Birmingham Education

Tinkers Farm School / Northfield Comprehensive

Tinkers Farm School

Tinkers Farm School

With the rapid expansion of Council housing during the inter-war years, a commensurate school building programme was set in motion in Birmingham. In South Birmingham, the children of the sprawling Allens Cross estate in Northfield were to be accommodated by schools at Trescott Road and Tinkers Farm Road, the latter of which is the subject of this article. Opening in termporary buildings in 1930 the school, at that time comprising of both primary and secondary departments, operated under the name of Tinkers Farm Road Council School until 1945 when there was a separation of the primary and boys and girls secondary departments into Tinkers Farm County Primary School, Tinkers Farm Boys’ County Modern School and Tinkers Farm Girls’ County Modern School, respectively.

Moving into permanent accommodation from a series of temporary ‘huts’ between 1932-1937 the school operated as 3 distinct units until 1957 when the primary element was disbanded and the school became a secondary school only, operating with the girls school on the first floor and boys school on the lower floor, housing circa 500 pupils in each department. As is, and was, the case with educational policy, many initiatives came and went and along with them a number of name changes until in 1969 Tinkers Farm County Modern School became Northfield Comprehensive School.

Growing up, as I did, in 1970s Northfield I remember the school having a woeful reputation and it certainly wasn’t one that appeared as the first choice selection for many parents when deciding where their children would go for secondary education. In fact I seem to recall Bournville School was the ‘Holy Grail’ at the time and following my early years’ schooling at Trescott Road Junior and Infants’ School my family moved to West Heath and I’d attended Cofton Promary School from 8 – 11 years and, living as we did, on the number 27 bus route that went to Bournville my mother put me down for that school. Birmingham City Council’s Education Department, however, had other ideas and sent a confirmation letter informing us that I was to go to Northfield Comprehensive.

To further compound matters, due to a drop in child numbers following the post-war baby boom, the Council were looking to close a number of schools and consolidate numbers in larger secondary schools in the City. Among those rumoured as earmarked for closure was Northfield Comprehensive which, on further investigation, we found was set to close in 1986 which was to be the year I finished my schooling and hence I was to be among the last group of pupils to traverse the five years of education on offer at the school.

Unfortunately for me, no one from Cofton Primary School was going to Northfield Comprehensive and so I turned up on my first morning – in my bottle green jumper with fetching red and green diagonally striped tie – not expecting to know anyone and somewhat daunted by the ‘horror stories’ that abounded in the area about the school and its pupils. As I walked up Kelby Close to the school gates I thought the school had a somewhat dilapidated and depressing air to it and its appearance, from that entrance, was dominated by the two halls on the lower and upper floors dead ahead, with the ‘outstretched arms’ of the gym blocks to the left and right with the science and art blocks underneath them, respectively.

Immediately on entering the gates there was a small car park surrounded by a playground and to the right there was a driveway through to the ‘lower school’ playground, and beyond that the craft block, and to the left a driveway to the upper school playground and beyond that the upper school and 6th form block. The school seemed vast to me and I think, at that time, there were c950 pupils in attendance. Fortunately, after a few minutes psyching myself up to enter the playground I ventured inside and was met by many ex Trescott Road School pupils who remembered me from there a few years previously which eased my trauma somewhat!

Over the years my memory has no doubt faded as to some of the characters concerned with the school, but as best as I can recall, and for those interested, the staff as I remember them were as follows:

Mr Evanson – Head
Mr Broomfield – Head (Lower School)
Mr Meyrick – Head (Upper School)
Miss Plimley – Science
Mr Nelson – Science
Mr Harding – English
Mr Hardy – Science
Mr Troman – Science
Mr Hazard – Geography
Mr Fleming – History
Mr Bartlam – Geography
Miss Alcock – French/German
Mr Slater – English
Mr Berry – English
Mr Hill – General Studies
Mrs Marshall – General Studies
Mr Barua – Maths
Mr MacDonald – Maths
Miss Patterson – Maths
Mrs Meachum – Maths
Mr Cotterill – PE
Mr Colvin – PE
Mr Charlton – Woodwork/Technical Drawing
Mr Murch – Metalwork
Mr Zielinski – Metalwork
Mr Malpass – Art
Miss Smith – Art
Mr Turner – Commerce
Mr Sturman – Can’t recall subject
Mr James – Music/RE
Mrs Beddows – Can’t recall subject
Mrs Harris – PE

