Saturday 12 September 2020

Back To School by Jack Sheffield @teacherseries BLOG TOUR @RandomTTours @TransworldBooks @HJ_Barnes #BackToSchool

The year is 1969 and Jack Sheffield is a young teacher in need of a job.
In a room full of twenty-nine other newly qualified teachers, he's overjoyed when he's appointed to Heather View Primary. Jack is excited to start his first year there and to begin shaping young minds in a beautiful new location on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
But Heather View isn't as idyllic as it first sounds. In fact, it looks more like a prison than a primary school. With less than adequate funding and a head teacher who doesn't seem to care, it's no easy task to give the kids the education they deserve. But Jack's determined to do just that.
Full of warmth and good humour, Back to School is like taking a nostalgic walk through the past to a simpler time...

Back To School by Jack Sheffield was published in paperback by Bantam Press on 3 September 2020.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today.

Extract from Back To School 

I was surprised when I saw my classroom. It was clean, fortunately, but surprisingly bare. It felt as though I was walking back into the 1950s. All the old wooden desks had sloping lids with inkwells and they were lined up in four straight rows facing the teacher’s desk and the blackboard.
Barbara saw my reaction. ‘Jack . . . this is how the head likes it. So don’t change anything. Norman takes one lesson each week with them – handwriting.’ The expression on her face spoke volumes.
Suddenly the windows began to shake. I looked up in alarm. It felt like an earthquake. Then there was the loud hoot of a train whistle. We both looked out of the window. Beyond the fence in the valley bottom appeared the magnificent sight of a steam train pulling four carriages.
‘You’ll get used to that,’ said Barbara with a wry smile. ‘It’s the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Runs from Keighley to Oxenhope. Ask Travis, he’s an enthusiast.’ She looked at her wristwatch. ‘Right, things to do. Let’s meet up later in the staff-room for one of my Jimmy’s pork pies
and a mug of tea.’
‘Sounds good, Barbara. Many thanks.’
She hurried off and I walked back to Penny’s room. She was arranging small Formica-
Topped tables into groups.
‘So, what do you think?’ I asked.
Penny sighed and looked around the room. ‘I didn’t imagine my first post would be like this when I left St John’s but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.’
I smiled. ‘St John’s in York?’
‘That’s a coincidence. I trained there as well. Left in sixty-seven.’
Her green eyes were full of curiosity. ‘What broughtyou here?’
‘I was in a village school on the outskirts of Leeds and suddenly we were told it was closing. According to the local authority it wasn’t economically viable.’
‘So . . . do you live locally?’
‘I’m renting a place – Ivy Cottage – on the High Street in Lotherswicke village, up near Skipton.’
‘I know it,’ said Penny. ‘I was brought up round there. My mum and dad live in Askrigg.’
‘So, where are you now?’
‘In a flatshare in Cold Beck.’
I grinned. ‘Cold Beck? Sounds a bit bleak.’
‘Actually, it’s really pretty, north of Skipton but tiny . . . just a hamlet.’
I looked around at the detritus of chairs, tables and cupboards.
‘Would you like some help?’
‘Maybe later,’ she said with determined independence, ‘but thanks anyway.’

At midday Barbara called us to join her in the staff-room. On the table was a pot of tea, milk and sugar and two large pork pies.
‘Thanks for this, Barbara.’
She smiled. ‘He’s proud of his pies is my Jimmy.’
‘Delicious,’ said Penny as she bit into a slice.
Barbara drank her tea and stood up. ‘Well, I’ll leave you to it if you don’t mind. I need a few things from the Corner Shop.’ She pointed out of the window. ‘It’s only a couple of minutes away. Very handy. If you go left out of the gate to the top of the hill you can’t miss it. It sells everything and there’s a Post Office counter as well.’ She looked at her wristwatch. ‘In the meantime Jimmy will be
back around four to pick me up when I’ll need to lock up.’
‘Thanks,’ said Penny. ‘My dad is collecting me before then but I should like to come in tomorrow.’
‘Me too,’ I said. There was a lot to do.
‘That’s fine,’ said Barbara. ‘I’ll be here at nine to open up.’
She hurried out in her busy, bustling style and we watched her walk quickly across the tarmac playground. Penny sipped her tea and sat back in her chair. ‘So . . . is this what you expected?’
I paused before replying. ‘Not really, but the deputy is supportive.’
She sighed and looked out of the window at the sprawling council estate with its chaotic clutter of television aerials. ‘It looks to be a tough area.’
‘We’ll cope,’ I said, trying to sound more confident than I felt.
Penny chased a few crumbs of pastry around her plate. ‘I’m just glad I got the job. I was beginning to panic towards the end of my teaching course.’
Now we were on our own I found I was enjoying our relaxed conversation.
‘My education tutor at St John’s was Jim Fairbank,’ I said. ‘Did you come across him?’
Suddenly Penny’s eyes were shining. ‘Yes, he was my tutor on final teaching practice. I was lucky to have him. So supportive. When I left he said to me, Teach well and you’ll change lives for ever . . . I’ll never forget it.’
I smiled. ‘He said the same to me.’
She put down her mug and steepled her fingers. There was a long silence. Finally she looked at me. ‘If I hadn’t got a job, I was planning to go to the Isle of Wight.’
‘For the festival?’
‘Yes.’ She pursed her lips. ‘So Seb went on his own. He bought a weekend ticket for two pounds ten shillings and took off.’
‘My boyfriend.’ She shook her head. ‘I guess he’s still there, spreading love and peace. I’ve not heard from him since.’ She stared out of the window. ‘Probably found someone new.’
Boyfriend, I thought. For a moment I felt sad. Then I saw the confusion in her eyes and tried to lift the mood. ‘I heard Bob Dylan was appearing.’
Penny was suddenly animated. ‘Yes, he’s brilliant . . . and the Who and Joe Cocker and the Moody Blues. It was a great line-up this year.’ Suddenly she got up and stretched. ‘Anyway, back to reality. Time to create a painting corner near the sink.’ And we returned to our classrooms.

Jack Sheffield grew up in the tough environment of Gipton Estate, in North East Leeds. 
After a job as a 'pitch boy', repairing roofs, he became a Corona Pop Man before going to St John's College, York, and training to be a teacher. 
In the late 70s and 80s, he was a headteacher of two schools in North Yorkshire before becoming Senior Lecturer in primary education at Bretton Hall near Wakefield. It was at this time he began to record his many amusing stories of village life.

In 2017 Jack was awarded the honorary title of Cultural Fellow of York St John University.

He lives with his wife in Buckinghamshire.

Visit his website at

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