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Changing student experience - 1940s

The City of Coventry Training College for Women was born out of the 1944 Education Act which highlighted the need to increase the number of trained teachers. The College was established in 1948 to provide a two-year Certificate in Education. With little more than a former industrial workers’ hostel (which had been used as an Emergency Training College for Men) to call home, the 180 women in the first intake took up residence in 1949 and were real pioneers.

  Eileen King (née Noble Certificate in Education 1948-50)

Eileen King (née Noble Certificate in Education 1948-50) describes life as a student after the war:

Having replied to an advertisement in the national press for trainee teachers I was interviewed by Miss Browne in County Hall, Westminster and offered a place at the soon to be opened City of Coventry Training College for Women. As our accommodation was still occupied by the male students from the Emergency Training College we were given placements at our local schools until Christmas. We were overseen by the heads of the appointed school with occasional visits from College lecturers.

Arriving in Coventry by train from Chelmsford, I took the bus to the College, carrying my suitcase and most importantly, my ration book!

My father was a market gardener at that time and because of Dutch imports was not doing too well. The government therefore paid for my education and keep, also giving me a cheque for £72 for my spending money. In return I was required to teach in Essex for one year once I had qualified.

On arrival I met the girls of Block Z3 who were to be my friends for the next two years. We each had a room about 10 feet square with a washbasin, a bed with Dunlopillo mattress, a wardrobe, a dressing table, a table at which to work and a chair. Shared facilities for 12 students were one bathroom, an ironing room with washing machine and kettle, a toilet and a common room.

Rooms were professionally cleaned and three cooked meals a day were prepared by a trained chef. The meals were super! Lectures finished at 4.30pm each day when
tea and cakes were provided in the Junior Common Room after which it was study time. We had no free periods during the week but all weekends were free unless we were competing in sports teams.

My first big purchase was a state–of-the-artbicycle, not quite top of the range but costing £22 - a very important purchase as it took me everywhere during my training. After leaving College I gave up my bicycle for a James motorbike and later a small car.

Communication home was by letter as phoning was more expensive. There were no male students so guests at our dances came from local sports clubs along with
apprentices from local companies. On one occasion our hockey team played Coventry’s rugby team which was quite hilarious.

My combined course was ‘Environmental Studies’ - a new subject in those days - giving me a great opportunity to get out and about, exploring around Coventry and
Warwickshire. My project was the farm that I worked on during holidays when at home. My subject course was Craft, specialising in pottery with much of my potting done after my evening meal. Required information came from books in the library or those we were asked to purchase - no internet in those days! If not playing in sports teams at weekends, many of us would cycle and walk, staying away in YHA accommodation.

I enjoyed every minute of my time at Coventry - finally receiving notification of my specific grades in 2012!

  Sylvia Parkinson
  Sylvia Parkinson (née Park Certificate in Education 1948-50)

Unlike Eileen King who went to the College at the age of 18 Sylvia Parkinson (née Park Certificate in Education 1948-50) was 21 when she began her teacher training.

Sylvia was a pupil at Northampton Girls’ Grammar School studying for her School Certificate, alongside undertaking the practical training to become a nurse, via the Technical College.

The year was 1946 when personnel from the armed forces visited the school as part of the government ‘calling up’ procedure to recruit officers. However any girl who had worked with children (Sylvia was a Brownie, Girl Guide and helped the Guide leaders) was directed into teaching as an unqualified teacher. The following Monday, Sylvia aged 18 was sent to assist a 70 year old teacher with a class of 72 children. Most women teachers were around 70 years old, owing to the rule they could not get married as they must devote all their time to teaching - not being a wife and mother as well.

After three weeks Sylvia had to move to another school, cycling or walking the five miles. On her first day she had a police escort as she neared the school to ensure her safe arrival, the policeman helping her to clean, lay and light the fire before lessons started. Sylvia now had her own class of 50 children, between the ages of six to eight.

Two and a half years later a local vicar suggested to Sylvia that she should consider becoming a qualified teacher as she had already gained practical experience. She applied to the soon to be opened City of Coventry Training College. Sylvia went on to teach for 32 years. During those years Sylvia taught all age groups from 5 to 16 - in large town schools, small village schools, industrial areas and seaside villages.

  Sheila Wood
  Sheila Wood (née Lewis Certificate in Education 1948-50)

During the last term of college, two representatives from Australia spoke to the college leavers regarding teaching in Australia. As they were now qualified teachers the Australian government would pay for their passage, one year’s accommodation and full salary for one year.

One such student was Sheila Wood (née Lewis Certificate in Education 1948- 50) who, on leaving College, emigrated to Australia as a ‘£10 pommie migrant’, setting sail in October. She had her 21st birthday on board the ship arriving in Melbourne in November. Her fiancée, having emigrated earlier, was there to meet her. He got a special licence and they were married in December. She started teaching three days later - all very exciting! Sheila taught for four years in primary schools, retrained as a kindergarten teacher and taught for a further 20+ years. Sheila has made several visits to the University in recent years and has enjoyed revisiting the College campus, now Westwood.