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Shalbourne Church of England School

Shalbourne Church of England School Date Photo Taken 2014
Uploaded 08/12/2014 15:23:47
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Map Latitude 51.36403726001759 : Longitude -1.550794243812561
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The National School was built on land given by the Marquis of Ailesbury. The cost of the original build was met by voluntary subscription and the school housed 105 children but was enlarged in 1894 to accommodate infants and increased in size to house 140 children in total.

The new school opened on 2nd December 1872 and was known as 'the Shalbourne Church of England School.' A memo from HM Inspector of Schools laid down guidelines for the running of the school. Advice included that 'registers be marked positively in ink and balanced periodically, quarterly or preferably weekly' and that each class should have 'an intelligent grasp' of its reading books. Also that standards V and VI should be able to follow a 'blackboard led lesson on the metric system' and 'needlework should show a specimen of work, one foot long showing knowledge of stitches. In upper standards, darning, patching and buttonholes should be demonstrated.' The first Head Teacher was Mr. Charles James Humphries and he taught at the school until 1885.

There were 28 children attending school on that first day and they were divided into four classes, all requiring 'order & regularity'. All were unable to read and write and had little idea of basic arithmetic. By the middle of January there were 58 on the roll and numbers rose to 80 by the end of January 1873 with 'little room to spare'. The average attendance was 88 out of 99 on the register. Attendance was affected by the late harvest in 1873 and bad weather in March 1874. In July 3rd 1874 a holiday was granted as the Lord Bishop visited the village to consecrate the new part of the churchyard.

The entry for September 25th 1874 reads 'average attendance is still very small. Boys are minding pigs and the girls are keeping house while Mother is in the fields.' Attendance becomes a recurring problem, often influenced by bad weather conditions or sickness, such as the measles epidemic of 1876, and agricultural needs, such as helping with the harvest. However the HM Inspector's report of March 1875 shows satisfactory progress.1875 also saw a new school open at Ham, so some boys moved there, affecting the numbers on the school roll. The school observed the usual holidays of Michaelmas, Harvest Thanksgiving, Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day and also attended the Chapel Sunday School Outing which that year was at Chilton Park. Other events that closed the school included the Vegetable and Flower Show, committee meetings and the General Election; the latter two were held in the school.

The school was regularly visited by Lady Ailesbury who sometimes gave a tea for the school children. In 1886 there was a bout of bad weather and hot dinners were provided at a cost of one halfpenny at the Coffee House, for the poorer children. In the late 1880s object lessons were taught on the vegetable kingdom and then the animal kingdom. Also geographical readers were used and the boys were asked questions about icebergs and glaciers, obviously fascinated by these unseen natural phenomena. The girls were well instructed in sewing and learnt to cut out garments and knit. Arithmetic continued to be the weakest subject in the school and Object lessons covered subjects such as silk, coal, winter, wind and frost and occupations included paper plaiting and lighting a fire. A new 'tortoise stove' fitted in school in 1889, provided 'a great comfort.' Children often stayed away to watch local events and a favourite in the early 1890s was the stag hunt, particularly with the older boys. School was visited regularly by the vicar and friends, and sometimes sweets were given to the children. In 1889, 85 children took the government exam and the pass rate was 94%. From 1885 the school had a number of different heads and so standards perhaps slipped at times. The HM reports continued to underline arithmetic as the weakest subject in the higher standards but generally an average level of education was achieved with an average attendance of 80 pupils. In 1890 the school had an outing to Savernake Forest where they had a picnic. Equipment received included drawing materials, a music chart, table charts, citizen readers, kindergarten books, bricks, wool and beads.

The head teacher relied heavily on the pupil teacher for support in looking after and instructing the infants. If the pupil teacher was absent, such as for sickness as Miss Few was in 1895, then the time table was often abandoned. The school report in 1895 was very good, saying that 'the tone of the school seemed to be all that could be desired.' Despite this reasonable remark the following head teachers assessed the school as rather backward and dull. In February 1900 the head teacher says 'this is a most disappointing school, the weather having such a serious effect on the attendance.' And the HM Inspectors Report of 1901 was 'mediocre' saying that the children are 'allowed to be careless' and 'not enough work is done.'

In January 1902 the children attended the funeral of Mr. Kingston who was 96, and a local landowner and had been a great supporter of the school. The children sang a hymn at his graveside and later were visited at the school by the executors of his estate and presented with a sum of money, which amounted to 6d each. An influenza epidemic in March 1902 reduced the attendance to 19 children, resulting in school closure until the beginning of April.
In June of that year the peace declaration of the South African War is noted in the Log Book and on June 20th the children were all presented with coronation mugs to commemorate the crowning of King Edward VII. Patriotic songs and the national anthem were sung.

A new head, John Morris, was appointed in November 1902 and the 1903 HM report mentions 'a different state of things prevailing, order is secured' and in the infants the 'children are fairly forward.' A new song was learnt, called 'Foresters, sound the cheerful horn,' and new stock included compasses and books for square paper drawing as geometry and scale drawing were introduced. Standards IV and V learnt a new piece of poetry called 'From India', intended to bring more expression into the reading and the infants were furnished with new desks. Dr. Ball, one of the HM Inspectors, awarded prizes of 6d.for the best attendance in each class. At this time the Head Teacher, Mr. Morris was helped by an assistant teacher and a pupil teacher. Attendances continued to be blighted by epidemics and in 1904 the school closed early for the summer holidays due to chicken pox. The next report comments on 'the deserved success of the master' and in that year he gave a talk on Empire Day, about the colonization and value of the colonies, both in times of peace and war, which was followed by the singing of patriotic songs and an early finish for school.

Punishments were often necessary and two strokes of the cane were given to a pupil for 'continued disobedience, inattention to lessons and playing.' Another boy was punished for breaking through a hedge into a farmer's field.

An evening school was now in operation with about 18 pupils attending, and a report by the school inspector said satisfactory progress was being made in arithmetic, reading, writing and drawing. This finished in November 1907 as there were not enough numbers for the average attendance as required by Wiltshire County Council.

Overall control of the school had passed to the County Council in 1906, although the local board of managers remained. Further information will be found under Shalbourne Church of England Primary School.

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