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Whitesheet Church of England VA Primary School, Kilmington

Whitesheet Church of England VA Primary School, Kilmington Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

On 2nd March 1830 Sir Richard Colt gave a piece of land, to the side of the church, for the building of a school that would be united to the National Society. A handsome schoolhouse that would accommodate up to 40 children was built. This school was in a small paddock between the present school and the road. It would seem that it was replaced by a new school, which was aided by a government building grant, in 1862. There is also a record that the school was rebuilt, possibly extended, in 1874 at a cost of £640. It now had accommodation for 120 pupils, but in 1907 there were only 50 on the register. After the running of the school had been taken over by Wiltshire County Council the title National School was dropped and the school was known as Kilmington School or the Church of England School.

The school log books, deposited in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office, are preserved from 1920. In the 1920s the school holidays were; 2 weeks at Christmas, about 2 weeks at Easter, 1 week at Whitsun (late May/early June), and 5 weeks in the Summer. Attendances in the 1920s averaged around 33, with 30-35 in 1920, falling to 28-30 in 1924, rising to 33 in 1925, and rising again to 37-38 in 1927. There were frequent absences for illness and other reasons. In 1921 the school was closed during an influenza epidemic (both teachers suffered from it) and again because most of the children had colds in February 1922. It was closed for an outbreak of scarletina in 1927 and there are frequent reports of children not attending school because of illness and also because of bad weather, such as heavy rain, severe cold and snow, which caused great difficulties when young children had to walk up to 2 or 3 miles to school.

Subjects for the older children included writing, arithmetic, reading, history, geography, drill (physical exercises), speech training, religious knowledge, composition and singing. The small infants' class concentrated on reading, writing and number. The school was supplied with a box of books for use in class, which was changed on a regular basis and also acted as a village centre for boxes of books loaned by the county library service. The school consistently had good HMI reports in the 1920s with both teachers and children doing well. There were regular medical and dental inspections, the children were weighed and measured, and there were frequent visits from the school nurse to check on the health of the children.

For a small school the pupils seem to have been involved in, and put on, a fair number of events. On 19th March 1921 they took part in the service of dedication of the village war memorial, led by the vicar. In July 1923 they were taken out of school to see the Prince of Wales pass through the village while a regular feature of this month was the annual tea at the Rectory. In 1929 the school celebrated Empire Day in some style on May 24th. They listened to the radio broadcast whilst looking at a large map of the Empire and joined in the singing of William Blake's 'Jerusalem'. At 3.00 p.m. 40 parents and friends attended the school's own Empire programme with the seniors performing a play' The Empire Builders', from ancient Britons to Nelson, with girl taking the part of Britannia and the junior children providing her escort. All were in costume. The rector and his wife, Mrs Fox-Strangways, provided cakes and bananas, and Mrs Curtiss, chocolates for each child.

In July of the same year 17 of the seniors went on an outing to Weymouth, for which they had saved up their pocket money to pay the fare, and watched a channel steamer unload and painted pictures of the scenes. In November there was a concert with songs and recitations in the first half and a three act play, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in the second. The children made all their own costumes from brown paper, crepe paper and sateen. Just before Christmas there were carols and the seniors performed a Nativity play. At other times evening concerts were given with the children making their own props and reciting, acting and singing.

The school was given voluntary aided status and in 1955 there were 38 children. In 1967 the school was re-modelled and enlarged while in 1972 it was involved in the change of education system in this area to a three tier system and became a first school, Kilmington Church of England VA First School for children aged from 5 to 8 years.

From the age of 8 to 13 years children went to Duchy Manor Middle School at Mere and then to school in Gillingham. In the early 1980s the schools at Maiden Bradley and Stourton closed and the children from those villages came to Kilmington School. There were 30 pupils in 2002 when it was decided to change the system back to the standard two tiers. In 2003 the schools at Kilmington and Zeals merged to become Whitesheet School, one school on two sites. In September 2004 this will become a primary school with children aged from 4 to 11 years

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