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!



Tiny and tall: Gulliver’s Travels

St Mary's churchyard

Gulliver’s Travels is linked with St Mary’s church, Banbury

In The Indian in the Cupboard we enjoyed the way Omri comes up with miniature things for Little Bull to use. The difference in scale between the huge boys and the tiny Indian is colossal!

There’s another really famous book in which there is a huge difference in scale between some of the characters – and it’s called Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift. The book was published in 1726, and what’s really exciting is that it has a link with Banbury! These are the very opening paragraphs in which the publisher introduces the main character:

The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us on the mother’s side…

Although Mr. Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers.

In St Mary’s churchyard in Banbury, there is a stone which commemorates Swift’s book although there are no Gulliver graves there any more.

So what happens in the story? We read some of part one of the book, called A Voyage to Lilliput, and discovered Gulliver is a sailor who was shipwrecked in the East Indies. He describes how he eventually wades out of the water, extremely tired and hot, and lies down on the grass to sleep. When he wakes up:

I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for, as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner.  I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my arm-pits to my thighs…

So Gulliver is somehow tied down on the ground, inspiring famous illustrations such as this one from an 1860 edition of the book (photo here)

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver’s Travels

But by whom? He eventually finds out:

About fifty of the inhabitants came and cut the strings that fastened the left side of my head, which gave me the liberty of turning it to the right, and of observing the person and gesture of him that was to speak.  He appeared to be of a middle age, and taller than any of the other three who attended him, whereof one was a page that held up his train, and seemed to be somewhat longer than my middle finger…

Gulliver persuades the people of the land he discovers is called Lilliput to release him, but they call him the Man Mountain and want to examine what he’s carrying in case he has any weapons. So they make a report of everything in Gulliver’s pockets. In our Book for Breakfast session, we read out the descriptions they gave, imagining what it would be like to see ordinary things if we were tiny, like the Lilliputians.

Can you do the same? We drew some of the things to try to make it easier! The answers are below.

  1. In the right coat-pocket of the great man-mountain we found only one great piece of coarse-cloth, large enough to be a foot-cloth for your majesty’s chief room of state.
  2. In the left there was a sort of engine, from the back of which were extended twenty long poles, resembling the pallisados before your majesty’s court.
  3. In the large pocket, we saw a hollow pillar of iron, about the length of a man, fastened to a strong piece of timber larger than the pillar; and upon one side of the pillar, were huge pieces of iron sticking out, cut into strange figures, which we know not what to make of.
  4. In the smaller pocket on the right side, were several round flat pieces of white and red metal, of different bulk; some of the white, which seemed to be silver, were so large and heavy, that my comrade and I could hardly lift them.
  5. Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom, which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by the lucid substance.  He put this engine into our ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it.GullivercoinsAnswers: 1: handkerchief, 2: comb, 3: keys, 4: coins, 5: pocket watch

Did you get them right? Join us next time to find out what happened next in our exploration of big and small.

Sad stories, silly stories

P1430635P1430574In this week’s meeting we reached the end of The Indian in the Cupboard and discovered how the author, Lynne Reid Banks, decided to bring the story of Little Bull, Boone, Omri and Patrick to a conclusion.

It was a happy ending… but a sad one too as the boys said goodbye to their friends. When we’d finished, we ceremonially took the books and added them to the Dashwood School library for others to enjoy.

P1430604As a special extra this week, we also heard readings by some of the children who are in Miss Gooch’s literacy group. They have been creating sequel chapters for The Indian in the Cupboard, and shared their adventurous, surprising and dramatic writing with us.

Everyone made constructive comments about what they liked or found really effective in other people’s writing.P1430268s

P1430611To remind ourselves about the vocabulary we had learned during this book, we had previously played a game of ‘Silly Stories’ in which you fill in the gaps with adjectives, nouns, verbs and adverbs.

You don’t know if they’re going to make sense until you read the story out loud, and you can get some pretty funny outcomes.

