Llandaff CIW Primary recently celebrated its 50th birthday. Former pupils and members of staff explain what the school means to them
Matthew Lewis, Pupil 1979-1986
I still remember my first day quite vividly: being asked to find my book drawer and coat peg which were marked with a sticker of an orange car; then being gently introduced to the class by Mrs Rudge. For me, it was the start of actual memories and also of a long period of stability, something I’ve been anxious to provide for my own children through the challenges presented by my job.
I’m most fond of the small snapshots of memories; playing on the logs and climbing frames of the infant school; the smell of the polish on the floor of the two assembly halls; ‘Music and Movement’; and the garish pattern on the curtains. I fondly remember all seven of my teachers, but the last three were particularly influential: Mr (David) Watkins, who taught an entire generation to love rugby; Mrs (Mair) Price, who loved poetry and gave many of us our first understanding of Welsh; and Mrs (Valerie) Wilson, who was never flustered and never cross.
Some of my earliest memories include being sat enraptured by Mr Sutton’s stories of being a child in South Wales during the war; discovering and loving Little Donkey (the carol) in Mrs Rudge’s class; drinking unpleasantly warm milk from miniature bottles through a little blue straw; and Miss Samuel – my first headteacher. She was always a little stern but always very fair. I also remember the kindness after I’d once thrown up on the stairs (and that strange sand-like disinfectant that got scattered over the affected area).
Some of my most precious memories include scoring a try in front of my parents in (I think) 1983 during the ‘Dragons vs Druids’ 7-a-side. I was always a fairly mediocre rugby player so this is still etched in my memory as my ‘JPR’ moment.
One of my happiest memories was being dressed in stripy Victorian-style bathing costumes (made from bed sheets), complete with boaters and painted-on moustaches for our Victorian Music Hall end of year concert. It was our last day at the school and myself and Matthew C took to the stage hamming up Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside. It felt funny, sad, but mainly very happy. We left the school with such optimism that summer.
There was definitely an ‘old fashioned’ feel to the school and the teaching staff, without necessarily being ‘fusty’ or outdated. Now in my 40s, my handwriting is still exactly the same style as I was taught by Mrs Lark in about 1982 and I’m often asked by my own children why it is so old-fashioned and ornate. I also remember there always being music; always a teacher who could play the piano and a broad repertoire of hymns; the words to Autumn Days still make me smile.
I moved on to The Bishop of Llandaff High School in 1986 and then to Aberystwyth in 1993 where I read Political Philosophy. I went to Sandhurst a couple of years after graduation and have been in the Army ever since.
Heather Fry, Teaching Assistant 1979-2008
I started working as a teaching assistant at the school in 1979 and I was there for 32 years.
It was almost like a private school with lots of lovely families. I started off part-time and Margaret Samuel was the Headteacher then. She was animal mad. We had a budgie called Bobby and he sadly died. Margaret decided to bury the budgie in the school grounds, involving the children to show them the theme of life and death. They buried the budgie and one of the children went home and told his parents that Mrs Samuel had planted Bobby! We also had a rabbit that kept eating the curtains and a cat that used to visit every day.
We were all happy there and there were lots of memories.
We went to Cefn Onn one day and one of the children, George, fell in the pond. On one occasion we went to Bristol Zoo and the bus caught on fire on the way home on the M4!
We all worked until we dropped. I remember seeing Margaret [Samuel] lying flat out on her office floor because she was suffering from a migraine. But we knew how to enjoy ourselves too. We had lots of dances where we all dressed up and at one dance, Margaret dressed up as Margaret Thatcher, even though she couldn’t stand her.
We buried a time capsule on one of the banks 25 years ago and that’s still buried there as far as I’m aware. We also used to take the children around the village at Harvest Festival giving out gifts. The Church had a huge influence on the school. The Dean used to come to the school, mostly on Fridays. He helped plant a tree in 1973.
In 1991, we went to the cathedral to see Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they visited. We’d been waiting and the children had been clutching these daffodils all morning. By the time Diana and Charles finally got around to us, the daffodils were drooping but Diana accepted them as if they were a £100 bouquet. She was wonderful with the children, she really was. They brought William too. He was 6 years old at the time.
After 28 years at the school, I had to have hip surgery but still helped out in the office for another four years.
Rachel Mainwaring, Pupil 1979-1986
My reception teacher was a lady called Mrs Rudge. Miss Samuel was the Headteacher of the Lower School. I still clearly remember sitting down for a glass of milk every day and being able to dress up with the fancy dress clothes.
I once wore a pair of rubber lips in to school and was messing around with them, blowing kisses to the boys and Miss Samuel confiscated them. I was mortified as I considered myself to be a good girl up until that point!
I remember the school concerts really well too. In my first year, I was the tinsel fairy and my mum made the most brilliant costume. I had to dance around the Christmas tree and add tinsel to it. I felt very pretty and important.
