Saving the 70s- Stella Chandler

We interviewed Mrs Stella Chandler in the summer of 2014.  In 1970s Stella was appointed as the first headmistress of Eastbrook Primary School.  Here are a few clips, which we hope spark some of your own memories.


Teaching -Transcript – I was appointed head teacher of Chaulden Infants School in 1961 and in the 70s I was still head teacher of Chaulden infants school but  had at that point applied for the headship of a new school which was being built up in Grove Hill.  The reason I applied of a second headship was because it was being built as an open plan school which was a new project in education at that time.  The open plan school meant that the classrooms were not enclosed.  There were six home bases, two large work areas and a very large hall and of course a kitchen and the idea of opening a new school with the open plan appealed to me having been head for 13 years at Chaulden where the classrooms were the normal type.  Grove Hill was a new estate and the children were in the junior school until the infants school was built and so I taught them with another teacher in the junior school for, I can’t remember, either two or three terms until the school was built and then during the summer holiday we moved all the furniture into the new school and I was very fussy about the furniture.   I made sure the size of the chairs fitted the size of the children so that if the children were short their feet touched the floor so that when they were writing they were sitting on a firm seat.  We moved the furniture in and the children came and we started the new term.  We called all the six home bases by colours.  There was a yellow home base, a purple, a red, a blue and a green and another colour.

J: Orange?

S:  Probably, it was a long time ago I have forgotten. 

Building Eastbrook School -Transcript - This was in St Agnells Lane where they had some Victorian cottages which they pulled down to make the entrance to the school so I rescued the blue bricks from the washhouses of the old Victorian houses and had them placed in the inner courtyard that we had in the school as it was being built and also the cottages had iron lintels under the windows which were shaped with oak leaves.  I think they had been made by Cranstones, the local ironmongers.  So that was the building of the school and the opening of the school.  Yes, we had a lot of visitors to Eastbrook school because it was open plan and they wanted to know how the open plan was working and I found from a head teacher’s point of view the open plan was very good because I could go round and see what was going on everywhere but for the teachers it was very hard work and we had to have a very strict timetable for the areas in which the children could work and the use of the hall for PE lessons so it was very hard work and I am not surprised that open plan schools have gradually died out.  We had acoustic tiles in the ceiling and therefore we didn’t really get much noise, it wasn’t too noisy, the children were very good.  Of course, in the 1970s it rained and it rained and it rained and at one point I thought the school was like Noah’s Ark because there was a pool all around the school and therefore the children had to change their shoes when they came to school and sometimes their trousers because their trousers were wet.

Learning with bullion boxes -Transcript – This is the children out in the playground and they are building with building blocks and there’s a lovely one of this boy here building and they have bullion boxes which I had managed to get from the Bank of England.  They had held three gold bars and were made of fibre so that if they were shot down during the war and they went to the bottom of the sea they could be brought up because the fibre was so strong.  I heard that the Bank of England were crushing these boxes but they were just the right size for children to build with.  They were built like houses so the children could crawl into them, and that’s the story of the bullion boxes. 

building with bullion boxes

building with bullion boxes


Teaching -Transcript – Well of course it this was before the days of computers and therefore the children learnt by actually doing, and if they were learning pints, half pints and gallons then we had large bowls where the children measured the water and they saw that the amount of water was the same in a small container as it was in a shallow one.  It was all very complicated but what they were doing was learning the language of mathematics and similarly with all aspects of mathematics they were learning the language by doing, but they don’t do it like that so much today I understand, they do it all on computers. 

Inviting the owners of the land into the school-Transcript - Well first of all of course in the curriculum we had Harvest Festival and it was at Harvest Festival that I invited the two old Stanbridge brothers and their wives to come into the school because the school was on the land that had been compulsorily purchased and I felt that they should come and see what a lovely school It was and what use was being made of their land.  So they came to the Harvest Festival and I got the cornucopia loaf from the Landbridge baker which was in Boxmoor and at the end of it we had the harvest displayed and I said to these old gentlemen what would you like from the harvest display and one wanted the top of the cottage loaf and the other one wanted the bottom of the cottage loaf and so for several years after that when we had the Harvest Festival, they came and then they got too old to come and so I used to take the bottom to one and the top to the other.   At the time there was a gentleman called Ben Stops and he had a garage on the A41, he had built it himself and he was very generous in Hemel Hempstead for all sorts of reasons, and he said to me one day I have a cart which you might like to use for your school.  So I got this cart and we called it Ben’s cart and we used it for Harvest Festival and for all sorts of things and the children really enjoyed Ben’s cart and that was another learning process because you could measure the wheels and do all the educational things with it. 

Ben's Cart

Ben’s Cart decorated for Harvest Festival


Decimalisation – Transcript – That’s interesting because I think somewhere I’ve got is how we did, it was fascinating but I was very fortunate because my husband was a superintendent at the Bank of England and he of course had to have all the knowledge about the changeover and so he brought me all the booklets and things and also the head of Broadfield, she went on a course and she came back and she had all the infants head teachers together and she gave us a lecture on the changeover of the old pence to the new pence so when you say how did we do the changeover? that I think was when I was at Chaulden.

1977 Silver Jubilee- Transcript Oh yes, we had a Jubilee Concert Oh yes, the children learnt the National Anthem and all the verses.  We had a party and all the usual jollifications that you do.  Yes they loved that, they made all the hats and red white and blue and all the medallions.  Yes that was great. 

:N:  Did you decorate the school?

:S:  Oh yes, red, white and blue everywhere.

Story of a pupil- Transcript Well I had been brought up that when I didn’t work very hard, my mother used to say “you know you’ll have to pull your socks up” and when I started teaching one of the children hadn’t worked very hard and I said to him “you know you’ll have to pull  your socks up” and the little boy pulled his socks up.  I learnt very early in teaching that children take you so literally, that was one of the funniest things

Fashion in he 70s – Transcript Well of course very short skirts came in in the 70s and I was still at Chaulden when the short skirts came in and some of the classrooms were quite high up and so from the road you could see the classrooms so when the students came with their short skirts it was a bit embarrassing some times but then trousers came in and although at first it was frowned upon for teachers to wear trousers but then I was very pleased about it because I felt  trousers were more dignified for them to have to wear trousers but of course I had been used to wearing trousers because I had worn them in the Land Army so it didn’t seem strange to me.

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