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Keevil Church of England Aided Primary School

Keevil Church of England Aided Primary School Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 10/01/2011 16:28:54
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Map Latitude 51.32182901330107 : Longitude -2.119017541408539
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Original Media Location: Michael Marshman

The schoolhouse was built in 1868-1869, and was paid for primarily by Mrs Chamberlaine - the Reverend Chamberlaine's wife. Rev. Chamberlaine's initials were on the school shield which was carved into the school wall. The plot of land was given by Mrs Kendrick of Talboys. It was built to accommodate 95 children and in 1885 there were 63 children at the school and 60 in 1895.This school adopted the principles of the National Society and began to receive a grant in 1877.

We do not have school log books for the Victorian period but the following will give an idea of what life was like in a village school at the time.

The following general information would be relevant to the school for the latter part of the 19th century. Fees were paid for each child until 1891, normally at the rate of one penny (0.4p) a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with an assistant teacher and perhaps a pupil teacher. The pupil teacher was taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College eventually becoming a teacher themselves. They mainly taught the younger children.

School holidays were at similar times to those of today but often there was only 2 days at Easter but a week at Whitsun. The summer holidays were of four, five or six weeks and were called the Harvest Holidays as the children either helped with the harvest or carried food and drink to their parents, who were working in the fields. There were more half-day and whole day holidays for special events. Half a day would be given after the annual H.M.I. or Diocesan inspections and there were holidays for school treats, choir outings, chapel teas, Christmas parties and at times when the school was needed for other purposes.

There were also many unauthorised absences. These would be for seasonal work, such as haymaking (June) and early or late harvest (July or September), being kept at home to help their parents, and working when they should have been at school. Bad weather such as heavy rain, cold weather, or snow kept children away from school, often because their parents couldn't afford to buy them suitable clothes and boots. Apart from the usual colds and coughs there were more serious illnesses than today and these included, mumps, measles, whooping cough, scarletina and diphtheria.

The elementary subjects were the '3 Rs' - reading writing and arithmetic. Scripture was often taught by the vicar and children would have attended church for services on some days. Older children were taught history and geography and there may have been some study of natural history. Singing was taught to all ages and all the girls and some of the boys would have done needlework. Drawing had been introduced by the 1890s.

The attendance fluctuated a lot because of illness, weather and work. This was always the case in rural schools at this period. Haymaking featured large during the summer with older children helping with the work and also taking food and drink to their parents in the fields and looking after younger siblings.

In 1906 overall control of the school passed to Wiltshire County Council as the local education authority but a local board of managers (forerunners of the present school governors remained. In 1907 there were 92 children on the roll and by 1912 that had increased to 99. In 1913 an asphalt playground was added.

In a book published by the Keevil Society, the reader is treated to an insight into life at the school in the first half of the 20th century. Kathleen Harden, who attended the school in the early 1930s, said: 'One thing I didn't enjoy was the cane being used.
If the teacher thought the occasion warranted the use of this, then she jolly well used it. I can remember some boys were full of pranks and their language was not always healthy.'

Margaret Banwell wrote: '1914 brought the 1st World War. At school we were provided with wool to knit scarves, socks, and mittens for the forces. They were happy days, but also some sad ones, particularly when news came through of loved ones killed in action.' During the First World War, 18 men from Keevil were killed and some boys from the school were allowed to leave early, at the age of 12, because of a shortness of labour.

All the reports relating to the school seemed to be very positive throughout the years; something of a rare achievement in small rural schools where attainment and achievement tended to fluctuate as much as the attendance of the pupils. The Diocesan Inspector wrote in March 1914, 'It has been a pleasure to examine this school. All standards have done exceedingly well. The answering was keen and very intelligent. Discipline and tone- excellent.' His Majesty's Inspector in 1923 wrote: 'The children are orderly and well behaved. The infants are happy and will talk freely and are interested in their occupations and are making fairly satisfactory progress in reading. Reading is fairly fluent.' The Diocesan Inspector of 1930 wrote: 'This school is doing good work. The tone is spiritual, homely and efficient. The written work was well up to the average.'

