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Through the Decades!

One of my missions for the Easter break was to finish a book called ‘Bath Times & Nursery Rhymes-the honest memoirs of a nursery nurse in the 1960s’ written by Pam Weaver. My inquisitive nature drew me to this book. I was interested in reading about the life of a nursery nurse in the sixties as I wanted to compare my nursery nursing training and early work life in the 1980s to Pam’s experience.

Even though I have acquired further qualifications and worked in a variety positions within the sector, I am still an NNEB nursery nurse at heart. I say once a nursery nurse, always a nursery nurse!

The book was an honest and a heartfelt memoir from Pam. There are a few points that I wish to share: Pam remembers meeting up with a man, when he was in his twenties, who she had looked after as a child. He recalled ‘You used to make us sleep on the table!’ He was referring to the camp style ‘stretcher’ beds. This is an example of how a child may understand the world and its strange objects from their point of view. Throughout the book Pam also makes reference to the dictator – style matrons who managed the different places that she worked in. One Christmas, a staff nurse resigned out of protest and the matron gave her a beautifully wrapped gift. But when the nurse opened the gift, there was a wooden spoon inside with a label attached which read ‘Stir it up!’ Pam tells many other stories like this which demonstrated the type of leadership within these establishments during the sixties. Many examples of negative management rather than positive leadership! Pam also talked about how one of the matrons was so against ‘family grouping’.  Pam knew this was a positive way of making sure that those siblings who were in care stayed together and felt secure. However this matron insisted on separating them but if they did meet up, for example in the garden, Pam would see them cling desperately on to each other. Hello, Bowlby ‘attachment theory!’ Pam also worked within a special care baby unit and remembers the observation skills she learnt within training and how these were equally important within her role. Pam mentions something which is very relevant to the current discussions regarding “More Great Childcare” and the Nutbrown Review, regarding qualifications”. In the sixties every student had to work as an assistant for one year and then embark on their two year course to train as a nursery nurse. This idea is something which I feel gives students hands – on learning and provides a solid foundation within a range of early years settings; a topic I have discussed in a previous blog,  Putting the Quality Back into Qualifications.  I am not going to share anymore from this fantastic book. I would strongly recommend anyone working with children and/or working with those who do work with children to purchase ‘Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes’ to read and experience it for yourself as, like me, you will both enjoy it and learn a great deal from it. After I finished the book, I emailed Pam to say thank you for sharing her memories within the book and how it has encouraged me to write more. Pam replied saying: Thank you for your email and your kind comments, Laura. Your blogs look interesting although I don’t blog myself. It’s good to see that there are still people who genuinely care about children and their needs which have changed (and yet not changed that much) since my days in the nurseries. I spend my time looking after my grandchildren now and I still have a lot of fun. I wish you every success with your writing. Don’t let anyone discourage you. From what I have seen you have a great talent. Enjoy it! Every good wish Pam Weaver” Why, thank you Pam! There is another person I’d like to mention today – Pat Cole, who I worked with years ago. She was my line manager when I managed a nursery in North London. I remember one of her stories from when she worked in a children’s home in the 1950s. This account resonates with some of Pam’s experiences. “Two siblings arrived into care late at night and were absolutely filthy, their clothes and bodies. They clung onto each other. I knew in my heart of hearts it was wrong to remove their clothes and to bath them, I thought to ‘clean’ them then was wrong and it could wait until the morning, as they were frightened and they only thing that they had was each other and the clothes on them, even though they were ‘dirty’ and ‘smelly’. But, the matron made me bath them and put on clean nursery clothes.” Pat told me she was asked to write her life story and I’m sure this would have been very informative. The guru on children under three, Elinor Goldschmied, acknowledged Pat in her book ‘People Under Three-Young Children in Day Care’.  Sadly, Pat has now passed away but I thank her for sharing her stories and passing on her knowledge to others. Again, thank you to Pam for sharing her insights into earlier times and encouraging us to reflect on practice in the past. That is it; children are children whatever decade or century they are born. What matters is the care and the love that they receive from the early years practitioners who work with them. Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes The honest memoirs of a nursery nurse in the 1960s. Pam Weaver Avon ISBN: 978-0-0074-8844-5

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  • Ali

    Fascinating stuff indeed. Like yourself Laura, I trained as an NNEB in the 80’s then eventually studied to become a teacher and EY consiltant secondment. Children have always been central to every career move. Change is good providing common sense prevails and all carers hold the child as central and learn who they are. I’m still getting to grips with the new curriculum for reception pupils and hope that ofsted are clear about what paperwork they require. Too many ‘man’ hours goes onto devising systems by every teacher/ NNEB in the country. Imagine if we all pulled together how much more the children would gain from us!

  • mpho setilo

    It was an eye opener to read that paragraph thanks I will go and look for the book and also advice my colleaques to read it since we are working with children

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