39. School

Mum became a prefect at school. This photo is labelled “Note the Prefect Badge”. The photo is dated June 1951

Nottingham Girls’ High School

Although mum had started at Nottingham Girls’ High School (NGHS) in September 1945, most of her school years fell in this period. She did not say much about what she did at school, simply that she went! She did mention some class mates, e.g. Anne Taylor and some teachers (see box) including Miss Henderson and Miss Gornall. She noted that, on 1 April 1949, the French mistress, Miss Henderson, played an April Fools’ trick on the class which caught them all out.

There are signatures of mistresses at Nottingham Girls’ High School – including Miss Gornall – and some prefects in mum’s autograph book.

She also mentioned that she played tennis at school and that periodically there were sports’ days. She studied practical cookery and sometimes noted food items she was able to take home including  cheese, potato and onion pie, mince pies, cake, dropped scones, egg custard and stuffed tomatoes.

Far right of mum’s school photo in 1949 with mum circled
1949 school photo in its entirety

Special School Holidays

Mum carefully noted when she was at school and when it was half-term, holidays etc. As well as regular holidays, there were some special holidays during the time mum was at school. In November 1947, she had a day off school for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, our queen, and Prince Philip (see Chapter 45) and, in April 1948, there was a half day holiday for the silver wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, our queen’s parents. (see Chapter 45). In June 1949, mum had a day off school when Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Nottingham (see Chapter 45).

School Attendance Affected by Weather

In general, mum attended school regularly but her attendance was affected by weather and illness. Mum travelled to school by bus and there were times, particularly in the winter of 1946/47 (see Chapter 45), when the bus could not make the journey because of the weather. There is an interesting photo, from a slightly later period 1952/3, of two buses trying to pass each other on the Hill on a snowy day in the book “Kirkby & District from Old Photographs” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee. Mum also missed odd days of schooling when the weather was particularly foggy.

Unable to get to school because of snow
On 27 January 1947, mum noted that only ten girls in her form had made it to school. By the next day, the number was down to nine and mum noted that the bus skidded twice coming home from school.  The next day mum stayed home herself and she heard from her friends that the number of girls in her form had reduced to seven. She had two more days off because of the snow and then returned to school on Friday 31 January along with 11 others in her form. But, there was more snow over the weekend and she missed at least one more day of school in the first week of February.
That same year, on 26 February, mum set off for school but had to return as the bus could not get up Mutton Hill. She did manage to get into Nottingham that day with grandma, perhaps by train (but did not go to school!). On 5 March, something similar happened but on this occasion, she was unable to get into Nottingham by train. She noted that there were no buses or trains and this meant they missed going to the Theatre Royal to see “Just William”. Mum noted that her friend Valerie [Frith] had gone to school and had only got home at 5.45 am the next morning!
Mum’s school report for that term noted that she was absent seven times that term and late six times. Presumably, this related to the weather.
Huddersfield bus stuck in snow 1947 © Arthur Shaw and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Extract from mum’s report Spring term 1947

School Attendance Affected by Ill-Health

Mum missed around two months of school at the end of 1948/the beginning of 1949 because of ill health when she required surgery for an abscess (see Chapter 37). Initially, she resumed school on a mornings only basis. On 2 February 1949, mum went to see Miss Merrifield, the headmistress but did not specify whether that was something she and her family had requested to discuss her return to school or whether it was initiated by the school. While it is clear that mum was very unwell, requiring surgery for an abscess, she returned to church and social activities more than a month before resuming school! I cannot think that mum would have countenanced all this in my case when I was that age! I recall having to be on death’s door to miss school and we certainly were not allowed to do other activities if we were too ill to go to school.

Extract from school magazine 1949/50. Miss Merrifield was Head while mum was at NGHS. Mum noted with the magazines that “Miss Merrifield is just as I remember her

According to mum’s school reports, she was absent a total of 25 times in Autumn Term 1948 and Spring Term 1949 (18). Some of her subject reports, for Spring Term 1949, commented on her absence. 

Mum’s school report for Spring Term 1949. Her English teacher commented that “progress in this subject has been severely handicapped by absence” while her Arithmetic teacher noted that “Sheila has worked well since her return”.

