On Tuesday 21st June, the Girls’ Division Speakers’ Club gathered in the Resource Centre to hear a talk from Miss Beryl Footman, a former Headmistress of our school when it was Macclesfield County High School for Girls. Miss Footman fascinated the girls with stories of her early life at school, and even showed photographs of her school reports from the 1930s.
Miss Footman grew up in Becontree, a town which she portrayed as a safe haven in the 1930s, as not many people owned cars. Therefore most children would walk to and from school by themselves. The school day was split into two sections; there would be lessons from 9am-12 and then the children would return home for lunch. They came back into school at 2pm and had lessons until 4pm. A point that stood out to me was that Miss Footman could describe in detail some of her first moments in school. She told the girls about her very first day, of how she and her classmates were taught the alphabet. They were told to recite “Big A, Little A, A is for apple” and continue this with each letter of the alphabet. Miss Footman implied to the girls that she had a different upbringing compared to our grandparents, for she lived in a council estate over many acres of land. Therefore, it was no surprise that for a while the main school in this area wasn’t big enough to fit in all the children. Miss Footman was taught in a different building until the main school had space again. Another interesting memory she told us was that she witnessed four classes being taught in the same hall at the same time, yet they were all happening in different corners!
The system of health in the 1930s was another contrasting aspect; according to Miss Footman, her health teacher believed that the best butter worth buying was Australian butter, as Australian grass was exposed to more sun, resulting in the cows eating better grass and therefore producing better quality milk for butter. Yet when Miss Footman informed her mother of this lesson, her mother replied that she was not going to buy Australian butter, she was going to continue using Dutch butter as it tasted nicer.
The girls attentively listened to Miss Footman’s tales that included her school reports (one of which she is most proud, as she placed 2nd in the class out of 41 pupils- she still remembers the name of the girl who beat her by one mark), her PE lessons that happened outside no matter what the weather, and the joy of finishing arithmetic work first, as this meant you were the lucky one who could punch the holes into the cardboard boxes of milk for each pupil in the class.
To conclude her talk, Miss Footman recited the songs that would be sung by the pupils as they were leaving school. It meant that all the pupils would leave the class quietly and calmly. All the girls thoroughly enjoyed Miss Footman’s speech and provided a huge round of applause for her at the end to express their gratitude.
Fiona Beeston, 10RAA