Author Archives: Rebecca

Final debate of the year

Img_0010We’ve reached the final meeting of the term – so how to finish off another year in Book for Breakfast? In our previous meeting we looked at the different kinds of poetry in Alice in Wonderland, including a verse that appears in the shape of a mouse’s tale, a nonsense poem and a parody of a well-known verse of the time.

MinecraftA parody is a humorous imitation of a song or poem, and the group could think of various examples of current artists who make very popular parodies, including TryHardNinja and his Minecraft parody of Revenge.

In fact, many of the poems in Alice are parodies. Most are based on  verses we no longer know well, but one was certainly familiar:

Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you’re at

Up above the world so high, like a tea tray in the sky

We read out You are old, Father William, which is one such parody, and tried to work out what made it funny. We found comical ideas such as the old man standing on his head incessantly, or Image1turning a somersault in at the door. There was also perfect rhythm and meter, some alliteration (the goose with the bones and the beak), and the fact that in the end the father threatens to kick the son down the stairs.

For our final meeting then, what would be a good activity? Why, a debate of course! Firstly, Rebecca read out the court scene from the end of Alice, in which the knave of hearts is on trial, and Alice is called as a witness. It ends with all the cards flying up into the air, and Alice waking up on the river bank.

Meanwhile, the group were thinking of potential debate topics, arriving at four which we voted on using the patent ‘Cadbury’s method’ in which you place a mini-roll (or in this case a chocolate finger) onto your preferred choice. The potential motions were:

  • footballers are paid too much
  • there should be no school on Fridays
  • advertisements are harmful
  • wrestling is too violent

We chose to argue the case over whether there should be no school on Fridays. Img_0053

The group quickly divided into the proposition team, the opposition team, the chair, the timekeeper and the court photographer.

Img_0029Both teams had good arguments, including that you would have more time with your family and would be better rested (for the proposition) and that it would be expensive for parents who had to work, and that you would miss Friday fish and chips for school lunch (for the opposition).

As usual we had a very structured debate and it was great that everyone knew the format and how to raise a point of information.

Both teams presented their first and second speakers, their summary speakers, and responded Img_0056to the timekeeper and chair.

The meeting came to a close before we had time for a final decision on who had won – so it will have to be declared a draw. Will you all still come to school on a Friday? I hope so.

It has been enormous fun being part of Book for Breakfast and I (Rebecca) am stepping down now because I’m taking on a new role at our secondary school, Banbury Academy. I hope to stay in touch with you all as you continue your brilliant school careers!


Alice’s Oxford

Catherine, my guide

Catherine, my guide

“I have always wanted to go and see the sights in Oxford that inspired Lewis Carroll when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. So when my expert friend Catherine said she would take me on a tour, of course I cried Calloo, Callay, as it was clearly a frabjous day.

We began by going in to Worcester College, one of the colleges that Carroll would have visited while he was living and working in Oxford.

It has beautiful gardens and some people think that one of the Alicetour03passageways may have inspired him to write about Alice longing to be able to squeeze down the corridor to see the ‘loveliest garden you ever saw’. Do you think this could be the right one?

Catherine also showed me the lake in Worcester’s gardens, which is surrounded by birds and seems just like the pool of tears that Alice cries when she is nine feet tall – and which she swims in when she is small. Alicetour05

In the picture you can see me reading from the book while a swan listens, and hopefully enjoys itself. There were also ducks and a moorhen – although no dodo, eaglet or lory as in the story. We did see a dodo carving in the chapel.

Alicetour07Next it was on to see the inspiration for the gryphon, which sits on the main gate to Trinity College. With its dragon-like scales and snout, it closely resembled the drawing in the book.

In mythology, a gryphon is a creature with the head, talons, and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Our Annotated Alice book is sure that both Lewis Carroll and Alice, along with her sisters, would have seen it on the Trinity College gates.

Our next stop was Christ Church itself where Lewis Carroll was an academic, and Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean. You can go inside, and see further clues such as decorations around the fireplace that resemble Alicetour11Alice’s stretched-out neck illustration when she is first growing bigger.

