The Best Years Of Our Lives? Secondary Education in York 1900-1985 by Van Wilson (York Archaeological Trust, £9.99)

Having recently read about the famous authors who have been schooled in York, I became curious about the experience over the years of more regular people. This led me to Van Wilson’s excellent oral history project about York schools giving an overview of the experiences in secondary education in York between 1900 and 1985.

I love the photograph from 1908 of a sewing class at Scarcroft School: how different to the one later on of the house captains of the new Nunthorpe School circa 1985. Most of the memories and recollections though are from the time when grammar and secondary modern, girls and boys were all separate.

York people reminisce about science lessons going wrong (surprisingly common), being told off for talking in class (mostly girls), common use of the cane (mainly boys), teachers who inspired and others who terrorised. I particularly like the fact that one Bar Covent teacher caused trepidation for parents as much as pupils.

Many of those interviewed note how different aspirations and opportunities were for them: jobs at Rowntrees, Terrys, banks and insurance companies were common and easily obtained for school leavers, whereas further education was for a very small select few.

It is the small details that are most fun - the Ukulele Club at Lowfields in the 1970s or a story of a teacher with slightly “dodgy” language that delighted the pupils.

York's schools went through a major transformation as the grammar school system was scrapped. Dorothy Cook discusses some of the problems this caused when she was juggling being Head of Mill Mount, and trying to get the new Millthorpe school ready. A fascinating read.

Philippa Morris