Thursday, 7 June 2018

Looking to the future

Alice is looking forward to half term, as she has not been well again.  She thinks it is probably something that she ate, but Alice is trying to hide out in bed until she feels better.  She is avoiding the Sister, who appears to be a matron-like presence at the college and helps students when injured or poorly.

After half term, Alice has a practical exam, which will include performing in Modern Dance.  There will be an external examiner coming in to watch not only the students’ performance, but also to access the college standard. These checks were long before the OFSTED inspections that we are familiar with nowadays.  Alice wants to do particularly well in her practical assessments, as she has been struggling with her dissertation.  She refers to a “row” about it, which has left her “a little bit sore”

Alice has joined The Physical Education Association of Great Britain.  It will provide literature and keep her up-to-date on schemes, which will be important as she goes forward into work. The cost for the year when earning will be £2.2s - £48.12 in today’s money.

She has also been busy with swimming lessons and has enjoyed teaching children to swim. The college used the Bedford Modern swimming pool for their swimming lessons, which you can see as it was in Alice’s time from the photograph below.

Bedford Modern Swimming pool 1950s

Students practising their Modern Dance, Bedford, 1950s

Article from the Daily Telegraph

Alice finishes her letter with reference to a “Peeping Tom” incident at Dartford College of Physical Education.  Girls at the College caught the man and surrounded him with cricket bats and rounder clubs, which Alice finds highly amusing.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The last term begins: Summer 1958

It is now the beginning of May, 1958 and Alice sounds as though she is in good spirits following the Easter break and has returned to college safe, well and prepared to be run off her feet. She tells her family of her relief that she completed her thesis during the holiday as she is already swamped with essays and performance assignments.

The summer timetable is just as full as usual: classes begin at 08:45 each morning (including Saturday) and in the week they continue until 17:45 - with a few strategic breaks. In addition to the usual schedule there are a host of extra activities and visits coming up which Alice is looking forward to. Amongst those coming to visit the college is tennis celebrity Dan Maskell who is going to be running a coaching session for the students. In the annual Students' Association Report, produced at the end of the year, this event is described as  'The highlight of the tennis season'.

As the term draws to a close the students are preparing a number of 'Dems' (Demonstrations for family and visitors) and Alice hopes that Roy can be accommodated by the Bicycle Shop man providing Bed & Breakfast so that he can stay and make the most of seeing the range of creative arts and sport that the college students are involved in, from swimming to dance and gymnastics. The annual College photograph has also been taken in preparation for the end of the academic year.

Alice also gives an update on her health which suggests she may have been poorly during the holidays as she still has 'lumps behind [her] ears' and is waiting for spots to now appear; she realises that it could be worse though as four others from her year have not yet returned due to suffering German Measles (there was no vaccine for this until the 1960s).

The weather has been warm and sunny, but Alice still has much work to do and is making the most of her free time on Saturday to start writing another essay. 

Dan Maskell's visit was a hilight for all the tennis enthusiasts

3rd Year timetable: Summer 1958

The bicycle shop: essential supplies for the staff and students

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Coming to the end: getting a job, final exams, and a glimpse of student life in halls

Alice is only a few months away from finishing her Certificate of Teaching, however she has been very busy and pressured with work and her ongoing course demands.

In a letter to her mother dated 30th March 1958, Alice mentions how she was given a complimentary ticket to go with another student to watch the St. Albans Grammar School Dance Demonstration on Friday 28th, a programme featuring mainly National Dances It was a really excellent experience for her, although it was a long day as she had a school visit at Wellingborough High School in the morning, followed by an inter-year games tournament in the afternoon and late leave at night.

Then, the very next day, Saturday 29th March, she watched The Lark written by the French playwright Jean Anouilh and performed by the Bedford College of Physical Education Dramatic Society, which took place in the college gymnasium. Alice tells her mother what an excellent play it was and how superbly it was acted. She speaks with respect and admiration about her fellow student Eileen who played Joan of Arc in the play and how the whole thing was exceptionally good because of her.

With Alice writing this letter to her mother in the evening, mentioning that she will be on duty tonight, we get the opportunity to find out about student life living in halls, or Houses as they were called then. Students had a rota for their house duties. One student was on duty each week from Friday until Thursday throughout the term. The student had to lock up at 11pm during the week and at 9:30pm on Sundays. Then she had to check that all students were in their rooms. If a student was not in the house, the student had to report it to the lecturer on duty. Finally, she had to make sure that public rooms were tidy and lights were off.

The rules do not stop there. If a student wanted to leave the College grounds in the evening, then she had to sign the leave house book. There were two of these, one for evening leave and another one for after 11pm or weekends. When a student had leave during half term or weekends then she had to provide information such as name, address and telephone number of her hostess to the member of staff in her house.

Returning to the letter, Alice explained to her mother that mock final exams were to take place at the beginning of April, only a few days away, although nobody had started revising yet, and she reckoned it would not be until the morning before the afternoon of the exam. 
This letter to her mother gets really exciting when we find out that Alice’s efforts in looking for a job during the last two months have paid off. Alice has found a job as a PE teacher at Heriots Wood Grammar School for Girls, now known as Bentley Wood High School, in Harrow, north-west London.

Alice closes the letter to her mother on a positive note, mentioning how mild the temperature has been lately after a very snowy February and a cold March.

St. Albans Grammar School for Girls Festival of Dance Programme, March 1958

Programme for 'The Lark', March 1958

Thursday, 1 February 2018

February 1958: a busy start to the month

The beginning of February 1958 is a busy time for Alice.  First and foremost, she is still preoccupied with finding employment after she finishes her 3-year course in July and is constantly looking out for suitable PE teaching posts for which she can apply.  The Principal of Bedford College of Physical Education, Eileen Alexander (referred to in Alice’s letter as ‘Alex’), receives direct notification of vacancies from schools a few days before the posts are advertised in The Times Educational Supplement.  Alice is excited to see details of a vacancy at Apsley Grammar School in Hemel Hempstead and decides to withdraw her application to St. Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, London in favour of making an application to Apsley.

Secondly, Alice is about to start a block teaching practice at the Notre Dame High School in Northampton.  She will be out of the College for just over two weeks and has several tasks to complete before she goes.  These include a practical pathology examination, a group dance to perform for which she is the choreographer, delivering a talk on the ‘outward bound’ course she attended in Snowden in December, and participating in a gymnastics demonstration using wall bars in the College gymnasium.

Bedford Physical Training College students on wall bars in the gynasium.  Note the fireplace in the corner! c.1927-1930