Whilst there were some great staff among the above list – Dougie Fleming, Martin Berry and Bob Hill I particularly remember fondly – I have to confess that I wasn’t overly enamoured with my time at Northfield Comprehensive. Looking back, one of the fundamental problems was that the school was being ‘wound down’ to closure and so any teacher with a modicum of ability and career aspiration was clamouring to escape to pastures new . . . and many did so during my first three years at the school. The result was that what we were left with a selection of supply teachers, teachers coasting to retirement and, I would posit, some who were finding it ‘testing’ to be placed elsewhere. We certainly felt that we were getting less than a fair crack of the whip in terms of teaching quality and certainly a lack of consistence in approach as teachers were abandoning the sinking ship at an alarming rate.

Whilst some of the teaches who came in towards the end were great – John Bradney, English teacher and RSA thespian extraordinaire – some were well below par. Some of the teachers who arrived during my time at the school as I recall were:

Mrs Schneider – Head
Mr Mohammed – RE
Mr Kendall – PE
Miss Evans – PE/Maths (an immensely popular teacher with all the male pupils and staff as I recall)
Mr Oborski – Can’t recall the subject
Miss Knowles – Maths

In my final year at the school there had been no backfilling of pupils for a couple of years and we were the only year left on the site. Not only had the educational quality crumbled but so had the fabric of the school itself with cracks running from floor to roof on the outer wall of the art block/boys gym and a general air of disrepair abounded. Even careers guidance which should have been a rather important part of the final year was reduced to finding everyone Youth Training Schemes (YTS) to go on after we’d taken our clutch of CSEs (Certificates of Substandard Education as we’d dubbed them) . . . don’t ever recall the notion of progression to university being mentioned!

And thus, in 1986 we all left (well, I actually finished a month early following an ‘alleged’ incident with Brasso, a cheese sandwich and a technical drawing teacher) and the school closed with the buildings being retained for several years as a training centre for various youth schemes and, in the case of the old upper school, a Neighbourhood Office until demolition. The school site is now occupied by a housing association development under the moniker ‘Scholars Green’, a name which still makes me chuckle.

I could run-off enough anecdotes and reflections to fill a website in its own right about Northfield Comprehensive but if anyone else can add any names or info to the above I’d be very interested to hear from you.


21 comments for “Tinkers Farm School / Northfield Comprehensive”

  1. Very interesting reading! I left Northfield Comp in 1978 and have made contact with some old friends via Facebook. Memories are flooding back, its amazing how many names I had forgotten. A lasting memory for me was the day Mr Burkhill nearly blew up the class during a science experiment. The whole school was evacuated! I lived in Inverness Road and my back garden ended where the school playground started (at the back where the single block classrooms were). If I was late for school I used to climb over the fence! My mom used to pass me snacks over the fence at break times! Oh how I wish I could go back for a day…

    Posted by Carol-Ann Smith | April 9, 2010, 9:13 pm
  2. Very interesting ….. I left in 1976 and still have fond memories (and a few unpleasant) of my time there. You mention teachers – I particularly rememeber John Meyrick, Ms Leas or Lease. Both were influential. For some reason, my soundtrack conatins a lot of slade and staus quo! I left birmingham in 1986 and now live in yorkshire – still in touch with my 2 best mates from then – Vince and Noel.

    Interesting that you mentioned the standard of education and the lack of aspiration or motivation to go to university. I had a chip on my shoulder about that for years, and only when i did go to university (as a mature student) did i realise that the function of NC was a factory to supply a workforce to Longbridge and Bournville. I was an apprentice at Longbridge – because my dad worked there.

    In short, NC was not a nice place to be educated, but it could have been worse.Oh, one final comment. There was a hippy supply teacher of music who took us for a few lessons in 1974 – cant recall his name, but for one whole lesson, he got us to listen to the who’s quadrophenia – it has since become my favourite album of all time – so thanks whoever you were

    Posted by James McElhoney | June 3, 2010, 8:27 am
  3. Hi James, many thanks for the recollections. Couldn’t agree more about the true ‘purpose’ of NC and many of the ex-pupils I come across, including myself, only returned to education as mature students years after leaving.

