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Poulshot Church of England School

Poulshot Church of England School Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 18/05/2011 10:44:59
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Map Latitude 51.33630938739637 : Longitude -2.044304609298706
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The National School was built in 1884 on Poulshot Green, with space for 90 children. The land, which was part of what was known as Cook's Yard, was given by the Reverend Henry Olivier. A school chapel was built alongside by William Webb of Bromham.
By 1907 there were 60 children attending the school. From this date until the 1920s this was an average figure for the number of children on roll. In 1950 there were 76 pupils but the average daily attendance was only 30.

Attendance was a perennial concern for the teachers at the school. Bad weather, illness and agricultural work often kept children away: On 19 December 1905 the headmaster noted that, 'The attendance has been very low this week- there is still a great deal of sickness among the children.' On 12 September the following year: 'There has been a considerable falling off in the attendance of the children in Standards this week…A number of children are kept away to pick up potatoes.' On 26 June 1914 the head teacher wrote: 'The farmers are busy with their hay, and some of the children are being made use of in the hay field occasionally.'

Scarlet fever and scarletina), whooping cough, measles, mumps and influenza were all relatively common, and if one child from a household was ill or thought to be ill, it was common practice for all the children of the family to be temporarily suspended from attending school. There was an outbreak of diphtheria in May 1915 and the school was shut for a fortnight. It was further closed for five weeks in June and fumigated but one boy died. There was an epidemic of measles in 1917 and a four year old boy died. The school was forced to shut for seven weeks. However, the school was sometimes also shut for celebratory days or to give all children a chance to work; "blackberry holidays" were common at the start of the 20th century.

In 1904 there some alterations to the school which were required by the County Council, who were taking over the overall management of schools in the county.

Inspection reports over the years were generally positive. In 1904 His Majesty's Inspector found that: 'The teaching, which is now on more intelligent lines, has met with some measure of success…Though much remains to be done the high principal grant can be recommended…The work of the infants is generally satisfactory and their order is good.' The Diocesan report from 1916 reads: 'It has been a pleasure to examine this school. All standards have done well…The answering was keen and very intelligent. I congratulate the teachers on the result of their labours during the past year…The one weak part was the writing of portions of the Catechism from memory.' His Majesty's Inspector in1934 wrote: 'Owing to the fall in numbers on books the staff was reduced in 1931. The second class is unusually well managed and very good progress is made in reading, writing and numbers…The combined results of the teaching in recitation, singing and language training, culminating in a series of action songs and plays, are worthy of high commendation. On the other hand, more provision might be made for independent work by the children in connection with the geography and history lessons.'

The district nurse is first recorded as visiting the school in March 1916. A common affliction she found was children with "dirty heads" or heads in a "verminous" condition.
The dentist began visiting in 1917.

The school seemed unaffected by the First World War; one of the few references is from 1918 when chestnuts collected by the children were sent to Devizes railway station. This was due to the Ministry of Munitions tasking school children to collect chestnuts and acorns in order to extract acetone, used in the production of explosives. A half-day holiday was given in November 1918 after the war ended.

Seven evacuees were admitted in September 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War. All the children's gas masks were examined regularly. On 28 May 1942 a concert was held in aid of Wings for Victory week. When V.E. Day came in May 1945, the school was shut for two weeks.

In 1949 the chapel building was converted into a kitchen and hot lunches began to be served. In 1958, Mrs Dixon retired, having been teaching at the school for 43 years.
In 1964 a new heating system was installed in the school, followed in 1965 by new toilets.

The school closed in 1974 and the pupils began to attend Rowde Primary School. At the time of the closure, all the children were given a commemorative mug. Tony Watson, the head teacher of Poulshot School, moved to Rowde School with the children and became headmaster there.

The old Poulshot school building was bought by the parish in 1977 and now serves as the village hall; it was refurbished in 2008.

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