Archive and Special Collections

Becoming a Teacher

Guest blogger, David Handley, shares his thoughts and provides a snapshot of life training to be a teacher at the City of Leeds Training College from 1959 to 1961 – Keith Rowntree.

David Handley, centre wearing glasses, with Fairfax friends in 1961

In the year Castro seized Cuba, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, Thatcher became a new member of parliament and the first Mini went on sale, I walked up St Chad’s Drive with a suitcase in hand (no wheels and handles then) about to begin a new and exciting venture! Trams had only recently become obsolete on the City Square to Headingley route. Turning right onto The Acre was a memory never to be expunged. So began two years of training to be a teacher in an institution highly regarded, as was Goldsmiths, St John’s in York and St Lukes in Exeter……and two years was all it took. CLTC was organised a bit like the Oxbridge collegiate system. Fairfax became my home as far as sleeping, eating and socialising. It was presided over by Matron and Hall Tutor, first Fred Bassett and secondly by John Pooley who appeared as if by magic from my old grammar school in Newcastle-under Lyme. The students in Fairfax were quite a mix. There were the fresh-faced innocents from grammar schools, but in the year above were a significant number of ex-National Service chaps who had served in places such as Cyprus during the emergency and others in Germany when the Cold War was in full swing. They were anxious to let us know how green we were. I don’t recollect any students from public schools. Students were identified in those days by a sort of uniform. Many bought college blazers with an elaborate badge but the main thing was the college scarf! Just about everyone had one and wore it with pride….long and green with white stripes. You could tell which college or university a person was from by their scarf…..not any more… identifying feature long gone.

The Principal was Dr Rich and his deputy was the formidable Miss Parnaby. Students were trained either for secondary or primary schools. All of us had a main and subsidiary subject and all had to ‘pass’ in both the psychology of education (including Piaget) and the theory of education, led by an impressive lecturer by the name of Dr Westgarth. The sociology of education was yet to make it’s debut, though Richard Hoggart and his book The Uses of Literacy was on the scene nationally and by a Yorkshire man to boot. There was a legendary aged spinster who lectured in biology known affectionately as Minnie Dickinson. Everything that lived she knew the name of, be it common or Latin. Another extraordinary member of staff was also in post, Godfrey Wicksteed, lectured in mathematics, had only recently returned from being First Mate on Mayflower II which had recreated the voyage first made in 1620 to the New World. There was an academic air about the place, tempered only by being cast out to teaching practices, but usefully in some of the rougher bits of Leeds.

Socially it was a world of its own. There were frequent ‘hops’ (dances) in one or another of the halls and the college boasted its own band fronted up by Reuben Robson from Cavendish. There were regular pilgrimages to the Star and Garter at Kirkstall, where trad jazz was regularly played. And of course, boy met girl! Many met their spouses here. There were end of year going down balls and at one such Ray Ellington starred……remember him? A dramatic change in the second year was when men and women were allowed into one another’s rooms……..but only on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It might have been a concession in that Lady Chatterley’s Lover had just won a court case allowing publication, the Penguin edition sold out on the first day. And then there was Carnegie, a specialist third-year college for male PE teachers, just next door and didn’t they think they were ‘it’. They appeared at the college social events sometimes with their blazers sporting a man throwing a plate……but that’s another story.

And so to becoming a qualified teacher. Year 1, Burnham pay scale, £520 per annum and a West Riding post where Alec Clegg was king. And where in a co-ed sec mod the girls and boys played in separate yards and the staff had separate staffrooms for men and women. No one took a gap year, everyone got a job easily and just where they wanted it and friendships were forged that lasted for decades……we are hoping to assemble soon to mark 60 years since we first clapped eyes on one another and The Acre…….it was all such a privilege. And one last point. We all got a local authority grant plus travelling expenses per term. And we learned what it was to be chided by Matron for not getting our sheets out on time on laundry day, but above all, we learned that schooling could be a joyous experience for both pupils and staff. This was my introduction to Yorkshire; freed from home, new friends, Tetleys and rugby league…..and I have stayed in the county ever since but now North Yorkshire rather than the revered West Riding.
And so the sclerotic 50s gave way to the swinging 60s and here we are!!