In 1953 I was eleven years old and in Standard Five (which is now called Year Seven) at Maungaturoto District School.
We had a new teacher, that year, and he believed that it was very important not to hold back the bright pupils by paying too much attention to those less gifted. Unfortunately, he went much too far and more-or-less ignored the bottom half of the class while pushing the bright ones too hard.
The pressure on the bright students must have been very intense indeed, because most them started going to the doctor with imaginary aches and pains. I have no memory of the time at all (what I know is based on what mum told me many years later), but she said that we all got so stressed up that we ended up with what are now called psychosomatic symptoms (physical symptoms caused my mental stress).
When the local GP (Doctor Andy Budd) noticed this flood of distressed children, he reported it to the school. Unfortunately, when people in authority did something wrong in those days, their employers usually just hid the employee’s mistake, sometimes even blaming the victims (in this case me and my classmates). So, as far as I know, the school didn’t tell the teacher to change his teaching methods and the pressure kept mounting.
I was the worst affected by all this. In the end I had what in those days was called a “nervous breakdown”, unheard of in someone my age. It ended with Doctor Budd telling mum and dad that they had to take me out of the school to avoid further emotional damage.
Now, in those days, if your parents could afford it, it was common for country boys to be sent to a boarding school, “to get a better education”. Mum and dad had originally planned that I would do that at age 13, but, because of the drastic situation, they now decided the best thing was for me to go immediately, at age 11.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Now, this was a pretty hard thing for an eleven year old to deal with, but my young life started getting a lot happier very soon after that. I went to a new school and, as you can see from my smiley face in the photo on the right, I was already well recovered only three months later.
POSTSCRIPT #2: Some years after all this, Doctor Budd and his family moved to Martinborough, near the bottom of the North Island. They enjoyed their new town so much that Doctor Budd eventually wrote to dad and suggested that we also move down there. Mum and dad decided this was a really good idea and the Lacey family moved south at the end of 1959. And this, of course, is why Grandad Dale now lives in Wellington (which is near Martinborough).