Unless you live in Besthorpe, Nottinghamshire, the news that the village school has closed won’t mean much to you but I’m pretty sad about it. My book ‘There’s Only One Danny Ogle’ (OUP 2001) was based on my teaching experiences at Besthorpe Primary School in the early 1990s. I taught there three mornings a week and had the entire junior school – all 15 of them. The infants, in the next room, numbered around 11. You’d think such small classes would be a doddle to teach but actually it’s more challenging because having such a wide age and ability range meant I had to prepare six lessons in one.
I loved it though, even if we were a little hampered if we wanted to compete against surrounding schools in sports. See the huge horse chestnut tree in the playground? Imagine how interesting netball matches were with that as wing defence!
In ‘There’s Only One Danny Ogle’ Danny moves from a large junior school in Huddersfield where he’s been trying like mad to get selected for the A team to tiny ‘Westhorpe’ where there is no football team at all. The story revolves around him getting a team together under trying circumstances. Mrs Bulinski, the head, detests sport and Mr Spanner, the caretaker, has taken advantage of this by turning the playing field into his own private allotment, with clematis growing up the goalposts. The inside of the PE shed leaves much to be desired, too. ‘Plastic hoops had been left scattered amongst tangled skipping ropes and soggy beanbags. A rusting netball post lay sideways across, as if struck by lightning. Then, in the far corner, I saw it. I let out a gasp of horror and stumbled forward…’
Poor Danny. Poor Besthorpe Primary School (1879-2009) RIP
PS: The good news is you can still buy the book! A bargain at £4.99.