As in nearly all small rural communities, the teachers had a constant battle on their hands to keep all the children in school. Bad weather often prevented children coming in; roads and nearby fields often flooded, keeping out all but those who lived in the immediate vicinity. Children from Bulkington and Hinton especially were often absent. For example, in January 1912 the school was shut for several days because of heavy snow.

Serious illness kept many children away; often the school had to shut because of outbreaks of sickness in the village. In the early parts of the 20th century Keevil seemed to suffer from a plethora of illnesses; at various times the school was shut because of whooping cough, chicken pox, scarlet fever, measles and mumps. For example, in May 1913 the school was shut for a week or so because of measles.
Cases of diphtheria were not uncommon; a spate of diphtheria was noted in October 1910. Some of the older children were absent because they were working in the fields; often in Keevil it was for potato planting then picking.

Physical punishments were the norm, and children would often receive a caning for simple disobedience. However, some other examples recorded in the notebooks are interesting; children at Keevil were punished for "throwing ink about", "eating apples in school", "laughing in school" and "whistling." In October 1935 the headmistress wrote: 'Four girls who come to school by bicycle were sent home for lateness. They waste their time on the roads and are careless of road rules.'

In September 1939, 15 evacuees arrived at Keevil. Nine of these children were from London and were evacuated under the national evacuation of children scheme. Six were voluntary evacuees; some families moved together out of big cities to seek safety in the countryside. In June 1942 blackout curtains were put in the windows in all classrooms.

Tony Ludlow, in the book published by the Keevil Society, said: 'Miss Pike travelled to school each day by bicycle and in the winter, if the weather was bad, she walked.
I can't remember her missing a day. On the waste ground, beyond the playground railings and towards Church Farm farmyard grew lovely long stinging nettles and on more than one occasion I recall having to write 50 lines; I must not chase the girls with stinging nettles. During the War we had to carry our gas masks to school. If the air raid siren had sounded in Trowbridge, we were instructed to sit in the floor beneath our desks, until the all clear sounded. After hearing aircraft and loud noises, Mrs Legg ventured outside to investigate and returned to tell us all that it was simply an aircraft with engine trouble. However, many spent bullets were found in the playground, for in fact it was an air battle that had taken place, resulting in a German aircraft being shot down.'

The children were given a day's holiday in 1945 to celebrate the end of the War.

Mrs Lucy Clare, the head mistress who arrived as World War II ended, seemed to have scared her young charges. In her reminisces of village life "Deliver us from Keevil", Angela Cousins wrote: 'For much of the time I sat in terror, not bearing to consider the consequences of what might happen if I got an answer wrong. Mrs Clare was particularly hard on the boys and would punish them in front of the class, on at least one occasion with a willow branch that the offending boy had to bring in from the tree in the playground.'

The school threw themselves in to celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. On 22 April 1953 a rose garden was planted at the school, to commemorate the occasion. The cost was met by an education committee grant created specifically for the coronation. On 20 May 1953 a concert took place, given by the school children in the Keevil Institute, to raise coronation funds.The concert made £15, which was given to the Coronation Committee of Keevil and Bulkington. On June 2, the date of the coronation, two television sets were put in the infants' room in the school to allow the children to watch the historic event. After the coronation, on June 2, some of the children and parents were taken on a trip to London to go around the coronation route.

On 14 September 1955, a bad storm caused the roof to leak and water to overflow from gutters, causing flooding in the kitchen and cloakrooms.

From 1941 all senior children - aged 11 and over - went to secondary schools in Trowbridge. The school was granted controlled status in 1950.

In recent years the school has been extended by means of a pre-fabricated building and the catchment area covers Keevil, Bulkington, Great Hinton and Steeple Ashton; the school at the latter village closed a few years ago. In January 2009 there were 96 children in four classes at the school, while in May 2010 there were 90 children on the register.


Jennylee said:

It's about time smoeone wrote about this.
Posted 27/07/2011

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