So for this final session, we made up our own silly story, one group writing a tale with missing words, and the other group supplying them.

Nobody plans their suggestions in advance, and you don’t know what words other people are going to suggest, so it’s all a mystery until you get to the reading out at the end.


P1430636The resulting story went like this, with the missing words in bold:

I had such a gruesome adventure! It all began in Tasmania, with me and Cristiano Ronaldo. We were terrorising through the coconut rose when we heard the call of a cat. We soaked forward, and fell into a water bottle. All of a sudden, a fatty kangaroo came kicking towards me and separated us. Eventually we found each other and flew away in a Lamborghini.

Pretty silly? Try writing your own and see what you come up with!

The case of the mysterious machine

P1430192All the year sixes in Book for Breakfast were away this week on their residential, so just four group members gathered. Instead of focusing on reading The Indian in the Cupboard we solved a mystery – and had a great time!

In our meeting room we found a piece of kit that someone had been using – but the question was, what it was for, and how could we find out? By observation and experimentation, Rezija, Dione and Anastazja discovered:

  • You can push down the handle on top
  • The black piece can move in and out and has A4 and A3 written on it. We knew these were paper sizesP1430141
  • Could it be something for storing paper?
  • There was a switch that kept the handle locked if you pushed it to one side while the handle was down
  • On one edge there is a bit that looks like an arrow. Do you put the paper in there?
  • P1430147Could it be a paper shaper? Is it a stapler?
  • What if you try it out by putting a piece of paper in it, then pushing down the handle
  • It made holes in the paper! It is a hole punch
  • But what is the black sliding piece for, with A4 and A3 written on?
  • Is it for positioning the paper? Yes, but P1430159why do you need to do that?
  • …ah, it’s to make sure the holes are made in the middle of the paper. And you can change the setting for different paper sizes.

Well done everybody! Later we realised that if you look at the underside of the hole punch you can see where all the little circles go when they are punched out of sheets of paper.

This might have given us a clue earlier as to what the machine did.

P1430175Inside the hole punch there were two very shiny things that seemed to be important. Mujtaba already knew that the machine punched holes when he saw it, so could he and Anastazja work out what these shiny things were?

They had a good look and experiment, and found:

  • the handle doesn’t stay down when you P1430174push it, it bounces back up again
  • the shiny things are what make this happen

They agreed the coiled bits look like the middle of pegs – and then Rezija realised that they are springs. Correct!

Everyone wanted to write a riddle or a poem about their investigation – and some people decorated their paper with holes around the outside! Here they are:


Can you spot the word hidden vertically in Rezija’s poem?


Here is Mujtaba and Anastazja’s jokey poem


Dione went for an acrostic poem



Back to the future

Book groupWe built on each other’s ideas today, creating a sculpture by using some nice little clips that came along with the felt-tip pens we use at Book for Breakfast. We had been reading chapter 7, which had this passage:

P1430116“Little Bull isn’t a toy. He’s a real man. He really lived. Maybe he’s still in the middle of his life – somewhere in America in seventeen-something-or-other. He’s from the past.”

P1430130So we asked – if you could go into Omri’s magic cupboard, and emerge at any time of the past or present, where would you go, and why? As each person shared their answer they came to the front to build on to the sculpture. Some of the ideas were:

  • P1430074Victorian times
  • a decade or two into the future to see how my family has changed
  • to the time of one of the World Wars to find out what it was really like (either First World War, 1914-18, or Second World War, 1939-45)
  • right back to the beginning of time, to have a dinosaur as a pet!

Ellis also said you could take a piece of technology or an invention back in time and see what difference it would make, how it might change what we do or how we live in the present. A great idea to think about – and why not leave a comment at the bottom of this post if you can come up with an example.

We also met some more new vocabulary.

Imperiously means arrogantly or over-importantly, perhaps acting like a king or queen.

Everyone looking 'agog'.

Everyone looking ‘agog’.

Someone mentioned imperious sounded like emporium which is a lovely old-fashioned word meaning a shop.

