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Heddington - Heddington Church of England Primary School

Heddington School was built in about 1833 to accommodate around 60 children. Warburton's report of 1858 states, '32 children, mixed, are taught in a very fair school-room, built 25 years ago, with a wooden floor and desks along the wall, by an uncertificated mistress'. The building itself was constructed with an attached school house for the mistress or master. Two separate rooms were used to instruct the infants and juniors. Both rooms had cloakrooms and the washrooms were in a detached outhouse. An earth closet was added in 1893, when the school was considerably altered and enlarged. The school was united with the National Society in 1860. It was poorly funded and scraped by with only basic supplies.

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.

The school had a small compact library of text books and educational aids and occasionally invested in new ones; 20th March 1902, 'received new Map of England'. Subjects covered were basic arithmetic and reading/writing to poetry, geography and craftwork. Other subjects included nature and farming based lessons which were more important for children living in rural communities. Lessons in geography and nature were often taken outdoors, with the pupils walking up to King's Play Hill or onto farmland nearby. The children were taken outside to see a swarm of bees on the morning of May 26th 1905.

Attendance was poor as many pupils were from farm labourer families and also the health of the children wasn't particularly good. There were many disease outbreaks and epidemics recorded in the School log books. mumps, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, influenza, scarletina, chickenpox and dysentery were the main causes of absence and school closure. The most notable epidemics of mumps were recorded in early 1902 and 1904 and in October 1925. So much time was lost in 1902 that the Easter holidays were reduced. Measles were the most commonly reported childhood infection; summer 1902, spring 1904 when an infant, William Reeves died after a fit (probably caused by the fever associated with measles), mid 1909 and 1923. Whooping cough was prevalent in 1905 and 1928, diphtheria in 1907, scarlet fever 1920/21 and dysentery as late as 1955 and 1957. All of these diseases and illnesses nowadays are survivable with the introduction of immunisation and antibiotics. However, flu was endemic and still is. The largest recorded cases in the log books were in October 1915 and February 1925 (both times the school had to be closed for two weeks), February 1927 and January 1937. The children's health was frequently monitored by a nurse and sometimes in extreme cases a doctor would be called in from Calne. Some of the pupils were often sent home if they 'verminous'. This usually indicated that they had lice or fleas. In 1912, it was said that one particular family had 'heads, one mass eruption'. Normally associated with animals, the condition Ringworm was quite common in Heddington, and also scabies was found in the poorer families. Immunisation began in the early 1940s and dental checkups and treatment started shortly afterwards. Hearing tests were introduced in 1959.

Another reason for non-attendance at school was for potato planting and harvesting; many children were required to help their parents, many of whom were farm labourers. This job was usually in term time - despite there already being a harvest holiday throughout the month of August, often extended to five weeks.

Bad weather was frequently the cause for school closure or poor attendance. The worst winter weather was noted in February and March 1916 and also January and February 1963 - the school was closed for a whole month due to arctic conditions. The roads to Heddington were often impassable due to snowfall or flooding; another excuse for a day off of school. The school received regular visits from the Reverend Burnett in 1903 and 1904 during a period of very low attendance compared to the number on the register, 69 children. He commented on the lack of enthusiasm of some pupils; letters were sent to the parents of frequent absentees, to demand a change in the attitude towards education. Apparently, most of this correspondence was 'burned in the grate'. This low ebb may have been exasperated by the fact that the school had not had a regular head teacher. Agnes Gabb the mistress was only in charge from September 1903 to April 1904. She was temporarily replaced by Mr Doswell for five months followed finally by Ellen Pitt, who managed to stay in charge of the school right up until 1915 when the pupils numbered 50.

It appeared that the constant changing of headship of the school increased the disobedience as well as truancy. One stroke of the cane was the usual punishment for general disobedience. On other occasions the punishment was required to be more severe; two strokes on each hand were given to two young boys for 'kicking a kitten to death on the way home from school'. A girl (who was incidentally the sister of one of the boys) was given two strokes for writing on doors and walls of the lavatory and then given a further two strokes for untruthfulness. Another incident of note happened in 1927 when four boys were given two strokes for 'following the hounds on the hill during dinner hour.'