    Posted by Andy Doherty | June 4, 2010, 1:34 am
  4. I just had an idea this dinner time (dinner not lunch!) to search out anything about NC and lo and behold James or Mac as we know him, had beaten me to it! Fortunatly I ended up at Kalamazoo! I never carried on any education as the time at NC was so bad I didn’t want to go to school again. Still, I turned out ok?
    Oh and you missed out Sam Doble, ex England rugby player as gym teacher. I think Mr. Sturman was his assistant by the way.

    Posted by Noel Lawton | June 11, 2010, 1:29 pm
  5. Sam Doble was a legend at the school as I recall but had been left a few years by the time I started there hence he wasn’t in my list. Mr Sturman left too a year or so after I started.

    Posted by Andy Doherty | June 12, 2010, 2:15 pm
  6. Hi Andy – I left in 86 with you and my memories of Northfield Comprehensive are pretty polarised. There were teachers that clearly cared a lot about the future of the pupils in their care but there were a fair few that in hindsight (I believe) felt that they were fighting a loosing battle and that the kids were destined for, well – nothing too earth shattering really. Over the years since and having met and been close to people that have benefited from a “better” education the difference between their education and mine is profound – well, certainly in their recollection of their school years. Don’t get me wrong, it was a massive part of who I am and having left Birmingham (and lived abroad in several countries)it definitely toughened me up, and for that I am grateful. All in all – I miss my years at “Comp” and met some great people – many of whom I am in contact with now (apart from you sadly).

    Posted by Heath Thomas | June 21, 2010, 9:46 pm
  7. Good to hear from you mate – I’ve gone full circle of living around the country and am now in Rubery . . . funny old life isn’t it?

    Posted by Andy Doherty | June 28, 2010, 5:12 pm
  8. I left the school in 1979 praise the lord, there were some decent times perhaps, but most were really bad the education was poor and I was personally bullied horrendously, I am now alining in Austria and turned out ok despite Northfield Comp and certainly not because of it, I still have a phobia of maths because of mrs Williamson alias the dragon because of her smokers breath.
    Despite all that interesting to find the site

    Posted by Gary Felton | July 21, 2010, 11:06 pm
  9. I left NC in 1977. And boy was i glad to get out of there! Having “ginger hair” i was bullied mercilessly. Hated most of the teachers. Especially Miss.Williamson. I remember her throwing a blackboard rubber at me once! I left with very few qualifications. My parents had wanted me to go to “Turves Green Boys School” which was a five minute walk from where i lived. How the hell i ended up in NC i dont know! Other members of staff i remember are:

    Posted by Steven Smith | August 21, 2010, 7:00 pm
  10. hi all this has made very good reading and a lot of mem’s coming back i must have left nc in1980 what a place i lived in tudbury rd by the beachees pub and after parents split i went to 3 or 4 more schools up and down the country and that was the worst school ever i got the size 11 off cottral from a ruuning start and alcock got me cained mt myrek i knew a few lads there but never kept intouch gerrald green,david and terry clark,brian white ,alvin rip i heard he got shot i think david todd went there too ? i can remember the fights from leyhill and nc and the head down the toilet stories before going from trescott to there but you have all picked up on how the bullies made you who you are to day i ended up working for eddie futrel in town and have moved back and forth up and down the country like a gypo but settled in northumberland as a close protection manager for a security firm well good luck guys and girls i will keep checking on here im also on face book

    Posted by darren sherwood | September 24, 2010, 1:35 am
  11. I was at the school 1948? Miss Walmsley was head My family moved to live in Ramsgate Kent Then later to Australia Any of my friends still alive & want to get in touch?? I have written my Story “Schools I have known” As I went to 8 schools around the midlands Must be someone who would remember Me?? Ann

    Posted by Ann Bartram {Danton] | November 17, 2010, 4:11 am
  12. Two girls that were at Tinkers Farm with me Were Joan Potts And Valleary Snowden Miss Gilberthhorp was class teacher

    Posted by Ann Bartram {Danton] | November 19, 2010, 2:28 am
  13. I left Tinkers Farm SCH. in 1950.I have great memories of my days there.I was in the relay team that won the Fulford Shield that year at Perry Barr Stadium. The head mastetr was Mr Wright.Other staff members were .Mr froggat.Mr Hall Mr Lollyd.I have lived in Western Australia for the last 41 years.It was great school.Sad that it is no more.