In June 1947, mum noted that she went to be X-rayed from school. I don’t know if this was because of an injury or was perhaps some form of screening chest x-ray, e.g. for TB. This did come after grandma had had a prolonged unspecified illness and I do not know if this X-ray was connected to that. In 1947, there were two occasions where mum noted having one day’s lessons the next day, e.g. Monday’s lessons on a Tuesday! I don’t know the reason for this or whether this is something she had to do individually or whether this affected the whole class or school.

Mum’s Disciplinary Record

Mum’s diaries give the impression, albeit from a biased perspective, that her disciplinary record was good! She only noted having two detentions although her school reports record five!

Bottom right hand corner of mum’s school reports showing times absent or late and number of detentions in that term

School Social and Dramatic Activities

Mum sometimes noted social and dramatic activities occurring at school. For example, in July 1946, there was a Bring and Buy sale at the school, which Minnie attended. Mum also noted parties and carol services. She also attended school plays and took part in the school’s annual dramatic competitions. However, in 1948, her class came bottom in that competition but mum did note watching the finals and there was a report of these in the school magazine. In 1949, it appears that her class (LVC) came second out of the three Lower Fifths, scoring 41½ out of 70. It fell to LVW to represent the Lower Fifths in the final with extracts from Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer”.

NGHS magazine 1949-50 front cover
Report of NGHS dramatic competition 1948
Report of NGHS dramatic competition 1949

School Fees

It appears that mum was attending school on a fee-paying basis and that, in September 1946, she took an examination for Mansfield Girls’ Grammar School and won a scholarship. However, grandad noted that they did not accept this as mum did not want to leave Nottingham Girls’ High School having already been there for a year. I don’t know why they did not apply for the Mansfield scholarship earlier.


Mum sometimes noted when she had exams, in what subjects, the length of the exams and what the results had been. In July 1949, mum listed her exam results and compared them with two of her friends, Shirley Sadler (SS) and Jeanette Crowley (JC). It is of interest, but perhaps not surprising, that mum organises the results with her best results at the top! Her grades were down on the previous year and this could perhaps be explained by her two month absence over December and January.

Mum’s Exam Results July 1949


The school held an annual prizegiving at the Albert Hall in Nottingham in October each year. In 1947, grandma attended with her friend Mrs Hill and in 1949 with grandad. I am not sure if mum won any prizes as she does not mention them (and I feel sure she would have done so if that had been the case!)

School Certificate

Mum, Shirley and Jeanette went on to gain their School Certificate the next year. It appears that mum and her friends achieved relatively modest results. They passed their school certificate but did not score “very good” in any subject and they did not reach the levels required for matriculation exemption.

The School Certificate
The School Certificate was an educational attainment standard qualification established in 1918. To gain a certificate, students had to pass six subjects including English and Maths. To gain a matriculation exemption, students had to obtain at least a credit in five subjects including English, Maths, Science and a language. It was replaced by GCE O-levels in 1951 meaning that mum’s year was one of the last to take it.
Exam results 1950 including results for mum (S Parkin) and her friends (S Sadler and J Crowley)

School Reports

Among mum’s papers were all her reports from Nottingham High School for Girls. There are 15 of these covering the period from 1945 to 1950. These had subject reports on one side and an overall assessment on the other. Her first report commented that she had worked very well but that  if she “can overcome her shyness and take a more active part in classwork she will benefit more fully from school life”. By the next report, the same teacher commented that she was taking a more active part in classwork.  In general, her reports were very positive although one, in 1947, encouraged her to have more confidence in herself. That same year, she was described as a helpful member of the form. The following year, she was described as slow but “very thorough”! That same year, she was praised for having worked conscientiously but was described as not very alert or ready to take responsibility. In 1949, her form mistress described her as “well behaved but inclined to be rather wrapped up in herself”. That same year, another form mistress commented that she was quiet but reliable. The head, Miss Merrifield, rarely made substantive comments but, on that occasion, she encouraged mum to “show more initiative both in her work & in all school affairs”.

Mum’s final report from Nottingham High School for Girls