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Sandy Infants Church and Public Elementary School

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

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 SandyNationalSchool 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".

Sandy Church Infants School opened in 1874 [SDSandySS3/1] though Kelly's Directory gives a date of 1898. The logbook begins on 3rd August 1874: "Opened this School today. No. present 51". The Mistress was Janet Simpson, the Pupil Teacher Emily A. Maddox and the Monitress Fanny Stott. The date given in Kelly's may be a mistake for 1896 because the log book for 14th April that year reads: "re-opened School in new Building after being closed nearly six weeks owing to an epidemic of measles". The building could accommodate 185 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. Sandy Infants, as a church school, 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 inspection was made in 1910: "The general condition of this School is fairly satisfactory. The weak point is the order, which is very lax and so considerably retards the progress of the children. The work of the first class is the best and is fairly good with the exception of number, but the majority of the children in the second class have not made adequate progress in Reading. The Babies' Room would be greatly improved by the removal of the gallery and the provision of more suitable furniture".

In 1912 average attendance was 116 and the inspector stated: "Improvement has been effected in this Department since it was last reported upon…The work is well varied, the children are taught with kindness but the Teachers, while at making the little ones happy, should not lose sight of the necessity for inculcating habits of implicit obedience".

The next inspection was not until after the Great War, coming in 1919: "The teachers are kindly and conscientious and the children are active and bright. The lowest class is suitably handled. In the two upper classes the methods employed to teach reading and number are such as would produce good progress were the teachers able to secure the undivided attention of the children to their work. This they are not able to do, and the result is that, in these two subjects, many are unfit to take their places in the senior departments when the time for promotion comes. However creditable certain features of the rest of the work may be, the success of the school is marred by this serious defect".

In 1922 the inspector reported: "Although there is evidence of much painstaking work on the part of the teachers, progress is not, as was pointed out to them so satisfactory as might be desired. The children to not pay sufficient attention or put forth enough effort; and the speech is very indistinct and often almost inaudible hence Reading is somewhat backward. Number, which is taught by rights methods, is very slow, and writing might improve. The relations between teachers and children are pleasant, and it is hoped that improvement will be found at the next visit".

In 1927 in consequence of the retirement of Miss Broadhurst, the infants' head mistress, the Infants' Deparment was placed under the headship of the rest of the school. It was decided that only one log book and admission register should be kept for the whole school.