These are the memoirs of Mrs Wood who taught at Mundella. The Mundella related content has been extracted from the autobiography and is displayed below. The full autobiography can be downloaded from the link at the base of the article.
After two years in the heady atmosphere of a new school (my previous one)
Mundella was a culture shock. Nothing had prepared me for the sink the school appeared to
be. I was acutely depressed but realized I was trapped; if I was to have
successful teaching career I had to stick it out. I was to stay five years
at the end of which I was sorry to leave.
Full-time Jobs for women with young children were not easily come by. I had
had several weeks off at Carlton le Willows when the boys and I had mumps
and Nottingham meningitis. Because of this the head regarded me as
unreliable and vetoed my appointment full time there - so Ike (head of
English) told me. At two other interviews I had been asked how I could
manage full-time work with two young children. When the Mundella Job came
up I was doubtful but someone from High Pavement who had recently moved to
Mundella assured David it was a good school. So it may have been by his
standards, but High Pavement standards were not mine as I later discovered
when I attended parents' evenings there for the boys..
I was interviewed at the Council House. My first visit to the school was on
the day before term began when the first year had to come in to be sorted
out. I discovered to my amazement that I, a new member of staff, was to be
a 1st year form teacher. A case of the blind leading the blind. The woman I
was replacing had had a first year, so I was automatically plonked in her
place. This was characteristic of the way the place had been run and the
lack of attention to pastoral matters.
The building with its dirty old floors, glass-partitioned classrooms and
general lack of facilities appalled me. It was far worse than Long Eaton
and gave the impression of having had no improvements since it was built at
the turn of the century.
The school had been let go. The previous head, a kindly character who took
holy orders shortly after retiring, had left the staff to their own
devices. For some that meant dedicated work; for far more taking life easy.
A new head, Mr Stephens, had been appointed to tighten things up. And he
certainly did. By the end of the term he was generally loathed - not only
by the old hands, but also by us newcomers.
One of his first actions was to have windows inserted in all classroom
doors so that he could patrol the corridors and see what was going on. He
found the glass partitioned classrooms were useful. One day he came into
one of my lessons. He told me to carry on; he was not interested in my
class. He spent the lesson sitting at the back of the room watching the
teacher in the next room.
Certainly there were a number of lazy staff; the head of geography, a
venerable lady, could for example regularly be seen reading detective
stories while the class copied out the text book. But blatant spying was
not the way to gain staff co-operation.
Within a few weeks of his arrival he applied for the school to have a full
general inspection. When the report of this finally arrived, the staff was
not allowed to see it. A few sections were read out at a staff meeting, and
Heads of department were summoned to hear the report on their departments.
Today no head would get away with such behaviour. There would be
deputations to the office and the governors. Through the Co-op Education
committee I knew one of the governors. He let me have a quick look at his
copy. It was obvious why the head had not let us see the document. One of
the main criticisms was of the way he was handling reforming the school.
Stephens lasted three years before departing for a job in the south. His
replacement, Mr Moody, was immediately popular. Within a term he had got
the hated glass partitions replaced by soundproof boarding. About this time
we also got a new hall with a proper stage, and modern science labs. This
was probably a result of the inspection. The snag was that we had nearly a
year's teaching to the accompaniment of a pile-driver while they were being
built. External exams were held that year at the Meadows Boys' Club.
The school was 4 stream entry and was rigidly streamed. The form initials
were taken from the school motto Mundella School Go Forward. M being the A
stream. It was argued that the pupils did not realize this! One of
Stephens's innovations was to introduce form marks. Every three weeks marks
in all subjects had to be added up and a form order produced as for an
exam. Since this was before the days of cheap calculators, it meant an
enormous amount of extra work for form teachers. I was lucky in having a
son, Michael, who could be paid to do the addition and percentaging for me.
On the basis of these marks and exam marks - we had exams twice a year -
Stephens planned to move pupils up and down between the streams and even to
recommend that non-performers be moved to secondary moderns. There were, I
am glad to say, vehement staff protests and Stephens had to give in.
