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Campton School

Campton Lower School April 2015
Campton Lower School April 2015

The National School opened around 1847 but at the time of the 1870 Education Act no efficient school existed in Campton. A school for 113 was needed at Campton. However the inspectors felt that, "If the Campton school be at once made efficient by supplying suitable desks, books and apparatus, building properly separated offices for boys and girls and appointing a certified teacher, and it be enlarged so as to accommodate 113 children in all, no further accommodation will be required".

A school board was set up in the parish on 8th March 1875. A compulsory order had to be issued by the Education Department before Campton would form a school board. The new board school began in the old plait school, now the village hall, before moving into the newly built premises on 30th June 1876 [SDCampton1].

Children often missed school through illness, poor weather or because they were needed to work. July 7th 1879 "Many of the parents have applied for leave from the teacher for boys to go and work weeding. Most of the children being under 10 no leave was given" [SDCampton1]. Inspection reports show that the school often did well and the children were well taught. The 1892 Inspection report (Infant class) began: "This admirable little class is most efficiently taught. The reading, writing and spelling being exceptionally good" [SDCampton1]. Children were taught a range of subjects such as geography, history, arithmetic and English. In 1897 the list of object lessons for the infants included: "goat, clouds, making a bed and saucepan".

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.

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 is dated 1911: "The general condition of the School as regards tone, order and elementary instruction is praiseworthy. There are of course faults but these were pointed out so far as they were discovered and will doubtless receive due attention from the Head Master. In particular I may emphasise the necessity for more systematic and thorough revision of back-work, a necessity existing in far too many schools. It would be well if Gardening could find a place in the routine and if the girls could receive instruction in simple Housewifery and Cottage Cookery. Space could, I think, be found for a garden in the School surroundings, while for Cookery a centre might, it appears to me, be established which would provide not only for the girls but also for those in the large adjacent villages of Shefford and Clifton. The infants are carefully, sympathetically and as far as the circumstances permit, suitably taught. But in the small room they occupy their physical needs cannot receive due attention, the floor space being so limited that marching, games and even movement are almost impossible, This grave defect might be remedied to some extent by the exclusion of children of under five years of age, but if this is felt undesirable under the circumstances prevailing in the village the large Main-room if partitioned would afford ample accommodation for the Older Scholars and Upper Infants whilst the Babies could be left in possession of the present Infants Room".

This latter point ws raised forcefully by the next report of 1912, when average attendance was 83: "The attention of the Managers is again called to the unsuitable accommodation for Infants. These little children - 33 in number, some under five years of age - are packed into a small Classroom in which the desks and furniture take up practically the whole of the floor space, consequently they canmnot get that change of posture and free movement which is absolutely necessary for their happiness. comfort and proper Physical development. In the school for older scholars there is accommodation for over 100 children, but there are only 50 on the registers…" The central government Board for Education asked in a footnote: "It is requested that the Board may be furnished with the observations of the Local Education Authority upon the matter referred to in the report". The LEA's response was: "The matter was given cdareful attention by the Managers who reported that by transference to the Mixed Department and by the exclusion of children under 3½ years of age, the number of children in the Infants' Department had been reduced to 34, the number for which accommodation is provided. They also expressed a very strong objection to the partition being created in the Main Room as in their opinion it was not necessary".

The next report is dated 1914: "The older scholars are taught in a very painstaking manner and in most branches of their work they make creditable progress…in the upper division the discipline might with advantage be rather firmer. The Infants are well taught and their room is now suitably furnished".

The next report was not until 1922, when average attendance was just 43: "This is a good village school into which some 12 newcomers have recently been imported. Their presence serves to show up the sound work doine by the children whose school life has been passed here, and incidentally also shows the good discipline of the school, which deserves high praise as none of the children have taken advantage of the obvious deafness of the Head Teacher. This is greatly to her credit as it means that the children are kept at work". By 1925 average attendance had risen to 67 but: "This school has passed through a very trying year. On 10th November 1924, the late Head Mistress [Florence Beddall] was taken ill; then nine changes of Teacher in charge took place. The present Head Teacher has been here for 2 months. It is impossible to estimate the ups and downs of frequent changes, but it is clear that the Head Teacher has the school well in hand". The upheaval was not detrimental in the long term as the 1927 report makes clear: "This school has done a good year's work and is conducted on very sensible lines. The Infants are well forward in ther reading and the general atmosphere of the school is good".

Also in the 1920s, the school buildings were valued for tax purposes. The valuer's notebook records that the school had accommodation for 135, present attendance 42, average attendance 48. [DV1/C175/17].

By the time of the next report the school had been reorganised as a Junior School, with children of elevn and older going elsewhere: "This Junior School is now well established on good lines under a Head Mistress whose schemes and methods are sound, and who is a very competent teacher of a class with a large age range. The organisation is interesting in its elasticity and variety of groupings, and the general conduct of the school has also very good points…The Infants' class contains children of great variety of grade of ability. They are well considered and managed; and are anxious to have their work seen and appraised. This is also true of the older children who practically refused to go home to dinner until their rug making "from their own designs" had been exhibited and examined. It is, in fact, a live little school which it is a pleasure to visit".

In 1932, average attendance 31, it was reported: "This Junior School continues to do very good work…the children here have gone ahead well. The final visit reported in the scrapbook is that of 1937, when average attendance had sunk to 26, nevertheless: This excellent little village school has been in sole charge of a most suitable Head Mistress for some years past, but as numbers are increasing a second teacher has now been appointed, and will join the staff shortly. The Head Teacher obtains a really remarkable spirit of industry and of self reliance among even the youngest children". An interesting paragraph on matters not normally recorded reads: "The work of the National Savings Association is encouraged and is doing well: "Safety First" is not neglected; and there is a Branch of the County Library here". Finally: "The Head Mistress may be congratulated on her sane judgement in managing these children as wel las on the results of carefully planned and skilful teaching. It is a very pleasant school to visit".

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. The act also created two types of successor to the public elementary schools - the Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled schools. Voluntary Aided schools are those in which the Local Education Authority funds the school but the governing body is independent, they are usually Anglican or Roman Catholic schools. Voluntary Controlled schools own their own buildings whilst the staff are employed directly by the governors. Campton became a County Primary School.

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. Campton duly became, an remains [2015] a lower school. On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire County Council was abolished. The new local education authority for Campton became the unitary Central Bedfordshire Council, whose headquarters is less than a mile from the school in Chicksands.