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Woodford Valley Church of England (VA) Primary School

Woodford Valley Church of England (VA) Primary School Date Photo Taken 1950s
Uploaded 12/01/2011 14:36:48
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Map Latitude 51.12511002577685 : Longitude -1.829599142074585
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

A school was built in Church Lane between 1833 and 1836 and was enlarged in 1854. This school was united with the National Society from 1833 and received building grants in that year. In 1859 the Warburton Census said of the school, 'Forty girls and 20 boys are taught, mixed, by a mistress, at Middle Woodford. The school-room has a tiled floor.'
A National School was built in 1872 at a cost of £800, helped by a building grant from the National Society; the architect was Giles Loder. The school could accommodate 98 children in a schoolroom and classroom and there was also a teacher's house. Arnold Platts notes that "Artisans' children" paid two-pence a week and poorer children only paid a penny. This continued to 1891 when education became free. In 1876 there were 48 pupils on roll, and this had risen to 57 in 1899 when Miss Emma Crofts was schoolmistress.

The school log book for the late Victorian period provides us with a few snapshots of school life at the time. There were often illnesses which spread through the parish and naturally affected the school. In March 1891 the school was closed for three weeks because of a measles outbreak. In November 1899 the school was shut because of Scarlet Fever. Other illnesses included influenza, ring worm, St Vitus' Dance and consumption. Children were disciplined for all sorts of reasons, these include; throwing stones, playing truant, talking and 'insubordination.' In November 1887, the teacher at the time 'punished several of the bigger boys for driving some of the turkeys belonging to Heale Park when leaving school this noon.'

His Majesty's Inspector in 1879 wrote: "The children are in fair order and have improved somewhat in writing, though the first and second standard acquitted themselves but moderately in this subject. Arithmetic is deplorably weak. My lords will look for better results as the condition of an unreduced grant next year."

Other general points that would have been common to rural schools at this time are as follows. 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.

In 1906 overall control of the school passed to Wiltshire County Council although a local board of management remained. Fifty pupils attended the school in 1907 and in 1937 there were 48 children on roll. From 1914 the schools dentist visited every year. An infant's classroom was built in 1912 or 1913 during a school enlargement. This cost £200. On the occasion of the jubilee of George V (1935), Louis Greville gave the playground to the school as a gift to commemorate the occasion.

Inspections of the school over the years were mixed. His Majesty's Inspector in 1931 wrote: "Though the teaching in the second is rather formal for children under 11 years of age, the results in the fundamental subjects are generally fairly good. During the last three or four years interesting developments have taken place in this school. The master has made a special feature of linking up the curriculum with the study of the countryside and its activities, and by means of rambles and frequent reference to local geography, history and nature-lore, he has infused new life into the teaching of these subjects. Instruction in bee-keeping has been introduced recently." The Diocesan Inspector of 1948 said: "I noted the expression work in the infants. The middle groups showed some dramatisation and puppetry which all helps in allowing the children to assimilate the teaching. The equipment is far from satisfactory."

An interesting scheme was started in the school in 1927, under the headship of Joseph Grey, when the school began producing their own magazine. The pupils wrote the articles themselves and printed the magazine on an Adana printing machine. Some of the articles included; "Druid's Service at Stonehenge", The Outing", "The Eclipse" and "Salisbury's 700th birthday." Copies cost 6d and in the 1928 Easter edition 20 pupils were involved in making the magazine. In this edition, in an article called "My Village", the ten-year-old author wrote: "All around the village are hills of chalk on which grows short grass. Very few people go to Salisbury for work; most people work on the land." The last edition of the magazine was at Christmas 1928; it had 12 pages.

The milk scheme started in March 1935.

In 1939, 22 evacuees arrived at the school. This took the number of children on roll to 64. In 1940 an additional teacher joined the staff, in order to cope with all the extra pupils; by then there were 28 evacuees. The evacuated children came from Plymouth, Woolwich and Liverpool. In June 1940 a further 20 evacuees came to the school, along with their teacher Miss Lord. As part of the "War Effort", school hours were reduced between November and February in order to save money on fuel. The school was shut for two days to celebrate Victory in Europe (VE).

School meals began to be delivered to Woodford in April 1945. The school remained an elementary (all age) school until 1950 when children aged 13 and over went to Durnford. Later the school became a primary school only taking children to the age of 11. In 1966 there were some alterations and enlargements to the school. This meant there were now three classrooms. Proper water sanitation and a kitchen were installed.

Over the last 14 years (to 2010) the pupil numbers have grown from 38 to 154, partly owing to the creation of a nationally recognised Centre for Autism at the school, which has two classes. There are five other classes in this successful school and the early link with the church is maintained with pupils worshipping in the church of All Saints once a week, just as pupils did in the mid 19th century.


izzy said:

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Posted 24/10/2012

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