SCHOOL speech days are usually a celebration of students’ achievements. But 56 years ago this week one Hartlepool headteacher used the occasion to chastise both the pupils and their parents, as ANDREW LEVETT discovers.
“I AM very gravely concerned about several girls in this hall, when I see the effect of their parents’ apathy.”
Those were the words of Miss A M Little, headmistress of Galley’s Field Girls’ School, at the school’s speech day in St Hilda’s Hall, on December 4, 1957.
Acoording to Miss Little, there were a growing minority of parents who thought their responsibility for their offspring began and ended with providing food and clothing.
She said: “There was a time when all children could be sure of finding their mother at home some time in the day but now, if a girl were taken ill or had an accident, often there was only an empty house to which she could be sent.”
These girls, Miss Little added, saw little of their mothers and even less of their fathers.
“After school and in the evenings they roamed the streets seeking something to do and somewhere to go.
“They had money – often too much – but no ideas how to use it to advantage.
“The parents do not want to be bothered with them, day or night, and so they drift.”
Miss Little, who thanked “mothers who co-operate willingly with us” warned: “We can do a little here but we cannot take the place of their homes.”
She said discipline had to be taught before it was too late and stressed: “The moral standard of Hartlepool could soon be raised if people tried to do something about this neglect instead of leaving hooliganism to be checked by someone else.”
Pupils had planted flowers on waste land in front of the Church Close school but several times “adolescents and adults had wantonly destroyed the plants”.
She praised those pupils who had “made the attempt” and won scholarships to the technical colleges of West Hartlepool but said she would like to see more take up the opportunity, which offered “much wider prospects of employment”.
Miss Little told the audience: “The girls of Galley’s Field had the ability and the way was open to them, but many refused the opportunity.”
The school, which had opened in 1898, closed in 1973 and the building was demolished in 1977.
Do you remember this ususual speech day? How did you – and your parents – feel about it?
Contact Andrew Levett by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.