One of my favourite teachers was Mrs O’Shea. She once wrote in a school report that I had a very sunny disposition and was very chatty, perhaps a little too much and that has never really changed!
Another teacher who made a real impact on me was Mr Jenkins. Not only was he very handsome (he look very similar to Magnum PI), he was also a fantastic swimmer and took a group of us to Atlantic College for a lifesaving course. There aren’t many people who can persuade me to get up at a ridiculous time to swim in the very cold sea but he did.
I loved the Eisteddfods, and often played the piano and did the English recitation. I also remember being a flower girl and learning a folk dance which the boys had to join in with too, much to their dismay.
When I left, I went on to Bishop of Llandaff High School and then obtained a degree in journalism from Cardiff University. After 21 years as a journalist, I am now a freelance writer and communications specialist.
Judith Thompson, Pupil 1967-1968
I started in the reception class of the old Victorian school in 1961 aged four.
My classmates and I made the transition to the new school in September 1967 for our last year of junior education. There were still two separate buildings for Infants and Juniors but the Junior building had an ‘upstairs’.
My teacher was Mr Griffiths and the teacher of the other Standard 4 class was Mr Sutton. We all loved our new school building. The classrooms were so big and bright with huge windows. We could see out over the whole school grounds. The old school had been cramped and dingy with high ceilings and raised narrow windows.
Each new classroom had a side room with a big metal sink where we could prepare and clean up our art equipment. We also had a big new hall that could accommodate all the junior pupils together for our assemblies, concerts and plays. We even had a new piano!
Outside, we had a much bigger playground and a large field to play on and to use for our PE lessons. In the old school, all we had was a very small concrete yard. And all the new toilets were indoors without spiders!
The following September, 1968, I moved on to the Bishop of Llandaff High School, then in 1975 to Aberystwyth University to study for a BA Joint Honours in History and Classical Studies. I then took a fourth year at Aberystwyth to take my PGCE and train as a primary teacher.
My first teaching practice was at Llandaff City in 1978 in a Standard 1 class with Mrs Lark, who had been my teacher in the old school. I went on to teach for 37 years – my last 16 years teaching pupils with severe and complex learning needs.
Jo Kenyon, Pupil 1982-1990
My first teacher was Mrs Rudge and I thought she was great.
Reading was one of my favourite things to do and in the Infants, story time at the end of the day was a highlight.
I remember having a half day’s holiday for St David’s Day and a girl in my Reception class who used to eat crayons regularly. Learning to tell the time in Year 2 with Mrs Selby was one of my most precious memories – I was so proud when I mastered it!
Gymnastics was my worst area – I really had a mental block when it came to doing a forward roll, despite practising for hours on my bed at home. Mr Jenkins, the ‘scariest’ teacher in the Junior School, knew I needed help with it, so every time he passed me in the corridor he’d call out to me and make me try a forward roll there and then!
Everything felt ‘close’ in the school. Everyone knew each other and the school had a really happy ‘buzz’ around it, while the staff still had the authority and respect from all the children. The teachers knew all our strengths and areas needing development, encouraging and supporting us.
I went, as most children did, to Bishop of Llandaff High School and then on to Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education. I qualified with a Batchelor of Education with Qualified Teacher Status.
In my final term at Cheltenham, I saw a job advertised at Llandaff Primary and applied. Though I didn’t get the job, I went and did a week’s supply work there and never really left. It was a little strange at first, sitting in a staffroom with teachers who had taught me 13 years or so before – but I think they actually found it harder than me. I worked there for the next four years and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
David Morgan, Pupil 1976-1983
In the Infants, I had Mrs Harper for two years and Mrs Selby for the other. I remember having a classroom in a corner of the school hall. I also remember being Little Boy Blue in a school production. And I remember going down steps on the left to the toilets, with tracing paper for loo roll!
In Standard 1, I had Mrs O’Shea who was amazing and used to read us the Adventures of the Robber Hotzenplotz, which I adored. We were in a classroom at the very back of the school building.
In Standard 2, I had Mrs Lloyd and we grew tadpoles into frogs. In Standard 3, I had the scary Mr Smith. Woe betide you getting ‘Smithlicated’ (basically put in a headlock) if you did something wrong. I remember that we made lots of arty things with him, including Viking longboats using match boxes in the middle.
My final teacher, in Standard 4, was Mr Sutton. He was a wonderfully kind man who taught us loads of stuff about the world, from classical tales and history to music and art. Nowadays he would probably be too restricted by the curriculum and targets.
The other teachers that I remember are Mrs Lark, Mrs Ashworth (whom I seem to remember being sick over on the way back from swimming at Guildford Crescent) and the wonderful Mr Watkins, our beloved rugby teacher who died at a tragically young age. Our Head was Mr Powell, who was a distant figure to me. He had a twin – and that freaked me out after he passed away.
The school was a real family. It was small enough that everyone seemed to know everyone. I loved the location too. On my walk home, I could go to the newsagent in the High Street to get The Beano or Whizzer and Chips.
