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Staverton Church of England VC Primary School

Staverton Church of England VC Primary School Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 04/04/2011 15:05:49
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Map Latitude 51.34207679981103 : Longitude -2.208801805973053
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The first school in Staverton was established in 1850 in a converted canal warehouse leased from the Kennet and Avon Canal Company and situated near the footbridge over the canal. It was leased to Mr. Newth who became one of the school managers. It was united with the National Schools in 1850 and the attendance in 1857 was 50 pupils. Originally the teaching was by one temporary mistress and two pupil teachers. Discipline and instruction were considered 'fair' but the school suffered without a permanent mistress, until Emily Hooper was appointed as the first permanent head teacher.

In 1880 a new building was erected on a site conveyed under the School Sites Act, by Dr. Samuel Kiddle, to the vicar and churchwardens and this new building could accommodate 100 children. A National Schools Society grant was obtained and the land it was built on was situated between the railway and the lane leading to 'Ladydown'. This later became known as School Lane. The school was built by George Smith and opened on 18th October 1880. The school had two classrooms and the infants were taught in the smaller of these. Their first school photo was taken in July 1881 to record the opening of the new school.

Early reports state that the 'children are in very nice order and show signs of careful teaching, but are not so intelligent in their answers as might be wished.' The 1875 report by her Majesty's Inspector of Schools stated that the school was 'going on well' but in 1879 mentions a 'dark interior', resolved, no doubt, by the opening of the new school in 1880 when school attendance became compulsory. The Diocesan report of 1892 remarks that religious knowledge is 'certainly good' for so small a school, 'the full syllabus is taught and that without loss to the quality of knowledge gained.'
A good report in 1905 praised the teaching staff and the object lessons included such subjects as 'seeds and seedlings', 'how seeds grow' and the 'parts of a flower'. Also taught were 'the seasons', 'the air, the sky and the sun'. The 1914 report highlighted the need for decent sanitation. At the time there were bucket toilets which required emptying and cleaning on a daily basis, three for the girls and three for the boys, and considered wholly inadequate. Drinking water was then provided by an outside tap with an enamel mug chained to it. A good report in 1923 comments that 'discipline is much improved,' but arithmetic is mentioned as requiring attention.

Reading, writing and arithmetic were the core subjects and by 1871 geography and history were also taught. In 1880 object lessons covered subjects such as 'precious stones' to the upper standards and 'a reel of cotton' to the infants, as well as 'the Islands of Britain' and 'Oak trees'. A standard VII was introduced in 1882 and by 1886 the older children were using pencils and exercise books instead of slates. In 1891, 56 new desks were added to the school furniture meaning that every pupil had their own desk. Needlework was by then being taught to the girls and drawing for the older boys. By 1904 slates were abolished completely for all ages. Books on loan were introduced from 1910, provided by the local education authority, and they would be passed from school to school. Staverton often passed theirs on to Holt and two boys would be sent with the delivery. Music was being taught by 1914 and a new piano was donated by Lord Fitzmaurice. The larger classroom was divided with a thin curtain; 6 to 12 year olds taught on one side, and 12 to 14 year olds on the other. Each area had a teacher's desk on a raised platform, a blackboard and long desks and benches with no backs, furnished with ink wells. On the walls were a framed text of the 'ten commandments' and 'my duty to God' plus a picture of the then king, Edward VII. The rooms were heated by coke fuelled tortoise stoves, replaced in 1930 and 1934. A bell housed in a bell cote summoned the children to school and it was rung by a long rope attached to it. A prize of a watch and chain and badge of honour was awarded by Don Rogers the school manager in April 1920 to the pupil who was 'most respectful, honourable and upright'. By 1922 there was a growing interest in physical education and this was introduced to the school timetable as well as a domestic science course for the girls, taught at the Hilperton Institute. By 1926 the Staverton school children were taking part in the area sports day and often the whole school would attend.

Emily Hooper, the first head teacher, was replaced in 1878 by Elizabeth Leaver who in turn was replaced in 1883 with Laura Barnes, after a period of illness. Florence Hannum was assistant mistress and she left in 1889 before returning in 1897, after falling standards were highlighted in the HMI reports. Monitors were used to teach the younger children and by 1846 they were required to take exams. The 1862 Education Act brought in tests for standards I to VI and grants that the school received could depend on these results.

The Reverend Philip Maddock and his wife were very involved in the school in its early days. Mrs. Maddock taught the girls needlework on a regular basis. After the vicar's death in 1889 he was succeeded by Reverend Cavell and then the Reverend Stuart Ridley in 1898. The local vicar regularly visited the school to take religious instruction and played a vital part in the education of the children.

Local education authorities were set up in 1901 and part of the first grant awarded to Staverton School improved the salary of the teachers as well as providing new books and an essential extra cloakroom. Laura Barnes retired in 1920 after 37 years as Head, to be replaced by Elizabeth Mills with Miss Dix as assistant for the younger pupils. After the death of Elizabeth Mills, Miss Marriott was appointed head in 1932 and she was succeeded by Mrs. Downing in 1939.

The school started off with about 50 pupils on its register rising to 76 by 1863. In 1879 the weekly fees increased to 2d. for the eldest of a family and 1d. for any further children. The school fees, although of a small amount, did sometimes prohibit attendance as parents found it difficult to afford them.

