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Stevington School 1864-1902

The old school December 2008
The old school December 2008

Stevington British School opened on 29th February 1864 after sixteen months planning and building. The site was donated by Lord of the Manor, Crewe Alston and the buildings erected at the expense of the Duke of Bedford. The parish archive contains reports by Her Majesty's Inspector from 1865 to 1874 [P71/29/18/1-10].

The first report indicates that a Night School was in operation from the opening of the school in addition to the normal day school. The report [P71/29/18/1] reads: "I am given to understand that education has hitherto been much neglected in this place, and taking this into consideration, this School appears to me to have made a very promising start. There were very few failures in the examination of the Day Scholars. The Night Scholars did fairly well. What is wanted, however, is not merely to satisfy the bare requirements of the code, but to quicken the intelligence of the children. So far as I could judge from their answers in Geography they seemed to me somewhat dull and sluggish in intellect. My Lords will look next year for the presentation of a larger proportion of the Scholars in the higher Standards. The Evening School Grant has been calculated on the assumption that only one session of that Department has been held during the 16 months for which the Grants to this School are claimed". Average attendance in the mixed school was 55 and in the Night School 24.

The report of 1866 [P71/29/18/2] read: "The individual examination of the Day Scholars has been passed with average success. The Night Scholars did less well, the percentage of failures in their examination being about 30. The Slate work of the children under six might be executed more neatly. As many of them will come to be examined individually next year it is desirable to set them to work as early as possible on Letter and Figure making. More of the Night Scholars will be expected to pass the individual examination next year. Mr. Douglass [the teacher] will shortly receive his Certificate". Average attendance was 51 in the Mixed School and 16 males in the Night School.

The report of 1867 [P71/29/18/3] read: "I regret that the number of Mixed Scholars examined this year is much less than it was last year. Only 19 were presented over six years of age. Last year 34 were individually examined. The instruction in reading and writing is satisfactory. It is in Arithmetic that the greater number of failures occurred. The answering in English Geography seemed to me very moderate; the more so, that the children cannot be persuaded to speak out in a clear outspoken manner. The extreme difficulty with which answers have to be extracted from them indicates a defect of discipline, which the master must assiduously endeavour to overcome. I am glad to notice that the Sewing is nicely executed. My Lords are unable to allow any payment for the average number of Evening Scholars attending this School unless each of them as have attended 24 times and upwards be also examined. The examination may be held at any time of the year pursuant to Articles 142-9". Average attendance was 43 in the Mixed School.

The report of 1868 [P71/29/18/4] read: "The result of the examination shows increased accuracy in the instructions of this small rural school, which appears to me to be carefully taught, and efficiently disciplined. I notice with pleasure that the needlework continues to be nicely done. The Night Scholars have passed with the following exceptions. Failed in Writing: S. Poole; J. Keech. Failed in Arithmetic: E. Poole; S. Poole; J. Keech". Average attendance was 40 in the Mixed School.

The report for 1869 [P71/29/18/5] read: "The Day School has passed a fair examination. The failures occur chiefly in the first Standard; in which many of the Children were unable to make letters properly from Dictation. In the Night School, all have passed with these exceptions - S. Cockings, A. Harding and J. Bunker, who failed in Writing; - while S. Cockings and S. Keech have failed in Arithmetic. As the Night School comprises both sexes, there should be some female Superintendent present in addition to the Master. I am not aware whether this has been provided for, since the new Teacher has been in charge of the School". Average attendance was 42.

The report for 1870 [P71/29/18/6] simply read: This school appears to me to be in a satisfactory state". Average attendance was 50.

The first Education Act was passed in 1870 (more correctly it was known as the Elementary Education Act). It was a milestone in the provision of education in Britain demonstrating central government's unequivocal support for education of all classes across the country. It also sought to secularise education by allowing the creation of School Boards. These were groups of representatives, elected by the local ratepayers and the Board had the powers to raise funds to form a local rate to support local education, build and run schools, pay the fees of the poorest children, make local school attendance compulsory between the ages of 5 and 13 and could even support local church schools, though in practice they replaced them, turning them into Board run schools (known as Board Schools). Naturally, and luckily for local historians, the Act required a questionnaire of local schools. The reply for Stevington was: "Stevington British School. Accommodation for 85 children. Required: Accommodation for 39 children in StevingtonVillage. If the Stevington British School be enlarged, so as to accommodate in all 124 children, no further accommodation will be required".

The report for 1871 [P71/29/18/7] simply read: "This School is in a satisfactory state and care seems to have been taken with the Instruction of all the Children attending the School". Average attendance was 57. The next year [P71/29/18/8] the report read: "The reading and writing are more than usually good - the spelling and arithmetic are fair. Altogether the condition of the School is satisfactory". Average attendance was 69. In 1873 [P71/29/18/9] simply read: "The School is well taught. The Register should never be marked in pencil". Average attendance was 69. Miriam Harper passed her examinations in this year to become a pupil teacher. The final report is that for 1874 [P71/29/18/10], when average attendance was 69. The report noted: "The Teaching continues to show care. There is some weakness however in the Spelling".

On 20th May 1874 a School Board was formed in Stevington. StevingtonBritishSchool thus became Stevington Board School. The Duke of Bedford duly conveyed the school buildings, which he had built, to the School Board in 1875 [CCE/SB42/2]. Mortgages for repairs etc. were raised with the Public Works Loans Committee in 1877 [CCE/SB42/4] and 1898 [CCE/SB42/5]. The Education Act of 1902 abolished Board Schools and created Local Education Authorities and thus Stevington became a Council School in 1903.