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Sandy Boys and Girls Church and Public Elementary Schools

Elevation of the Church Schools [AD3865/38/3]
Elevation of the Church Schools [AD3865/38/3]

Sandy Church School, often called a National School though without evidence that it was actually in union with the National Society, was built in 1868. It stood on the east side of Saint Neots Road near the junction with Bedford Road.

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. The return for Sandy noted that Sandy National School had accommodation for 124 boys and 124 girls. Accommodation for 56 children was still required at Beeston and for 130 infants at Sandy "near the national school". The school was enlarged in 1877 by which time it could accommodate 180 children of each sex. An infants school was opened in 1874.

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. Hence the boys' and girls' church schools became 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 was made in 1907 and dealt with each of the three schools - boys, girls and infants. "Work in this group of Schools has been carried on with much difficulty in past years owing to over-crowding and indifferent premises. These difficulties are now ceasing - indeed the over-crowding has ceased - and the teachers will in future have a fair chance. Having done so well as they have in the past amid difficulties apparently almost insuperable, I feel sure that in future really good work will be done, and I see already in all three departments advanve and improvements which indicate clearly that a high level of efficiency will be reached".

"The supply of reading books, especially in the Boys' Department, is meagre and the books themselves for the most part are antiquated and uninteresting".

"The equipment of the Infants' School is not altogether satisfactory. The galleries are most inconvenient and unsuitable, and the desks provided for the older Infants are so small that a proper position during a writing lesson is impossible".

The next few reports deal separately with each of the three departments. The boys' school was visited in 1911 and the inspector reported: "This Department continues to do very creditable work. Order and tone are very good and much of the work reaches a high level and is decidedly praiseworthy. In all classes the teaching is careful, intelligent and thorough…the general level of attainments of the scholars as a whole is creditable alike to the Head Master and his staff". The next inspection was not until after the Great War, coming in 1919: "It is understood that the headmaster has resigned, and a detaile drrport upon the work will therefore be unnecessary. It will suffice to say that, while in certain subjects the progress made by the scholars is not satisfactory. This must be ascribed in part (1) to the backward state of some of the children when admitted, (2) to the school being badly under-staffed for three months last winter, and (3) to the large number of older boys (there were still ten) who have been excused from attendance for agricultural work. Unless in these respects the school is put on a satisfactory footing, good work cannot be expected. A good feature of the school is the pleasant relations that have been maintained between the headmaster and the old boys. This says much for the good influence of the school".

The following year, January 1920, average attendance was 76 and the inspector reported: "For some months the staffing of this school of about a hundred boys has been unsatisfactory. Since the present head teacher took charge on October 1st, he has had to rely solely on occasional and temporary assistants. During two thirds of the period he has not had more than one such assistant at a time, and during one fifth of it has had no assistant at all. During most of the time he was single-handed, however, the 13 boys in Standard I were taught with the junior girls in the Girls' Department. On and after February 2nd the position will be that, with 92 boys on the books, his staff will consist of two emergency assistants, neither of whom has had any experience in teaching".

The first report for the Girls' Department came in 1911, with average attendance at 116: "This is a highly satisfactory School. Order is excellent and the tone quite admirable. The Teachers all work hard and the children, as a matter of course, follow their example. I hope in future more time will be given to Needlework by the older girls, and that practical lessons in domestic duties, which are at present a most commendable feature of the School, will be even more frequent".

In 1913 it was reported: "This department was in a creditable state of efficiency when the Present Head Teacher took charge and this efficiency has been well maintained and in some respects improvement has been effected. Tone and discipline are admirable, methods are good and the instruction is carefully and intelligently given".

The next report was not until after the Great War, in September 1919. "Since the present headmistress took charge, considerable progress has been made. The curriculum is drawn up on more liberal lines and a more real education is being given. Owing to skilful teaching in the lower class, the children make rapid progress. The attainments of the older girls are creditable in all subjects and notable progress has recently been made in singing".

In 1920 the Boys' and Girls' Departments were combined to form Sandy Junior (Mixed) School. The infants remained in a separate department. A further school was created on the site called Sandy Central School, again a mixed establishment.