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Wiltshire Community History

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Winterbourne Earls C. of E. Primary School

Winterbourne Earls C. of E. Primary School Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 24/03/2009 16:58:16
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

In 1846 a Sunday and Day School served 75 boys and 61 girls, although many of these would only have attended on Sundays. The two mistresses were paid a total of £26 a year and the entire annual cost of £41 was met by voluntary subscriptions and the payment of school fees by parents.

By 1858 Warburton reported that there was a very fair village school held in the brick-floored dining room of a benefit club. There were 40 - 41 pupils. There was a moderate supply of books and apparatus; the instruction and discipline was very fair, but the former was very elementary.

The first meeting concerning a new building for the National School in Winterbourne was held in November 1870. The Education Act of the same year stated that all children aged 5-12 were to receive an elementary education. In order to accommodate the increased number of children a new building was needed. Meetings were held throughout 1871 but it was decided to postpone building until the spring of 1872. Work eventually began in May and the school opened on Monday December 16th. The total cost was £887.9s.2d.

Some of the documents concerning this project have survived, including bills for items bought from Salisbury companies. The intricate design of the bill heads is as interesting as the content. Examples of items bought include 'Wilkes and Son General Ironmongers' one iron fender 8s 6d, one coal shovel 2s 3d, one Register stove £2 4s. A blue Paris dinner service was bought for 13s 6d from Alfred Watson, presumably for the head teacher's house. A chest of maple painted drawers was bought for £1 13s from 'Charles Gostage Manufacturing Cabinet Maker'.

The school plan shows a large school room measuring 42' x 18' and a smaller classroom 18' x 15'. The head teacher's house was next door. The large room could accommodate 94 pupils and the small room 33. The children were taught by a head teacher, an assistant and a pupil teacher. During the first 13 years in the life of the school there were nine different head teachers, which must have had a detrimental effect. The only headmaster during this time, Matthew Stannett, stayed only one year. His last logbook entry in May 1896 declares 'I do this day gladly resign my charge of this school'. His entries during the year show his frustration at the poor attendance levels and the fact that nothing was done to remedy this. Parents were simply cautioned and were obviously aware that nothing more would happen. Mr. Stannett clearly felt he did not have the support of his managers.

The school logbooks begin in January 1873. The subjects taught included grammar, arithmetic, history, geography and scripture. The girls were taught needlework and knitting and the boys drawing. Singing and drill were introduced in 1891. The infants were given object lessons, after which they were expected to recognise pictures of everyday objects. Examples in the logbook were 'the colour yellow', 'beasts of burden' and 'water, snow, ice and frost'. Many schools taught poetry and a list of poems for the term appears in an entry for 1899. An example was 'The Village Blacksmith' learnt by the younger pupils, while the older children were given a passage from Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice'. Religious instruction was received once a week in the form of a visit and lesson from the vicar or his daughter.

In 1876 there were 128 pupils on the roll. Attendance varied greatly and was mentioned constantly. The main reasons for absence were illness, bad weather and farm work. During the winter heavy snow kept children away and led to the school being closed. As a complete contrast the school was only closed on July 1st 1879 when the weather was so wet that only 14 out of 100 attended. (Most children at this time did not have any form of protective clothing). The school suffered the usual childhood illnesses including measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox and scarlet fever. Occasionally it was necessary to close the school. Pupils were also sometimes kept away by their parents when there was work to be done in the fields. In September 1878 only 28 children attended as the harvest had not been completed.

The annual holidays given were four weeks at harvest, two at Christmas and one at Easter. Each year in July a day off was awarded for the annual school treat. In 1875 this was attended by 134 children. They enjoyed tea and cake, and more than 60 books were given as prizes to each child who had attended school 300 times or more. Occasional half days were given during the year, for example after a visit by the School Inspector, or if a fair was visiting the area. Other examples were religious festivals such as Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day when a half day was given after the children had attended church.

The School Inspector visited each year to assess the standard of the school buildings, the quality of the teaching and the achievement of the children. In the early years discipline was constantly mentioned. In 1877 the report states 'A decided improvement in the discipline will be looked for next year as an essential condition of an unreduced grant'. (The annual grant given was dependent on various standards being met, one of which was discipline). There was also an annual visit by the Diocesan Inspector who tested the children's religious knowledge.

In June 1905 the school had only its second headmaster, Mr. Albert Hopkins, since the new school was built. His logbook entries are quite brief, mentioning the usual subjects of absence, the weather and illness. He introduced gardening as a new subject in 1908. Around this time more importance was attached to the children's general health. A weighing machine was delivered to schools enabling the children to be weighed and measured. A school nurse began to make regular visits, as did the school dentist. The number of staff was increased to four, which greatly improved discipline and overall progress.

The school remained on this site until 1992 when the Nursery School took over the building and the school moved to new buildings. These are on a pleasant site with both hard and grassed play areas. There are two mobile classrooms, which house two KS2 classes. A permanent extension was added in 2001. The school comprises a hall, seven classrooms (each fitted with an interactive whiteboard) and extensive grounds with a playground, playing field, adventure play area, school garden and pond. In 2007 there were 184 children on the roll. The school website describes a happy and successful school to which the pupils are proud to belong.

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