As my son G and I walked out of the infant school playground for the very last time last week, I remembered leaving primary school, something I did twice too. Both times my Mum made me look back to school, and say a goodbye to the building. My second primary was just like G’s, a Victorian red brick building with an old fashioned walled yard and railings. So, when I compare my school days to my children’s school days, so much has changed and yet everything feels strangely familiar.
We have high hopes for back to school being more ordered year on year, it never is. Like my mother, brother and me, we are destined to fly along the road like a Quentin Blake illustration, book bags, coats and PE kits flying behind us. We are often late because G dawdles over breakfast, just as my brother did, drizzling syrup on his porridge and waiting for it to cool to just the right temperature. I now know that is completely normal, and that all parents struggle with the school run, no matter how swan like they appear on the surface. We were incredibly lucky, Mum was a primary teacher before she became a play therapist – we were brilliantly supported throughout our school years.
With separate sites for infants and juniors our school run is more complicated than mine ever was, it also involves navigating busy roads with no crossings, although I do remember at my first primary standing on the road bridge over the A34 each morning and watching the cars fly past underneath my feet. My school run also went through the park, and school was close to my Gran’s house, I often wish my children had more green space to let of steam and lived closer to wider family. It is always a treat though when Grandad visits and comes to pick them up.
Mr A is much more involved in the school run than my Dad could be, at least until Dad became self employed. Mr A seems to know more people in the playground than me, where Dads are just as common a sight as Mums, particularly in the morning. Flexible working hours and acceptance of joint parenting, make it easier for some parents to share the school run.
Uniform has relaxed and advanced too, I always remember having to wear a little blouse and a tie on elastic, whereas my two have much more practical polo shirt and no tie, which means no ironing, a job my parents were relieved when I was old enough to be paid to do myself.
Back to school preparation always involved a trip to town with Mum on the bus to shop, to try things on and celebrate with cake in a little cafe. I look back at this nostalgically, but I can imagine it was probably quite stressful and Mum probably had a million other ways she would rather have spent the day.
Nowadays, I order uniform online, with the kids at the end of term, just in case there is nothing left come September. It arrives the next day or so, and after a quick fashion parade at home to check it all fits, we pack it away into the back of the wardrobe and forget about it for the summer. There is often a short trip to town for smaller bits and pieces – pants and socks, school shoes, or for the fun bits like pencil cases and bags, often combined with a cinema trip.
My hair was always neat and tidy, with hair clips and plaits. L runs a mile if I suggest she tie her hair back, she relented during a class nits invasion, but her long blonde mane normally flies behind her, just as her Dad’s did when I first met him. G’s hair is also resistant to any kind of styling, boys hair nowadays is allowed to be much more wild and free. It’s funny, because you would expect it to be the same in the early 80s, but looking back it was more likely to have been cut neatly under a bowl, well that’s how my Mum appeared to have cut my brother’s hair anyway.
L’s first day
One thing is certain, the time flies. I remember Miss L’s first trip to M&S to buy uniform, I chose M&S because it was fair trade, good quality, had changing rooms and a cafe; we made an exception that year and went to the shop, as it seemed an important rite of passage. She loved trying it all on in the changing room. Here she is emerging a little nervously on her first day, with Mr G and his favourite M&S bear.
G’s first day
When Mr G started, we bought his uniform with Dad in his local M&S, and celebrated with cake as Mum loved to do after. We managed to buy ridiculously long shorts, as you can see below, Miss L still wore skirts that year, but it was the last year, she loves M&S smart black shorts and trousers now.
Ready for September 2016
We’re bang up to date with these photos my two ‘juniors’ are ready for their even earlier start (hopefully this doesn’t mean we will always be late) and their new teachers in September. The bag was a brilliant find for L, her old one had broken, she loves the cat and dog pattern and it has a water bottle holder. G had a collection of rucksacks already in preparation for no longer having to have a book bag.
Blimey, they grow up fast!
Looking back at school days is always emotive, that first day we dropped L off we were all so sad that my Mum wasn’t there, as she died the January before. Seeing Mr G in his leaver’s assembly made me feel emotional on so many levels, pride mainly, but also a sense of how fast time passes and sadness at what Mum has missed, I am so proud of my two. I wish my Mum was still here to have this comparison conversation with, as she did the bulk of the school runnings.
I can’t wait to share this with my Dad though, who I also need to thank for scanning the top photo for me, which he has had in his wallet all these years, and for modelling being a great photographer for me, he took some brilliant shots, before the days of digital, there are more here. Here he is with my brother on his first day, this time taken by me. My brother’s oldest son starts school this September, so it felt extra fitting to share this one too.
You can find out more about how uniform has changed through the ages over at M&S, where they have a fascinating history of school wear through the decades – they have been making it since 1927 and each decade has it’s unique style. Technology too has come a long way. Thanks to M&S for supplying our uniform and collaborating on this post, all opinions remain my own.