However, for today, we ventured around to the other side, where you can peep into a garden and see the house where Alice would have lived, next to the Cathedral.

The white window in the middle of the picture, between the foliage, shows the house where the Liddells lived. One of the trees Alicetour10here is credited with giving Carroll the idea to have a Cheshire Cat on a branch.

There are other sights to see, but they will have to wait for another trip to Oxford – and closer study of the book The Annotated Alice.

It was especially lovely, however, to see members of Book for Breakfast involved in the end of year play in their costumes.”

  • Rebecca Mileham






Mysteries of the Mad Hatter’s tea party

TeapartyWhat happened at this week’s Book for Breakfast? We read the chapter of Alice in Wonderland in which Alice sits down to tea with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse.

‘No room! No room!’ cries the party, but Alice could see perfectly well that there was plenty of room, and joined them.

Much of the conversation turned out to be nonsense. However, by consulting the book The Annotated Alice, edited by Martin Gardner, we did find out that there were explanations behind many of the eccentric things mentioned – characters, situations or places that might have inspired Lewis Carrol.

The first of these was the Mad Hatter himself. You might know already that hat-makers in this period were often badly affected by the mercury they used in their work, sometimes behaving oddly. But the book revealed that there was an unusual gentleman called Theophilus Carter, known as the Mad Hatter, who lived in Oxford in this period. He always wore a top hat, and came up with inventions such as the alarm clock bed that would tip the sleeper out automatically at a set time.

There was also the mention of an incident at Lewis Carroll’s own rooms, where he stayed in Christ Church college, Oxford, that might explain the song Alice sings: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little bat, how I wonder what you’re at.Binsey

The story went that Carroll kept toys and games there to amuse children visitors, one of which was a flying toy bat. On a hot day, it flew out of the window and made someone drop a tea-tray.

Finally, there was the question of the treacle well. The girls who live in the well, according to the story, are Elsie, Lacie and Tillie. These are a play on the names of Alice and her sisters. L C is Alice’s older sister Lorina Charlotte. Lacie is an anagram of Alice. And Tillie is short for Matilda, Alice’s younger sister’s nickname.

But the treacle well? It’s a real spring, famed in Victorian times for its supposedly health-giving waters. You can see it today in the village of Binsey, near Oxford, as well as in the picture above.


Joining Alice in Wonderland

AlicebookSo, once we had completed the Dashwood history book, what would be next? The obvious choice was to turn to the book that Year Six were preparing for their end of year play – Alice in Wonderland.

Consequences01 So this week we played consequences using the Alice characters. In this game, each person writes a boy’s name at the top of a sheet of paper, then folds it over. You pass on the paper, and the next person writes ‘met’ and then a girl’s name. Then it’s ‘at’, and you add in the place where they met. They then have a conversation which results in a consequence, and finally what the world had to say about it!

Consequences02The whole story builds up as you pass the pieces of paper around – and then everyone reads out the results. We ended up with Mad Hatters meeting Alices and Red Queens, lots of people losing their heads along the way – and the March Hare taking over the world.

But what would be next in our exploration of Alice in Wonderland? Join us next time to find out.

A Dashwood timeline

20160304_094338Now that we’ve reached the 1960s in Dashwood’s history, it is a good time to put things in context. While changes happened at our school, what was going on in the rest of the world? We made some decade markers from 1900 to 1980 and started to fill in the details on a timeline on the wall.

But first, someone asked, why is a century called the twentieth century when all the years begin with 19? To understand this it helps to
think that in the first century, the years ran from 0-99. Then in the second century, they ran 20160304_092814
from 100-199. In the third century, the years ran from 200-299. So the years began with a two even though it was the third century.

It’s a bit like realising that in the eleventh year of your life, for example, you go from being ten and one day, to finally being 11 – when you enter your twelfth year of life!

Starting in the decade of the 1900s, the timeline soon showed that Dashwood’s foundation stone was laid – in 1901. There were medical inspections at school, and the heating was fixed!

