An infant school which has served generations of a community is marking its 50th year of teaching children in Tring.
Goldfield Infants’ School and Nursery, which caters for children in nursery up to Year 2, first opened the doors to pupils on its current site on Christchurch Road on April 27, 1965 after moving from the town centre.
The new site for the town’s former Gravelly Infants’ School – which dates back from 1875 – was built in response to increased demand for pupil places across Hertfordshire and today there are 250 pupils on roll aged between three and seven who are taught and supported by 35 members of staff.
The school sports an impressive staff retention record that continues today, as many staff past and present have taught there for significant lengths of time – many for more than 20 years.
Headteacher Debbie Stevens is proof of that fact, as she first arrived 20 years ago to set up the nursery and has now been at the helm for nine years.
She said: “It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be part of this community of happy, enthusiastic children and wonderful families.
“This milestone marks 50 years of a learning community that has continued to grow and evolve while maintaining a caring ethos, based upon ‘building learning powers’, relationships and creativity.
“I am proud of and grateful to our fabulous staff and governing body team for their enthusiasm and commitment.
“This special year has highlighted the strength of feeling and support that exists for Goldfield in the local community.
“We have a strong relationship with Bishop Wood Junior School, so we have a transition process that ensures a confident transfer for the children and retains their links with us through visits, projects and their siblings.
“The rich learning opportunities that the 50th celebrations have offered, alongside Trings 700 Charter year events, have been awesome and have brought this year’s history and geography subjects to life for our children.” Seven new trees, including an oak, have been planted on the school field to represent the school’s growth in the past half century and each class chose an object – including a memory stick with a recording of the school song and a uniform jumper to put in a time capsule before it was buried.
During the afternoon, the children entertained staff past and present with songs, poetry and maypole dancing. Each class designed a flag for the occasion – one of which was raised on the flagpole outside the entrance – and the pupils learned a new school song to mark the special year.
Homework assignments saw the children design a ‘Goldfield Gazette’ front page from 1965, which gave them a little taste of fashion, music, inventions, TV and news from the era.
Current Year 2 pupil Amber Webbley, six, said: “I remember meeting my friends when I was in the nursery and building with the bricks.
“My best thing to do in Year 1 was making faces of characters from books with plates. I felt really proud when I got onto silver star books and now I can bring in my own books to read.
“I really like being outside and especially going to the pond. I go to look at the tiny frogs, sometimes I go at playtime and I go after school too. I like coming to Goldfield and seeing my teachers, I make things for them and bring presents. Each time I think to myself ‘I don’t want to leave this classroom’ and then I like my next class as well.”
Sandra Foskett has been involved with the school for nearly 40 years as both a staff member and a governor, and now she describes herself as a ‘helping grandma’.
The 66-year-old said: “I have seen a great deal of change at Goldfield. The children used to come to school wearing their own clothes as there was no school uniform.
“Teachers only had a blackboard and chalk to use as a teaching aid – no interactive whiteboards or computers. All of the classrooms were inside the school building but now there is a lovely outside classroom which is used all year round.
“Children went home at lunchtime if they didn’t have school dinners and playtimes were passed with the children playing chase or bringing their own skipping ropes.
“Although times have changed one tradition remains – a hand bell is rung every morning to start the school day!”
As part of the festivities, the old headteacher log books have been dug out and displayed in glass cases for parents, staff and pupils to take a look at.
The documents date back to the opening of Gravelly School in 1875 and include marvellous detail from each year including how many children attended each day, the introduction of a class register, basic lesson plans and how many pupils were absent thanks to whooping cough.
Mrs Stevens said: “The log books are a fantastic record of how both schools became established and life in school throughout this period.
“Children and visitors alike have enjoyed looking at class photographs dating back to 1975, one of which shows our reception teacher and site manager who were in this class together!”
Goldfield was one of many schools thrown up in the 60s to cope with an influx of children in the county, constructed from single-glazed sections of window walling and flat roof.
This rush job means that the buildings are now all in a very poor state. Despite constant repairs, water leaks through the roof into many classrooms and seeps through the frame and lower windows.
As it is single glazed the building is inefficient, receiving low energy ratings each year. When the school was awarded an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted grading in 2008, inspectors told staff and governors it was their biggest challenge.
This year, following several bids to Herts County Council for financial support, funding has been approved and a project to replace the window walling in October and the roof next January is now underway.
Mrs Stevens said: “Up until last Christmas, Goldfield still had its original boiler and inefficient heating system. This was replaced in a previous project completed in February – it made an enormous difference to the school this winter term.
“The impact of all of this much needed work will be significant and is very exciting – what a fabulous birthday present for our school community.”