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Broad Chalke

Broad Chalke C. of E. First School

Broad Chalke C. of E. First School Date Photo Taken 2009
Uploaded 09/11/2009 12:16:24
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Map Latitude 51.02706687145761 : Longitude -1.9426167011260986
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History centre, Chippenham


In 1818 a Sunday school in Broad Chalke was attended by 70 children. By 1846 both a day school and a Sunday school had been established, attended by 200 pupils, with 48 only attending on a Sunday. A mistress was paid £37.12.0 and the expenses of the school, approximately £70 a year, were met by the curate, voluntary subscriptions and the payment of fees. The first school log book entry is for 1863, and this states that a new schoolroom was built in 1860. An inspector's report in 1858 shows that the children were being taught in a temporary building and that a site had been promised for a new school.

In 1863 the staff consisted of a master, a pupil teacher and a sewing mistress who was the master's wife. The master was also expected to run the night school, which was open for five months of the year from October to February. His salary for each job was £20 and £5 respectively. Alongside the grant given to the school, each child had to pay a fee. Farmers' and tradesmen's children paid 3d a week, artisan's children 2d and labourer's children 1d. By 1875 the staffing had increased to four, when the headmaster was assisted by pupil teachers and monitors.

The school was divided into two rooms. The main room, in which the older children were taught by the master, was 54 feet long and 15 feet wide. The smaller classroom, where the younger children were taught by the pupil teacher, was 27 feet long and 12 feet wide.

Unfortunately the log book does not go into detail about the subjects taught. Lessons were usually the elementary ones of reading, writing, arithmetic and scripture. The girls learned sewing. In 1876 the master noted that he intended to introduce geography, grammar and needlework to the time table. It was usual for the vicar, his wife and possibly his daughter, to visit the school on a weekly basis. They took scripture lessons, heard the children read, and occasionally the Rev. Williams took other lessons.

In 1864 the headmaster introduced homework for standards III and IV (aged approximately 8-10). He wanted them to take their reading book home. It was difficult for him to persuade the parents to accept this. Twenty years later the master wrote that there were 'strong parental objections to homework'. Their attitude was that they were paying for their children to be educated and that it should all be done at school. Some parents threatened to throw into the fire any work brought home. The lack of parental support in various matters was a great problem for the headmaster. When he added drawing to the curriculum for the boys, this was viewed by the parents as a waste of time.

The number of pupils who regularly attended school could be very different from the number registered. In 1863 the average attendance was 60; by 1878 it had risen to 118. There are constant references in the log books to the number of children who were away. This was frustrating for the master, as it affected learning, and the school grant was also dependent on the pupils' performance in the annual H.M.I. examinations; too many failures and there would not be enough money to pay all salaries and it might also affect the provision of coal for heating and books and equipment. The main reason for children being away was farm work. Sometimes the children were expected to help in the fields, particularly at harvest time. In September 1878 only 28 pupils returned to school, so they were given an extra week's holiday. Numbers did not return to normal until the middle of October. Another reason for absence was looking after younger siblings while parents were working. The weather was another factor; if it was raining or snowing, many children stayed at home as they had no protective clothing or stout shoes or boots.

This log book is unusual in that there appears to be no mention of the school closing because of illness before 1895. Most schools had outbreaks of measles or influenza, and the authorities usually coped with them by closing the school for a period. There are references to lots of pupils being away, plus an unnamed 'contagious disease [that] seems to make its appearance in the spring of the year'. Until 1899 pupils left school at the age of ten or eleven, most of the boys working on a farm. Some of them were apprenticed, a seamstress in Salisbury and a draper in London being two examples who took pupils. There is one particularly sad entry; a family of four children were forced to go to the workhouse after the death of their mother.

School holidays were dictated by the farming year. They varied a little, being five or six weeks for the harvest, one or two weeks at Christmas, a week at Easter and a week in June. The children were occasionally given special days off, for example for royal weddings and funerals. The school was regularly used for other events, such as elections, concerts, bazaars and flower shows. This also meant an extra half or whole day off.

There are few references in the log books to punishment. The Rev. Williams strongly objected to corporal punishment, especially for girls. The vicar and the headmaster could not agree about this.

Each year the school was visited by a government Inspector, who tested the children's knowledge on each subject. He also commented on the standard of teaching. Many schools were also inspected by a Diocesan representative, who tested the children's religious knowledge. There is no mention of this at Broad Chalke until c.1900.

At the beginning of the 20th century staffing levels dropped to three and as with most schools in the county the National School was taken over by Wiltshire County Council. In 1920, due to a resignation and illness, there were only two teachers for 100 children. The Inspector wrote of the 'intolerable strain' on the headmaster and that it was not surprising that the children's education had suffered. Staffing was raised to four in 1922, but was back to three again in 1928 for 97 children. From 1909 all the children were weighed and measured and had a basic medical examination. By 1917 a school dentist was also visiting regularly. In 1910 gardening was a popular addition to the curriculum for the boys. The older girls were able to take a short course in Domestic Science, which was held in the parish room.

In 1953 the school had 89 pupils aged 5-15, who were taught in three classes. From 1963 the seniors transferred to Wilton Secondary Modern. In 1975 there was another change when Broad Chalke became a first school when a three tier syatem of education was introduced in south Wiltshire. A year later it had just 38 pupils, but the closure of both Bower Chalke and Bishopstone schools in the following two years brought Broad Chalke's numbers back up to 53.

In 1989 there was a change of head teacher. The outgoing head had managed to save the school from closure, but it had just 41 pupils. Gradually numbers increased again and so did the accommodation. The school house became the school office, library and staff room. The new school hall and a fourth classroom were built in the old school house garden.

South Wiltshire reverted to a two tier system of education in 2004 and further information will be found under Broad Chalke CE Aided Primary School


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