We were understaffed and overcrowded but we got on very well
�A former teacher at a now defunct Dagenham school has unearthed pictures from more than four decades ago and spoken about the closely knit community that existed before the small school merged with two other secondaries to form a huge comprehensive.
Tod Shearman, of Woodford Green, used to teach at Beverley School for Boys in Halbutt Street, Dagenham, in the Sixties before it merged with Dagenham County High grammar school, Parsloes Avenue and Halbutt Girls schools to become Parsloes Manor Comprehensive in 1970.
At a time of severe teacher shortages, he joined the school as an unqualified teacher before training and returning with a full qualification in 1968.
Mr Shearman said: “The photograph was taken in 1964. There was a greengrocer on the corner of the Heathway and Parsloes Avenue called Gipp – I suspect that one of the Gipp boys is in the photograph.”
Among his fondest memories he listed “the cameraderie amongst the staff and the goodwill of most of the kids”.
“They were Dagenham kids,” he said. “I’m a Chadwell Heath boy myself. Most of the teachers in that photograph felt an affinity with working-class children.
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“We used to cross Parsloes Avenue to take kids to play football in Parsloes Park. We use to put on all manner of events, from house chapels and school plays to operas. It really was culturally vibrant. On the whole the relationships were very good. Of course there were the odd horrors.”
Asked if the amalgamation has changed the atmosphere at the school, he replied: “Crikey, yes. Beverley Boys was between 200 and 300 boys, Parsloes Manor has 1,200 to 1,300 children, boys and girls. That was something of a challenge.
“I don’t think any of them had been in a mixed school before.
“Female teachers had to cope with boys for the first time. I’m sure there were one or two ‘casualties’ among teachers from the old Dagenham County High who were apprehensive about it.”
He also spoke of the “acute teacher shortage of the late Sixties”.
Mr Shearman said: “You very often started the school year not even knowing whether we would be fully staffed or not.
“Teaching in those days tended to be dominated by women. A lot of people were emergency trained during the war to fill the gap in teaching for a while.
“They used a Box and Cox system whereby they crammed as many students as possible into one classroom. There were times when we had to have part-time tables.
“In those days Dagenham was a challenging area in which to teach. It was deemed a rough area.
“But kids are kids – they are the same everywhere.”