on the inside of her wrist.’ Sidney Bardell
‘ … of whom I was very fond ….. very kind.’ Linda Harrison
‘ … had a scary reputation and the parents knew if you’d been naughty as you were imprinted with the chalk duster on your jumper.’Lynn Hardy (nee Sharp)
‘… was a good teacher. When he taught history he made it very interesting. He had a big map of the world pinned on the blackboard to inform us how the war was going.’ Dennis Simons
‘… who called me cherry nose when it was cold. He would tell us stories of his exploits in the army.’
Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘… he entertained us with the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.’Syd Parsons
‘… assured us that when we grew up we would come to recognise that John Buchan was the greatest English writer.’Gordon Parsons
‘… made such a big impression on me. The greatest teacher I ever had; even to this day he often crosses my mind. A lovely teacher. We had a picture of Montgomery and Churchill on the wall.’Doreen Simons (nee Gower)
‘I will always remember him because he was always "caning" me across the open hand as my hand writing was not up to the standard that he demanded; the writing was probably worse afterwards because I could not hold the pen.’ Donald Layfield
‘… who just to look at you put the fear of god into you. She was small, had her hair pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. She ruled with a rod of iron.’ Carol Whopples (nee Tindall)
‘… a small person – very fierce. Children were often sent to her for punishment.’
‘was very strict and could not stand anyone standing near her.’Doreen Simons (nee Gower)
‘I have never forgotten she hit my right arm with a ruler because I painted over the line of my drawing.’Ena Hodgkisson (nee Foster)
‘I was never in her class thank goodness; as if she was on playground duty and you misbehaved she banged your head against the nearest wall.’Eunice Essex (nee Nicolle)
‘… was also very strict but I loved her classes, exciting to learn something new every day.’Pat Collier (nee Timmis)
‘… she kept you at arms length if you approached her too closely.’Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘… was everyone’s favourite teacher; all the girls had a bit of a crush on him.’ Pat Collier (nee Timmis)
‘… loved by all the girls.’Barbara Dodd (nee Bolstridge)
‘… was a very kind lady. She gave me a jumper because mine was somewhat threadbare.’ Brian Henbury
‘We received a boiled sweet for bringing polish to clean our desk on a Friday.’ Brenda Dainty (nee Nicolle)
‘… a large lady who smelled of perfume.’Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘I remember as being quite strict but I was somehow conscious that she was a very good teacher. I think it was she who instilled in me some keenness for the English language.’ John Bird
‘… had lots of knick-knacks in a special cupboard – if you did good work, had so many stars etc. you got to have a pick of this Aladdin’s cave. I remember a model farm… beaded bracelets, necklaces – all things we were proud to be given.’ Eunice Essex (nee Nicolle)
‘… was, I remember strict. I was always concerned she may ask me to stand up and sing on my own.’ Pat Collier (nee Timmis)
‘… who kept a doctor in the cupboard. Said doctor being a cane.’ Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘… was rather plump but had a happy face. If we misbehaved she would say go to the cupboard and get the doctor out, I think you need a bit of medicine – which of course was the cane.’Doreen Simons (nee Gower)
‘… painted lovely pictures on the classroom windows.’ Barbara Dodd (nee Bolstridge)
‘Lovely. She told us stories of Worzel Gummidge.’ Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘Her class was always warm and cluttered. How we loved to hear her read Worzel Gummidge in our needlework lesson. It was magic.’Doreen Simons (nee Gower)
A Broader Education: Talks, Festivals and Visits
Primary schools play an important part in the educational development of young children by giving them as broad a range of experiences as possible. The teachers provide most of these experiences but others come from the involvement of outside agencies and from organised visits to places of interest. From the outset Dolphin Lane was keen to encourage this broader approach to extending learning, an approach that is still much in evidence today.
As soon as the school was settled the local branch of the R.S.P.C.A. was invited in to talk to the children about the Society’s work. There may have been an element of fund raising involved but more than that it was about raising an awareness of kindness and responsibility towards animals. Following the talk Miss Jessop formed a ‘Band of Mercy’ for the children, with kindness to the school’s pets as its overriding objective.
It was hoped … ‘a steam of kindness as boundless as the oceans’ would be result from this small beginning. The success, or otherwise, of the venture is unknown but the R.S.P.C.A. visited the school regularly and some ex-pupils still have ‘medals’ or certificates to remind them of their membership to the ‘Band of Mercy’ club.
At a time when general health and hygiene were, perhaps, not of the same standard as today, speakers other than the medical services visited to encourage the children to care for themselves. One talk, given to the older children by the Midland Band of Hope Union, was entitled ‘The Hygiene of Food and Drink.’
Music played an important part in the life of the school from the outset. The choir took part in the Birmingham School’s Festival of Music at the Town Hall in 1934 but much of the music, and there was plenty of it, was aimed at performing for parents and each other.
