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Pulloxhill School

Elevation of Pulloxhill National School 1844 [AD3865/34/2]
Elevation of Pulloxhill National School 1844 [AD3865/34/2]

Pulloxhill National School was founded as an infants' school in 1844 on the corner of Greenfield Road with the High Street and Church Road. In 1846/7 the Church of England made an enquiry as to all its church schools. This was against the background of a new Whig government which championed secular education and the increasing importance of nonconformists, particularly Wesleyan Methodist, and Roman Catholics in providing schools. The return for Pulloxhill listed a Sunday school for seventy two boys and seventy three girls and a daily infants' school for twenty seven of each sex. The correspondent commented: "There being a free school at Silsoe, supported by Lady de Grey, to which children may go, no necessity exists for the establishment of any but an Infants' School".

In 1866 a school house was built for the teacher [AD3865/34/6]. At some point, perhaps at the same time, the school was extended to provide accommodation for more children [AD3865/34/3-5].

Pulloxhill School House elevation 1866 [AD3865/34/6]
Pulloxhill School House elevation 1866 [AD3865/34/6]

The first Education Act was passed in 1870 (more correctly it was known as the Elementary Education Act). It was a milestone in the provision of education in Britain demonstrating central government's unequivocal support for education of all classes across the country. It also sought to secularise education by allowing the creation of School Boards. These were groups of representatives, elected by the local ratepayers and the Board had the powers to raise funds to form a local rate to support local education, build and run schools, pay the fees of the poorest children, make local school attendance compulsory between the ages of 5 and 13 and could even support local church schools, though in practice they replaced them, turning them into Board run schools (known as Board Schools). Naturally, and luckily for local historians, the Act required a questionnaire of local schools in 1870. Pulloxhill National School had accommodation for 115 children.

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. Pulloxhill thus became a public elementary school.

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 in the scrapbook dates to February 1910. "The older scholars are carefully and intelligently taught and they make creditable progress especially in the highest division of the School. Physical Exercises are remarkably well taught, and deserve special mention. Composition also is good. The least satisfactory part of the work is the written Arithmetic which should improve as to neatness and orderly arrangement. In the Infants' Class order should improve and greater progress be made".  The next inspection was in January 1913, when average attendance was 65. "No important change has taken place in the general condition of this school since it was last reported upon. The older scholars are in satisfactory order and on the whole they make satisfactory progress, but some of the written work should be more carefully done. Physical Exercises are particularly well taught. The Infants' Division has improved to some extent, but considerable further improvement is to be desired".

Most unusually the scrapbook contains a report carried out during the First World War. The school premises were clearly defective and in February 1915 it was reported as follows. "No steps have been taken to remedy the defects in the premises drawn attention to in the Board's letter to the Authority of January 14th, 1913. During the past winter the heating of the Infants' room has been unsatisfactory. The floor of the main room, the asphalt surface of the Girls' playground and the pavement of the entrance lobby have become worn and the walls show cracks and allow damp to enter".

"Attention is also drawn to the fact that the Cloakroom accommodation is inadequate and that there is no access to the Boys' Offices from the playground". Offices here means toilets. The Director of Education for Bedfordshire County Council responded to the Board of Education in London's concerns as follows: "The Board's letter of January 14th, 1913, was that dealing with unsatisfactory school premises. The school was placed in Schedule II, which referred to "cases in which substantial improvements are required as a condition of continued recognition". The comments upon the school were: - "Infants' classroom far too small – no space for games or marching. Main room is a passage room for Infants. Heating is unsatisfactory. Girls' offices are not screened".

In September 1915 a new report on the subject was made. "No steps have been taken to remedy the special defects drawn attention to in the report of 10th February 1915. The asphalt surface of the Girls' playground and the pavement of the entrance lobby are now in so bad a condition as to be a serious danger to the children, and should be repaired without delay".

The next report on teaching was not until January 1922, when average attendance was 50. "This School is very well conducted. The Head Teacher has effected considerable general improvement in the two years during which she has been in charge, but much still remains to be done. It should be said that the older children are now working with interest and are self reliant, and that the Infants are alert, so that the future progress of the School seems well assured. The Infants' section is a small one – 16 children only on the books – and it is hoped that the class may become a really good one".

