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Underhill School in High Barnet opens window to its past on 80th birthday
A Barnet school celebrating its 80th anniversary dipped into its archives to provide snapshots of pupils’ lives throughout the decades.
Headteacher at Underhill Junior School, Naz Goddard, pulled extracts from school diaries dating back to 1932 as staff and pupils prepared to mark its 80th birthday last week.
Since its opening, the in Mays Lane school has survived bombings in the Second World War, canteen thefts, staff and student injuries and social and economic changes.
In 2012, it is still going strong and was recently rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Mrs Goddard, headteacher for eight years, read extracts from key points in the school’s history during a special assembly to mark the landmark anniversary on Wednesday.
She said: “There is obviously a sense of nostalgia looking through the archives and you can’t help but compare then and now.
“What struck me was that it doesn’t matter what year you’re in, you go through the same experiences – they’re just dealt with in different ways.”
The school’s punishments book from the 1930s provides a window to a harder time, with one child receiving six strokes of the cane to the buttocks for truanting.
Archive diaries also gave a glimpse of life during the Second World War, when the school’s corridors were used as air raid shelters, with boarded up windows and reinforced walls.
There were also similarities between then and now in the problems faced by the school, with the whooping cough absences in 1935 bearing a striking similarity to pupils falling ill with the norovirus last year.
In 1933, a young girl was hit by a passing car but was walked home by her mother with what the teacher described as “an aching head and foot injury”.
When a pupil was struck by a vehicle at the school last year, an air ambulance landed in the playground.
Staff returned from the summer break in 1960 to find thieves had taken 20lbs of pork luncheon meat and 108 eggs, among other items from the school canteen – valued at 13 pounds, nine shillings and seven pence.
A school fundraiser for a mining disaster in 1934 resulted in pupils and parents bringing in clothes and shoes for victims in Felling-on-Tyne and collecting one pound, two shillings and six pence in donations.
Mrs Goddard said: “It is quite heart warming to know that even though we’re in difficult financial times at the moment, it is all relative as they had difficult times too. The extracts during the war were particularly poignant and I had a real empathy with the headteacher who had to run a school through that.
“It is interesting to see how the school has evolved and changed throughout the years to reflect the changes in values, morals and cultures.
"Schools are the hub of society and we’re very privileged to be in a position where we influence our children and equip them with values, resilience and life skills for the future.”
Pupils were put into mixed year groups to learn about different decades over the past 80 years and came to school dressed in styles from different eras on Wednesday.
Staff and students enjoyed a big lunch together and an afternoon of games and activities to mark the special occasion.
Classical saxophonist, model and performer Tyler Rix, who carried the Olympic torch in Hyde Park, is a nephew of one of the teachers and he performed in the school’s special assembly.
A staff and past-pupil evening on Thursday also brought back an 82-year-old woman who attended the school in 1935 and a father and his two children who all went to Underhill.
Kiera Killeen Wolf, 10, and Georgia Strack, 11, are in their final year at Underhill and said it was nice to learn a bit about the school’s history.
Kiera said: “We feel a bit more of a connection with the past pupils of the school, though we’re glad we weren’t here in the 1930s as the punishments seemed really harsh.”
Georgia added: “It is good to know what the school has been through, during the war especially. We have all grown up here together and we’ll be sad to leave.”
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