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Infants' Board School, Ramsbury

Infants' Board School, Ramsbury Date Photo Taken 1890
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:48:23
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

Page from the Infants' School log book giving a summary of the H.M.I. report for 1889-90.

The Infants' Board School was built as a part of the Boys' Board School in 1874. The Infants' schoolroom was 70 feet by 20 feet and could accommodation 120 infants. It opened on 8 January 1875, four days after the Boys' School. There was a teacher and two pupil teachers and the school quickly became organised with the delivery of desks, a blackboard, and reading books. Parents paid one penny (0.4p) for each child and the numbers of infants attending increased throughout January. School hours were 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon and 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. The chairman of the school board and other members made regular visits to the school; the vicar also made visits but was not involved in religious education.

Subjects taught to the infants were reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, knitting, singing, geography and history, although the youngest ones first learned reading, writing and singing only. Object lessons were given when the children studied all aspects of a particular object; subjects included, bread making, an ostrich, a cornfield, an elephant, a bee, the colour blue, a candle and coral. During the last quarter of the 19th century schoolmistresses changed every five or six years and when Miss Millicent Nicklen took up her duties in January 1900 she was the sixth mistress to do so. The mistresses were assisted either by two pupil teachers or one pupil teacher and one monitor. Pupil numbers continued to increase; by the late 1870s the average was over 80, while by the early 1880s it was over 100, and continued into the 1890s. By 1899 numbers had fallen a little and there were only 99 children on the school roll, with attendances averaging from 71 to the mid 80s.

The H.M.I. reports on the school seem to be reasonable, although there was normally room for improvement in some areas. Unusually for a new school there seems to have been several problems noted about the building. In 1876 it was said that the playground needed to be put in proper order, while the toilets required attention in 1877. In common with the Boys' School the heating needed to be improved in 1886. The infants were divided into groups and it was found, in 1877, that more blackboards were needed for these divisions.

For holidays the children had one or two weeks at Christmas, one week at Easter, one week at Whitsun and five or six weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. Half-day holidays were given after the H.M.I. visits and examinations, for the Sunday school treat and for the annual Michaelmas Fair in October. At other times low attendances were caused by a variety of reasons. Bad weather was the reason for many small children being kept at home and gales, heavy storms, and flooding greatly reduced numbers. Heavy snowfall generally led to the closure of the school, as was the case for 2 days in February 1888, while in 1897 there were severe snowstorms in both January and April.

Sometimes children stayed away for other reasons. In October they often went out gathering leaves to provide bedding for the pigs that many cottagers kept. On 15 September 1893 nearly half the infants stayed away from school to watch military manoeuvres locally, while the school had to close in the afternoon of 14 September 1896 because so many children had gone to watch the arrival of a circus. Childhood illnesses made regular visits to the village with cases of measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, German measles, and mumps regularly recorded. Scarlet fever appeared during the Harvest Holidays in 1882 and the school remained closed until 9 October. In March 1890 many of the children were ill and two of them died. The school was again closed in late June 1893 for five weeks until the Harvest Holidays began, because of an epidemic of measles. An epidemic of whooping cough was the reason for a three-week closure in Spring 1900.

Despite bad weather and serious illnesses the children did have some pleasurable events. At some point the school acquired a harmonium, to help with music and singing, as in 1900 it was sent to Newbury to be repaired. On the centenary of the opening of Sunday Schools there was a day's holiday to allow the children to go to Savernake Forest for a commemoration on 28 July. In June 1897 all children were presented with a mug and an orange, by Lady Burdett, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee, while there was always a day's holiday when the school was used as a polling station. During some of the holidays the schoolrooms were cleaned and whitewashed. During the six week Harvest Holiday in 1900 the rooms were thoroughly cleaned, coloured (painted) and re-varnished. The work was not completed in time and so the children had an extra week's holiday.

The school was taken over by the County Council in 1902 and continued as a separate school within the boys' school. In 1926 the girls left their school and joined the boys and infants. Later the schools became a county primary school.

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