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Biddenham International School and Sports College

John Howard Upper School in 1984 [PY/PH14/1]
John Howard Upper School in 1984 [PY/PH14/1]

Biddenham International School and Sports College is not, despite its name, in Biddenham at all. It lies just within the boundary of the Borough of Bedford though the entrance to the school site, on Biddenham Turn, is in Biddenham.

The school began life as John Howard Upper School. In the 1970s the Local Education Authority, Bedfordshire County Council, instituted a scheme of comprehensive organisation. Since the introduction of the Education Act 1944 children had taken an examination at age eleven (the so called Eleven Plus) to determine their academic ability. Those passing the examination went to grammar schools to study academic subjects, those failing it went to secondary modern school to study vocational subjects. The comprehensive reorganisation did away with this idea of streaming children into separate schools and introduced a three tier system in which children attended schools based solely on catchment area. Children were to attend lower schools until they were nine, middle achools between the ages of nine and thirteen then upper schools from thirteen.

A series of new schools were built to become upper schools and John Howard was one of these, designed to take children from Queen’s Park and the south-west of Bedford. The site of the school belonged to the Lords of the Manor of Biddenham, the Rice-Trevor family in the 19th century [CCE1262/1]. By 1957 the estate and the site had passed to the Wingfield family, Trevor Wingfield having been great nephew of Miss Elianore Rice-Trevor and in that year the Wingfield family sold land comprising 61.178 acres to Bedfordshire County Council for £8,056 [CCE1262/5].

The decision to build the school was taken in January 1975 [X494/64/22] but in 1983 it was recommended that it be closed due to projected falling pupil numbers in Bedford [E/SC3/B-JH10]. That decision was reversed the following year by the Secretary of State for Education [E/SC3/Gen6]. He gave as the two main treasons for his decision the multicultural education work carried out by the school, many of whose children came from ethnic minorities and the excellent state of the (nearly new) buildings.

In 1988 Pilgrim Upper School in Brickhill Drive, Bedford was closed and the two schools merged and renamed Biddenham Upper School [SGM59/4]. This took place at the beginning of the Autumn term.

The school’s new name reflects its specialist sports provision and it has been a specialist sports college since 2003. This has allowed greater investment in physical education resources and sport pervades every aspect of school life. The varied ethnicity of the pupils has also led to deliberate attempts to put the school in an international context, hence the new name.