When 1950 came along the adult population were probably quite fed up as rationing was still in place and the golden future they had been imagining would come when the war was over had not yet arrived. Things were easier, but of course, the country was nearly bankrupt after the war and there had had to be much rebuilding, of  both the bricks and mortar structure  and the social structure. We had already got the new health service and welfare system and educational opportunities were open to a wider section of the population.

I was very happy in 1950 as I had achieved my long held ambition to gain a place at the Manning School. I had longed to go to this school for as long as I could remember. I used to gaze at it on our Sunday evening  perambulations on The Forest. It was a long, low modern buiding by the side of  The Forest. To the front were the tennis courts and to the side  playing fields. The school was approached up a shallow flight of steps flanked on either side by a colourful shrubbery, and I thought it was the most beautiful school I had ever seen. 🙂

I envied the girls in their smart grey and scarlet uniforms and vowed that one day I would wear that uniform.

I don’t think it entered my arrogant little head that I would not pass the 11+ exam, after all my boy cousins had gone to High Pavement (the boys grammar school) and my brother could have gone  too if he had not insisted on choosing the People’s College (technical college for the building trade)

I must admit that it was not  academic leanings which attracted me, just the school and the uniform. 🙂

It was only in later life, when comparing my education with others, that I realised just how fortunate we were at the Manning. We had a wide education, not only academic subjects, but such diverse subjects as domestic science, arts and crafts and music. Everyday from 4pm-6pm after school activities, ( sports, drama, Guides, orchestra etc.) were available to those interested, all run by the staff in their own time.

Many of the teachers were unmarried middle-aged and elderly ladies, who belonged to the generation where so many of their male generation had been lost in the carnage of WW1. It is only with hindsight that I realise what a brave fight they must have fought to get their university education, which probably explains their frustration with us when we didn’t work hard enough took our good fortune for granted.

The mood of the country was lifted in 1951 by the Festival of Britain. This was a very popular event, not only the exhibition itself, but all the local events it spawned. In Nottingham I was lucky enough to be given a place in the ballet, which was performed in Wollaton Park. We spent a very enjoyable summer rehearsing and then did several performances in September. The Park had been transformed into a magical place with coloured lanterns and giant swans were manufactured which floated across the lake in the background.

In 1952 we were all very sad when King George died suddenly. He had been a popular king and Britain was still very patriotic.

In 1953 we had the spectacle of the coronation. There were street parties and celebrations throughout the country and the newspapers were declaring that this was the dawning of the new Elizabethan age. Everest was conquered in the same year and there was optimism in the air. This optimism continued into the next year when rationing  was finally over.

When my friends who had stayed in the secondary modern schools left in 1954 (aged 15) there were plenty of jobs for them to choose from. In Nottingham the biggest employers were Boots, Players, Raleigh, NCB and textiles. All these firms offered further training for those interested and many provided social welfare facilities such as sports clubs etc.

At the technical colleges and grammar schools the earliest leaving age was 16, and most of those I knew went into office jobs, banking, insurance or, for those with a scientific leaning, into laboratories.

I think  about  a third of us stayed on in the 6th form until we were 18. I had suddenly changed my mind about teaching and decided to pursue a nursing career and got myself an interview at the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing in Birmingham, which had a very good reputation. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a place in the school starting January 1958.

There were fewer university places available then and they seemed to have more lectures than today’s students, but at least they did not have the financial worries the students have now. Tuition was free and grants were quite generous and covered normal living expenses. They got nearly as much in grants as we were paid during our training, plus temporary jobs were available during the holidays to supplement their income. Most of them lived in Halls and those who lived out usually lived in lodgings ( presided over by matronly ladies of varying amiability!)  

Those who were intending to teach in junior or infant schools went to training college for two years, again living in college halls. I don’t remember anyone living out in flats—much less mixed  flats!

There have been many changes in education over the last half century, both good and bad.

 I think we were a very obedient society and probably quite naive. The age of majority was still 21 and we seemed to have a longer childhood than todays children ( or even previous generations had been allowed). Due to all those years of rationing we were glad to have new clothes and, since no one knew about designer labels, we suffered no problems  of peer pressure on that score.

Todays children, especially girls, have a far greater choice of career and more career guidance. There were still many people around then who thought it a waste to educate girls, luckily my parents did not hold this view and I had the same opportunities  and support as my brother.

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