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Welcome to the world of the Vincent D'Onofrio obsessed - and a bit of real life thrown in.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Head and Shoulders

This could be a post about our man with a title like that, but it isn't.

Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of publicity about a primary school headteacher in "East London" who earned £231,400 last year.

The facts appear to be less astounding, with back pay, "overtime" (since when did any teacher get overtime, especially Heads?), advisory pay for the Government and a few other odds and sods added in.

Today I was amazed to discover that the "East London" school was actually my old school in South East London, a place called Tidemill. And I'll bet it was a much tougher place when I was there between 1958 and 1964.

This is the school building, which is just about to be replaced by a new-build, and will then be demolished.

The school is in Deptford, a poor suburb of London, now (but not then) in the London Borough of Lewisham. It was close to the London docks, and was heavily bombed in World War II. Education was not at the top of most people's ambitions for their kids. I remember there was one whole class that was what would today be called Special Needs, where the children, even aged 9 or 10, were struggling to read. But they all could get by before they left.

When I started there, we had two headteachers, one for Infants, one for Juniors. Miss Faithfull, head of Infants, was everything an infants school head should be - gentle, slender, with wispy white hair in a french roll. Everyone adored her. To be invited to her office to read to her was a keenly sought honour.

Then up we went to Juniors, where the head was Mr Parkhouse. He was a big, bluff teddy bear of a man, who took my class in the library once a week to read us Beowulf. We worshipped him. When he had a heart arttack while reading to us in assembly one morning, and died, we were devastated.

Mrs (May) Wellard, the deputy, took over during this troubling time, and kept us calm and focussed. A couple of years ago, I read in the local newspaper that the council which owns the block in which she bought her flat was trying to get a huge amount of money out of her for spurious maintenance work. She was at that time 86. I've heard nothing more - presumably the shock killed the old lady off.

Our new Head was Sheila Lane, a very impressive woman, with all sorts of experience behind her, which she later put into a book. Many years later, she could talk to me about my own and my sister's progress after leaving Tidemill, even though my sister left several years before Miss Lane arrived.

They were all wonderful, and worth much more than they will have been paid. But the one person who was worth more than everyone else put together was our class teacher, Averil Silson. Although she left before we did, she was a major influence in all our lives, with her interest and ability in music being passed on in a big way both to me and to my best friend Jill. She was truly priceless - and still is. In her mid-70s, she is still going strong, and enjoying an active retirement.

I imagine that this headteacher's success is likewise largely thanks to the staff who deliver his plans for the kids at the chalk face. The parents outside the school today have been defending him vociferously. Maybe they are right - but I know I would resent it if my dedicated hard work resulted in my Head being paid a fortune while I struggled to get by, as so many non-teaching support staff do.


JoJo said...

It's the same here; the school superintendents make soooo much money. One of them just got busted for a DUI too.

But what is the 'infants' level of your school system? Is that like our Kindergarten (age 5)?

Anonymous said...

I always find it such a shame when an old building needs to be torn down. This school obviously held some very special memories for you.
My old high school closed a couple of years ago, and just last year the building was demolished. It was kind of depressing for me, because I too had such great memories of high school. I made lasting friendships there. Met my husband, and really developed my own sense of self. And while I still hold those memories, I no longer have that warm fuzzy feeling every time I would drive by the old school.

val said...

JoJo, Primary is 5-11, and is divided into Infants (5-7) and Juniors (7-11). In the school year they make 5, kids go into Reception Class. Some schools have nursery groups (3 or 4-5). There used to be a separate head for Infants and Juniors, but these days they are combined under one head. School is compulsory from 5-16.

Eliza said...

It's lovely that you had such inspirational teachers (and heads)..I fondly remember Miss White, who taught me to read at the village school my gran helped at..she was on the verge of retiring and I was too young to actually be there officially, but she taught my mum so it seemed a natural thing to do

DrowseyMonkey said...

yeah, I'll never understand why there's always such a difference in pay scales, some of them seem really unbelievable. Greed in my opinion.

I love old buildings, but I guess at some point it's more economical to build new.

Anonymous said...

My old high school got a huge upgrade...around 70 million...seemed fine to me when I attended. I think the real reason is the competition and luring people into living in the community and bringing in more money. Also, getting your name on some list that your school is the best. I had some great teachers and you brought back some memories for me to try and think of them. A truly interesting post, Val; loved it!

Anonymous said...

One of my old schools has been demolished while my Grammar school is now to let as offices!

Seems a whole lot of money for a head teacher, but I guess it's like my dad always says about footballers: if someone offers to pay you ridiculous amounts of cash, are you going to turn them down?! ;0)

bobbybegood1 said...

What a handsome looking building, Val. My elementary school was turned into a business office due to low census. Not many women were having children, so they used the building for office space. The local children had to cross a very dangerous highway because they were not entitled to bussing. You have to live more than two miles from school to get bussed. Isn't that ridiculous? The school district wants 7, 8, 9, and 10 year olds to live more than 2 miles from school in order to be bussed to school. Something is wrong with Westchester County, NY school systems.

I even participated in a couple of surveys held in the building. I felt conflicted. On the one hand, being in my old school brought back wonderful feelings. On the other, I felt like a traitor, as if I was letting my fellow classmates down for doing business in the building.

Moreover, my cousin received his doctorate in education, and IMO, RIGHTLY deserves/commands his high salary as a superintendent.

Lynne said...

I was at Tidemill just after you, I left in 1969, but I remember Miss Faithfull and Miss Lane very well. Both brilliant women. Do you remember the special treat of sitting on the rocking horse in the hall during assembly if it was your birthday? And the reward of being given a 'bonking star' by Miss Faithfull for good work? A bonking star being a purple ink star stamped on the back of your hand. Happy days. Do you know the name of the book Miss Lane wrote?

I'm very disappointed that my attempts to visit the school before it moved failed.

val said...

Lynne, nice to hear from you. I hope you check back to see my reply, sorry I couldn't contact you via your blog.

I put forward my views on the changes to the Governors via the school website, mentioning Miss Silson and Mrs Wellard, but they didn't have the courtesy to reply.

The rocking horse birthday treat must have been an introduction by Miss Lane, it didn't exist in my day, but I do remember Miss Faithfull's stars. I can't remember the name of Miss Lane's book, I should have bought it when I saw it mentioned in the Mercury all those years ago.

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