    Posted by philip hipkins | January 17, 2011, 8:40 am
  14. hi my name is beverley keating befor my name was purvin sister of paul purvin ,i used to live in cheverton road ,and our back garden was the back of the wood shop .Ido remember climbing over the wall to get to school.We had some fun times also so so many roof times back in the day of 1975-1979 i left school i missed so many poeple, and when i read these stories it brought so many memories ,and how bad a few poeple suffered beatings from the bullies i do remember wich i chose to put the back of my mind even when i was at school .Anyway if there is any one who remembers me please contact me on face book .The one that always MAKES ME LAUGH SO MUCH IS WHEN WE HAD ACTIVITIES ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON THE DISCO WHEN EVERY ONE USED TO ROB THE TUCK CUPBOARD i still have a cheeky grin ,EVERY ONE WHO DOES REMEMBER THOSE NOT SO MANY FUN DAYS BUT NEVER LEAVES YOU IT WOULD BE SO NICE TO TALK OVER THE OLD DAYS ,.iF BY ANY CHANCE ANY ONE REMEMBERING iONE EDGHILL ,OR CAROL DAY ,OR JULIE RAWLINGS I WOULD VERY MUCH LOVE TO HAVE SOME KIND OF CONTACT ,TO ALL WHO KNOWS ME TAKE CARE AND THE BEST OF HEALTH ,ITS BEEN NICE TO REMEMBER THE OLD DAYS XXXX.

    Posted by beverley purvin now keating | February 4, 2011, 11:52 pm
  15. All my family attended this school it was know as northfield comprehensive when i was there. i attended 1981-1986, i was in the final year when the school was due to close my year was the only one left in the school. remember most of the teachers listed above, To be honest i feel it was a damn shame the school closed best school this side of the city by far

    Posted by Chris Long | February 12, 2011, 10:16 pm
  16. hi i use to go to nc in 1981 to 1985 it was the best school i evr went to i use to hate mr broomfield he was to strite then but it was sad when they knocked down the skool should of keep it open .miss it so badly oh ya girls gym was hunted 2 lol .it was great fun and laughs

    Posted by angela riley | February 21, 2011, 2:20 am
  17. I left school in 1952, and looking back I had very happy years there

    Posted by Gwen Carson | February 22, 2011, 4:06 pm
  18. I think back we dreaded tip-toeing past Miss Gliberthorps class!!!!

    Posted by Gwen Moss (Carson) | February 22, 2011, 4:18 pm
    Hello there my name is Dione Collins daughter of Ione Edghill, Ive been doing some research for my Mother and I came across this post, I spoke to my mom and she remembers you and your brother well, she remembers julie rawlings and bumped into her 3 years ago, she hasnt seen or heard from Carol Day, she mentioned you had a lot of fun and she would like to know if you remember a (mad)Karen Gardener please get in contact as she would love to hear from you

    Posted by Dione Collins | March 6, 2011, 2:12 pm
  20. Wow, this website brought back some memories, I’m Tracey Carter and was at NC 75-79, I agree with what everyone has said, some good times, but didn’t realise how poor my education had been until later years!! the last person I bumped into from NC was younger brother of Lorraine Rigby, he said most of the class of 79 were dead! Anyone else heard this rumour? I remeber Friday afternoon was double chemistry – hateful, I remember Miss Alcock (french) was vile, I remeber the teachers were not against throwing stuff at you, does anyone remeber the god awful summer fete! I was in the netball team – Brenda Caduggan, Maureen Hepburn, Elizabeth, Lesley Griffiths, Lorraine Rigby, Karen (Tucker?), I often wonder what everyone is doing now. Not exactly happy days, but some good memories and some good laughs.

    Posted by Tracey Carter | May 31, 2011, 11:17 am
  21. hi js found out bout ths site would love to get in touch with any one who was in my class 1985 had great times at this school

    Posted by michelle morrison | June 20, 2011, 11:01 pm

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