News from Brancaster Village Hall (BVH)
- By Geoff Wingrove
- 24 August 2023
GOOD NEWS! The Post Office has now opened part time: the hours and days can be viewed on the website below. Work is ongoing to open the Post Office five days a week as soon as possible.
The Norfolk Darts Grand Slam was a great success: another event will be held in February.
BAR 71 SUMMER PARTY
This was enjoyed by everyone who attended, with the all-new Pimms Tent doing good business. The live music by Sidewalk was fantastic and Bordoli’s quickly sold out of pizza.
It is pleasing to note that BVH and its grounds are really buzzing with a wide choice of activities, ranging from art exhibitions to games of pétanque.
FORTHCOMING EVENTS AND REGULAR GROUPS
Don’t forget that Raising Cain Productions will be performing “The Book at the End of the Shelf” on 15th September.
For more information on all future events and our regular groups – Yoga, Baby and Toddler Group, Coffee Morning, Beginners’ Pilates, Fitness Fusion and the Mobile Library – please visit our website: www.brancastervillagehallco.uk and for enquiries: brancastervillagehallcommunitybookings.co.uk
FROM THE BRANCASTER VILLAGE HALL ARCHIVE:
THE BOCKING FAMILY OF BRANCASTER
Following on from the previous article describing Lorna Bocking’s recollections of Brancaster School in the 1940s, this will concentrate on the experience there of her son, Gary Bocking, in the 1970s, along with the time that his wife, Sarah, spent as the Headteacher of the school.
GARY BOCKING’S MEMORIES OF BRANCASTER SCHOOL IN THE 1970S
I remember Christmas at the school, which was very special. The meals were still produced on site by very dedicated cooks, so dedicated that they put sixpences from their own pockets in the Christmas pudding. I still have these coins which are very precious to me, and I hope that some of my fellow pupils have kept theirs. Other members of the village would come into school to help us prepare the decorations. One year we made snowflakes, using hot wires and polystyrene; we hung them on the Christmas tree which was always planted in a dustbin – it seemed huge when you were just six.
My mother used to take me to the school each day, just as parents do now, but did not go in. This left some time for play before the school day began formally. There was a lot of emphasis on nature and the natural world, with a nature table that followed the seasons. The teacher would also do sand paintings on the windows along the same themes. The Headteacher was always addressed as “Sir” or “Mr Townsend” by the pupils. Not everything was just about paper learning. The Headteacher had lots of interesting stories, and we would often make or do something practical that was related to the topic being studied. We frequently made balsa wood models, using batteries or cables to make them work. Assemblies were held at the end of the day, and Grace was always said before lunch. (The same Grace is said today).
When the Rector visited the school, all the pupils were on their best behaviour. He often came with the other school governors, who would talk to the children and staff. Church services were an important part of the school year, with the whole school singing the hymns; I felt pleased to be asked to sing the solo part. One of the teachers played the piano and taught music, giving me every encouragement to sing well and to learn the words of hymns and carols at home. I remember one year being one of the three Wise Men, marching down to the church singing “We Three Kings”.
There was no uniform at the school, and in the rough and tumble of playtimes, I would often tear my trousers at the knee, which then had to be patched. The teachers were very versatile, and used to do country dancing and a whole range of crafts. These were usually undertaken in the end room which was full of materials, paints, paper and machines; it was also the room where you could be sent to sit quietly if you were naughty at playtime. I remember that one of the teachers made some replicas of the medals found at the Roman fort at Branodunum, which was being surveyed in the 1970s by the National Trust.
There was also a gardening club: where the ship can be seen today painted on the wall is where we used to grow things. I helped to plant the Vhinca plant which was still there until a few years ago, when alterations were undertaken and it had to be moved: It is still going strong today. I was very good at gardening – the teacher used to call me “Percy Thrower” – and she put this in a book she wrote, a copy of which she gave me. I feel very lucky to have attended Brancaster School.
HEADTEACHER AT BRANCASTER SCHOOL
Sarah became the Headteacher of Brancaster School in 2011, having previously been the acting Headteacher 12 months earlier. She – like all headteachers of small rural schools – faced a number of unique challenges, including small pupil numbers, a restricted budget and the lack of a pre-school. As an actively teaching Headteacher, Sarah had to take on a variety of roles, such as those in Special Education Needs and Technology, for which there was little training. Moreover, there was only a limited number of adults to cover all the areas that make a school successful.
On the positive side, however, there are significant advantages to being a small rural school; it creates a flexible environment that is good both for the community and individuals. Mixed aged classes help to improve skills and carve out social cohesion, while a close-knit staff group responds with inventiveness in the face of budgetary constraints. Being very close to the community means that the school is reactive to its needs.
A school is one of the focal points of any village, along with the church, shop and village inn. Given the closure of schools in nearby Burnham Deepdale, Thornham and Sedgeford, it is important that every effort is made to support our school, so that it may continue to contribute to the life of the wider community.
The two pictures show Gary (1st left in the 2nd row) amongst his classmates in the 1970s and Sarah, as Headteacher, with enthusiastic pupils.