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Stevington School 1903-1946

The old school house December 2008
The old school house December 2008

A land mark Education Act was passed in 1902, coming into effect in 1903. It disbanded the School Boards and gave day to day running of education to newly formed Local Education Authorities, usually the county council, as in Bedfordshire. The old Board Schools thus became Council Schools whilst the old National, British and other non-Board schools became known as Public Elementary Schools. In 1903 Stevington duly became a CouncilSchool.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a scrapbook of cuttings of visits made to most Bedfordshire Schools by School Inspectors for a period from just before the First World War through the inter-war years [E/IN1/1]. The first report in the volume is from June 1911, when average attendance was 88: “Order is good and the School continues to be carefully and intelligently taught; in all branches of instruction the attainments of the children are satisfactory. The Infants Division is very suitably taught and the children make good progress”.

A year later the inspector reported: “Order and tone are very praiseworthy and all sections of the School continue to be taught with care, ability and success, and the level of efficiency reached is very creditable to the Teachers. The gallery in the Infants’ room is a hindrance to the Teacher and a source of physical discomfort to the little children using it. It should be removed and more modern furniture substituted. That the older boys are not taught Gardening is a metter for regret. The time could well be spared, and the instruction would probably prove of lasting benefit to them”.

The First World War meant that the next inspection did not take place until 1921, when average attendance was 82: “This is a very good little School. Nearly all the work reaches a good level, most of it being far above the average of schools considerably larger. Speech training receives exceptional attention, and the children speak very well indeed. It is pleasant to visit the School, as the Infants Class is doing as good work as is the Upper Division”.

The inspection of 1925 was solely interested in the premises: “The Girls’ cloakroom is rather small for the numbers using it; the window in it wants easing, as it is difficuly to poen. This is true of several other windows in the school. The heating is not entirely satisfactory, as the Boiler appears not to heat the pipes sufficiently. The Boys’ urinal is rather offensive: additional disinfectant should be used here, or some other method of making this satisfactory as the other offices”. A visit in 1926 looked at gardening, evidently the criticism of 1912 had been taken to heart: “The class is taught by a visiting gardener for one hour a week. Vegetable plots are in a good condition and crops promising, but little beyond these plots can be managed during the early part of the season in the time allotted to the subject. There are many fruit trees trained in various ways, and a good flower section; if more time were available and the teacher is qualified, stock is available for a very useful course of wide scope. Tools ought to be more thoroughly cleaned. It is desirable that scholars should keep records of their work and observations; the best means of doing this is probably the use of a rough note book for the pocket, the entries from which might be utilised at intervals for a Composition lesson”.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Stevington was assessed in 1926 and the valuer visiting the School House[DV1/C120/151] noted that it was occupied by J. M. Gibb and stood in just over an eighth of an acre, tye tenant paying £18 per annum rent. The house comprised a parlour, living room and kitchen downstairs with three bedrooms above. A barn, earth closet and washhouse stood outside and water came from a well and pump. The valuer commented: "Very nice House indeed".

The following year, 1927, the inspection was on the school as a whole: “In this school the otstanding features are the care taken in Speech Training and in the teaching of Reading, Recitation and Singing. There is some fairly good written English also: but this might be improved both as regards freedom of expression and style. There are a few older children, who should leave shortly, who are rather behind the normal standard: but the new Head Teacher will find some very promising younger children, a good tone, and willing conscientious workers in the Assistants who are in the school”. In 1930 the inspector reported: “The Head Mistress has been here just two years and is displaying great energy, well directed, in this, her first sole charge”. In that year a sewer pipe was laid under land at the rear of the school [SH50/1/11a].

In 1934 the inspector reported: “There is much to praise in this school. The three Teachers are doing very genuine work, and are particularly successful in the Physical Training, in the Reading and Recitation of the Infants’ Class, in the Music of the seniors where three children can accompany songs usefully and where Needlework and Handwork are on good lines. The drawing of the juniors and recent improvement in this subject in the seniors may also be mentioned. The Junior Section has suffered by changes of Teacher, and the Head Mistress, who at the second visit was taking the class herself, will probably keep it for this term. There is a weakness in tables, and therefore in accuracy of calculation, through the school, and the handwriting except in a few cases is not good. The written English in the Senior Section reaches a fairly good standard with one or two children outstanding in power of expression. The children are well behaved and responsive in school”.

The final inspection in the volume dates to November 1937, when average attendance was 59: “There have been a good many changes in the Teaching Staff since the last report; the Head Teacher also was away for most of a term in America; and the numbers have declined, so that, now, with 57 on the roll there are two Teachers, the Staff having been reduced to two in October. It is still a very satisfactory school. The examinations are very complete, and the work very creditable, both in the past, and in the papers worked during part of this visit”.

“The Reading powers of the Juniors and Infants are well advanced; recitation too is really good, though there is so much emphasis placed o nendings and certain letters, in the earliest stages, that very little enjoyment is apparent in the lower section. However, as the children speak clearly and naturally in the upper section, it would seem that this is one way of cultivating good speech successfully; the over emphasized final syllables disappear here. It is a pleasure to listen to most of these seniors. Singing, too, is good. Written Englsh is successfully taught, Arithmetic is well graded. Physical training and Folk Dances are properly appreciated. The Head Teacher is trying to give the older boys some Carpentry”.

“There is a scheme which should materialise before long for the transference of senior children to a new Senior School [in Harrold]. They should find their attainments quite equal to senior children from the other Schools in this Scheme, when the transference takes place”.