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Changing student experience - 1960s

The 1960s were a time of enormous change and the College was not exempt. Over the decade it expanded and refurbished and led the way on the use of educational technology. In 1964 it changed its name to Coventry College of Education. In 1965 it launched its first four year BEd course and in 1966 the first all-ages PGCE course. At the end of the decade in 1969 student numbers had increased to 1,350 and the first BEd degrees were awarded to College students by the University of Warwick.

Terry Kenny (Certificate in Education 1960-63) remembers that:

  Terry Kenny
  Thieves Carnival
  Terry Kenny (Certificate in Education 1960-63)

Attending Coventry Training College in September 1960 to start the new three year course was an exciting time - a new city, new people, a different experience. The men were a mixed bunch, ranging in ages from 18 to late 20s. Accommodation for us was behind schedule so the men either doubled up in Bericote or lived in ‘A’ block, the last of the original buildings for residential use. Today only the brick built ‘sick bay’ remains of the original structures, although serving a different role.

The college was still in the process of being rebuilt around us, something to which Miss Browne wished she had never agreed. Our Education room was shrouded at one end by a giant tarpaulin as the building was being extended. The heart of the complex was the central block, housing the ‘Crush Hall’, senior and junior common rooms, main hall, dining room, library and senior staff offices. Senior academic and admin staff eventually moved to new accommodation attached to the music and drama suites but the building retained its key role until its demolition in the early 80s, leaving not just a physical space on the site.

The curriculum and timetable were full and wide ranging. Principles of Education were central, the student groups reflecting targeted age ranges from infant to secondary. ‘Education’ encompassed its history, practice, child development and learning as its core. In the first two years, we studied two academic subjects specialising in the third year. Professional courses ranged from RE to PE with practical courses linked to the main subject studied.

Reality was teaching practice, one in each year making 14 weeks overall. These were supplemented by group practices linked to Education and specialist subject. Students attended schools in Coventry and Warwickshire. Trooping out on a cold January morning to board the buses lined up in Charter Avenue was pretty dispiriting. The winter of 1962/3 was one of the coldest. I used to arrive at school and wrap myself round the nearest radiator. Needless to say the school never closed.

One of the most memorable occasions of those three years was the Consecration of the new Cathedral in 1962 with celebrations throughout the Diocese. The college played host to the tapestry weavers and as students we were involved in the Coventry Pageant playing vikings, nuns and characters from Shakespeare.

As today, students were responsible for their own cultural, sporting and social activities. Balls at the Matrix and Locarno Ballrooms, as well as in college; reviews, plays for the NUS drama festivals and Coventry’s own one-act play festival; teams competing against other colleges in the region at a variety of sports, all added to the rich tapestry of student life. We took part in Coventry’s Carnival and even had our own embryonic carnival as part of a rag week.

For three years, time paused. Suddenly it was all over and we resumed life in the wider world. Now I look back wondering just where it all went.

Roger Johnson (BEd 1965- 69) had always wanted to be a teacher and chose Coventry College of Education for a number of reasons:

  BEd group 1969

It had an excellent reputation, there was a real likelihood of it being one of first colleges in the country to offer a BEd course – and it also had a swimming pool, my chosen sport!

I was dropped off by my parents on Thursday 23rd September 1965 and found that I would be sharing room in Knightcote with David Bishop. There was no time to be homesick surrounded by so many other students, many of whom became lifelong friends - or in the case of Babs Arrandale, my future wife!

We had a wonderful time at College - even the early-morning starts during teaching practices were fun, with bleary-eyed students stumbling into coaches to be taken all over Coventry & Warwickshire. I was in Colin Kefford’s Education group (programmed learning, anyone??) but my main subject was Geography, which was really enjoyable – especially the field trips! There was also a great social scene and very good sports facilities and we know that we were very, very fortunate in so many ways.

There was considerable interest in the new BEd degree, which would be three years for a were awarded by Birmingham University and our degrees by the newly-opened University of Warwick.

The selection process was rather fraught, rather like the Grand National with some falling at the first and subsequent hurdles. Over 100 of us were chosen and as the first BEd cohort, it was made very plain to us that standards would be high in order to establish it as a truly worthwhile degree. There would be very few honours awarded - most candidates would simply get pass degrees - and some would fail. Our fourth year was much more academically based, with no teaching practice and finals week came as a real shock – seven three-hour exams in five days, including five in two-and-a-half days!

Graduation day for the fortunate 41 was at Coventry Cathedral and was a truly memorable experience. Both Babs and I continued teaching for many years and still look back on our time at Coventry with great affection.

Geoff Cox (Certificate in Education 1962-65) reports that September 2012 marked 50 years since the 1962 intakejoined the College. Fifty three former students, staff and their guests came back to campus to attend a reunion event which had involved almost two years of preparation.

  1962 intake reunion group

Those who hadn’t been back to the site were struck by the changes which had taken place in the intervening years. No longer are there broad sweeps of lawns interspersed with young saplings but the site is now full of huge well developed trees. A few of the buildings have disappeared including the old assembly hall and the gym block including, surprisingly, the ‘new’ gym.

The day was over all too quickly. Some old friendships had been re-established and others re-confirmed. If you are interested in organising a reunion of your classmates, email the alumni team for help and advice.