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Kensworth School in the 20th Century

The former school house and old school buildings April 2007
The former school house and old school buildings April 2007

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; Kensworth, being a National School, became a Public Elementary School. In 1905 new sanitary accommodation was built [P34/29/14].

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 of these reports dates from 1911 when average attendance was 73: "There is much in the School that deserves commendation. Order and tone are very praiseworthy, Needlework and Drawing are well taught, Handwriting is a strong subject and the instruction as a whole, is on intelligent lines. The Arithmetic of the first Class, however, is weak, Recitation should receive more attention and there is need of systematic revision of back work in all subjects”.

“The Infants are kindly and sympathetically taught, and, on the whole, with creditable success, but a higher standard should be aimed at in Reading and Number”.

“In future the Regulations respecting Registration must be more fully observed”.

In 1913 the inspector wrote: “Order and tone are excellent, the instruction is marked by care and thoroughness and a very good level of efficiency is reached in all the classes. The weak points mentioned in the last Report have received attention and have now become strong points, and the condition of the school as a whole reflects credit upon the teachers”.

“The Infants are, as usual, well taught, but they should not be left in the sole charge of the Monitor at any time, and a little higher standard of Reading should be aimed at in the First Class”.


“The attention of the Local Education Authority is directed to Article 11(f) of the Code”.

A marginal note reads: “Article 11(f) of the Code deals with the employment of Monitors. Arrangements have been made to prevent the Monitress being left in sole charge of the Infants”.

Due to the Great War the next inspection was not until 1922, when average attendance was 61. “Since the last report this school has diminished in numbers; and whereas it was under a Master with two assistants it is now under a Mistress and one assistant. None of the staff who were employed at the time of the last report are now in the school, and the present Teachers have been here since January this year”.

“The outlook, it may at once be said, is promising. The children behave very well in school, and their exercise books are creditably neat and clean. The Teacher’s records are well kept, and her reports on the work, though possibly rather too kindly, are not devoid of criticism. The level of attainment reached now is fairly good, with some children very promising and a few a little above the average. The singing is enjoyed and is carefully taught, particularly as regards enunciation. It is hoped that emphasis will be laid upon correct speaking also. Reading should become good now that the stock of readers is being replenished: Standard I are at present not well off for books. New Text Books have been introduced for Arithmetic and English, so the school starts under the new régime with good prospects of success”.

In April 1924 average attendance was 62 and the inspector reported: “This school has a pleasing tone, and the children are much more alert and responsive than formerly, and work well. Arithmetic and Reading are very satisfactory, except that the latter should be rather more outspoken in the lower standards, and Composition shows decided improvement, but needs some further attention as regards punctuation. Writing and figuring are as a rule careful, but are not yet quite good. Much care is bestowed on the teaching of Geography and History, and the children have adequately profited by the instruction. Drawing, Singing and Physical Training are on the whole of average merit. The age classification is not very satisfactory in Standards III and IV, but this matter is receiving attention”.

“The Infants’ Class, including Standard I, is pleasantly and industriously taught, and the work is not without good features; but a considerably higher level should be reached in Reading and Number, especially the former. A fresh supply of Reading Primers is urgently needed”.

The next visit was not until 1928, when average attendance had risen to 80: “This school has grown recently. At this visit the Head Mistress had 59 children in her class (in two sections) from “Standard I” to “Standard VIII”. The Infants’ Mistress had 32 on roll of very varying attainments. It is now too large for a two Teacher school, but this point is receiving attention”.

“As to work and organisation, the Teachers have done, and are doing well. The children are responsive and, so far as is possible, are receiving appropriate instruction. Tone is good; and there is much evidence of careful rudimentary education. The school is difficult to place in a scheme of re-organisation; but, if and when it can be arranged that the 11+ children go where they can meet more opportunities both in instruction and games, they should leave fully qualified to benefit from greater competition and more advanced instruction”.

The final report dates from 1930, when average attendance was 84: “This School continues to do the steady work of the useful type described in the last report. Since that report was issued 8 children have been awarded free places in Secondary Schools, 6 of whom have taken advantage of their success in the examination”.

“The entries in the Admission Register should be completed in every column whenever a child leaves the School”.

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. Voluntary Controlled schools own their own buildings whilst the staff are employed directly by the governors. Kensworth, as a public elementary school, became a Voluntary Controlled 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. Kensworth became a Voluntary Controlled Lower School and still at the time of writing [2007] occupied the original 1853/4 school buildings as well as a newer block.

In the late 1960s the issue of education of Gipsy children became news. A caravan at Luton Road, Caddington, began to be used as a school [E/PM3/2/1] and in 1970 Gerwyn Davies, headmaster of Kensworth and two of his colleagues volunteered to teach pre-school Gipsy children whilst on strike. In May 1971 it was proposed to station the school caravan permanently at Kensworth School [PCKensworth26/6]. It was 22 feet long and owned by the Gipsy Council. It was intended to site it just inside the main gate in Clayhall Road. It was noted: “It would appear that the Headmaster of the School considers that this would be a first step towards integrating the gipsies with the rest of the community. The County Planner, from whom the enquiry originated, feels that the proposal commends support”.

The Dunstable Gazette of 15th September 1972 reported that John Lennon and Yoko Ono provided a substantial sum of money for a new caravan at Kensworth School [SS/GT2/2]. The old caravan had been set on fire by vandals and had to be scrapped. It was 54 feet long, staffed by two teachers, paid by Bedfordshire County Council and accommodated about twenty children. The continuation of the story is no doubt in the school logbooks of the period but, sadly, they are not held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service.

Kensworth VC Lower School new buildings March 2012
Kensworth VC Lower School new buildings March 2012