I liked Mundella pupils - with a few exceptions! They could be tough, but
if you took trouble and showed you cared, they responded. They were
markedly more appreciative than Rushcliffe pupils from West Bridgford. In
my first year I had a tough 3rd year, 3 F. Three of my five periods with
them were last periods in the afternoon - always a difficult lesson. When
they presented me with a set of liqueur glasses for Christmas, I knew I had
Another form I well remember was 2G who lived in a hut outside the main
building where they could make a noise without attracting Stephens. David
Pleat who later played for Nottingham Forest and is now a club manager was
in this form.
There were separate men's and women's staff rooms. Later, under Moody, a
3rd mixed staff room was opened where the younger members of staff tended
to spend frees, but as far as the women were concerned, not breaks. This
was because of the coffee ritual in the women's staff room. Miss Dorothy
Onions, whom I would call the mistress of the staff room, would be found
when you arrived every morning preparing proper coffee for break. None of
that instant stuff. There was a rota of those free in period 3 whose job it
was to heat it up ready for break. Woe betide you if you forgot, or worse
still let it boil over.
Miss Onions had a first class maths degree; she was said to have repeatedly
refused the head of department post. She lived with her great friend Doris
Barlow at Long Eaton. They had both been at the school many years. There
was I gather gossip about them in the men's staff room. Miss Onions had
long fair hair worn in coiled plaits over her ears. Another early morning
sight was Miss 0. brushing her hair and plaiting it. She was much respected
as a gifted teacher who worked her pupils hard and did her best for them.
Altogether a great character. A second Dorothy, Miss Crossley, was a close
friend. The three always had lunch together, taking their serviettes over
to the dining hall.
Miss Crossley taught English. Doubtless if she had been male, she would
have been head of Department. She looked after her elderly mother which
meant she could never go away on holiday. Unlike Miss Crossley, Miss
Winfield was a free spirit who gloried in having her own house and garden
and going on holiday with Ramblers. She taught commercial subjects and
English. Two other members of the older generation who stand out in my
memory are Miss van Raalte (German) and Miss Walters (PE). Miss Walters
must have been in her late fifties but was still active on the hockey
They were the last generation of teachers to have their lives dictated by
the marriage bar. I think I may have been the first married woman with
children to be appointed full-time as opposed to part-time. I would not
blame these older women for feeling bitter that women like me could now
have children and a career, but there was no sign of this. In fact it was a
very pleasant staff room.
Usually. One day people coming back to the staff room after lunch were
surprised to find the police there asking to inspect their hands. For some
time money had been disappearing from bags and coats left in the staff
room. Miss Onions had reported this to the head who had brought in the
police. They set a trap leaving a bank note marked with an invisible
substance that would stain the hands of anyone touching it. The note had
disappeared from the bag it had been left in. The only person with stains
on her hands was a part-time unqualified woman who had been brought in to
help with girls' games. She was a good tennis player; the club she belonged
to had apparently had mysterious financial losses. She was never seen in
school again. The police prosecuted; she opted for trial at crown court,
employed a top barrister, and was found not guilty.
Three senior men arrived the same term as I. Mr Hoard, tall, soft and
gangly was the new deputy head. He and the senior mistress had a very
unhappy time with Stephens Their main functions seemed to be to sit as
statues on either side of him at assembly. Mrs Houseman, the mistress, was
"a lady", always immaculately dressed without a hair out of place. She
taught English, very inadequately learnt later from the sixth form. Neither
seemed to be given any part in administering the school. Mr Sweetland, who
later became a County adviser, also arrived, as did Mr Orchard the new head
of English who set about getting some order into the English department. I
got on well with him, and the following year I got more rewarding forms to
teach and in due course some sixth form work, which would be essential for
getting a head of department. Mr Orchard left for a headship after 3 years.
I refer to these men as Mr because if I ever knew their first names I have
forgotten them. Everyone was Mr/Miss/Mrs except amongst the younger women.
Boys were of course called by their surnames. I called my first form boys
by their first names, an unheard of thing to do and heartily disapproved of
by many of the men.
