School life at Richmond Central School – by JP

I went to the Richmond Central School in Gainsborough Road, Richmond, nearly in Kew.  There was a funny situation, it was an extremely good school and looking back on it now, a very good school, compared to what is going on now.  When we were ten we sat the scholarship exam and about that time Mr Hedges left and Mr Gomm came along and he was extremely excited because he found this top class we were doing square roots and we were only ten years old, and he was very excited we were all going to pass the scholarship you see and I was very pleased because I had always wanted to go to Tiffin school and he had a special class for us and I think it was once or twice a week he did some tutoring and Mr Page who was the head teacher said to us “don’t get excited because none of you are going to get a scholarship” he was right.  None of us except for a boy whose father was a solicitor.  Now it seemed funny to me as an adult that the whole group of children sat for the scholarship, the same group of children sat for the Central school and anybody who failed the Central school exam went to St Mary’s in Richmond which was the continuing secondary church school.

The only thing that was different was that there was a third paper on the scholarship which tested your general knowledge and our general knowledge was faulty because we were the children of farm labourers, brick layers, the working class, although the skilled working class, but nevertheless not very wide knowledge.  I can remember sitting there and thinking yes I do know that there’s been some political problems but I don’t know the name of the Prime Minister, at the time I thought that’s where we failed.  But as time went on the next year at the Central school the school submitted one of my essays to some kind of “back the war” competition and Uncle Mac ran it and I won my age group, I never knew anything about it, I never knew which essay they had submitted they didn’t tell children anything in those days I just know that I had to go up, they had one of the cinemas in Richmond and we were all there and I went up in my age group and took my certificate, how did I do that if I’d just failed the scholarship? and in 1942 so many children had been evacuated from the grammar school in Richmond that they picked out twelve of us from the Central school and said would we like to go to the grammar school?  And the headmistress Miss Scudamore was furious, she didn’t want all these sub-standard children and she said she would only take them if they would sign an undertaking that they would become teachers.  And I wouldn’t and ten of us wouldn’t, nobody said to us any undertaking you sign as a minor is illegal, nobody said that, one of us did and she became a doctor!