By 1887 there were 37 in the infants' room, only intended to house 22, and this overcrowding was mentioned in the HMI report, but by 1892 the closure of the factory influenced the numbers on the school roll, and they dropped to 48. Many families had to move away to find work. In the early 1900s the school leaving age had risen to 12 years although children could stay at school until they were 14 years old and this became compulsory by 1919. The free place system introduced by 1907 meant that pupils could go on to secondary school in Trowbridge and labour certificates were required by those who left early to go into employment. By 1927 scholarship places were awarded in order to help pupils move on to Trowbridge High School. It was not until 1931 that they automatically moved on to senior school and this was when Staverton School became a junior mixed and infant school. Numbers on the register were 75 in 1920 and 48 in 1929, dropping to 32 by 1931 and 30 by 1935. The arrival of wartime evacuees swelled the numbers by 38 in 1940 and 28 of these new students were taught in the reading rooms opposite the school. By 1947 there was another drop in numbers to 48 reducing to only 24 by 1961. However by 1967 a mobile classroom was added to the school playground to accommodate the growing number of infants and by 1973 there were 100 pupils, prompting talk of the need for a larger school.

Short holidays were given at Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas with a longer holiday in the summer, eventually up to 4 weeks long. Staverton children, as in most rural communities, would help with the harvest and during the two world wars also helped with the war effort. This might involve blackberrying, potato picking or collecting acorns. The vicar would hold an annual tea party at the vicarage usually in May and serve tea on the vicarage lawn. Annual awards were presented by Mrs. Perkins-Clark at Wyke House and this event would often include games and refreshments. In 1891 the children attended a circus in Trowbridge and they had a tea party at the newly opened St. Mary's church hall at Horse Lane, Hilperton Marsh.

Special holidays were given for events such as the marriage of the future King George V, and deaths were also respected, such as the death of Major Clark and the Reverend Cavell; the pupils attended his burial at St. Paul's church. A three day holiday was awarded for the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and then a further holiday for her diamond jubilee in 1897. In 1901 a holiday was also awarded for victory in Africa and the children attended a welcome home parade in Trowbridge for the Wiltshire Regiment. At the end of the First World War they had one week's holiday and were issued with commemorative medals as well as attending a tea party. Regular treats started to include a visit to the cinema and films seen included Disney's 'Pinocchio' in 1941 as well as 'Snow White' and 'Fantasia' later on. Two day's holiday were given to celebrate the end of the Second World War and one day for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip, and a royal visit by the Duchess of Gloucester to the Néstle factory after the war was attended by the schoolchildren.

Weather played a role in the attendance patterns of the children, especially extreme cold and wet. In 1881 there was a heavy snowfall in January and schooling was missed so the school was opened on three Saturdays in February so that pupils could catch up. Flooding was ever present at Staverton and a log book entry from 1864 says 'one boy left, Mother fearing he would be drowned.' Major flooding due to severe storms occurred in Marsh Road in 1912 also prevented attendance. The continuation of summertime also meant that school started later during the Second World War, at 9.45 a.m. and was sometimes closed due to fuel shortages as there was no heating. Local fairs would attract the children such as the one held in Hilperton and then later Trowbridge in 1863 and these could also prevent school attendance.

Epidemics included the normal ailments such as chicken pox in 1884 and whooping cough in 1890 and again in 1892. School medical inspections were introduced by 1904 and made compulsory by 1907 so the health of the pupils was more carefully monitored. This would include weighing and measuring as well as dental treatment and inspection by the nurse. Mumps affected the school in 1912 and 32 children were absent so the school was closed for a month. A further measles epidemic caused a four week closure in 1916 followed by influenza in 1918 affecting 35 children and prompting another closure of 2 weeks. Chicken pox occurred in 1937 and a further measles epidemic in 1938 made 18 of the 30 pupils ill.

Regular outings occurred such as a barge trip in 1883, followed by a tea at Wyke House, while a magic lantern show was given by Reverend Maddock in 1884. Trowbridge Flower Show was attended as was the wedding of Katherine Cavell, the daughter of the Vicar, who had regularly helped at the school and was well known to the pupils. In 1903 the first train outing was taken to Weymouth and in 1917 the children welcomed the King and Queen on their visit to Trowbridge.

Punishments had to be administered often by the head teacher and 13 boys were punished by Laura Barnes for following a steam engine to Bradford Leigh as far as Mr. Candy's farm, no doubt the boys were fascinated by the spectacle. Other punishments given out included the cane for disobedience, absenteeism and talking during lessons.

The school underwent a number of modernisations over the years including receiving a gas ring from the Horlicks Malted Milk Company in 1936 which meant that hot drinks could be given to the children. The Second World War prompted the building of an air raid shelter in the field behind the school, gas masks were distributed and evacuation procedures were practised. Electric light was installed in 1945; the school had previously relied on gas lighting and before that candles and oil lamps. School meals were first served in 1950 from the school kitchen and later free school milk was given at morning break. The 1960s saw the installation of flushing toilets as well as improvements in heating. The school outing in the early 1960s was to the offices of the Wiltshire Times and the children saw the printing of the newspaper. In 1963 the first lollipop man was employed to help the children cross the main road as traffic increased through the village. By 1964 the school kitchen was improved and a school sports field was added as the field behind the school was purchased for school use. A radio and TV set were used from 1968. Numbers were increasing and by 1971 it was apparent that a new school would be required. As numbers dropped again the school was under threat of closure in 1980, but survived. A new school building was agreed with the LEA in 1993, and a new school was then built on the site of the existing sports field. It cost £1.2 million and has eight classrooms as well as project rooms, a central hall and landscaped grounds, and it opened in 1996. By 2000 the new school had 239 pupils. In May 2010 there were 215 children on the register

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