Pupils at Oriel Academy, West London enjoyed a very special visit last week from a former student.

Roy Hill had been a pupil at the school in the 1950s and had paid a nostalgic visit to his alma mater before Christmas. So captivated by his tales of school life were the children that the school’s Upper Key Stage Two Lead, Helen Owden, invited him back formally to talk about his years growing up in the post-war period in Hanworth.

Having studied the First World War and its social consequences, pupils in Year 6 were keen to find out what Roy had to say about WWII, during which he was born, and life in the local area.

“Roy was able to tell the children all sorts of things about his childhood and our school,” explained Helen. “Obviously schools were organised very differently then – it wasn’t an academy as it is now – and the students were fascinated to hear how it operated as a primary and secondary school on the same site. It was difficult for the children to imagine education without computers and one where discipline was very harsh; according to Roy, the teachers were very strict back then!”

Mr Hill telling Oriel students about his school experiences.

Mr Hill telling Oriel students about his school experiences.

Oriel Academy, West London, is part of Aspirations Academy Trust which places applied learning, where students apply their knowledge to real world situations, at its heart.
“We love having visitors coming in with first hand accounts,” added Helen, “the children listen and respect them. They’re completely engaged in the storytelling. Our Year 6 pupils were intrigued by Roy’s experience of rationing, how he and his family managed during a time of great privation, and their resilience.”

Year 6 pupil Kaysie gave her verdict: ” We enjoyed Mr Hill visiting us, he answered our questions about growing up during a war,” while ten year old Hamza felt moved by what he’d heard: “He actually brought sorrow into my heart with his memories, I felt bad for his losses.”

Roy himself relished the opportunity to share his memories:
“The visit was very enjoyable and they were a wonderful group of children,” he said, adding, “they were polite and very attentive… I wish I’d had a bit more time with them!”

Roy’s is the first of a number of planned visits in 2024. In the coming week the children will be hearing from another guest who will be discussing Hanworth Park during WWI.
“The children are very excited about hearing how Hanworth Park House was used as a military hospital during the Great War,” says Helen, “there is so much rich history all around us and it’s wonderful to hear it brought to life.”

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