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Wiltshire Community History

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Crudwell - The National School, Eastcourt

In 1859 the school was surveyed as being 'very good stone-built schoolroom, with wooden floor, and desks at wall, erected three or four years ago, with a teacher's house forming part of the building. About 30 children are taught by a mistress (untrained). This school belongs to MR Mullings, M.P'. Soon after the school became a National School and was still teaching around 30 pupils in 1879. Numbers declined after this and by 1922 had dropped to around 20. This forced the closure of the school in 1923, the head teacher CD Perret noting in his log book on the last day "Am closing and leaving this bright little school with great regret". The head teacher moved to Long Newton School and the pupils were transferred to Crudwell and other neighbouring schools after a week's holiday.

The earliest surviving log books (used by the head teachers to record what happens at the school) date from the beginning of the twentieth century, although a great deal of school life had remained unchanged from Victorian times. Lessons were greatly influenced by scripture and were given by the Rector. Children had to sit exams in scripture too. Physical exercise at school had become important and 'drill' lessons were held regularly. The boys played football and cricket, competing in matches between local schools such as Crudwell. The girls were taught cookery (in a class held at Crudwell School) and basket making. All children went on nature study lessons which often included rambles at certain times of year to help collect blackberries or seeds on the Hankerton Road. The children also took exams in reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1908 a head teacher and assistant teacher took classes along with the Rector.

The Inspectors Report for the school in 1915 was quite critical: 'for two months no second teacher was present. Assistant now is quite inexperienced and the infants are backwards in reading and in thought expression. The lower older group is also backwards but the upper group is making fair progress. Scholars find pronouncing unfamiliar words difficult due to faulty methods of teaching reading in the early stages. Arithmetic was only fairly satisfactory. Writing was fairly good but expression and punctuation gets little attention. No exams and no records of progress. Infants use slates which are not allowed by Education Regulations. Some desks are unsuitable.' Exam results in 1919 were fairly satisfactory and there was great improvement in arithmetic and composition but reading was still not very good. Teaching standards had reached an even lower standard by 1918 but by 1922 a new head teacher had lead to improvement in discipline and fundamental subject instruction. Older children became interested in their work, and arithmetic was going well, although oral sessions were still below standard. Children seem to be much better learned in scripture as the Diocesan Inspectors stated in 1911 that 'This is a good school. The children answered well throughout and the written work was good. They have been taught in a careful and reverent manner' - the Rector must have been doing a better job than the teachers!

Attendance was not always high for a varied number of reasons. A school attendance officer kept track of attendance figures and intervened on occasions if a child was persistently late. Most absences were due to the weather and helping their parents on the fields. Wet and stormy weather seems to be most common, with poor attendances in January and July 1912 . The roads became flooded and it was hard to walk to school. During February 1919, November 1921 and April 1922 snow also kept children at home. Coughs and colds were common and kept the younger children away from school. An outbreak of diphtheria occurred in 1911 and 1920, and chicken pox in 1914. The school was closed due to 'sickness' in 1918. A dentist and nurse visited the school regularly to check the children's health. Other school absences occurred when children had to help their parents with harvesting. For example July was haymaking and September blackberry picking. In October 1918 some boys went to help drive cattle to market. A lack of attendance also happened on days when the hounds met, but this was obviously not work related! Most boys finally left school to work on the land.

The children had school holidays much like we do now; five weeks for summer, one week for Easter and Whitsun, and also a couple at Christmas. Other days off included school outings, day trips to places like Weston happened once a year. A day trip to Bristol in 1921 included a visit to the zoo, museum, art gallery, tower on Brandon Hill and the Suspension Bridge. Money was brought in weekly to pay for the entrance fees and the head teacher paid for the teas! The children also paid to see a production of 'The Merchant of Venice' at Malmesbury School. Empire Day was very important; the children recited and sang Empire poems and songs, saluted the flag and had games in the afternoon to honour the Empire. The school was closed in the afternoon on Ascention Day, and in 1911 they had a week off for King George's Coronation. Another week off was given to commemorate 'Peace' a year after the end of WW1 in 1919. A Christmas show was also held and parents were entertained by songs, recitations, dances and plays. Prizes were given out afterwards.
 

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