Ernie Thomas was a child at Wennington from 1957 - 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

ET         My mother re-married when I was about six and my stepfather wasn't very good to me, and the local authority took me out of the home situation. And I was sent to Wennington – the local authority then was Leyton Borough Council, which was in Essex in those days, not in London. And they had contacts with Wennington School,  they'd sent people there before. The school itself had quite a large proportion of council sponsored children, and I was one of those. So yes, I was taken as a young boy of eleven, sort of, up to Yorkshire with the local authority chap, and then had to sort of fend for myself from then on, virtually. The first term was difficult, but after that, I loved the place. You know, I enjoyed the school, it taught me a lot of lessons that I didn't know I was learning at the time, but I learnt a lot from that school, a lot about people, and my politics are, left of centre, socialist, and I think I – it was at Wennington that I developed that. So I'm very grateful to the school, I was very lucky, in some way, you know to go to Wennington.

 

GG       Well – so you do feel that being at Wennington, really impacted...

 

ET        Oh it changed my life completely.   It, as I say, my formal education was not good, but I learnt some very good lessons there; I learnt about socialising with a small 's' with other people, about corporate responsibility – though we wouldn't have called it that in those days, or even – I learnt a lot about having to live in a community 24 hours a day, the kind of education you wouldn't get at a normal school, and your relationships with other members of your class and other people in the school was so different from what you get at an ordinary school...

 

GG        In what way?

 

ET        Well, in every way, I mean the school had a policy of the pupils running part of the school, doing part of the work of the school, and you know, things like outdoor work, we had a session of outdoor work every day, Monday to Friday.   We had squads, which we had to do either washing up or potato peeling in the morning, or helping out one way or another, and we had cleaning jobs and so on, so yes, you helped in running you know, in actually maintaining the school.  Calling the teachers by their Christian names, too, was innovative, you know, and the relationship with the teachers, because it was a 24 hour situation, was different to that of a normal school. So, yeah, and I learnt – from that I learnt, because I had to, I learnt to listen to classical music because we had assemblies where you had to listen to it, and actually I found myself liking it, despite, you know, and then we went out walking and hiking and going on the dales and the moors and suchlike, so we used to go cycling, all the kind of things we wouldn't have done in a, sort of, London environment.

 

(Interview with Gemma Geldart.  Recording Reference: HLF-WEN-001-OH ©)

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