Magnanimously means generously.

Agog means stunned, and we all had a go at looking agog!

Reverently means treating something very respectfully, to show it’s very special.

Rabiya demonstrating looking 'incredulous'.

Rabiya demonstrating looking ‘incredulous’.

Galvanised is when you are shocked suddenly into action. It also describes a metal bucket when it’s been coated with zinc! Fancy that.

Incredulous means a facial expression or tone of voice that shows you really can’t believe something is true.

So why not galvanise yourself into action and magnanimously share with us any ideas you have? If you can think of how the present would be changed if you took an invention or technology into the past, then leave us a comment. We promise to be agog at your ideas and treat them reverently!

How many meanings for ‘quiver’?

Reading around the roomHave you ever thought how many meanings the word ‘quiver’ can have? It was vocabulary time in this week’s Book for Breakfast meeting. As we took turns to read chapter six aloud, we looked out for any language we didn’t know well, or which we wanted to check the meaning of.

So what did we find? Here are the words, in the sentences they were in.

Chapter six‘a Chief with a quiverful of arrows on his back’: we found you could look at the word quiver in three possible ways. It could be a noun, meaning the holder for arrows. It could be a verb, the jelly was quivering. And it could be an adjective, his knees felt quivery.

‘”I wish you’d stop this stupid business,” he said peevishly’: the word peevishly means ‘in an annoyed way’. Patrick was cross Finding new vocabularythat Omri was treating the plastic Indian as though he were a real person.

‘the twigs had been pliant ones taken from the garden’: the word pliant means bendy or flexible, and Little Bull had bent the willow twigs into arches. From this word we also get compliant meaning someone who is easy-going and happy to be flexible – although sometimes too keen to follow others and not question things. 

Reading around‘the patched look of a real tepee made of odd-shaped pieces of hide’: this isn’t the verb ‘to hide’ but hide meaning animal skin.

‘Patrick was looking at him as if he had gone completely screwy’: when we might jokingly say crazy or mad now, the author has used the word screwy.

What other words have you seen recently that you weren’t sure what they meant? Can you share any here – along with their meanings? Can you find any more words that can be nouns and also verbs?

To leave us a message, just click on the replies link at the top of this post. Your comment will be checked before it’s posted so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately.




A world of words

Word routes into EnglishKetchup, toboggan, piranha – do you know which languages these words came from into English? After last week’s discussion about Little Bull, we had a game this week in which we found out where lots of words originated.

Each group of children had a list of languages and words, and had to try to match them up – then sticking the words onto the right country (or region) on a map on the board.

Matching words with languages


We had animals, foods, clothing – a huge range of words that we now say in English, but which came from countries as far apart as Malaysia, India, Poland, Ireland and Mexico. We even had a couple of words that originally came from Native American languages that Little Bull might have known. For some words, it was hard to guess their origin, others seemed easier. Our map was soon covered with words from across the world, showing that English contains words from a surprising range of countries. So the question was, why would this be the case? Answers we discussed included:

  • maybe this is because Britain has been invaded by other countries, and their languages left traces in English
  • maybe this is because Britain once had an Empire that expanded across the world, picking up words as it went.Mapping the words

What do you think? Here are the words we mapped, and the languages they were originally from:

  • Arabic (giraffe, sofa)
  • Turkish (yoghurt, coffee)
  • Swahili (safari, jumbo)
  • Greek (butter, chorus, feta)
  • Central American (chocolate, chilli)
  • Polish (horde, gherkin)P1420652
  • Portuguese (piranha, potato)
  • French (cabbage, pastry)
  • Urdu (cot, typhoon, bungalow)
  • Welsh (trousers, gull)
  • Chinese (ketchup, tycoon)
  • Irish (hooligan, slogan)
  • Hungarian (coach, biro)
  • Malay (gong, bamboo)
  • Native American (toboggan, moose)
  • Persian (jasmine, orange)
  • Spanish (hurricane, flamingo)
Our completed world of words

Our world of words