Vigo School - Talk by Headteacher Mr Howell in 1972

In January 1972 before the school opened the Headmaster-Delegate, Mr Howell gave a talk to all prospective parents about his vision for the new school and this is a copy of the notes of the meeting There are interesting references to the fact that the provision of playing fields had been delayed and it was a top priority to build a swimming pool for use by pupils and the community.

On Wednesday, 26th January 1973 Mr Howell, Headmaster-Delegate of our Vigo School gave an interesting and amusing talk at the After Eight Club on his plans and hopes for the school, to a record attendance meeting. For parents and other interested parties who were unable to come to the meeting, the main points of Mr Howell’s talk are as follows.

Mr Howell introduced himself by saying that his main out-of-school interests were sporting; rugby, cricket and football, and that he was interested in forming school teams.

Although this appointment is not a promotion for him at the moment, he was keen to become more involved in infant schooling and particularly in the continuity involved in handling children from 5/11 years. It is anticipated that in 5/6 years the school will hold approximately 360 children.

Mr Howell could give no firm date for the opening of the school which is behind schedule, although the inside is well-advanced, particularly in the junior wing. There will be a meeting of the school managers on 21st February to discuss progress.

It is estimated that the school will start with approximately 84 children with a staffing ratio of 3.4: 1.4 being in the infant reception class of 29/30 children. There will be three classes in all, and these will be able to share all the classrooms, so at least there will be no shortage of space. Toilets and drinking fountains will be available in all classrooms, and there is also provision for two showers in the infants’ classrooms. The canteen will be equipped to serve 360 people. The hall will have a portable stage.

Playing fields are planned but until then Croudace has been approached to allow the village green to be used by children under 9 years. A reply was received to the effect that there was no objection to this, as long as any damage was made good, but that the final decision would be made by the Residents’ Association. Mr Howell stated that the Committee would be formally asked for its approval, and also stated that there was a good possibility that the K.C.C. might agree to cut the grass and maintain the ground whilst it was in use by the school.

Stage 2 of the school will be needed in September 1974, and this will have to be applied for in plenty of time.

A Deputy Head is to be appointed and advertisements are to be placed for staff next week, including the appointment of a caretaker.

Mr Howell is currently in the process of ordering materials for the school, including a 16 mm film projector, but said that prices, particularly for books, have spiralled at an alarming rate. He is allowed £2.75 per child per year for materials.

Parents taking children to school for the first time should take the child’s birth certificate with them on the first day, and Mr Howell stressed that it would be very helpful with future planning if parents would register all children for admittance to the school from the age of 2 or 3. He made a particular plea for all items of clothing, etc., to be clearly marked with the child’s name. Uniforms will be optional, and if parents wish their children to wear uniforms, they should certainly not replace uniforms worn to previous schools until they are worn out. Colours will be navy blue, with light blue blouses or shirts, and a light blue motif on the badge. Full details will be available later. The badge will be obtainable from the R.A.C.S. in Gravesend, but there is expected to be a 4-week delay on delivery. In due course badges will be available in the school shop, which will be run by the children, and will also sell crisps, apples etc. Old shirts should be provided for arts and crafts – worn back-to-front these have been found to serve. very well, and plimsolls will be worn for P.E.

Mr Howell stated that parents should consider the school open at any time. He believes that a happy relationship between staff/children/parents is most important. Methods of teaching will include, among others, the Ladybird reading scheme and the unifix mathematics scheme. Maidstone Library has agreed to help with books, and from 1973 there will be a weekly delivery with a choice of 2,000 books. Mr Howell believes in basic work i.e. daily reading spelling and tables but stated the importance of building a child’s confidence. “If you can give a young child confidence, it is probably the biggest thing you can give”. One of the ways this can be achieved is by encouraging the children to give their own theatrical performances and parents are invited to help in this respect with any old clothes suitable for dressing up. In fact, materials of any kind can be used for school activities, i.e. cores from toilet rolls, scraps of material and felt, odd pieces of wallpaper, etc. It is hoped to establish a school museum and any old relics, or items of interest such as fossils, or gas masks will be very welcome.

The Headmaster is agreeable to a P.T.A. being formed if parents wish, after half-term, and hopes that parents will support school activities, such as coming to talk to the children about their jobs, or special hobbies, or arranging functions.

The school hall and rooms will be available for hire out of school hours. There is a scale of charges for this but incidentally, none of the proceeds goes directly to the school.

Mr Howell has a great interest in school journeys abroad, and he plans to introduce these in 1974. If parents are interested, he will be pleased to show some of his films taken on past school journeys. The children can save a small weekly amount to cover the cost of the trip, for two years beforehand.

There is one aspiration very close to Mr Howell’s heart, and that is to raise enough money to provide a swimming pool within the next two years. In his opinion this is vitally important, and, if parents agree that there is a need for this, there are several ways of raising funds, bearing in mind the fact that he has no intention of treading on the toes of those stalwarts already engaged in fundraising for the Village Hall. If a plan is formulated to build a
a pool, Mr Howell would like to aim for one to be used by parents and children, to be used at evenings and weekends as well. This would be achieved in three stages. (1) The Pool – say 40′ x 20′ holding 13,500 gallons at a cost of £562 without filter or £790 with filter. (2) The heater – it is important that the temperature be around 80°F for the children’s comfort. The cost of this would depend upon whether an independent heater was needed, or could be run from the school’s boilers. (3). A Russian shelter all around the pool, at a cost of £2,000.

In response to questions from the audience regarding the preparation of pre-school children, he stressed the importance of both talking and listening to the child. Reading to the child was important and in this regard he mentioned as being useful, the Ladybird ‘Learning with Mother’ books, also the Paddington Bear books, Dr Doolittle, and some of the children’s poems by Spike Milligan. Take the child on journeys and visits, and encourage him to give his own impressions of these. Also important is to see that the child gets plenty of sleep and fresh air. Talk often about his new adventure of going to school, assure him you’ll miss him, tell him what you will be doing while he’s away, and that every care will be taken of his toys and possessions while he’s away. When the time comes, deliver him in a reassuring manner and then leave quickly. If you tell him you’ll wait for him at the gate after school, make absolutely sure you’ll be there. Parents were assured that although a few tears were nothing to worry about if a child showed real signs of disturbance or distress, a parent would be contacted.

Also in response to questions, Mr Howell stated that he would keep a regular check on each child’s work and that he does not believe in vertical or family grouping in classes. He agreed that music was most important, and in fact, one of the posts advertised is for a teacher qualified to teach this. A certain sum had been set aside for musical instruments, but these would be purchased by the teacher specialising in this subject.

The school hours were not firmly decided but would be approx. 9.00 – 3.30 in order that they would not clash with older children being ferried to and from Culverstone School.

Mrs Leslie Giles warmly thanked Mr Howell, on behalf of the audience, for his frank and interesting talk, and for bringing a number of plans and drawings of the school for our inspection.

Author: Leslie Giles
Editors: Dick Hogbin, Tony Piper
Contributors: n/a
Acknowledgements: n/a
Last Updated: 30 August 2021