My first school in 1911.
Not much different 60 years later.
When I started school, I could already read. Apparently I rustled at the Northern Socialist's Guardian clamouring to know 'what is the letter shaped like a hammer?' and so, for the sake of peace, there began one of the enduring passions of my life.
My first school was in a lofty Victorian building; chilly echoing cloakrooms with ineffectually scalding clanging radiators, wire baskets for outdoor shoes and pitted wooden benches that squeaked alarmingly on bare thighs. The blackboards pulled down from an iron rod and emitted great chalky sighs as they fell.
I was taken to meet the Headmistress. Her office was up narrow echoing stairs and it took forever to climb up there. She was absolutely tiny, like me, her legs dangled from her chair. Of all the odd things to happen, we had exactly the same name. She had a wooden plaque on the desk which had our name on it. I read it, picked it up and showed my parents, gleefully, that she had made me a block with my name on it. Excellent; I loved presents.
She barked at me to put it down. I remember her being very angry. It transpired that she was a big pusher of the loony 1960s ITA 'reading' scheme which consisted of teaching children how to be utterly shit at reading by telling them 'foks' meant 'fox.' So my being able to read already put rather a spoke in her plans. My teacher used to smuggle proper books in for me that I would hide in corners and devour. While she was mangling the brains of my poor classmates, I travelled far, adventuring in the company of fantastic new friends.
Outside daily assembly, I only met the Headmistress alone again once. I was sent to her because I had come in very late from break and, unrepentant, insisted that I had been playing a game with some other children. She told me she had been watching from her lofty window, that the playground had been empty and I was a wanton liar. In retrospect, I think we were probably both right.