HOW HERRIES HAS CHANGED IN 50 YEARS
(23 May 2013)
Preparatory School has been educating local children since 1947, and is an
integral part of community life in Cookham. Two old girls recently
visited the school, and spoke in morning assembly. One of them was Tessa
Webster who attended Herries from 1956-1963 with her brother, Stephen
(1956 - 1960) and her sister, Jessica (1960 - 1967). We thought that it
would be interesting see how school-life has changed over the last 50
years. We interviewed Tessa about her memories of Herries and also
spoke to a current Year 6 pupil, Kate, who is also head girl, about what
the school is like today.
would you describe your experience at Herries?
I think back to Herries as
being an extraordinary school. Mrs Armstrong, the headmistress, lived on
site with her husband as did another teacher, Miss Schiff, which is
perhaps why I always felt it was more
like a home rather than school. Both these teachers have stayed
with me all my life and were enormously influential. I
carry Mrs Armstrong on one shoulder and Miss Schiff on the other wherever
I go in life.
KATE: Herries is a lovely school and because it is small, it feels like a second home to me and all the staff and pupils are like my extended family. It is as if you are in a big house with lots of friends, and you’re never alone. It’s a very supportive environment – if an older pupil spots a younger pupil on their own, they look after them and ask them to join in. We don’t just play with children in our own year groups and really care for each other.
were/are the teachers like?
Our teachers were inspirational. Yes, there was quite a lot of rote
learning such as times tables, but even chanting out 'one six is six' etc
in unison (a bit like choral singing!) was quite fun. All our teachers
fully involved us, posing questions, asking our opinions on things and
they were always so enthusiastic about what they were doing. In the top
form, we learnt how to debate and present arguments and counter arguments
and we also had current affairs‘ discussions every week and were
encouraged to read the newspapers and understand what was going on in the
Our teachers are all great – take, for example, our Maths teacher, Mrs
Ballinger. She is so patient and will keep explaining something for 4 days
if she needs to! Maths is my favourite subject, and that’s partly
because her classes are such fun. Mrs Ballinger also teaches geography –
this isn’t my strongest subject but I still enjoy the classes because
they are so lively and interesting. Mrs Senior is also great – she was
my first ever teacher here and I always feel as though I can speak to her
if I ever have a problem.
head teacher, Ms Green is also lots of fun, but she is strict when she
needs to be and we have a lot of respect for her. She teaches Religious
Studies classes. What I like about her the most is that she has such a
great sense of humour!
were/are the class sizes like?
There were only five
classes when I was at Herries covering the age range of 3-11 years old;
so, not one class for each year. You didn't automatically move up to
the next class at the start of every academic year. I seem to
remember that it was rather more about when you were considered ready to
move to the next form and this could be at any point of an academic year.
Therefore, form sizes could vary through the academic year.
KATE: I really like the fact that we have small class sizes at Herries and everyone is treated as an individual. There are seven pupils in my class (5 boys and 2 girls). The boys are all like my big brothers and if I have a problem, they are always there to comfort me.
did/do you do at break-time?
Break times were great
fun, full of games like He and Cowboys and Indians and a lot of 'careering around' at top speed.
Morning break kicked off with 'milk'. We all got one of the third of a
pint bottles of milk that were delivered daily (cream on the top in the
days before homogenisation!) There was the lawn to play on if it wasn't
too wet, the swing where we had to learn to take turns, and an area of the
garden where we could make 'camps', the tarmac area surrounding the garage
block. The only time we didn't go outside during break was when it rained.
KATE: We play Cops and Robbers, It and 40/40 in our breaktime. Some of the little girls like playing horses and princesses. As I mentioned, we don’t always stick with our year-groups and all really look after each other. No one is ever left out.
were/are school lunches like?
Lunches were cooked in the lovely, large kitchen and served in the green
room for the younger children and in the yellow room for older pupils,
where we sat at long trestle tables on benches, Mrs Armstrong was always
at the head of one table and another teacher at the head of the other
table. We always wanted to know in advance what was for lunch and Miss
Schiff would always say, 'Wait and see. See and wait!'
KATE: Our school food is really nice and the meat comes from the local butchers. My favourite meal is sausages and mash and I like the roast dinners too. You always have three choices for lunch, and there’s always soup, a salad bar and jacket potatoes. There are two lunch sittings each day.
was/is Sports Day like?
TESSA: Sports Day in the summer term consisted of events such as bunny hop races, sack races, egg and spoon races and hopping races. We received little bits of red, blue or green ribbon attached with safety pins if we came first, second or third. Prizes, when given, were normally books which would be inscribed inside by Miss Schiff with the most beautiful calligraphy.
KATE: Our Sports Day is held at Bisham each summer term and we compete in our houses which are all named after famous people – Brunel, Spencer, Redgrave and Grahame. We compete in our year groups and do competitions such as relay-races, obstacle courses and egg and spoon races. It’s always a really fun day for the whole school.
you have any pets at the school?
had a resident cat, called Hecky (Prince Hector of Troy to give him his
full name!). He was a big, fluffy ginger and white cat who belonged to Mrs
Armstrong and who would wander from class to class during the day, which
we loved. He would just stroll into a classroom when he felt like it.
Then, there was the hen, also fairly aged, but who got rather broody one
summer and sat on some eggs (which of course never hatched!). She was
called Hatty and occasionally managed to get free from her enclosure,
which livened up break time and caused amusement as Miss Schiff would have
to chase her.
headteacher, Sophie Green has a black labrador called Meg and she brings
her to school each day. Meg is so sweet and is adored by all the
children. She loves being stroked. She sits in her basket in Ms Green’s
office and then our school secretary, Ms Lenton or our caretaker take her
for regular walks around the school. She’s a lucky dog because it’s
such a beautiful setting here.
special moments stand out?
Occasionally at lunch,
Mrs Armstrong would announce to our enormous delight that, as the weather
seemed good, classes would be scrapped for the afternoon and we would all
go off on 'nature walks' through Quarry woods, across the fields, down
through the Chalkpit, through Copas's farmyard and cherry and apple
orchards or down across Cock Marsh towards the river with Miss Schiff, who
was very knowledgeable about 'flowers and fauna'. These nature walks would
take place throughout the year and Miss Schiff introduced us to the impact
of the changing seasons on the countryside during these walks
KATE: The highlight of the school year for me is definitely the summer production. We performed Annie last year, and it was great. It’s always really nerve-wracking when Mrs Castell announces what the production is going to be. We’re about to find out what this year’s production is going to be and I can’t wait! Everyone in Key Stage 2 is involved. I absolutely love drama – the pupils in Year 6 get the bigger roles too which is even better.
have you taken away from Herries? What will you take away from Herries?
I took a myriad of
things away with me from my time at Herries – but to list a few: very
importantly, truly wonderful memories and an appreciation of what fun the
learning process should and could be and of the teachers who made it so,
even when it was hard work; a ‘have a go attitude’ to things; the
belief that whatever you undertake, even small, seemingly unimportant
things, you should do to the very best of your ability; an enjoyment of
other people’s successes and the importance of recognising other
people’s efforts and contributions; the pleasure of doing things for
other people’s benefit; a sense of fair play; the importance of
kindness.I could go on and on! Herries gave me a strong foundation
Being at Herries has taught
me an awful lot and has given me a great start in life. It’s taught me
that everyone has something that they are good at and needs their own
moment to shine. It’s given me a lot more confidence in music, both in
singing and playing the piano. Mrs Castell has inspired us all to reach
for the stars – even though I wasn’t very good at singing at the
beginning, she’s always encouraged me. I have also made so many good
|home top of page||back any suggestions|