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Kempston Secondary School

Robert Bruce Middle School
Robert Bruce Middle School July 2007

Kempston Senior Mixed School opened in Bedford Road in 1928, using the former Bedford Road Council Girls' School premises. The site was shared with Bedford Road Junior Mixed School. The idea was that children from elementary schools in a number of villages as well as from Kempston itself would transfer to this school at age eleven and attend until fourteen (the school leaving age had been raised from twelve by the Education Act 1918).

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 scrapbook has just one report for this school, made in 1931, three years after opening when average attendance was 206, it noted: "This school was established as a Senior Mixed school about four [sic] years ago. It has had a change of Head Master and has experienced many changes in the assistant staff, six of the seven teachers having been appointed within the last year. It is conducted in the premises that were formerly the Girls' Department. Two rooms taken from the old Infants' Department serve as practical rooms for Woodwork and Cookery and these rooms are rather small for the purpose, as is the recently converted room in the main building for Science. The practical rooms are used for the dinners, excellent in menu and variety, but congested in service. There is no Hall, and accommodation for the Staff is limited".

"Originally drawing from three tributary schools, now there are contributory schools in villages some three or four miles away. Owing to the change of school year in the county, sixty four children were admitted in April and a further 83 in September of this year, with the result that at present the school is unbalanced, practically half of the children being classified as first year scholars. Of these a class of thirty four are definitely sub-normal either mentally or physically".

"The Head Master has drawn up schemes excellent in themselves, but more suitable, in certain respects, for a well established school almost of a selective central type. At the moment they are more ambitious than can honestly be justified either by the foundations on which he has to build or by the continuity of training which has been possible owing to changes in staff, curriculum and school year".

"At this visit certain weaknesses were found which were discussed with the Head Master. That these were due to the varying degrees of attainment reached by the children when they entered the school seems to be proved by the fact that, when the work of the children who have been continuously under his guidance for the full three years is seen and examined, there is abundant evidence that they have benefited very materially".

"A word of appreciation should also be added for the success of the school in sport, for the generous loan of the ground which they may use for all games and sports and for the part which the staff play in this side of the school life".

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. Kempston Senior Council School became Kempston County Secondary Modern School and moved to a new site in the early 1960s.

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. Kempston County Secondary Modern became Robert Bruce Middle School.

On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire County Council was abolished. Its functions in the north of the county were taken over by Bedford Borough Council. This was a district, or second tier, authority which was upgraded to a unitary council with both first and second tier responsibilities – a county and district council rolled into one. It this became Kempston’s local education authority. At the time of writing [2013] there is a debate about the future of middle schools and whether they should continue or whether schools should revert to the pre-1970s model of just two types of school - primary and secondary.


The following list gives all the sources relating to education in Biddenham, including the two senior schools just over the boundary in Bedford, held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service. Due to the terms of the Data Protection Act records containing personal details of living individuals will be closed in total, or in part, depending on the nature of the information.

  • SDKempstonRB1/1: admissions register: 1928-1943;
  • E/IN1/1: School Inspector's report: 1931;
  • Z808/1/26: school concert: 1933;
  • UDKP1552: plans of the Housecraft Centre: 1950;
  • CA2/7: site for new secondary modern school: 1951-1957; 
  • SDKempstonRB3/1: analysis of classes and staff: 1952-1953;
  • SDKempstonRB2/2: summary register: 1952-1957; 
  • SDKempstonRB3/2: analysis of classes and staff: 1953-1954;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/290: termination of lease of the walled garden at Kempston Manor for rural science study: 1955;
  • SDKempstonRB3/3: return of staff: 1957;
  • SDKempstonRB2/3: summary register: 1957-1962;
  • E/YM7/11/3: girl guides use of the school premises: 1959-1982;
  • PCKempstonRural26/1: enlargement of the school: 1959-1975;
  • CA2/153: construction of new secondary modern school: 1961-1967;
  • SDKempstonRB2/4: boys' summary register: 1962-1967;
  • SDKempstonRB2/5: girls' summary register: 1963-1967;
  • BTNegG75/6-11: negative of Robert Bruce Middle School: 1964;
  • Z196/3: aerial photograph: mid 1960s;
  • CA2/220: construction of main entrance: 1966;
  • CA2/221: construction of swimming pool: 1966-1968;
  • CA2/282: extension to the school: 1967-1972;
  • CA8/96: school maintenance file: 1967-1971;
  • DSA3/13: detail of pupil numbers and religion: 1970-1971;
  • Z1366/1: mathematics syllabus: 1970-1972;
  • CA8/267: school maintenance file: 1971-1975;
  • CA2/863: construction of youth annexe and canoe centre: 1972-1981;
  • PY/E2/2/284: tenancy agreements: 1974-1976;
  • E/SE2/3/1: possible attachment of Grey's House Special School to the school: 1975;
  • CA8/582: school maintenance file: 1976-1980;
  • BP64/24/7: photographs: 1980s;
  • E/SC3/Gen/24: proposal to transfer pupils to Hastingsbury Upper School instead of Wootton Upper School at 13: 1980-1981;
  • CA10: roof re-surfacing and insulation: 1980-1981;
  • CA8/943: school maintenance file: 1980-1984;
  • E/TE3/2: staff details: 1981;
  • E/MS2/4/1: open day for parents to sample school meals: 1981;
  • BP63/7/31: photograph of school children with large teddy bears: 1981;
  • E/PM3/2/4: information on Travellers' children at the school: 1982-1987;
  • E/TE3/7: staff details: 1986;
  • E/PM6/2/1: replies to questionnaire ln corporal punishment: 1986;
  • E/MS3/2/2: kitchen etc. details: c.1987;
  • EPu/4/4/36: school prospectus: 1995