Memories of Foxley School Mrs Davies (nee Smith)

My time at Foxley School 1958-1961

I was appointed to the school as the teacher for Class 1 on the completion of my teacher training course sat Philippa Fawcett Training College, Steatham, London, by Head Teacher, Mrs Letitia Kurhan and the Govenors to take up my post in the Autumn Term of 1958.

At the time the school had reached its peak regarding numbers and was beginning to run down to closure which was scheduled to happen in 1960. As families were allocated houses in Hereford, the children left and no new children came in, apart from five year olds already living in Foxley, who were starting for the first time.

The staff at the time were:

Head Teacher: Mrs Letitia Kurhan, Deputy: Mr Michael Birt

Staff: Mr Eric Preece (later he became Deputy Head when Mr Birt took a post in the Solomon Islands); Mrs Lloyd, Mrs Rowberr;  Mrs Bond; Mrs Evelyn King; myself Miss Pat Smith/Mrs Davies; and Mr Glyn Jones joined later as did a lady from Credenhill RAF camp as a Supply teacher.

I was given the classroom at the end of the second block next to the room which was used as the Hall/Dining Room and also used as another Infants classroom where Mrs King was the teacher for a while. The kitchen was at the other end of the hall and at the side of that was the way through to the cloakrooms and doors out to the top block the Junior classrooms and to the lower block which housed the Top Junior class and the Head Teacher’s room which was also the Staff room where we all met for beaks and lunch.  Hot dinners arrived each day by van from Mansel Lacy School, I believe.

I don’t remember all the names but some of the mothers came in to serve the dinners, one of whom was a Polish lady. I think the Caretaker was Mrs Davies.

I soon settled in with my new class, supported by Mrs King in the next room and Mrs Kurhan who soon put me right about how to keep my cupboards tidy and the best way to do my Register Totals every Friday afternoon! That hadn’t been part of the teacher training schedule. Life however was different in a Herefordshire country school from the London schools I’d experienced in training.  In London it was the practice to have “play with purpose” sessions first thing in the morning which horrified Mrs Kurhan and play sessions had to wait until the afternoon. Serious three R’s had to take first place. I soon adapted and was really thrilled when my small charges began to read with enjoyment and fluency.

By that time many of the Polish families had been re-housed in Hereford so the children still in my class were mostly English with a few Polish and one German who spoke their native languages at home. They soon adjusted and all got on with each other and spoke English together. At parent teacher sessions it was sometimes necessary to have the child present to translate!

I travelled to Foxley by double-decker bus every morning until I was able to have a lift with Mrs King and Mr Preece and later on with Mr Jones. When I started to have diving lessons Mr Jones put L-plates on his van and let me drive to and from school. Sometimes I would stay later than the others after school to put up a display or tidy my cupboards, and get the bus back. One evening I forgot the time and the bus had gone. There was nothing for it but to start walking. Luckily a kind motorist stopped and gave me a lift for most of the way. Eventually I passed my driving test and I acquired an old Morris Eight from £35 and my independence!

The School was in a lovely position on the rise across the stream overlooking the Camp. Most of the children walked to and from school on their own and some of them went home to dinner each day. Outside my classroom there was flight of steps to nowhere in particular and sometimes we would go out there from a story time and see the pheasants strolling by. It was such a lovely spot to be. There was a large tarmacked playground where the children had plenty of room to run around and to one side there was some climbing apparatus which we used for PE. It was the latest thing in those days. Two teachers were on duty in the playground each play time, keeping an eye on the children. I don’t remember there being any problems.

Mrs Kurhan, a very strict but fair Head teacher like to give the children interesting experiences and would suddenly come up with a suggestion. One December she decided we should take the whole school into Hereford to see the Christmas lights and visit the Cathedral.  We ended the trip with tea in the restaurant attached to the Odeon Cinema.  Some of the Foxley children never went into Hereford so this was very exciting for them.

Another memorable time was the trip to Barry Island. Mrs Kurhan hired several buses, issued tickets and allocated seats to everyone who wanted to go; children and parents. It was very well organised. The staff looked after any children who had no-one to go with them so no child was left out.  The day dawned fine and dry. The buses were lined up on the playground early in the morning and tickets were checked as the families arrived with picnic bags, ready for this exciting day out at the seaside.  Most of the families had no car at the time so rarely went on a days outing anywhere. I don’t remember much about the bus journey but I remember being on the beach and how much the children enjoyed themselves, as did the staff sitting around in a semi-circle of deck chairs laughing and joking. Snapshots of the day have helped to keep these memories alive.

I was at the school for two Harvest Festivals, the first took place in the school Hall and was conducted by the Vicar from Mansel Lacy, Rev. Heath. By the time twelve months had passed the school numbers had reduced and it was decided to walk the children to Mansel Lacy Church for the Harvest service. At the time I was the only teacher who was able to play the piano so I was expected to play the church organ. I wasn’t a confident pianist let alone organist but I had to do my best and all went well until I thought the Vicar had finished what he was saying and started to play the next hymn only to realise that I had come in too soon. I don’t suppose anyone was bothered but I felt terrible. How I wished that Mr Glyn Jones, who was a musician had not left to go to another school.

I got married at the end of my second year, August 1960, by which time the remaining teachers were advised to apply for other posts in preparation for the school’s closure in February 1961. As it happened I moved to Tupsley School (St Paul’s) after Easter of that year to teach a new Infant intake there. That school was overcrowded and short of materials so I was glad of some chalk and paper that Mrs Kurhan had given me from the surplus that had accumulated as the school numbers had reduced. My St Paul’s classroom was also short of furniture so I asked for a cupboard. I was amazed a few days later to recognise the cupboard provided was from my Foxley classroom.

I enjoyed my time at Foxley. It was a great place to start off my teaching career and the experience there stood me in good stead for my future teaching career. Mrs Kurhan took me on her staff again at All Saint’s Infant School fourteen years later when I returned to teaching after brining up our own three children. When All Saints closed I became Head of Infants at St Paul’s and was there to see their new well stocked Infant’s Department built before I retired.