It was not until January 1946 that the City of Birmingham Orchestra visited the school and played for the children. On their second visit, two and a half years later, the programme played, to encourage the children’s interest in music, was ‘Serenade’ (Elgar), ‘Nocturne’ (Dvorak), ‘Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance’ (Fletcher) and ‘The Toy Symphony’ (Hayden). Miss French continued to encourage the involvement of Birmingham’s Symphony Orchestra and the strings section, a brass quintet, and groups playing wind instruments gave regular informative concerts.
On her appointment Miss French inherited the musical talents of Miss Hughes, and encouraged her to develop her skills and interests. As a result the participation in Music, Choral Speech and Dance Festivals became a regular part of the children’s educational development. Non-competitive performances were given at such venues as the Martineau Teachers’ Centre, the Central Hall, the Town Hall, Severn Street Gymnasium, Greet School and Lakey Lane School.
The school’s musical talents were sufficiently well thought of in the city for it to be invited to participate in an instructional film that was being made. ‘The Appreciation of Music Through Percussion’, filmed at Queensbridge Road School during 1954, involved thirty infant and thirty junior children.
The seeds of the school’s current impressive programme of ‘out-door’ education, which aims not only to instruct but also to broaden the children’s interests and to help them develop socially, were sown soon after the school opened.
As early as 1934 a visit was arranged to The Prince of Wales Theatre to see ‘Alice in Wonderland’, while the following year there was an even more ambitious project when a hundred and twenty children and parent helpers were taken on a visit to the Birmingham Water Works in the Elan Valley. This visit was summed up as –
‘ memorable one – interesting and instructive. Enjoyed by all. Parents well pleased.’
Other early visits were arranged to art exhibitions, the Birmingham Art Gallery and to the Centenary Pageant of Birmingham held at Aston Hall. The cost of entry to this grand event was 3d per head (including the teachers!!). This special event was organised to celebrate the Birmingham’s one hundred years as a Corporation. To recognise this milestone in the city’s history the school gave each boy a souvenir badge (294) and each girl a souvenir brooch (260).
In October 1938 ninety-two children and thirteen adults were taken on a weekend visit to Dudley Zoo. It proved to be an enjoyable day for all concerned and this compliment was paid to the teachers involved –
‘The voluntary work of the staff again calls for commendation.’
There was little or no scope for organised outings and visits during the war years and it was not until Miss French became the Head Teacher that similar educational visits were recorded again. From then they were held annually.
In 1950 Whipsnade Zoo was the venue chosen, while in the following years the children went to Weston-Super-Mare and Dudley Zoo respectively. A very special outing to London, to see the Coronation decorations and to visit the Zoo, was organised for the Junior children in 1953. That visit surpassed all expectations as –
‘The children had a delightful day, seeing the Queen on horseback with the Duke of Edinburgh returning to Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour Ceremony. It was a memorable sight of pageantry and colour.’
(Presumably the Queen and the Duke were on separate horses!!!).
Windsor, including a boat trip up the River Thames, was the destination in 1954 while the following year the school’s plan to take all the Junior children to Rhyl by train were thwarted by a rail strike. Coaches were hired at short notice to ensure the children were not disappointed and –
‘on an exceptionally warm and fine day the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves.’
Before returning to Rhyl and Colwyn Bay in 1957 there was another visit to Whipsnade Zoo. Everyone, it seemed had and enjoyable and interesting day except Miss French who –
‘spent the whole time in two hospitals with a boy who had suspected appendicitis.’
It was back to the seaside for Miss French’s penultimate annual outing and then to London Airport in 1959, her last year as the Head Teacher.
Several ex-pupils recollect the visits they took part in. Among them were these memories from Barbara Dodd (nee Bolstridge) -
‘We would save by taking money into school every week. One trip was to Colwyn Bay. Another trip by coach was to London Airport and on a boat up the Thames to Runnymede…’
and these vivid memories from Carol Whopples (nee Tindall)
‘We went on a trip to Rhyl on a coach (charabanc in those days). We went round the Horse Shoe Pass and I was scared out of my wits. Our family would see and wave us off in the morning and meet us at night. We all thought we had been away for a week.’
The years have rolled on but little has changed at the school in terms of providing opportunities for children to widen their knowledge and interest. Visits to museums, theatres, education centres, farms and other places of interest, as well as an involvement in concerts and festivals, are still very much part of the extended curriculum today’s children enjoy.
Concerts and Performances: A Chance to Show Off
From its earliest days musical events, combined with drama and choral speaking, played a significant part in the school’s curriculum. The school was just a year old when a teacher with ‘practical musical ability’ was promised ‘as soon as possible’.
As the school closed for the Easter holiday in April 1930 a concert, which included an item from every class, was performed.
