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Westoning School 1903 to Date

The former school and school house August 2009
The former school and school house August 2009

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.  Thus Westoning Board School became Westoning Council School in 1903. It had only a become a board school as late as 1900 when the managers conveyed the premises to the new School Board, set up in December 1898.

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 1910. It is interesting to note that the school buildings, first criticised as long ago as 1862, were still a major issue: "This school has made most marked and satisfactory progress under the present master. Order and tone are praiseworthy, and in all classes a very creditable level of efficiency is reached. The brightness and intelligence of the First Class deserve special mention. The Infants continue to be kindly taught by Miss Bonner. The premises are deplorable and cannot, I think, be made really satisfactory except by re-building and upon a new site". The Board of Education commented on the inspector's criticism: "I am to request the Local Education Authority to be good enough to forward a complete plan of the school for the consideration of the Board of Education". Average attendance was 98.

Finally something was done about the buildings. In June 1912 two roods, twenty poles of land near the Clock Tower in the High Street were conveyed by Jessie, wife of Henry Blythe King of Torquay [Devon] to Bedfordshire County Council for £125 [CCE12/5]. The land had belonged to Lord of the Manor John William Coventry Campion in 1863 [CCE12/3]. The old school building subsequently became the village hall.

Westoning Lower School August 2009
Westoning Lower School August 2009

In 1913 only the Mixed Department was inspected: "The present Master manages the school in a most capable manner and its condition is highly creditable to him. Tone and discipline are excellent, the alertness, responsiveness and intelligence of the children are very noticeable and in all branches of the work, a high standard of attainment is aimed at and reached, care and thoroughness being everywhere evident".

There was no further inspection until after World War One, in 1919: "This has long been a good school and the present Head Master, who served in the Army during the first three years of the War, has fully maintained its reputation. The school is characterised by harmony of aim and method on the part of the teachers, individual effort on the part of the children, and a curriculum which, through handwork and observation, provides the means for developing self-reliance. The Infants' Class is quite excellent. It is a revelation of how, under a skillful teacher, three groups of infants can make rapid progress and be perfectly happy in their work because all their faculties are concentrated upon it".

In 1923 the inspector reported: "In this school the teaching of the Infants' Class is of outstanding ability, synpathy and care; the children make good progress in every way - Reading, Writing, Number, Physical Training and Handwork all being of unusual merit. In the Upper part of the school the progress of the children - though its is by no means unsatisfactory - is hardly so marked as might be expected from the excellent start in the Infants' Class. The only weak part is the Arithmetic of Standard V. Most of the rest of the work reaches a standard which can be fairly called very creditable, but the only real good work is done in Standard VII. Composition, Drawing, Singing, the Physical Training of the top group, and the Reading of Standard I; Spelling, too, in the written work of the three top Standards is usually correct. The Head Master has made a good start in his work here, but it is hoped that a more general level of excellence may be obtained".

A visit in 1926 concentrated solely on Gardening: "The garden is on heavy but good soil, shaded somewhat by a building, Suitable artificial manures have been used this season but no dung. A fair variety of vegetables is grown, and some fruit, but no propagation of fruit bushes or trees is done. There is also a flower border with a good variety of perennials. Vegetable plots are in a fair condition but the fruit plot and some portions of the flower border are weedy. There are no hoes in the tool equipment, and a supply of these tools should be provided. There is a suitable system of storage but the tools ought to be more thoroughly cleaned. A suitable manuring tral is in operation. No science is taught in connection with gardening but a course is now proposed; up to the present the subject has been discontinued for the main portion of the winter. Scholars' records of garden work are brief and contain few notes of observations".

In 1927 it was clear that the school was starting to slide somewhat - music, infants' work and speech were praised, but arithmetic was poor though "the Master is trying to improve by experimenting with new books" and worst of all was the poor written work. In 1931, average attendance 94, the inspector reported: "This School has materially improved in neatness and setting out of written work since the last report. The Infants' Section is as good as it has always been under its capable mistress, and the Middle Section is now more promising. It had been under a mistress whose artistic temperament, very helpful in music to the whole school , was not adapted to proper correction of the driving home of details in elementary subjects. Her successor bids fair to become a useful Teacher. The work has been retarded in the third term of the last school year as, after the retirement of the old Teacher, the school had no assistance from January 30th to February 25th, and then had temporary assistance for about a fortnight. The top section has many good points, buit the failure to secure accuracy in the old middle section has produced weaknesses which were discussed at the visit. In September this section will, inevitably, consist of 48 children in a room accommodating about 40, in Standards IV, V, VI, VII - not an easy task for the very conscientious Head Master. The general attitude to the work is good; and it was interesting to see that, after a somewhat delayed period of recreation owing to the working of a test in geography, the boys all rushed off to work in the school garden. Cases of Diphtheria have twice occurred in the last 13 months". The phrase "School had no assistance from january 20th to February 25th and then had temporary assistance for about a fortnight" was disputed by the Head Master and a typescript notes says: "The facts are: - (i) Miss Jennings left 31st January. Last day of actual teaching was Friday 30th January. (ii) Headmaster was without assistance - Monday 2nd to Friday 27th February, inclusive (iii) Mrs. Smith (temporary) commenced duties 1st March and remained to 22nd March (3 weeks not fortnight) (iv) The new teacher commenced duties on 23rd March. H. M. I's report appears misleading in its wording".

The final report in the volume is from April 1938: "In this school the children in the Infant's class are given an excellent start by an exceptional Infants' Teacher. The work is continued by very hard working conscientious Teachers, in the two classes of Seniors and Juniors which make up the rest of the school, and reaches a very satisfactory level - especially in Nature Study which is taken as far as possible on Biological lines. The school will before long become a Junior School when a new Senior School is opened; the Head Master deserves credit for his years of unremitting work and interest in the children who have been in his charge".

The third of the great Education Acts was that of 1944 which 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. Westoning duly became a County Primary School in 1946.

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. Westoning County Primary School thus became Westoning Lower School.

On the school website [2010] this summary of recent building works is given: "The reception classroom was built in 1971 and an adjoining classroom was built in 1973. A temporary unit was also placed at the school in 1973 and this was replaced in 1992. In 1999 a new classroom was built and is now used for the year 2 class. In October 2003 a new Year 1 classroom adjoining the reception class was completed, and the old class 2 room in the main block has been converted into an ICT suite and library. The temporary classrooms are currently being replaced by permanent accommodation, along with a new office and kitchen".