What’s it like to go back to school 25 years after you left? How do you settle down to your homework when your young son is working at his on the other side of the table?
After a couple of decades of shopping lists and household budgets, how does it feel to cope with essays and history text books?
The Hornchurch College of further education has just completed its first years courses especially designed for married women.
The aim? To provide married women with qualifications they need to take up a variety of worthwhile occupations.
Two groups of women - mostly mothers in their 30s and 40s - have been whipping through their housework each morning to spend four hours a day, four days a week sitting at a college desk as they studied for secretarial qualifications or GCE “O” Levels.
Last week at the head of general studies at the college, Mr. Desmond Keohane, invited me to listen to a tape recording made by some of the women who stayed the course.
I was immediately interested because it records their impressions on going back to their studies after a lengthy break. And ever since I saw the course advertised last year, I’ve been wondering how they were getting on.
Their verdict - tiring but stimulating, frightening but rewarding.
Mrs. Gladys Papps, 41, the mother of a fourteen year old son, is currently awaiting the results of her “O” levels.
She first heard about the courses through TWG, thought it over seriously one Monday morning while she was doing her washing and decided to apply.
Her early days at the college she found a little strange.
Said Mrs. Papps: “I had the feeling: ‘what am I doing here’ when I saw all the young students in the latest fashions with their transistors, I think they were a bit startled to see us at first, too. After all we are much the same age as their mothers. But they soon got used to us and I began to enjoy myself immensely.
“The staff were very kind and the atmosphere was so enthusiastic I couldn’t help but feel excited.
Housework, Mrs. Papps discovered was not the problem she had imagined it might be. She tackled her chores with more enthusiasm after a spell at the college.
“I was tired at times” she said “sometimes I went to bed exhausted. But it was physical tiredness - I was not depressed”
Her main difficulties were writing long essays after so long away from school books and maintaining concentration over long periods.
She valued the company college provided (“during tea and coffee breaks we talked and talked”) she said and the mental stimulus she found there made her eager to get back to her studies after the holidays.
Best thing about the course from the point of view of many was the fact the hours were especially arranged to fit in with their children’s needs.
The hours - 10am to 3pm gave them time to see their children off to school and be home again before youngsters returned. College holidays and half terms were arranged to coincide with school holidays and the four hour day, four day a week left time for essential housework and shopping.
“Causalities” in the course of this kind were bound to be high. In the secretarial course, two women left because they were expecting babies, three dropped out because of family illness and two found the course too difficult.
Eight more women from the secretarial total of 25 left at Easter. But this was after they had completed two thirds of the course obtained a certificate and became sufficiently proficient in shorthand or typing to get the job they wanted.
In February, four Pitman shorthand students passed the 50 word per minute examination, one the 60wpm, and two the 70wpm and one 80wpm. There were no failures.
In typewriting, nine students entered for the elementary examinations and eight passed, while in the Easter series of RSA examinations, 12 students entered for the typewriting, stage 1 (elementary) and all passed - 11 of them with credit.
Mr. Keohane is delighted with the first year’s results and has just announced a larger variety of daytime courses of this kind for the coming year.
In 1966/67 women will be able to take pre-entry courses for library and social work, teaching and posts as laboratory technicians.
Married women will be able to gain certificates in mother craft and child welfare, short hand and typing, study cookery and dressmaking or take a refresher course in secretarial work.
Image Caption: Talking over the tape recording they made for the benefit of incoming married women student are Mrs. Gladys Papps, Mrs. Margaret Miles and GCE O level course tutor Mrs. Ann Thomas.