In July 1924, when average attendance was 33, the inspector reported as follows: "STANDARDS I-IV. The new Head Teacher has made a satisfactory commencement. Order is good, and quite a creditable level is reached in Reading, Writing and, except in Standard IV, Arithmetic. The rest of the work is not much above fairly good at present, but gives promise of improvement. The Scheme of Instruction in Geography and History has been unsuitable, but this matter will be put right".

"INFANTS. The eight infants are making satisfactory progress on the whole, but the teaching of Number should improve. Every effort should be made to see that these children receive a thoroughly sound grounding".

"As the Head Mistress shows a very considerable interest in her work – to the extent of providing a piano for use in school, and has evidently a good influence, the outlook for the future of this school is very bright".

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Pulloxhill, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the schoolhouse [DV1/C234/7] found it occupied by H. S. Hands who paid £14 per annum in rent to the trustees, the figure before 1914 had been £8 per annum.

By January 1928 average attendance was only 25. The inspector reported: "This small School is thoroughly well managed and efficiently taught. The children are intelligent and responsive in oral work and they are industrious in individual work. The general standard of achievement in the more formal subjects of the curriculum is very satisfactory. Special mention must be made of the outstanding success in Speech training. The work reflects great credit on the Head Teacher".

In October 1931 the Inspector was very pleased with the progress of the school. "This is a really good JuniorSchool, not only in its actual successes but in the genuine preparation for note taking and answering written questions which is undertaken as a matter of course; and to which the children respond readily. At this period of the year this preparation is but beginning; but in the interval between the last and this report, visits have been paid with visitors not officially connected with the area, including H. M. Inspectors, at times when the children were able to work for themselves: all were favourably impressed".

"The testing is good: the speech training – commented on in the last report – continues to be rather unusually good, and, in this respect, the newly appointed Supplementary Assistant should prove very useful. Her work altogether is very satisfactory, judging by the keen interest of the children now under her, and the condition of the children recently promoted".

"All the work seen, or heard, shows that the school is doing work of a type most creditable to the Head Mistress".

In 1932 and 1933 an application was made for the formation of a branch of the CountyLibrary at the school [LiV10]. The application was successful.

By December 1933 the school had emerged from a difficult time: "This Junior and Infants' school has not had an easy year. The Uncertificated Head Mistress was away ill for some weeks in the early summer: on her return, her assistant had an accident and no Supply Teacher was sent from the end of June until the breaking up of the school in August. There were 32 or33 children on the roll during that period, which was one of considerable strain. In the circumstances the level of work is very creditable indeed.

The final inspection in the scrapbook took place in July 1936 when average attendance was just 21. "This School, with 23 on the roll, is now conducted by one teacher. It continues to do good work; much of it, indeed, is very good. Written Arithmetic, Reading, Recitation, Singing, Games and much of the Written English come under the latter category. The children, too, know a good deal about the Bird Life in the neighbourhood. Mental Calculation is very slow – though it is sure. Handwork is on the whole suitable; Needlework is carefully stitched – but the work attempted by the younger ones is too difficult, and no child is given full responsibility for any piece of work. The teacher too often cuts out and prepares it".

"The methods by which the excellent results are obtained have been discussed with the Mistress. They are on the formal side, and more initiative should be required on the children's part".

"With regard to the Infants Section: more graded apparatus for Number and Letter Work is most desirable. They have chairs – the appropriate tables would be preferable to the desks which they now use. Some method of recording individual progress, and a more practical approach to the work generally, would now be helpful".

"It is understood that the building is to be redecorated, and that the offices will receive attention during the coming Summer Vacation".

The school log books give a picture of what life was like for children at school during the Second World War. 

  • 15th September 1939: "Owing to the outbreak of war the opening of the school was postponed until today.  Evacuated children from Yerbury Road Holloway are attending this school".
  • 16th February 1940: "Two Air Raid Wardens visited the school this morning and inspected all gas masks".
  • 28th October 1940: "A surface shelter has been built alongside the school and the windows of the school have been specially treated to prevent the splintering of glass in the event of an air raid.  There are now 6 unofficial evacuees and 34 official evacuees" [SD Pulloxhill 1].

