No more school, no more stick, no more arithmetic

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Monday, August 25, 2008
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This is Derbyshire

DERWENT School was very strict in the 1970s. It was like a boot camp.

Pupils had to walk on the left-hand side in the corridors and the teachers would keep a eye on them to make sure they did.

The school seemed to have a lot of large families in those days. There were the Kings, the Vernons, the Walters, the Morleys, and the Greatorexes, who all lived nearby.

Many a time there was a gang fight in the school grounds. The teachers used to come down very hard on them. Those involved were usually sent to the head's office for the cane.

I can recall one poor girl when we were all in assembly. Her name was called out and she had to go up on to the stage as she had done something bad. She got the cane on her bottom in front of the whole school. It put the fear of God into a lot of pupils.

If you talked to your mates when you were in a lesson, you were guaranteed to get the cane from the teacher.

I can remember Bill, the old school caretaker. His house was on Somerset Street, Chaddesden. He was a nice old man. He let you have a cigarette in the boiler room.

Mind you, you had to give him a fag in exchange for it later. If the teachers ever saw that you had cigarettes on you, you were for it. It was off to the headmaster, Mr Smith, for the cane. His nickname was Batman.

One day, my ball went on to the school roof and Bill, the caretaker, went to get it for me. There was a staircase in the stock room which led up to the roof. I went up with him but Batman saw me. You can imagine the outcome. I was in his office straight away.

The gardening teacher was a Mr J. Russell. He was strict but fair. Pupils had to wear cobble-type boots for gardening. When we stomped around, we sounded like the Army on parade.

The building on the far right, above, was the art room. The teacher was Mr Dean, who was good at his job. Mr Owen took woodwork. If you got your work wrong, he sometimes threw the wood at you or gave you the cane. He was very strict.

The metalwork teacher was Mr A. Martin. His nickname was Scratchy as he used to sit at his desk, scratching himself while we were working.

But, at least, he did not throw any iron bars at us.

Mr Day took us for PE. We didn't like it most of the time as it was cross-country. We had to go all the way around the Racecourse. In winter, it was a nightmare in just our tops, shorts and pumps.

One time, we got back to school and Mr Day saw that one of the boys was missing, so we all had to go out to find him. He had collapsed in the deep snow. He was blue in the face.

I see that the old school is now a business centre. I have been past from time to time, thinking of the smokers' corner, the gang fights, the teachers on patrol with their canes in their hands in case you got up to some mischief.

On the last day of school, I remember a song that the boys made up as they left the school for good. It went:

No more school

No more stick

No more dirty arithmetic.

Shouting and clapping, we were free but not for long. We all had to find work and then you were told off by your boss.

If anyone has any photographs of the old Derwent Junior School, on St Mark's Road, Chaddesden, I would love to see them.

I am also trying to find an old schoolmate called Peter Brozowski. He would be about 54 now. His parents lived on Cowsley Road. His mother was German and his father was Polish. It would be really nice to hear from him.

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