With the departure of Stephens for Chippenham Grammar School in 1960 (?),
there was a marked change for the better. The removal of the glass
partitions between classrooms and the building of the new hall, which had a
proper stage and science labs had a big effect on staff morale. At the
time we all put this down to the efforts of our new head, Mr Moody (I have
no idea of his first name). However looking back on it I realize that the
report of the inspectors that we had not been allowed to see was probably
the real reason why new money was allocated to the school, and why Stephens
departed. The LEA must have written him a glowing testimonial to get rid of
The war-time/ post war bulge was reaching the secondary schools. More
schools were being opened. There was a particular demand for more grammar
school places; Nottingham city had one of the lowest grammar school intakes
in the country. In the county secondary moderns had started doing O level
until this was banned by the director J. Edward Mason. The county opened
new grammar schools: Carlton le Willows, Bramcote Hills, and Arnold High
School. In the city, High Pavement was moved to new premises at Bestwood,
and a new grammar school, Forest Fields opened in its vacated building. It
had been planned to move Mundella to a new building on the new Bilborough
estate, but Mundella staff resisted the move, so a new school was opened in
the new building, Bilborough Grammar School. It was time to improve
facilities at Mundella.
Earlier the staff and governors had successfully resisted attempts to make
the school single sex - as they had done with High Pavement.
As well as the new building, the school acquired the Colleygate infant
school premises next door. This became a sixth form centre and a library. I
can't remember the previous library if there was one. The regime became
more liberal, the senior master and mistress went round with smiles on
their faces and staff morale generally improved. We no longer had threeweekly
form marks, but form term positions were still taken very seriously
and pupils were still moved between streams. However the threat of
expulsion to a 2 Mod was removed.
Mr Orchard’s departure was a loss, but his replacement as Head of English;
Mr Jacobs - again I have no idea of his first name - was easy-going if not
inspired. At last I got some 6th form A level work. I was already doing
English for 6th form scientists. One of my students was John Wilde who
later turned up - already grey-haired - to become head of Chemistry at
Rushcliffe Comp. He was also one of my form tutors and I think helped my
relations with the science mafia.
Staff retired or left for other jobs. I particularly remember Jean Ritchie
who joined the French department, later became head of languages at The
Dukeries Comp and eventually as deputy head at Huntingdon. [Shirley
Greenwood, strikingly good-looking and dressed in the latest fashion -
stilettos were just coming in, came to teach geography. Not long after she
arrived, she got talking to a woman on the top of a bus, who, apparently,
decided she was just the daughter-in-law she wanted. She introduced her to
her son and romance blossomed into marriage. They eventually came to live
in his parents' house in Musters Rd and I occasionally came across her
while I was at Rushcliffe.]* Eileen (English) and a scientist whose name I
have forgotten also livened up the women's staff room.
Orchard had started a lunch-time club for the 3rd and 4th, the 34 Society.
I took it over when he left. We had debates, discussions, slide-shows, etc
and occasional outings in school time, We visited the Raleigh factory,
Players (still on Radford Boulevard) and the co-op dairy in Meadow lane
amongst others. The highlight was a coach trip to Dovedale, which we walked
down. I still remember the excitement and joy of one or two girls who had
never been to such a place before and marvelled at the clear water.
My time at Mundella was the age of the scooter. I bought mine, a red
Vesper, from Blacknells in Arkwright St. I passed the test first time. I
took it in Basford. In the course of it a dog ran out into the road
barking. The examiner assured me it had not been laid on deliberately to
see if I could cope. I enjoyed the scooter immensely. I often went for
rides at lunchtime visiting various co-op shops - I was on the NCS board at
the time. I got to know the new Clifton estate, old Meadows, W. Bridgford
and convenient short cuts in the city centre. I shopped on my way home
since the scooter, unlike a car could be parked almost anywhere. My route
took me direct through the centre, Pelham St, Wheeler Gate (convenient
parking at the side of M&S) Arkwright St. I had to abandon the scooter
during my 2nd year at Rushcliffe when I injured my back. I was then on my
second one. In its place I bought a little Fiat 500 with an opening roof. I
came to love this too.
The Mundella building was demolished in the 70's following the re-building
of much of the Meadows. When the City re-organised secondary education in
the mid 60s it lost its sixth form and became an 11 - 16 comprehensive. The
loss of population in the area and the opening of a new school across the
river at Wilford Meadows led to declining rolls and closure. The site is
now occupied by sheltered accommodation flats. The Colleygate building