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.

Pulloxhill County Primary School closed in 1951. There is no explicit reason given for this either in the school logbook of the time [SDPulloxhill2] or the Education Committee minutes. One can guess that a combination of the leaving of the long time headmistress, the age of the buildings (now over a hundred years) and the small numbers of children on the roll (twelve at the time of the final Inspector's report in 1950) all influenced the school managers to decide to close the school. The minutes of the Education Committee for the period [EM34] read as follows:

  • Page 304: "That this Committee do confirm the action of the Schools Sub-Committee in forwarding on their behalf a letter of appreciation of her services to Miss C. Stanley, Headmistress of Pulloxhill County Primary School, who retired on 31st August 1951, after over 27 years' service at the School".
  • Page 307: "That this Committee do confirm the action of the Schools Sub-Committee in approving the closure of Pulloxhill County Primary School ob 26th October 1951, and the transfer of the children to BartonControlledVoluntaryPrimary School for the time being".
  • Page 322: "That this Committee do confirm the action of their Chairman in authorising the publication of the Notice of the proposal of the Local Education Authority to cease to maintain the Pulloxhill County Primary School, consequent upon the termination by the Trustees of the Authority's tenancy of the School".

The next set of minutes [EM35] includes the following information:

  • Page 24 (1st April 1953): "That a nominal payment of £1 per annum be made to the Pulloxhill Boys' Club in respect of the use of a room on the club premises for library purposes, such payment to operate for the year 1952 onwards". Since 1933 the branch library had been housed in the school.
  • Page 138 (15th May 1953): "This school was closed on 26th October 1951 the Trustees having given the Authority notice to quit in accordance with the terms of their lease, and the scholars were transferred to Barton. The Managers of the Flitwick Group of County Primary schools have now asked the Committee to re-open the school (the development Plan originally provided for the closure of the school during period C (1958/62))".
  • Page 359 (6th November 1953): "It was reported that from information received from the Saint Albans Diocesan Board of Religious Education, it appeared unlikely that the Trustees would grant the Committee a lease of these premises, with a view to re-establishing the Pulloxhill County Primary School, although they might be prepared to agree to the sale of the premises".

The next set of minutes [EM36] includes the following information:

  • Page 23 (19th March 1954): "A petition from residents of Pulloxhill requesting the Authority to secure the re-opening of the Pulloxhill County Primary School was submitted".
  • Page 148 (14th May 1954): "The Clerk reported that he and the Director of Education had discussed with the new Vicar of Pulloxhill (the Rev. S. M. Eagles), the question of the authority securing a new Lease of the Old School Building, with a view to re-establishing a school at Pulloxhill. The Vicar (Principal Trustee of the building), approved in principle the re-opening of the school and terms would now be discussed with the Saint Albans Diocesan Board".
  • Page 198 (4th June 1954): "The Schools Sub-Committee had approved on principle the re-establishment of a school at Pulloxhill and had requested the Architect to report to this Sub-Committee as to the state of repair of the premises. After the Architect had reported that the cost of repairs would be approximately £500 to £600, the Clerk reported that several alternative ways whereby these premises might be used for school purposes were being discussed".
  • Page 259 (2nd July 1954): "The Clerk reported that the Saint Albans Diocesan Board had suggested the sale of the former school premises to the Authority. Resolved that the School Sites and Buildings Sub-Committee be requested to negotiate for the purchase of the premises, with a view to a County Primary School being established at Pulloxhill".
  • Page 293 (11th March 1955): "In October 1954 the Committee approved the acquisition of the premises originally used for the Pulloxhill County Primary School with a view to re-opening the School. Preliminary negotiations were commenced, but in January the Ministry of Education asked the Authority to indicate the probable cost of the acquisition and whether or not it would be possible to bring the premises and site up to Building Regulations Standard. If the cost was substantial the Ministry suggested that the Authority should consider the desirability of building a new two-class School as a minor building project. Resolved that no further action be taken to negotiate for the purchase of the Old School premises pending the submission of a report by the Architect as to the cost (a) of acquiring and repairing the Old School premises and (b) erecting a new school".
  • Page 113 (6th June 1955): "The Architect reported regarding the cost if adapting the existing buildings and the cost if providing buildings for a new school. Resolved that no action be taken to acquire the old school buildings and that the architect carry out negotiations for the acquisition of a site for a new school".

