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Marston Vale Middle School Stewartby

Photograph of Marston Vale Middle School in October 2007
Marston Vale Middle School in October 2007

Stewartby Council Senior School opened in 1937. An article in the Bedfordshire Times from 29th January 1937 described the opening of the Senior School: "The first suggestion that a school should be built at Stewartby was made ten years ago, when it was known that the London Brick Company were going to begin a model village with fifty houses.  Children living at Stewartby had to be conveyed to Wootton and Marston for their schooling, and it was felt that they should be educated in their own village".  The land and the bricks to build the school came from the London Brick Company. 

The article went on to discuss the changes in thinking about education at this time: "Organised games, physical training, gardening, cooking and handicrafts were just as much a part of education as were arithmetic and geography".  Traditional subjects such as arithmetic were to be applied to real life so pupils would see that it was: "not just a mental exercise but something they would have to do once their schooldays were over".  Schools needed to be larger and better equipped to teach these new subjects and this had been an important point when the new school was planned.

The popularity of school meals can be seen in this extract from the surviving logbook: "4 March 1937: Mr A. E. Kenny-Herbert visited at 12 noon, and said he had come to investigate complaints about the school dinners.  The complaints had been notified to him by Mr L J Wheeler of Cranfield Junior School.  The chief complaint, he said, was that the children were not getting a second helping.  I pointed out that this was impossible when dealing with 260 children, and showed him the amounts the children were receiving.  A remarkable commentary on the above is that all transferred children are participating in the Dinner Scheme.  This was not the case at first, but after the first week, those who had previously not accepted, applied for admission to the scheme.  Moreover, Stewartby residents have applied for their children to join the scheme". [SDStewartbyMiddle1/1]

During World War Two the school received evacuee children: " 11th September 1939: The school re-opened.  Senior School (local children and evacuees) under L W James.  Junior School (evacuees only) under L. C. Symes of Mission Grove Junior School Walthamstow" [SDStewartbyMiddle1/1]. In total there were 58 official evacuees attending the Senior School.

The schools were given a holiday to celebrate VE day. The Senior school logbook records the event: "To celebrate Victory in Europe the Education Committed granted a holiday on V.E. DAY and the two following days.  Mr A. J. Kean, School Manager and also Welfare Officer to London Brick Company, arranged special gala programmes for the children for these three days, which will remain a life-long memory to them". [SDStewartbyMiddle1/1]

The Education Act of 1944 established the principle of County Primary Schools for children up to the age of 11, at which time they took an examination to determine the nature of the secondary school they would attend until they were 15, the most academically able going to grammar schools, the rest to secondary or secondary modern schools. Accordingly, in 1946, Stewartby Council Senior became Stewartby County Secondary School.

After the war all sorts of things were in short supply, as witness this entry from the school logbook: "13 February 1947: CLOSURE OF SCHOOL. Owing to lack of fuel the school was closed from 13 FEBRUARY to 24 MARCH, inclusive" [SDStewartbyMiddle1/1]. Schoolchildren were not always better behaved than their counterparts today as this entry from the logbook for 24 Nov 1950 shows: "PC Pickering called to investigate a complaint that this boy had kicked & beaten two girls on way to station on Friday afternoon.  I investigated, & reported to Police". [SDStewartbyMiddle1/1]

In the 1970s Bedfordshire County Council introduced comprehensive education, doing away with the 11+ examination and grammar schools and introducing a tier of school between the old County Primary and County Secondary Schools. Thus Lower Schools now taught children aged 4 to 9, Middle Schools from 9 to 13 and Upper Schools from 13 onwards. Stewartby County Secondary School became Stewartby Middle School, later changing its name to Marston Vale Middle School but still in its original buildings in The Crescent.

Bedfordshire County Council was abolished on 1st April 2009 and the former district council, Bedford Borough, took over the former county council functions for the borough area as a unitary council. This included the function of Local Education Authority.