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Changing student experience - 1950s

The 1950s were a time of expansion and consolidation. The College developed its own identity - new residences, lecture rooms, gymnasia, swimming pool and library. Mature students were recruited and the first resident men arrived in 1958. Student numbers gradually increased to 430 by 1959 with one year supplementary courses in Mathematics or PE becoming available.

Olwen Offord (née Nunn, Certificate in Education 1955-57 and Supplementary Certificate in PE 1957- 58) applied for teacher training when she was in the Sixth Form:

  Olwen playing tennis
  K block
  Olwen Offord (née Nunn, Certificate in Education 1955-57 and Supplementary Certificate in PE 1957- 58)

I chose Coventry as, in addition to the professional courses, I could specialise in PE and Environmental Studies. These interests I have maintained - cycling regularly, playing tennis and researching and recording local history.

Mr Hilton was my personal tutor in K2 - a prefabricated building with single rooms, concrete floors covered with lino, thin walls but with central heating which was fed by huge black pipes visibly snaking around the campus. Near K2’s entrance were unheated toilets and bathrooms.

K1 was parallel with K2 and joined to it by a common room, which doubled as a lecture room in some blocks. During my second year I moved to Bericote – a new, spacious hall of residence. Being ‘under age’ (21) we had to sign in every night at 10.30pm*! Accommodation, tuition, laundry, room cleaning and full board were free. For a packet of cigarettes Chef would make a birthday cake and provide basic food.

Miss Hanks was my Secondary Education tutor and we had teaching practices in November, May and finals the following January. PE students also did some regular group teaching. The school where I did Finals invited me to assist at their residential week at Lilleshall.

I enjoyed visits to the Belgrade Theatre and the Hippodrome in Coventry but sport occupied most of my spare time. Once I played hockey in the same team as the England captain - Barbara Rylands. In the 2nd year I was hockey captain, NUT representative and on the Staff Student Committee.

Building the new Coventry Cathedral began at this time and sometimes I climbed the old tower to photograph its development. Some students attended the laying of the foundation stone. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, visited the College and I was privileged to meet and talk to him.

I stayed on for a supplementary PE year, joining ex-students from Coventry and other colleges. We lived in Z3 and studied PE in greater detail; learnt new skills (lacrosse); explored related subjects (drama and music); gained more qualifications (umpiring and swimming) and had more teaching experience. As a group we experienced mountain and rock climbing in north Wales and in small groups organised camping weekends. During spring 1958 Asian ‘flu hit the College. Sick bay was soon full and ‘victims’ were isolated in their own rooms, regularly visited by Matron.

On leaving I had a choice of three secondary schools in which to be Head of PE. When I married I left and taught in a College of Further Education. With two young children I taught at the village junior school and then spent 20 years in a new high school becoming a House Head, teaching Maths and some PE. Three months after ‘retiring’ I became a Middle School supply teacher, finally retiring as Acting Head of Design & Technology in 2010. Since then I have worked voluntarily at the village school, where I taught 40 years ago.”
*As verified by Miss Tiley 1952-1977

Ann Jenkins (née Edwards Certificate in Education 1957-59) remembers arriving at College:

  Ann with pupils
  Ann Jenkins (née Edwards Certificate in Education 1957-59) with her pupils

I was ‘sent to Coventry’ in 1957 where I spent a very happy two years on a course for primary education. When I arrived I was a very quiet country girl who had not been away from home before; consequently I was home sick at first. However there were eight of us in R1 Block and we soon became great friends. A song was composed by us for entertainment; can anyone remember how it went?

I decided to take needlework as my main subject, so while all my friends were busy writing essays I was stitching away on my sewing machine in the needlework room.
At the end of the course I had several new outfits, a real bonus.

It was a very practical course and I had help at home to make a vivarium, a Wendy house and a ‘ten box’ with strips of painted wood which displayed numbers to 10.
In addition to studying child development we wrote stories and poems, painted visual aid pictures and did PE and movement.

There were also three school practices, what hard work! Early mornings to catch buses to our various schools were followed by late nights having to stay up writing lesson notes or making apparatus for the next day.

Weekends included a special treat. If you could get your name on the list there would be a coach ride to another college for a dance on Saturday nights. I particularly enjoyed my visits to Loughborough as that was where I met my husband to be.

All this training stood me in good stead for my first teaching job. I applied to Shropshire and was appointed assistant teacher at an isolated, rural school. There were 27 children in the school. I had 13 and the head teacher 14. My class age span was five to eight when they moved on to the big class room next door. It was a sheet iron building and toilets were outside across the playground. There was no secretary, no phone, only a kiosk on the roadside. Dinners in tins were delivered from a central kitchen but if I served food I could have a free lunch so needless to say I served most days.

I bought myself a brand new minivan for £320 to travel the 14 miles to school. Previously I had cycled three miles morning and night to meet my head teacher each day. When I obtained my van we took it in turns to drive. We waved and acknowledged everyone when travelling in case we needed them to push us in winter time.

There was no electricity in the school and the heating in my classroom was a coal fire. Eventually by afternoon the room would be very hot. Layered clothing was the order of the day. One Monday morning I found my two goldfish frozen solid in their tank.

Now at the age of 73 I still enjoy my visits to Orleton School where every Tuesday I have helped with reading for several years in Class One. So thank you City of Coventry Training College for preparing me so well for my varied and satisfying career. If any of R1 Block are still around I would love to hear from you. So Gill, Kate, Mary, Pat, Sheila, Barbara and Janet, please get in touch.