20160304_093717In the 1910s, World War one broke out.  Happier times were ahead in the 1930s with the coronation of George VI in 1937 (for which the children of Banbury received souvenir spoons).

But all too soon the Second World War had begun, and Germany invaded Poland. Rationing came in and evacuees came to Banbury in the 1940s. Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese in 1941 and America joined the war.20160304_093737

At school, headmistress Bessie Charles resigned and David Proctor arrived in 1943. After the war ended, and evacuees had returned home, Banbury’s population had reached 18,000. In the 1950s Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

The 1960s saw happy times – England won their first and only World Cup in 1966 – and Mr Underwood became headmaster in 1968. 20160304_093745

And what did Banbury have to look forward to in the years to come (which we haven’t yet finished reading about?) Well, for one thing, the birth of all the members of Book for Breakfast!

Second World War Banbury

P1450508How did World War Two affect Banbury – at home and school? We reached the Second World War in our book about Dashwood’s history this week.

One chapter recounted the experiences of Banburian Annie Meadows, who attended Dashwood as a child and then as a teacher. She was given the task of settling the evacuees who arrived in Banbury with local families, and she took in two boys herself.

Another chapter talked about the precautions and changes at Dashwood itself during the war, from air-raid shelters on the playground, to the arrival of evacuees in the classroom.P1450555

So what were the effects of the war on home life and school life? What was the evidence we could find from the book, and from our archive materials? The Book for Breakfast group members split into two teams to find out.

At home, the team pointed out that blackouts would have been frightening. P1450545Everyone had to have blackout curtains in their rooms to stop light spilling out and giving away the location of the town. Money was tight, and it must have been hard for Annie to ask families to take in the evacuees. The government only provided money for their food, and the children ended up being in Banbury for three years.

At school, the team noted that ‘overcrowding was still such a problem’, because of all the evacuee children. In fact, pupils only went to school on alternate days to ease the pressure. It P1450526was very cold during winters and ‘the water in the toilets froze’.  There was ‘tape over the school windows’ in case of flying glass if a bomb fell. Children ‘had to wear gas masks on their backs’ and ‘had to practice putting on gas masks’ just in case. The school took ‘many precautions against air-raids’ but in fact ‘there was only one air raid near Dashwood, in 1940 at the gas works’.

The team found a newspaper cutting that showed the local people who attended a huge party on Dashwood’s playground at the end of the war. With many people in fancy dress, the photograph includes the grandmother of a pupil who went to Dashwood sixty years later.

1945 Fancy dress VEday


Q&A: the 1930s at Dashwood

P1450281There were questions galore in this week’s Book for Breakfast. As we read about the 1930s in the Dashwood History book, we noted down questions of two sorts. One was the factual type of question: who was this person… what did that mean… where was that place? And the other type was a bigger sort of question, usually beginning with the word why? These queries related to historical and cultural issues – and we might have to think hard to answer them.

We took turns to read around the group, and everyone could go and stick their questions up on the white board as we went along.

There were certain things that seemed familiar in this period of the school’s history. The stores records showed that teachers had copies of 1939 Stores book extractBlack Beauty for the children to read. This classic title is still on our school’s recommended reading list, along with others that we have talked about reading in Book for Breakfast.

P1450289We also remembered hearing about Dashwood’s infant school on Britannia Road before. This was where Bernard Samuelson‘s workers could send their children. He was an industrialist whose name is recorded on the current Banbury Library building, which he also funded. Two people said that after we had talked about foundation stones in our meeting, they had spotted examples of them around Banbury. Good work!

P1450253Group members also remembered how to read the word ‘née’ meaning ‘born’ in French – showing what a woman’s surname had been before getting married. Examples in the 1930s chapter were Josie Gisell, née Castle, and Gwendoline Barnes, née Jarrett.

But by the end of the 1930s chapter, there were still lots of questions on the board for us to tackle, either using the archive material in the book, or using our other knowledge.

