How has school changed since you saw Nitty Nora?

If your child is just starting school, brace yourself -- things have changed since you last walked out of primary.

How has school changed since you saw Nitty Nora?

Chances are, unless you are a teacher, you probably haven’t been in a primary school since you left at the age of 10 or 11. And, you’re right, some things haven’t changed at all... the smell for one.

I remember my first look-see visit for my eldest child – who has just started secondary – and how it felt. It’s the oddest thing. The smell and feel of a primary can whisk you back through time just for a moment to your own school.

But before you get carried away with your childhood self, it’s really important to know that some aspects of primary school have changed a lot.

School uniform

In our day: It was the free-wheeling 1970s, so we wore what we wanted. I only remember most things had big collars.
Today: Sweatshirts with school badges and trousers from supermarkets.


In our day: Shoes had squashed down heels because we had to tie laces and most of us didn’t bother.
Today: Velcro.


In our day: Division where you “carried one”.
Today: Deconstruction.


In our day: You saw them on the telly.
Today: Rooms full of them and kids who use mice before they can write.

Cold weather

In our day: You kept your coat on and got on with it. And you put an extra pair of socks under your wellies.
Nowadays: Kids get sent home for health and safety reasons. And girls wear Uggs.

Popular games

In our day: Hopscotch, skipping, jacks, cats cradle, British bulldogs and conkers.
Nowadays: DSi, Xbox and PlayStation.

Health and hygiene

In our day: Nitty Nora conducting head inspections in class.
Nowadays: Schools can’t tell you if you’ve got an infestation.

Physical education

In our day: It was PE and they picked teams like a popularity contest. Oh and you went outside no matter what the weather.
Nowadays: It’s gym and they do yoga and dance.

School meals

In our day: Liver and boiled potatoes with pink sponge and yellow custard. And kids getting free meals formed a separate queue.
Nowadays: Chicken nuggets and chips (in spite of Jamie’s best efforts). And no one knows who’s on benefits.


In our day: It was free and came in titchy little glass bottles with tinfoil lids.
Nowadays: You buy it at the serving hatch and it comes in a tetrapak.

After school

In our day: You went out to play as soon as you got home and didn’t come in til supper time.
Nowadays: Adopt a position on the sofa or get ready for after school activites.

Embarrassing stuff

In our day: it was sex education.
Nowadays: It’s personal and social development.

Safety advice

In our day: Join the Tufty Club and don’t talk to strangers.
Nowadays: Don’t give out your details online and remember your booster seat.

Special needs

In our day: There was a remedial class.
Nowadays: Every child has their own learning programme, so they’re not so special after all.

Crime and punishment

In our day: You got sent to sit on the prickly mat – the doormat at the main entrance.
Nowadays: A firm talking to from the head teacher and a phone call to mum.

What else has changed since your day?



  • Cathy


    Cathy James

    08 September, 2011

    Ahh, pink sponge and custard. Those were the days.

  • Ellen


    Ellen Arnison

    08 September, 2011

    Cathy, horrid horrid stuff!

  • Picture?type=square
    Emily Organ

    08 September, 2011

    Too true. In our day we had to do indoor PE in our vest and pants and it was school regulations to wear enormous navy blue knickers too. And to think they have PE kit these days, they don't know they're born

  • Ellen


    Ellen Arnison

    08 September, 2011

    Emily, Oh yes the knickers. For the first bit of secondary school we had white Airtex pants (nasty indeed) with huge blue knickers over the top.

  • Small_blank


    Ready for Ten admin

    12 September, 2011

    Ahh the olden days :-) In our school we had assembly every morning, sang the Lord's prayer and the national anthem, followed by a very formal speech from the headmaster and lots of standing in straight lines being silent. I don't remember any playtime in class at all, it was formal lessons from the word go (not like reception class these days) and there were certainly no sandpits, water tables, painting tables or reading corners in our classrooms... Come to think of it, I think I like it better now.

    Ready for Ten Team

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