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Leighton Buzzard Education 1903 to Date

Beaudesert Council Boys School in 1913
Beaudesert Council Boys' School in 1913 [Z50/72/21]

Leighton Buzzard Schools 1903 to 1946

Following the 1902 Education Act Leighton Buzzard had six Local Education Authority run schools: a Council School for boys in Beaudesert; a Council School for girls in Bassett Road; a Council School for infants in Bassett Road; a Council School for infants in Beaudesert; Pulford's Public Elementary School for boys in Parsonage Close and Saint Andrew's Public Elementary School for girls in North Street. 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].

In 1921 The Cedars School opened as a secondary school on the site now [2008] occupied by Leighton Middle School in Church Square, which had been the home of the Bassett family, prominent local Quakers and bankers. 1933 saw a number of changes to schools in the town. The two Council infants' schools, in Bassett Road and Beaudesert merged to form a single Council Infants' School on the Beaudesert site. The Council boys' and girls' schools in Beaudesert and Bassett Road respectively were changed into a Senior Council Boys' School and a Senior Council Girls' School, each on its existing site.

Clipstone Brook Lower School in 1973
Clipstone Brook School in 1973 [PY/PH56/1]

Leighton Buzzard Schools 1946 to 1974

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 at least 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.

The 1944 Act came into force in 1946 with the result that The Cedars became, in all but name, a grammar school. The two council senior schools for boys and girls both became County Secondary Modern schools and, in 1959, merged to form Brooklands County Secondary Modern School on a new site. Gilbert Inglefield County Secondary School was built in the 1960s in Vandyke Road.

Amongst the junior schools, Pulford's became a Voluntary Aided County Primary Boys' School and Saint Andrew's continued as a girls' school. Around 1958 Pulford's began to admit girls, becoming a mixed school, whilst Saint Andrew's continued as a girls' school. Saint George's and Mary Bassett opened as county primary junior schools in 1952 and about 1960 respectively. A number of new County Primary schools were built in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Clipstone Brook, Dovery Down and Heathwood.

The Council Infants' School in Beaudesert became a County Primary Infants' School and a new infants' school was built in Highfield Road in the 1960s, the school almost immediately changing its name to Leedon County Primary Infants' School.

 Beaudesert Lower School June 2008
Beaudesert Lower School June 2008

Comprehensive Reorganisation and After

In 1968 the Secretary of State approved a comprehensive reorganisation of schools by the Local Education Authority, Bedfordshire County Council. This did away with selection, all pupils attending similar schools, teaching the same curriculum, based solely on age. Children aged 5 to 9 attended lower schools, those aged 9 to 13 went to a middle school and those aged 13 to 18 attended an upper school. The council affirmed its support for the scheme in 1969 and again in 1970 and in 1974 the reorganisation reached the Leighton Buzzard area.

In Leighton Buzzard Cedars became an Upper School and moved to new purpose built premises on its old playing fields in Linslade in 1973. The premises was then used as a middle school called Leighton Middle School. A new upper school in Vandyke Road was built and called Vandyke Upper School. Leighton Middle School has two sister schools in the town. The former Brooklands County Secondary Modern became a middle school as did Gilbert Inglefield.

The newly built County Primary schools all became Lower Schools as did the two infants' schools, although it was initially envisaged that these would remain as infants' schools, at least for the foreseeable future. Pulford's continued as a mixed Voluntary Aided Lower School when Saint Andrew's school closed in 1971. A new special school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties was built in Heath Road and called Oak Bank, opening in 1976. In 1981 Beaudesert Lower School moved to new premises in Appenine Way but retained its name. On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire County Council was abolished and the new Local Education Authority for Leighton Buzzard was its successor in the mid and southern parts of the county, Central Bedfordshire Council, a unitary authority executing both district and county functions.