‘Items especially deserving note for spirit and clear speech were scenes from Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Rip Van Winkle, The Turnip Seed and the Toy Band.’
On that occasion the children themselves were the audience.
In July the same year another concert was organised but on that occasion it was linked to, and run alongside, an afternoon of sporting activities.
Whatever the precise arrangement,it was enjoyed by the many parents who went to watch it.
From then on most class performances were linked to Christmas parties although the end of the 1934 school year was celebrated with a concert to which the Infant children, due to move to the Junior Department, were invited.
The next major performance involving the whole school was ‘A Pageant of Empire’, held to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George Vth. The parents were invited to the pageant and every class presented a song, or other suitable item, for them to enjoy.
The class plays, performed as part of the Christmas party entertainment, became rather more serious in 1937, when the school hall was booked from 6pm to 8pm one night a week during December, for … ‘dramatic rehearsals.’
In the 1941 party concert the youngest children acted ‘The Three Tassels’, the second year juniors performed ‘Little Red Shoes’, the third year juniors provided a ‘Christmas Tableau’ and the oldest children presented ‘Ali Baba’ and ‘The Goose Girl’. Then, for a few years, the class plays and musical items that had been the mainstay of the Christmas party entertainment became secondary to lantern slide shows, entertainers and even a visit to the cinema (‘Lassie Comes Home’). When the war ended the children’s own performances once again took their rightful place alongside the other attractions.
The children continued to perform their Christmas plays when Miss French became the Head Teacher but details were not recorded. In 1952 a major concert, in the form of a Nativity Play, was performed one evening ‘for a great many parents’ and that became an occasional feature of the Christmas celebrations in the years ahead.
The Coronation of Elizabeth II gave the school another opportunity to put on a show for the parents. Every class performed an item for the ‘Pageant of History’.
The Junior children performed a successful and enjoyable version of ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’ for the parents in 1955 and in May the following year it was the turn of the Infant children to show what they could do.
Parents were invited to watch them act out the ‘Crowning of the School Queen’, a ceremony that involved all the younger children taking part in ‘dancing, singing, percussion and drama.
This event, played to a packed audience of parents, became an established feature in the school’s summer calendar.
This event, played to a packed audience of parents, became an established feature in the school’s summer calendar.
Memories of school concerts or performances, regardless how long ago they happened, are most vivid when the person concerned was directly involved. For Dolphin Lane’s past pupils the same is true.
‘I remember the school play …… when I took a leading role as an eastern caliph. My father, a carpenter, made me a splendid wooden sabre – the envy of my mates but which had to be kept ‘safely’ by the teacher while at school. Parents came to see the play.’Gordon Parsons
‘In the last year we performed ‘The Goose Girl’. I was Myra, Sydney Bardell was Carolan and Marguerite Lane was one of the other princesses.’Margaret Rainbow
‘My friend Kay Wright and I played recorders at the Christmas Carol services’Linda Harrison
In Miss Callow’s class I remember being bitterly disappointed at getting only a minor part in the class play because I was too tall. The leads both had to be small children. I had to settle for being a rather gangly gypsy selling ribbons etc. from a basket.’John Bird
I remember a concert … and my grandmother sitting so proud in the audience and me singing ‘Alice Blue Gown’ in a dress she and my mother had embroidered with forget-me-nots.’Barbara Winfield (nee Harrison)
‘One thing that stands out in my memory is the play ‘Hansel and Gretel’ which we performed one year and I was the witch.’Audrey Humpage (nee Keeling)
‘The school would do concerts every year in front of a ‘King, Queen and Princesses’ – pupils picked from different classes. I remember performing in the Shoemakerand the Elves.’ Barbara Dodd (nee Bolstridge)
‘I can remember taking part in the school’s celebration of King George V’s and Queen Mary’s Silver Jubilee. We had a Maypole dance in the playground for part of the children’s contribution.’Doreen Hodges (nee Pendle)
Introduction – Goodbye Green Fields and Country Lanes
Buildings – Meeting the Changing Needs
The School Staff – Comings and Goings
A Broader Education – Talks, Festivals and Visits
Concerts and Performances – A Chance to Show Off
Royal Occasions – Visits and Celebration Holidays
Physical Activities – Athletics, P.T. and Games
Fund Raising – Helping Others and Supporting Ourselves
Medical Matters – The Doctor, The Dentist and the ‘Nit’ Nurse
Accidents and Misfortunes – Cuts, Bruises and Even Worse
Transgressions – Naughty, Naughty!!
The Air Raid Shelter Saga – Keeping the Children Safe
Evacuation – From Birmingham to the Countryside and Back
Appendix 1 Birmingham Educational Districts & School Lists
Appendix 2 New Pupils’ Previous Named Schools
Appendix 3 Sketch Map of the Local Roads Housing Dolphin Lane Pupils
Appendix 4 Memories – Dennis Simons