The school soon gained a very good reputation under its new Head and numbers started to rise – it was at a time when the then Conservative government was advocating parental choice rather than the assumption that children would attend their nearest school. There were various changes in education coming in – Ro’s year was the first to sit SATs in Year 2 (age 6-7), for instance. These were brought in to measure children’s attainment, but the original idea was simply that – it was explained that exams mostly demonstrated limits in a child’s ability or knowledge, whereas the SATs showed what he or she could do. Similarly, the National Curriculum, just being brought in, was initially going to set down some basic stipulations of expectation. They soon got out of hand and started to rule schools’ lives.
As Local Management of Schools got under way, there was a lot of consultation by the Local Authority (I’m going to use initials from now on, if you don’t mind). Consultation documents came out on the extent and manner of delegation to schools, and it was in those days a genuine process. The LA took the results, looked at them and worked things out accordingly. We got our first computer, and the secretary decided to step aside, though she stayed in her job as a teaching assistant. The secretary appointed was, as it happened, the Sage’s cousin, a great friend. Interestingly, the LA chose Apple Macs for their computers, though they changed their minds a few years later when Apple nearly hit the buffers. I bought my first computer around that time too. Not having much idea what to buy, I talked to a friend who said he had bought a computer, couldn’t get to grips with it at all, bought a Mac and hadn’t looked back. So that’s what I did too and nor have I.
There were three classes, but five year groups, Reception and Years 1,2,3 and 4. The middle class, therefore, had some of three of the years. It was such a small school that there was a real family atmosphere and this was no disadvantage. I used to go in weekly to help, as did some other mothers. The Sage helped too, with woodwork, and years later a young man stopped him in the town, introduced himself and thanked the Sage for his help.
One of the governors, who was Chairman for a time, knew our local MP quite well. He was, at the time, the Secretary of State for Education and I rated him highly. He visited the school on occasion and always took trouble to ask for opinions. I can’t remember the topic he asked my views on once, but the next week he repeated them in the House of Commons. I don’t think for a moment that I was the only person who said the same thing, but he listened and learnt from the people actually in schools.
I had always been rather doubtful of middle schools. I felt that it would be easy for them not to have a great stake in a child’s education, not starting or finishing it. However, I knew that the school that Al went to (an academically selective private school in Norwich) would not suit Ro – not that he wouldn’t pass the exam but that he would not be happy there and we decided to send him to the middle school and see how it went. However, I was midway through my second term of appointment as a governor and didn’t really want to stand down, so carried on with my jobs, governor, clerk and voluntary teaching assistant.
The Sage and I did have a discussion, however, because it would have been quite a good point for me to start looking for a paid job. But we were happy as we were. In fact, I was as happy as I’d ever been, those first years in our house. At one time very shy, something I disguised with effective social skills and therefore gaining a reputation, I suspect, for standoffishness, I had had to make an effort to make friends and had also gained confidence as a governor and other things I’d taken on in the village. So we decided that we would rather be content and happy than look for a bigger income and that we would carry on in the same way as before.