Starting at ‘Benmead Road School’ in the Sixties
How fate stepped in …
As mentioned before in the Sterling Road Cinema article, our Mum and Dad moved to the bottom of Exeter Road in the early sixties. Indeed, so did many other young families, and playing in the street with the other kids was quite common. This isn’t practical these days. And anyhow, I’m over sixty now, and my ‘playing in the street days’ are somewhat behind me.
Exeter Road is, as most of you will know, a road leading off the south side of Kidlington High Street – and then ‘re-joins’ by morphing into Sterling Road past the Fire Station. The nearest (primary) school was, and still is, North Kidlington, though we all tended to know of it as ‘Benmead Road’ due to being located off Benmead Road. The next nearest was Blenheim Road (but only Infants) and then Edward Feild* Primary School and West Kidlington Primary School.
The demarcation line for whether you attended Benmead Road or Edward Feild was The High Street. ‘North’ of the line and off to Benmead – ‘South’ and to Edward Field. As you can now tell, all of us in Exeter/Sterling Road should be in the Edward Feild catchment zone. Even though, due to a rear entrance, Benmead Road School was more convenient.
Then fate stepped in …
When it was time for Mum to send me off to primary school (circa Sept 1965?), it seemed that the school was ‘down on numbers’ and invites were granted to those just outside the true catchment area and on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’, so to speak.
Well, it was a no brainer for us to be sent to Benmead Road School only 5 mins up the road rather than the 20 min walk to the bottom of Bicester Road. We used the entrance at the rear of the school down the right-hand side of the hardware shop. It used to be Woodward Bros back then with the pathway between the shop and (where the Chancellors Estate Agents are now) a spooky old cottage with a very long front garden full of veg growing.
So I, along with a few others from our street, went to Benmead Road Primary School. And a jolly fine school it was back then – and hopefully still is.** Mr Penny was the Headmaster at the time – a gentleman with a wooden leg, if I recall.
The following year’s intake of pupils was, I figured, more fully subscribed as the next tranche of kids in our street due to start primary school ended up being sent to Edward Feild. So our street became a mix of kids going to both Benmead Road and Edward Feild.
Fortunately, there seemed to be this ruling that once one member of the family was accepted at Benmead Road School, then any other siblings were automatically entitled to go there regardless of whether any surplus spaces or not. So my sister also went to Benmead Road three years later.
But, after chatting to the then current Headmistress, there is now an astonishing number of differing languages spoken by the pupils – if I recall correctly something like as many as thirty plus !
* this is the correct spelling for ‘Feild’ in the school’s name.
** I went to a Christmas fare about 2 years ago and, looking around the buildings, very little of the school infrastructure had changed bar a few coats of paint and general maintenance.
Further Memories of Benmead Road School
My children were at North Kidlington (aka Benmead Road) School in the 1980s, and I became one of the drivers of the school mini-bus. The bus was odd in that it had an automatic transmission. I was told that this was because a previous headmaster had had a wooden leg – Phil Bennett’s Mr Penny.
After being tested I was passed fit to drive. That test drive was nearly all the experience I had of driving an automatic. My first outing was take pupils to Hill End. Driving round the Ring Road I had occasion to brake and in my inexperience I put both feet on the brake pedal. The mini-bus stood on its nose. At that moment time slowed down and the vision of a class of pupils flying past my ear to splatter on the windscreen flashed through my mind. Luckily this did not happen, but I have been very wary of automatics ever since.