Wellfield School

Starting Wellfield was a totally different experience compared to that of the Parochial School in The Village. To start with there was a dress code, they expected you to wear a school uniform. However since it was wartime, boys were allowed to wear a sports coat or suit together with a white shirt and school tie. Girls were required to wear the uniform, a navy blue gym slip, white shirt and school tie. Clean dress shoes and stockings were also necessary. About half of the boys were dressed in the school uniform, Navy blue blazer with the school crest with matching tie and usually a school scarf. We did not have either the coupons or money to buy special clothes, so we did without.

Pupils were graded from the exam results, the top finishers were put in the “A” stream, next into “B” and the lower achievers into “C”. To get acceptance in the universities at that time it was necessary to have two languages, one ancient and one modern. The “A” stream took Latin and French, “B” Latin and German, the “C” were not expected to get to university and only took French. Having been put in the “B” stream, I needed a German- English dictionary. Books were not easily obtainable in wartime but were able to buy a second hand one from Nora Davison who had left Wellfield to look after the family when her mother died. The other school supplies were gym shoes, shorts and singlet for gym, rugby boot, pens, pencils, etc. for classwork. The exercise and textbooks were provided by the school. We did not have to buy anything, I used the same gear that Harry and Jim had at school.

Trimdon Motor Services had the contract for transporting the pupils from the Trimdon area to school. The bus started in Fishburn and the picked up pupils from all of the Trimdons and Deaf Hill and from outlying farms along the route. Farm children had to hike across the fields to the main road. Those from Hurworth Burn got special permission from the Railway Company to walk along the tracks. Since this was a regular service route, the bus always had a conductress, and would occasionally allow regular passengers to get on the bus. The bus dropped us off at a service road at the rear of the school and we walked in from there.

The school buildings were built roughly in the shape of an “E”. The spine of the “E” faced north and the formal entrance was at the centre of this block, with a long driveway leading from the road. The area between the front of the school and the road was dedicated to playing fields. Rugby, cricket, field hockey and tennis courts. About half of this area had been turned over to agriculture at the beginning of the war. When I started, they still had both rugby (for boys) and hockey fields (for girls). The boundary between these fields was wide enough to house the cricket pitch.

The service lane opened up at the bottom right hand side of the “E”. This leg held the Gymnasium to the south and the woodwork shop on the north. The first space in the “E” was the boys playground. The top leg on the east side of the school had the dining hall and kitchen at one end and the domestic science room at the other. The space at this end was the girl’s playground. In other words, the sexes were segregated.

The central leg was a large block containing the classrooms and assembly hall. The centre block had a large assembly hall bordered by two open air quadrangles. The classrooms were positioned around three sides of the outside of the centre block. Each quadrangle had a covered walkway with access to the classrooms.

The center spine of the “E” a continuous building from the woodwork shop to the domestic science room. Change rooms were adjacent to each of the playgrounds, the other rooms on this leg had the science labs, art room and administration offices. Each classroom had a dedicated purpose, math, French, German, Latin, History, Geography, etc. The teachers generally stayed in their specialty room and the pupils had to move between the classrooms for lessons. There were strict rules for moving about the corridors. Single file in an orderly fashion, no running, one file in one direction inside, and the opposite on the other side, wait outside classroom until teacher let you in, enter classroom and take first available seat.

Every day started with the whole school in the assembly hall, dutifully arranged in classes (or forms). The day started with prayers, a hymn and messages from the headmaster. We were also introduced to the school song whose theme was “going the second mile”. The pupils left in an orderly fashion to their homerooms. On the first day we were assigned a homeroom and the teacher who resided there. Attendance was taken and then you left that room to go to the subject room. This was the first time that I had been in a dedicated subject class, in TPS one teacher taught different subjects in the same class room to three different age groups. In Wellfield, one subject per teacher who taught from the front of the class like a lecturer. Disciple was strict without any friendly interchanges between teacher and pupils, and certainly no chit chat between students. If you got out of line, the usual punishment was to have to write “lines”. Fifty or a hundred lines like “I will not talk in class”, to be handed in the next day to the teacher. These had to be written in ink. We did not have ball pens, they had not been invented. What we had was a steel nib in a holder that was dipped into an inkwell (or bottle) every couple of words. The other form of punishment was to make you stand out in the corridor for the rest of the lesson.

I can honestly say that I never enjoyed the high school years. There was very little personal contact with the teachers so we never knew them as people. There was always the expectation of academic achievement, as though every pupil had to gain entrance to a university. In reality, most of the pupils would leave school at sixteen after they sat the School Certificate. They only allowed the top 15 to 20 percent to go back for higher education into the sixth form where they sat for “The Higher School Certificate”, which was a pre requisite for University entrance.