The entrance to the site of the former Sunday School and Parish Room January 2007
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 in 1870.
Site of the former Parish Room and Sunday School January 2008
A breakthrough in educational provision at Battlesden had come in 1867 with the use of a school room, most likely the Sunday School room, the returns compiled under the 1870 Education Act reporting that Battlesden had a village school teaching 54 children whereas Potsgrove had no school at all; presumably a considerable proportion of the 54 children taught at Battlesden came from Potsgrove. It is not known when this school ceased to operate but it may have been in 1898 when the Duke of Bedford built a school near the church in Potsgrove (a church and school, called St.John's, in Sheep Lane had been in existence since 1862 but would likely have been largely confined to children of that hamlet by dint of being over half a mile from the centre of Potsgrove and three miles from Battlesden), to be run by the newly formed (1896) School Board elected by the ratepayers. Certainly the building marked Sunday School on the 1st edition 25 inches to the mile Ordnance Survey map of 1882 is marked Parish Room on the corresponding 2nd edition map of 1901. For the history of this school see Potsgrove.
1901 map showing Parish Room