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Dinton - Dinton Church of England VC Primary School

In 1818 some 80 children were being taught by the parish clerk, assisted by three women in a school. No building is mentioned and it is possible that the church was used although the number of children makes this unlikely. It was said that nearly every child in the parish went to school and it is believed that some students had their fees paid by more wealthy residents; children from Teffont Magna also attended this school.

In 1845, the school was in stone outbuildings, near the Rectory, which were turned into a large schoolroom. The number of pupils decreased to around 60 by 1859 when the Warburton Census reported, 'School-room of fair dimensions (31 feet by 15 feet by 15 feet high), floor boarded. About 50 or 60 children are taught, mixed, by a mistress, with a master (a one legged man) for writing and arithmetic in the forenoon [morning]. The school-house was formed out of some buildings belonging to the vicarage [sic] yard.'
What was described as the main Dinton School was moved to its new premises on Salisbury Road in 1872 and is still there to this day. This school was Church of England and was built with financial help from the government, the National Society and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Unfortunately there are no Victorian school log books in Wiltshire & Swindon Archives, but the following general information would be relevant to the school for the latter part of the 19th century. Fees were paid for each child until 1891, normally at the rate of one penny (0.4p) or twopence a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with assistant teachers, pupil teachers and monitors. The pupil teachers were taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College and eventually became teachers themselves. They mainly taught the younger children. Monitors were also paid but tended to be younger and helped to look after the younger children or teach the infants.

School holidays were at similar times to those of today but often there was only 2 days at Easter but a week at Whitsun. The summer holidays were of five or six weeks and were called the Harvest Holidays as the children either helped with the harvest or carried food and drink to their parents, who were working in the fields. There were more half-day and whole day holidays for special events. Half a day would be given after the annual H.M.I. or Diocesan inspections and there were holidays for school treats, choir outings, chapel teas, Christmas parties and at times when the school was needed for other purposes.

There were also many unauthorised absences. These would be for seasonal work, such as haymaking (June) and early or late harvest (July or September), being kept at home to help their parents, and working when they should have been at school. Bad weather such as heavy rain, cold weather, or snow kept children away from school, often because their parents couldn't afford to buy them suitable clothes. Apart from the usual colds and coughs there were more serious illnesses than today and these included, mumps, measles, whooping cough, scarletina and diphtheria.

The elementary subjects were the '3 Rs' - reading writing and arithmetic. Scripture was often taught by the vicar and children would have attended church for services on some days. Older children were taught history and geography and there may have been some study of natural history. Singing was taught to all ages and all the girls and some of the boys would have done needlework. Drawing had been introduced by the 1890s.

Parents paid for their children's education until 1890 though after this time schooling was free. 1913 saw pupil numbers decrease, making the local education authority downgrade from class D to class C.

Students contributed to the war effort in 1914 by donating money to benefit the soldiers and sailors. Four years later, they picked over 1,500lbs of blackberries to be used for jam making by the ministry of food. During World War II, the school participated in encouraging children to save money and were happy to accept evacuees and a refugee during this period. Gas mask training was also completed at the school to ensure that the students knew how to respond to an attack.

The students would go on an annual outing to a tea party with Mr and Mrs Phillips at Phillips House where the children would receive gifts while enjoying sports and fireworks. Some of the awards the school have received include coming top of the Southern division of the county for its garden in 1914. It later won the Bathurst Challenge Shield for Best Garden in the county in 1915.

The layout of the school in 1939 included lobbies adjoining two rooms with a boiler room and lavatories in outbuildings. Outside there were two separate playgrounds, one for infants and junior girls and one for junior boys. Activities included reciting from cards, counting with an abacus and French knitting. Later years found the school provided with basic teaching of music with percussion instruments and much focus on the garden in the school grounds. There were flower beds alongside the fence in the larger playground while there were bigger beds adjacent to the "small" playground. Punishments involved wearing a dunce's cap and if the entire class became disruptive, "hands on heads" were used. More extreme cases resulted in a visit to the headmaster who would use a cane to hit the palm of the student's hand. Attendance was closely observed by the attendance officer.

Entertainment in the playground included a ball game called "Tight Breeches" along with "Kiss Catch" and "Hopscotch". "Conkers" and "Marbles" were also favourites.
There was no set uniform in the 1940s, though most boys wore similar caps, jackets and short trousers, while mothers kept their daughters looking smart in pinafores. Dinton School was also home to a small lending library run by the County Council. This was open to both adults and children and the stock was often updated and improved. The school was also used to perform medical checks on the students with visits from both doctors and nurses. Inoculations against diphtheria and vaccinations against small pox were given. School usually ended with the 11+ exam which would decide if a student could have a scholarship to a grammar school, or stay at Dinton School; from 1935 older children went to Wilton Senior School if they did not go to a grammar school.

The school at Teffont closed in 1935 and children aged between five and eleven were transferred to Dinton. From September 1935 children aged eleven and over from both Dinton and Teffont went to the newly organised Wilton Senior School. By 1944 there were only 40 children at Dinton School; both school and children were adopted by locally stationed American armed forces and the children received weekly gifts of toys, sweets and biscuits. As the troops left young families were moved into the vacant buildings and the by 1950 the number of pupils at the school had increased to 80, necessitating the appointment of a third teacher. By the mid 1950s the school had a modernised sanitation system, central heating and a kitchen providing school meals; in 1955 there were 75 children attending the school and this number, with three teachers, was little changed through the 1960s.

The school, which had become a voluntary controlled school in 1945, benefits from a reasonable amount of land, including a former orchard from which the children used to gather fruit. Today there is a playing field and wild life garden as well as two large playgrounds, an early years' play area and an outdoor climbing area. There are four classrooms, with additional areas for 1:1 tuition, a modern hall and the modern school kitchen is still providing hot meals for the children as was its predecessor in the 1950s. However both pupil numbers and staff have increased; in 2011 there is a head teacher, five teachers and five teaching assistants and the number on the register in May 2010 was 95 children.

Note: School Still Open - Current Details:

Hindon Road
Telephone No.01722 716221
Fax01722 716189
Age Range4 to 11
District Council Area
Special Facilities AvailableNo
Web Sitewww.dinton.wilts.sch.uk

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Dinton Church of England VC Primary School
Dinton Church of England VC Primary SchoolImage Date: 2011
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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Dinton Church of England VC Primary School
Dinton Church of England VC Primary SchoolImage Date: 2011
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Dinton Church of England VC Primary School
Dinton Church of England VC Primary SchoolImage Date: 2011
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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