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National School, Patney

National School, Patney Date Photo Taken 2014
Uploaded 04/12/2014 13:47:20
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Map Latitude 51.32455448856692 : Longitude -1.8979713320732117
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

In 1835 a government grant of £25 was provided towards the building of a schoolroom and by 1858 about twenty children were taught by a middle-aged mistress in a small uncomfortable schoolroom with a brick floor and wall desks. The standard of reading and writing was high in comparison to other local places, although religious instruction was noted as moderate and sewing 'not much attended to'.

By 1871 this school was connected with the National Society. Six boys and eleven girls attended. The building was located south west of the road junction at the centre of the village. By 1906-7 an average of 28 children attended and this number remained similar until the end of the First World War. By 1922 the average attendance had dropped to only 14, and in 1924 the school was closed. The children of Patney then attended Chirton School and the school building became a store. It has since been converted into a residence.

The original school room measured 25 foot by 14 foot wide and it accommodated up to 43 children. A shed was built next to the school to store wood, coal, brooms and other necessary equipment. In 1875 coat hooks were installed near the main door to help keep the school tidy. Equipment used in 1877 included two maps for the wall display, one of the world and the other of Europe. In 1900 a new stove was installed and in 1914 the ground outside was levelled to form a playground; previously the children had played in the road.

Her Majesty's inspectors generally gave good reports and in spring 1876 'the elementary work was fairly done on the whole' and the new mistress should mean 'improvements in the future.' By 1877 arithmetic is mentioned as 'weak' and the Diocese report says the 'religious instruction in this school has been carefully attended to.' By 1895 the Diocese report says the 'religious knowledge is the best ever seen.' In 1896 the school obtained 'excellent' for drawing and evening scholars are also commended though the years. The HMI report in 1897 says the 'scholars are being very successfully taught' and the Diocese report of 1906 states that 'this little school always does exceedingly well: it is always a pleasure to examine it.'
Perhaps these good reports were not only due to the lone teacher but also due to the rector and the very regular attendance at church by the school pupils for various church festivals. Prizes were awarded regularly for pupil achievements.

The emphasis was on the '3 Rs' reading writing and arithmetic and older children were taught history, geography and drawing. Girls were taught needlework and in 1874 Mrs Simcox visited to inspect their efforts and examined their attempts at buttonholes. She continued to visit on a regular basis for these needlework inspections.
Songs taught included titles such as 'Be kind to the loved ones' and songs would often include actions to introduce movement. The charge for schooling at this time was twopence a week and this school had a scheme where the children from the first class would clean the school, taking turns, between 8am and 9am and after school in the summer; two children were therefore 'employed' every week and they were paid 4d. for their work.

By 1876 clothes were made to sell at a local sale of work, multiplication was being taught to Standard II and copy books were used to improve the handwriting. Children could be put back a level if the standards were not maintained. They learnt the words of 'God save the Queen' and used the 'Nelson Royal Readers' for reading practice. Music and action songs were taught by 1893 and by 1901, reading was taught as one subject to the whole school. Prizes were given by the Diocese, 10 shillings for two students as well as seven first class certificates for other scholars. Other prizes were awarded from Dent's school newspaper for handwriting. In 1904 a small amount of French was introduced as well as general knowledge as a subject, and the girls were taking drawing lessons alongside the boys. In 1906 the infants were mat weaving and bead threading and the school went on regular nature rambles. Medical inspections took place and in 1910 the girls' hair was 'perfectly clean.' By 1920 the children were drawing sketch maps of India and they would leave school by the age of 14 years.

The first mistress recorded in the school log book is Mary Anne Corp from 1874 to 1881. She was followed by Emma Shaw until 1890, Isabel Bogue until 1903 and then Miss Wells until 1906. The use of a bright older pupil as monitress is mentioned from 1907 although these girls would often leave to expand their training and become teachers themselves. One girl in 1916 was technically unable to be a monitress as she was only 13 years old, so she left school and did the job unpaid for a while. Following the departure of Maude Mounteney as mistress in 1920, after a 14-year spell in charge, the children were taught by a string of temporary teachers for the next four years. Later mistresses include Ada Jenkin and then Elsie Buckland, followed by Aline Long and Bessie Smith up to the point of closure of the school. It appears that all of these teachers did a good job in a small school, often working alone and with many subjects to cover.

The average attendance of the school varies from 20 to 39 children over the years. Some children were admitted as young as three years old and boys were often absent to help in the fields, particularly at harvest time or to take food to their parents while they were working. There is an instance of a family having time off to go on holiday c.1916 and one boy left in 1919 to attend the Duke of York's military school. By 1920 there were only 14 children on the school roll and some were transferred to Chirton School. The numbers had dropped to 7 by 1923.

Usual school holidays given included a couple of days at Easter, one week at Whitsun and six weeks in the summer as well as time at Christmas. Buns and oranges were given to the children by the rector's wife before the Christmas break.

Other absences were for potato planting in April 1877, the attendance of Devizes Fair in October 1881, visiting the Chirton Club Feast, held annually every May, the attendance at a local funeral, a visit to the local Flower Show and one child was absent as he had no boots! Weather could affect the school attendance such as the snow in January 1881, February 1888 and April 1922 and in December 1910 flooding prevented four children from reaching the school.
The usual childhood illnesses included measles in 1877 when the attendance fell to only 14 children, and again in May 1890 when the school was closed for one week in June due to the epidemic. Other illnesses included whooping cough, influenza and chicken pox in summer 1907. One boy in 1908 fractured his skull and remained off the register for some months until he was well enough to resume his studies. The weighing and measuring of the children became common place in the early 20th century and as there was only the one schoolroom, this often meant that the children had to play outside while it was taking place. The state of health was generally good, and problems that might be picked up included defective eyesight and poor dental hygiene. Toothbrushes were sold to the children in 1914 to encourage then to take care of their teeth and dental treatment was provided, usually taking place at Chirton School.

Special events at Patney School included regular attendance of church for festivals such as St. Matthew's day, September 21st 1874, St. Simon and St. Jude's day on October 28th, St. Thomas' day on December 21st 1874, and the usual observance of religious festivals such as Ascension Day. During Holy week in 1876 the children attended church each morning for a short prayer service. Other holidays were given for the harvest home, held at Patney farm, and the re-opening of the church in February 1878 after its two year restoration. Outings were to Portsmouth and Bournemouth, taking place in the summer, and holidays were given for royal events such as the coronation in 1911, Princess Mary's wedding in 1922 and the Duke of York's wedding in 1923. In June 1922 the children were taken to Patney station to watch the Prince of Wales's train pass through. Other events celebrated included the peace celebrations in 1919 and local visits were taken to Devizes Museum.

Discipline at the school was generally good although punishments such as caning were given out for making too much noise, inattention, lateness, damaging books, rudeness to the teacher, theft such as stealing turnips, and one boy had his hands tied behind him to prevent him from pinching the other children.

Equipment purchased and used at the school included new slates, a map of the bible lands and the British Isles, arithmetic cards and the school was awarded a library of 60 books for a good attendance record. Reading books were regularly swopped with Chirton School, as was the weighing machine when it was doing its rounds.

Patney's population stood at just 85 in 1921, down from 108 at the time of the 1911 census. The number of children on the school's roll fell sharply - average attendance was only 14 children in 1922 and this dropped to just 7 1924. Due to the low numbers on the school register the children were gradually moved to nearby Chirton School and the school finally closed its doors on December 18th 1924.

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