P1450259Everyone could come and choose one or two questions for the group to try to answer. We talked about why the infants had to move to a new building as the book said they did in 1932. This also linked to the question was the school overcrowded? We knew that Banbury had been growing, and that in the early years had accommodated 518 pupils. So perhaps by the 1930s the number of children was such that separate infants’ provision was required.

Another question was about whether a mixed school meant boys and girls, or mixed older and younger pupils? We knew that initially the classes were separated into boys and girls, but this word ‘mixed’ P1450262meant that boys and girls were now being educated together. We talked about how women had gained an equal right to vote as men in 1928, so perhaps ideas about men and women’s roles were changing, along with approaches to learning. In the book there was a photograph of a class of scholarship pupils, boys and girls together.

Someone asked why had the school leaving age been raised to 14? as the book mentioned had happened in 1918. We thought perhaps it was to do with life P1450252expectancy getting longer, or jobs becoming more specialised and requiring more education. Then someone raised the question of why some children left school and went to work at 14 – a young age compared to today. We discussed that their wages would be important to the family, as there was no welfare state providing support for families at this time (a universal family allowance did not come in until 1945).

We had also read in the book that some children left school due to illness, and a few even died at the young age of 10 or 11. Why was there no proper care when children were sick? one group member P1450277asked. The group knew about Alexander Fleming and penicillin, the wonder drug which cured deadly infections and diseases such as pneumonia. Fleming made the discovery in 1927, but the new antibiotics weren’t widely available until after the Second World War in 1945.

The school registers, we could see, recorded the children’s fathers’ names, along with where they went after Dashwood. Some gained scholarships, some went to work, others sadly became ill, and one or two ended up in a P1450266remand home – a young offenders’ institution. Why did the register need to record the children’s fathers’ names? one person asked. We supposed it was to do with linking family members up together – and as the book said, many generations of the same family often attended Dashwood.

Do different generations still attend Dashwood? one group member asked. As we looked around the room, we could see that this was not the case for the current group, whose parents had moved from other places to Banbury. Would the group members’ children attend Dashwood? One member reflected it P1450288would depend on whether she went away to university, or decided to stay locally, or move for a job – or indeed whether she had children!

A factual question raised by two people was what was the Metcalfe prize? Gwendoline Barnes remembered receiving this in 1934. To answer this we could turn back to the pages of the log book, where in November 1916, the P1450256head teacher recorded that the Thomas and Henry Metcalfe charity had decided to award a 10 shilling prize for good conduct, regularity in attendance, and proficiency. We agreed to try to find out more about who the Metcalfes were.

We didn’t get to answer all the questions, so two that were left related to the souvenir spoons that the Mayor of Banbury gave out in 1937 to celebrate George VI’s coronation. What was special about a spoon? they asked. Would you prefer a different souvenir gift? What might it be?! Let us know.


How is school similar to a century ago?

20160205_092641In the last blog post we reported on a debate we held during Book for Breakfast looking for evidence that school has changed radically in the last century. In contrast, this post presents the views opposing the motion:

This house believes that Dashwood has undergone a revolution in the last hundred years.

The last post showed that lots of things have changed since Dashwood was built – from the location of the school itself, with its outdoor toilets, to the fact that one hundred years ago, girls and boys played and learned separately. So what arguments did the opposition gather to counter these arguments?

20160205_092053Mujtaba’s evidence was that we still monitor attendance today, just as they did in Edwardian times.

He pointed out that the log book records a visit by the HMI – an inspector, just as we have now. (Although one difference is that it was His Majesty rather than Her Majesty’s Inspector!) 20160205_092512

Anastazja pointed out that the school badges were similar now to then – and the school colours are still green and gold.

The handwriting children learned was cursive, just as today – she noticed this from a diary by Annie Meadows who was at Dashwood in 1912.Annie Meadows writing

Anastazja also said that we still have assembly today, and that the subjects of lessons are similar.

Ellis summarised his team’s points and added that school uniform is still compulsory, as it was a century ago.

We still have class photographs taken, he spotted, and pointed out several examples. We also 20160205_093110still win attendance certificates.