I loved school; I ended up going to Bishop of Llandaff, which I also loved. I went on to study Biology at Cardiff University, then teacher training and a Masters at Canterbury Christ Church University. I am now in my 25th year of teaching – an Assistant Headteacher near Margate in Kent.
Iris Selby, Teacher 1967-1991
When I first started teaching at Llandaff Primary (the old school), there were two classes in each classroom, 30 children down one end with the teacher and 30 children down the other end with their teacher. On top of that, the Head would be sat with us – that’s how crowded it was! When we moved to the new building, it was desperately needed. Many years before that, the kids would bring a penny to put towards the new school. I’m probably the only person alive who has taught at both the old school and the new school.
My son was in the first class in the new school. I’ve got a photo of him pointing to a board and on the board it says ‘Today I am 7 and today is Tuesday September 5th 1967.’
I was very happy in the new school as I had my own room. Margaret Samuel came as the Head after about two years at the new school. It was lovely because the children were so well-behaved – they’d been brought up well at home. We got told not to teach times tables by the Education Department at one point and when we went to a conference, I let on that we were still teaching them and got told off!
We also had an inspector in from London once who was horrible and told me that I needed to learn – I’d been teaching there 23 years! She went straight to Margaret Samuel to complain about me and when Margaret asked who she was referring to, she replied ‘the blonde piece!’
A while later, she came into school and was met with an autumn wall display that my class had produced and this inspector was so impressed, she even wanted photos of it. She asked Margaret who’d produced it and Margaret replied with the words ‘the blonde piece!’
I used to get the kids to write stories, against advice that I shouldn’t because the ‘kids couldn’t spell’. I created word diaries for the children to write in from sheets of paper that my husband would bring home from work. I’d spend hours stitching them together for the kids to write in.
Rachel Loaring, Pupil 1979-1986
I don’t remember being worried on my first day at Llandaff City as many of my friends from nursery were also joining the school, and my older brother was there already.
Miss Samuel was the Headmistress and I remember always thinking she was quite strict and frightening – all the children were fearful of being sent to her office. My reception class teacher was Mrs Rudge, who I recall being a warm, jolly lady, everything you would want as a Reception teacher.
I do recall one incident in her class when I was painting on the easels in the corner; myself and another girl (Nicola Harries) thought it would be fun to express our artistry by painting on each other – Mrs Rudge did not approve!
Mrs Harper was my next teacher – I was disappointed as I wanted Mrs Selby because she gave out stickers to her class each week for learning their times tables. Memories of this year at school include building robots out of egg boxes and toilet rolls, and newly hatched chicks being brought in by the mum of one of my classmates (Matthew Lewis).
I also remember our Christmas play being themed around a boy and a girl decorating a Christmas tree. We had taken in decorations from home and the teachers had decided what decorations were going to be used. Rachel Morgan (now Mainwaring) and Lisa Finlayson were the tinsel fairies (chosen because they were the smallest girls in class, both with long blonde hair), Matthew Green was a cracker and Hayley Wainwright and I were Japanese ‘geisha’ girls because I had taken in my Nana’s old decoration of a silk parasol made from a handkerchief – it obviously had nothing to do with Christmas other than being something my family had always put on our tree.
I recall playing in the playground at break times. I loved climbing on the logs they used to have at the bottom of the playground near the scout hut (where I had gone to nursery). I also remember playing on the climbing frames, and falling off them and banging my head and scraping knees many times onto the tarmacked playground (no Health and Safety in those days).
I went to Bishop of Llandaff High and then gained a 2.1 in Geography from Bristol University. After working as a chartered accountant for over 15 years, I made a life change and moved into the education sector and am now a bursar at an all-girls independent boarding and day school.
Helen Biggin, Governor 2000-2009
My very first involvement with Llandaff City Church in Wales Primary School was when Gregory, the eldest of our four children, joined Mrs Clarke’s Reception Class in September 1992. He still has close friends from that time – as indeed do I from among the parents.
After being involved with fundraising at the beginning of the ambitious new build project, I became a Foundation Governor in 2000 and was elected Chair of Governors a year later, a post I held until 2009.
On a personal level, my loveliest memories of the school are seeing all four of our children thrive there, and the sense of belonging and community it engendered in them. The sports days, nativity plays, Easter parades, concerts, productions and school fairs were such enjoyable, inclusive affairs, if chaotic at times.
With my governor hat on, I was pleased with the work we did to complete a major building project which created an excellent environment for the pupils, staff, parents and the wider community. It was great to foster productive relationships with Llandaff Cathedral, other nearby churches and organisations and local people, which benefited the children by putting them at the heart of community activity.
What made the school special was its strong Christian ethos and the values it promoted of love, respect, tolerance and kindness. While good academic standards – or success in sport or drama or singing – are, of course, always important, the school also succeeded in helping children realise their individual potential.