Goodbye, Mrs Kelly! Walton Priory’s retiring Assistant Head tells Christine Conlin a few tales out of school

Calm and collected: Lynn Kelly looking relaxed at the end of a school day

After nearly 40 years of teaching at Walton Priory Middle School, retiring Assistant Head Lynn Kelly retains vivid memories of her first day there.

“It was September 1977 and at the first staff meeting, there were so many new teachers that some of us had to sit on the floor!”

Back then, the school had 700 pupils on roll.

“My first lesson was in the art area. I was very keen to get the pupils registered and sitting down quietly,” Lynn recalls. “Headteacher Brian Hilton walked past, looked round and continued on his way. I was relieved that I’d got the class under control!

“It was Brian Hilton who really showed me how to be an effective teacher,” Lynn acknowledges.

“I will always regard him as an inspirational leader who spent much of his time getting to know each child as an individual and working alongside his staff.”

Remarkably, Lynn has spent her entire teaching career at Walton. After two years she became History Co-ordinator, then Head of Year 5, when 9/10-year olds transition from First School to Middle School. As Assistant Head she’s been responsible for the day-to-day school running and pupils’ pastoral care.

“I’ll miss getting to know the children and the noise and business of a school,” she admits.

For Lynn, Longton born and bred, teaching was her vocation.

“When young, I’d pretend to be a teacher and teach my cousins and friends – in fact anybody who’d listen!”

After Fenton 6th Form College, she did a three-year teacher training course at Madeley College then a one-year BEd at Keele University. Lynn qualified to teach in middle schools, which were then in vogue educationally.

There were many throughout Staffordshire, but Walton Priory was the county’s first purpose-built middle school.

“Now they are just little islands unto themselves in Penkridge, Uttoxeter and Stone,” she reflects.

What attracted her to Walton Priory was its open-plan architecture which fostered the team teaching she was so committed to.

“Back then, before the national curriculum, we could base our lessons on themes, not subjects. For example, learning about the Romans would involve not just History, but English, Maths, Science, Geography, Art – and even cooking!”

In one part of an open-plan area, a teacher might be holding a noisy activity such as a class discussion, while another teacher led a quiet activity, eg making a piece of art.

“Lesson plans were more flexible back then,” Lynn reminisces.
“If a child brought an interesting item into school, you could base a lesson on it. The school curriculum was produced by us staff members, something which today’s teachers might wonder at. We called it our ‘Bible’!”

In the 1980s the Walton Priory buildings were the cause of even more team teaching when the school was evacuated for six weeks due to an asbestos scare. Year 2 was farmed out to Christchurch Middle School, while Years 3 and 4 were taken in by Lonsdale Primary School in Eccleshall. Along with Year 1, Lynn was relocated to
Alleynes.

“There were 100 pupils in Alleynes’ main hall, where we took it in turn to teach on the stage. I’d have 30 children up there with me, but because the stage had a slope, anything dropped at the back would slowly but surely roll off the front. That was a bit too much open plan!”

Though her specialist subject is history, over the years, Lynn has taught practically every subject – except music. That said, she can produce loud blasts from a whistle to restore order at school discos!
She’s also handy with a sewing machine, having produced countless costumes for school productions.

“I once remember ironing 60 sets of costumes at the back of the class while the pupils got on quietly with their English!” Lynn reveals.

 

Class of 2015: Lynn, Walton Head Lindsay Taylor-Potts and other Walton staff with Year 8 school leavers

 

Her creative skills extended to transforming areas of the school into Medieval Britain, Ancient Rome or Ancient Egypt complete with pyramids and tombs.

“Pupils would dress up as Egyptians, and for our Egyptian evenings, staff would bandage themselves as mummies!”

A few years ago, the Egypt-themed coursework produced by a Walton pupil was so outstanding that her family self-published it as an educational resource.

“Our hands-on teaching approach brought the learning to life,” Lynn comments. “Children need more fun in their learning because the fun is what they remember. Lots of our parents were pupils themselves here, and they’ll often say to me: ‘Do you remember when we made a Roman recipe, or all went away to Conway?’ What we mostly remember from our years in education is what we did or made, not what we read or wrote.”

One memory that Lynn will treasure in retirement is this recent anecdote.

“At the end of a history lesson, a boy asked me: ‘Mrs Kelly, please can I take my work home to show my Mum and Dad?’ When I asked why, he said: ‘My Mum and Dad often say I don’t work hard enough, and I want to prove to them that I’m not lazy.’ So I photocopied the pages he so was proud of for him to take home.
“It’s anecdotes like that that have made my career in education worthwhile,”

Lynn concluded. “As a teacher, you never quite know what sort of impact you’ve had.”

 

Lynn Kelly retired on Wednesday, December 14, Walton Priory held an open evening where people could say
goodbye to her.