With the exception of the harvest holidays in August, the school would generally only be closed for Easter, Whitsun and Christmas. This changed in the 1940s when two half term holidays were introduced in February and October. On numerous occasions, however, unofficial days were taken as holidays. On June 2nd 1902, a half holiday was taken 'owing to peace being proclaimed between the Boers and our forces in S. Africa'. On August 5th, the same year, the children were accompanied to a 'Band of Hope' gathering in Calne. This was a meeting of local people headed by the Temperance Society. Another trip into Calne on 22nd July 1907 was to 'see their Majesties pass through'. This referred to a flying visit from King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra through the West Country, when hundreds of people turned out to cheer them on. The school was closed for a week's holiday from June 11th 1911 for the Coronation of King George V and closed for one day for Edward VIII's Coronation on May11th 1937.

The schoolchildren grew their own vegetables on a plot behind the school. During the First World War in 1916, the children donated produce to 'The Grand Fleet' based at Harwich, who were part of the naval force patrolling the North Sea. The food was taken from the village by donkey and cart, belonging to Mrs Money-Kyrle of Whetham, to Calne to catch the midday train to Harwich every Tuesday. The children then received correspondence from the recipients of the donations to thank them for their generosity.

In a log book entry of 17th March 1916, it states that 'The boys and girls picked many bunches of Primroses to decorate tables for a tea given to Heroes returned from the Front'. Mary Holton was the headmistress at this time until she was replaced by Elizabeth Job later that year. In October 1917, 25lb of Blackberries were picked for the making of jam for the Army and Navy. No other mention of the War is made in the log book at this time; the school appeared to carry on as normal despite many families being left without fathers. When World War I ended, the school was closed on 11th October 1918 only in the afternoon, to mark the 'cessation of hostilities'. The mistress in charge of the school at this time was Annie Lunnis, she remained at the school until 1923, when she was succeeded by Fannie Fielding.

School life was affected again by the outbreak of the Second World War. The school was closed on September 13th 1940, when there was an influx of evacuees. There were 16 extra children on the register by early 1941. Fortunately the school had been reorganised in 1936 to accommodate more children, especially infants. Two large classes, which taught the Upper and Middle Standards, were held in the school building. The infants, however, had been moved to the Old Village Clubhouse, a parish room, which was situated 30 yards away down the lane. In 1940, there were 37 infants. On the afternoon of September 25th 1941, a bomb was dropped in a field near the school causing part of the ceiling to fall. Some of the debris fell onto a child but fortunately she was unhurt. On May 8th and 9th 1945 the school was closed to celebrate Victory in Europe after the ceremonial hoisting of the Union Jack.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries many school children were have likely to have been malnourished. Some children would go home at lunchtime and those remaining would be supplied with a cup of cocoa costing a halfpenny.

After the Second World War there were 45 pupils at the voluntary aided school in 1955. Hot dinners didn't begin until September 1950 when a very small kitchen was built in the school. Electric lights were installed in 1956 and electric heating in 1967.

With the formation of a parent and teachers association PTA in 1965, regular fundraising events began to take place to improve the material and contents of the school. A swimming pool was built in the early 1970s and officially opened in June 1973 and used regularly during summer holidays as well as term time.

In the 21st century this small school benefits from large classrooms and small class sizes. It is a church school that concentrates on the family and was the first rural school to gain the Investors in Families Award. The 38 pupils (2012) have a Headteacher, two teachers and three teaching assistants (not all full time) with two classes. There is a computer suite, a library, an outdoor classroom, and a covered play and learning area for Class1. The school has its own playing field, a vegetable/flower garden, and an area for wildlife; it also has exclusive daytime use of the adjacent modern village hall.

Note: School Still Open - Current Details:

SN11 0PJ
Telephone No.01380 850489
Fax01380 859869
Age Range4 to 11
District Council Area
Special Facilities AvailableNo
Web Sitewww.heddington.wilts.sch.uk

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Heddington Church of England Primary School
Heddington Church of England Primary SchoolImage Date: 2012
Image Details: Michael Marshman
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