Part 5 Village Life and Work

The School: past and present


Thurlow School 1967-­1990

Pam Pearman

Reflecting on my twenty three years at Thurlow School the overall impression is one of a busy, happy and swift passing of time. Looking back, the first thing that impressed me in 1967 was how light the new building was, after the old school at Gt. Thurlow where I had been teaching before. That had been dark and had just one window high up in the wall. The rooms were heated by tortoise stoves, a bucket of water was kept close to them to counteract the dry air. Those stoves were useful to thaw the milk on frosty mornings. They were a far cry from the hot, blower type heaters in each room of the new school, and the low, large windows of the new building gave it a light and airy atmosphere.

Being a new school it was equipped with things we had not even been able to think about before. Boxes of large, wooden play apparatus, a wendy house and an outdoor paved area to use them on. The floors inside were tiled and rather noisy when the wooden toys were used indoors. The child-sized furniture and lots of cupboard space took a bit of getting used to as well. There was also the change from outside lavatories to the facilities for each classroom with their own toilets, wash basins and cloak rooms. And each class had its own craft sink and shelves. What luxury!

Thurlow schoolchildren and staff in the early 1980’s

We had all kinds of visitors coming to see the latest in rural primary school design in that first year.

At this time the children were at the school until they were ten going on eleven. They then moved on to the school in Haverhill. Of course later the three-tier system was introduced in Suffolk and Thurlow became a five to nine primary school.

One of the biggest projects in the first years was the building of the swimming pool. It brought together the parents, Thurlow estate and the school. It was so successful that it was felt that the fund raising should be continued for the benefit of the school, and so the Thurlow District Village School Association was formed. Among the events that were organised were barn dances in the village hall and in an estate barn, which were both energetic and enjoyable. The summer fetes and autumn bazaars were also popular and well supported. School funds were thus enabled to help finance educational trips and to buy new equipment, extra books for the library and instruments for our music lessons. The Friday evening Beetle Drives proved to be a good way of getting adults and children together as they could all be involved in the game. How many extra legs went on the beetles will never be known, but it was noisy, good fun and attracted twenty or more tables quite often.

Reading through this it doesn’t seem to have much to do with education, but let me assure you a lot of good work was going on in school hours too. First and foremost the school was for the advancement of the youngsters. The whole school worked together as a unit, thanks to the work of our heads, and as time went on it became the thing to encourage mums (and grannies) and friends to come in and help with reading, craft and maths activities. This meant that we could extend the activities that the children were able to experience. Class nature walks were often part of our natural history studies and that led to the mapping of two nature trails which were enjoyed by visiting schools.

There is so much that could be written about the first twenty three years of the school. However, I must mention the children and staff of the school in those years. Perhaps I am looking through slightly rose-coloured specs, but I feel it was a happy school where children wanted to come and thus learn. In fact I remember only one lad who decided he didn’t want to stay and ran off home in the lunch hour. He was fetched back by the headteacher and as far as I know he never went A W O L (absent without leave) again. The staff were caring people whose main concern was the children and who believed in working with the parents for the youngsters’ benefit. Of course we had our ups and downs as do all schools, but on the whole I loved my time at Thurlow school and was sad when my time came to leave.

Occasionally I meet former pupils with children of their own and I’m delighted to hear how they are doing ­ I still think of them as ‘my’ youngsters.


Thurlow School at The End of the Century

Elizabeth Graham
Thurlow School is still a very important part of the village community and most of the children from Thurlow and the surrounding villages attend it. If children live more than two miles away they will often be transported to and from school by mini-bus. Many other children travel either by car or on foot.

The school is a fairly new building with lots of big, low windows so that the classrooms are bright and the children can see out of them easily. Within them you will find the floors carpeted and low tables set in groups so that the children can sit round them and work together. Children usually work in pairs or small groups, so classrooms are very rarely silent and there is often the chatter of children and teachers discussing their work. You will also find that the teacher does not have a separate ‘desk’, but will usually sit at the children’s tables and will work alongside them.


Thurlow schoolchildren, 1998

The children all have their own books, a different one for each subject, and any work that they do is recorded in these. They study a very broad curriculum, with both sexes studying all of the subject areas. Mathematics, English and Science are the core areas, but the children also study I.T. (the use of computers and computerised resources), design and technology, art, history, P.S.E. (personal and social education), geography, R.E., P.E. and music. In the classroom we use many games and many kinds of equipment to support the different areas of the curriculum: calculators, television, cubes, beads, construction kits, microscopes and so on. In R.E. the children learn predominantly about the Christian faith, but they also learn to appreciate and understand something of the Jewish, Hindu and other faiths. When children do sporting activities they work together and play both competitive and team games. In the summer they are lucky enough to have an open-air swimming pool on the site. In music, the children have a wide variety of instruments available for them to use, from all around the world. They also use electronic equipment, such as keyboards, cd players and tape recorders.

Outside in the playground, the children have a large area of wooden play-equipment on which they can climb and test their agility skills. They also use the huge field behind the school and the tarmac play area. At the bottom of the field there is a conservation area where wild pond life and fauna can þourish in a protected environment.

Children who misbehave within school are not subject to corporal punishment. We feel that achievement and reward channel children’s energies far more effectively.

Parents are always welcome in school to help with classroom work or just to monitor their own child’s progress. School is a friendly place where the teachers and the headteacher welcome any support from the children’s families. The headteacher is not a person who inspires fear or who intimidates, but somebody whom the children see regularly and trust.
Sadly, in this era of increasing crime the school has to take measures to ensure the security of our children. All staff and visitors must wear identity badges and the school is fitted with an intruder alarm.


Thurlow schoolchildren in the 1920s