Mentmore - the old school - Greenfield Road March 2011
Mentmore - the old school - Greenfield Road March 2011

The old school house, 2 Greenfield Road and the old school itself now [2011], called Mentmore, are still standing but are now both private houses. The next set of minutes [EM37] includes the following information:

  • Page 98 (23rd September 1955): "A letter dated 18th September 1955 from the Vicar of Pulloxhill was submitted stating that local opinion was strongly against the Authority's proposal to erect a new school at Pulloxhill rather than re-open the old school premises. It was reported that the Parish Council had, in fact, supported the Authority's proposal".
  • Page 293 (6th January 1956): "Approval in principle has previously been given to the provision of a new Primary School at Pulloxhill and a site of 1¾ acres would be required for this purpose. The most suitable site is in the same ownership as an area of land which the Ampthill Rural District Council are anxious to acquire for housing purposes, but it was reported that the owner was unwilling to sell. Recommended that 1.49 acres of thereabouts of land at Pulloxhill as shown on the plan now submitted, be acquired for educational purposes as a site for this school, at a price to be agreed by the District Valuer and otherwise upon conditions to be agreed by the Clerk".
  • Page 205 (18th May 1956): "in January 1956 the Committee approved the purchase and, if necessary, the compulsory purchase of 1.49 acres of land at Pulloxhill as a site for this School. It was reported that the owner was unwilling to sell and that objections to the development thereof would be raised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Recommended that Resolution Number 375/1955/56 regarding the compulsory purchase of this land be implemented". £10,210 was put aside to provide the new school.
  • Page 78 (21st September 1956): "It was reported that the Ministry of Agriculture would withdraw their objection to the development of the proposed site for the new school if a suitable access could be provided to the back land left to the owner. Recommended that when the site for the new school has been conveyed to the council a small area thereof be conveyed to Mr. J. G. Vass in exchange for a small area of land owned by him and required to procure such access".

2 Greenfield Road - the former School House - March 2011
2 Greenfield Road - the former School House - March 2011

On 30th May 1958 [EM38] the minutes read: "The Committee have a confirmed Compulsory Purchase Order for the acquisition of the site for this school. The owner's agents had asked for an alteration in the boundaries of the site as a result of which a site meeting had been held when it became apparent that an alternative site was more suitable for the School. The owner's agents were prepared to negotiate the sale of this alternative site by agreement. Recommended that without prejudice to the confirmed Compulsory Purchase Order, 1.375 acres of land at Pulloxhill as shown on the plan now submitted be acquired for education purposes to provide a site for a County Primary School at a [rice to be agreed by the District Valuer and otherwise upon conditions to be agreed by the Clerk".

Pulloxhill County Primary School 1962 [PY/PH67/3]
Pulloxhill County Primary School 1962 [PY/PH67/3]

On 26th September 1958 a budget of £9,050 for building works and £200 for fees as approved to build the new school [EM39]. On 12th November 1958 1.264 acres were conveyed by the personal representatives of E. V. Field to Bedfordshire County Council for £140 as the site for the new school [CCE1272/4]. On 22nd May 1959 the winning tender for the new school came in at £10,421/15/3 from Shinn Brothers Limited of Bedford [EM39]. On 4th September 1959 expenditure of £1,000 for furniture and equipment plus another £802 to provide school meals was authorised [EM39]. The school opened shortly after.

A classroom at Pulloxhill County Primary School 1962 [PY/PH67/4]
A classroom at Pulloxhill County Primary School 1962 [PY/PH67/4]

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 UpperSchools from 13 onwards. Pulloxhill County Primary School thus became Pulloxhill Lower School.

At the time of writing the Pulloxhill and Greenfield Federation sees Pulloxhill Lower School working very closely with Greenfield Lower School. On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire County Council was abolished and two new unitary councils carved out of the dead carcase. The new Local Education Authority for Greenfield School is Central Bedfordshire Council.

Pulloxhill Lower School April 2011
Pulloxhill Lower School April 2011