So who do you think made the best arguments – or what evidence do you feel really shows that school has changed, or is essentially similar to one hundred years ago?

Leave your views by sending us a comment!

1902 boys in caps



How has school changed in the last hundred years?

For the last few weeks, the Book for Breakfast group has been reading a book that’s all about the history of our school, from 1902 (when the school opened on its former site near Banbury town centre) to 2008 (when it moved to its current location). The book’s content is based on the archive of photographs, records and plans that the school still has, and you can find out more about it on the Dashwood Archive site.

P1450233As we read about Dashwood’s early history, it was clear that some things about school were very different, while others were remarkably similar to Edwardian times.

20160205_091901We decided to have a debate to see what evidence and arguments we could put together using the book and the archive, relating to the motion:

This house believes that Dashwood has undergone a revolution in the last hundred years.

Beth chaired the debate, made sure we did 20160205_093507things correctly and announced the different speeches. Cameron was the time-keeper, giving everyone two minutes to speak, with a period in the middle when points of information could be raised. Rezija was our court reporter, whose notes have helped with this blog.

20160205_091750To propose the motion we had a team with first speaker: Dione, second speaker: Rabiya, and summary speaker Natalie.

To oppose the motion we had first speaker Mujtaba, second speaker Anastazja and summary speaker Ellis.

1902 building view

So, what were the arguments made by the proposers to show that Dashwood today is radically different to a century ago?

Dione pointed out that boys and girls were separated a hundred years ago at Dashwood – showing evidence in a photograph in which 20160205_092250you can see a wall dividing the playground.

The school had different entrances for boys and girls and they even had separate head teachers. Dione also said that children had to pay to come to school, unlike today.1902 Staff

Rabiya’s evidence of change was that the teachers had to wear uniform in the early years, and she showed this in a photograph of staff.

She also pointed to the log book, in which the head teacher would make handwritten records of each day’s events, which we do not have any more.

1902 girls log bookNatalie summarised and added that location of the school has changed and the new building is very different to the old one, which a century ago had outdoor toilets.

She showed the attendance certificates looked different, and that in those days, children skipped between lessons accompanied by a teacher playing the piano.

Are you convinced? Join us in the next blog post to find out what the evidence for the opposition was.


Big and small: seeing things like a Lilliputian

Can you work out what this is?

Magnified04It’s the ball at the end of a red biro!

What about this one?

MagnifiedIt’s a stick of spaghetti!

You can find these and many other excellent magnified pictures here.

P1430923In Book for Breakfast this week we continued to think about describing things as if we were tiny, like the brought-to-life people in The Indian in the Cupboard, or the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels (a book with a special link to Banbury, as we discovered last week).

Each person thought of an object that would look different if they could shrink down to see it on a different scale. Then they had to describe the object as if they were a Lilliputian, and see if everyone else could guess.

Anastazja wrote about ‘Two sticks coming out of the middle, and twelve blobs put on the sides of a circle. The blobs are about 5cm away from each other. Another stick is moving’. It was a clock.

P1430932Dione described ‘A large green box with a bit of white in the middle and big enough to hold about 45 Lilliputian men’. She was talking about the first aid box.

Beth said ‘It’s white on black. When it’s big, it’s smooth, but when small, it’s bumpy. There are lots of them in one group. You see them all the time’. It was a key on a computer keyboard.

Natalie wrote ‘A thing made of countless fibres that are interlocked, large enough to use as a P1430915sleeping bag shaped like a cylinder but with a bend near the end and a hole at the top’. She was describing a sock.

Mujtaba said ‘A flat rectangle lighting up, suddenly it shakes and makes a noise. Then a large green and red button shows up and a voice comes out.’ It was a smart phone.

Ellis gave us a mystery. ‘It is like it has chicken pox, and it can smell wet and is like a carpet and it leaves a stain when dirty.’ What on earth could it be?!

Finally, because it was the last Book for Breakfast of the year, we had normal-sized festive mini rolls to celebrate! Happy new year!