40 years at the chalk face

Children in Need 2005Wychwood Primary School was opened in 1972 – but how has it changed over the past 40 years? It started as a seven classroom school with a headteacher, seven teachers, two teaching assistants (TA’s), a school secretary and four lunchtime supervisors. We now have 11 classes, with a headteacher, 12 teachers, 16 TA’s, two office staff and nine members of staff on lunch duty, not to mention our wonderful kitchen staff. I do not know the number of children on role back in 1972, but when I joined in 1995 there were 183; we are now up to 311! The cleaners included Mrs Bridges who took great pride in keeping the school clean. A few of us, on occasions, have witnessed things falling off shelves or heard strange noises so we are sure she is still keeping an eye on the place. Recent outdoor refurbishments, the improvements to our Forest School area, our swimming pool and the addition the all-weather pitch make us a very well-resourced school.

But what hasn’t changed? Firstly the support of our parents, many of whom come into school to help in class or to be members of our long running PTA. In the early days they raised the money to pay for the swimming pool to be built with wooden changing rooms and these were replaced years later by stone-built changing rooms and a much-needed storeroom. Both these projects were supported by free local labour and materials as well as fund raising for other project costs. Parents have provided IT equipment, helped towards the cost of school trips and many more extra opportunities. The money is raised in so many ways that some events are now Wychwood School traditions. The Firework display and fetes come to mind, while at a more spectacular level we had the Red Devils parachute team land on the back field. I think the most entertaining event I have recently heard of is when the field was marked out in squares, which were raffled, and a cow was walked around the arena and where the cow pat landed the person with that square’s ticket won the prize! The fete has always been known for its country dancing and May Pole dancing: we have all seen the ‘Spiders Web’ get in a bit of a tangle! Parents and other individuals have certainly played a huge part in our school’s success.

Children have always had the chance to go on residential trips in Year 6. In the past these have been to the Isle of Wight, North Wales and, for a number of years now, to Kilvrough in South Wales. Rock-climbing, caving, canoeing, beach days and abseiling – so many fun activities. For some children this may be their first time away from home without family so in more recent years we have built up the time away. In Year 2 they do a one-night sleepover at the school and in Year 4 they have a three-day residential to Dorset where they get to enjoy lots of outdoor teambuilding activities.

School plays have given teachers many a headache – will it be alright on the night? But they always come together after hours of practice. Very often it is these plays that people remember most when they recall their school days.

And sport – we have always taken part in partnership and district events, on occasion going on to represent the district in national events. We have strong links with the local tennis and cricket clubs and have had local rugby coaches coming in to support the school as well. There have always been sports days – gone are the days when there would be a dads’ and a mums’ race (so competitive!). Now there is a round-robin of events for all the children to take part in so they are all keeping active and then some athletic races in the afternoon for the older children. Our treasured wooden eggs are still being used.

The Grumpy Sheep play Dec 2005Our association with the churches has always been strong. As the vicars have changed so have the styles of assemblies. Some will remember Rev Graham Canning leading the school at Christmas with his song ‘The Holly ‘O’ and Rev Mike Williams and his ‘Mary Poppins’ style bag full of props. Rev Geoffrey Clement has introduced The Open Book assemblies when Bible stories are acted out for the children. The school continues to hold Harvest, Christmas, Easter and leavers’ services at the church, scaffolding permitted!

The school has always raised money for charities. Who remembers Pennies Around the Playground for Children in Need with the fun of laying-out coins around the lines on the playground, making pictures of Pudsey? Then for all those coins to be collected, counted and then hauled to the bank in Chipping Norton… Have you tried lugging £300 of bronze coins?!
Our school is set in a lovely part of the county although we have lost some of the surrounding green fields; no chance now of needing to chase a sheep back through the fence from the playground! We will continue to provide the high standard of education that has benefitted so many children over the years.

We are looking to celebrate our 50 year anniversary in 2022 and we would love you to get in touch if you have memories or photographs. The Wychood’s anniversary and then ours – it’s all happening in our communities.

Julie Hemming

April – May 2020