Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Sandy > Sandy Public Elementary Mixed to Saint Swithuns Lower Schools

Sandy Public Elementary Mixed to Saint Swithuns Lower Schools

Elevation of the Church Schools [AD3865/8/3]
Elevation of the Church Schools [AD3865/38/3]

This school was created in 1920 following the 1918 Education Act. A joint meeting of the managers of the Sandy Group of Council Schools and of the Sandy Voluntary Schools held on 11th August 1919 discussed the issue and: "it appeared that such a school would sooner or later have to be established in Sandy for the purpose of teaching elder scholars between the ages of 12 and 14 and upwards". [SMM17/2]

A scheme was outlined by the chairman of the meeting proposing that: "the Boys Voluntary School being adaptable as a Central School the Voluntary Infants School being continued to be used as at present and the Girls' School being converted into a Voluntary Mixed Junior School". This scheme seems to have been followed. The Boys' and Girls' Departments of Sandy Public Elementary School were thus combined to form Sandy Public Elementary Junior (Mixed) School. The infants remained in a separate department until 1927. A further school was created on the site called Sandy Central School, again a mixed establishment, which lasted until 1924.

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 of the new JuniorSchool was made in 1923 when average attendance was 148. "This school was formed some three years ago by the union of the old Boys' and Girls' Departments under the Head Teacher of the Girls' School; a senior top being made, at the same time, for the older boys and girls as well as some of the older children from neighbouring villages. The condition of the Boys' Department at that time was thoroughly unsatisfactory; hence several of the older boys were not sufficiently advanced to be placed in the Senior Department. There are therefore in the top class, 2 children of 14 years, 7 of 13, 10 of 12½ , 3 of 12 and 3 of 11½ the majority of the boys who, by their ages should be in the Senior Department now, but whose attainments make this impossible. This school is, owing to this, not normal; and the presence of the boys makes discipline difficult and causes great anxiety to the Head Mistress, who, sensible of their weakness, feels it impossible to obtain good work from them. She herself works untiringly and that fact that a good report on the work of this class can not be submitted, is in no ay a discredit to her. In Arithmetic, for example, the good papers were worked entirely by girls (who were in her Department before the amalgamation), the poor and bad ones mainly by boys".

"The condition of the school, then, apart from the top is: - The children ka e a good start in the fourth class, and do as a rule very well in the third class, where, however, speech needs attention. The second class is not strong in written work, generally".

"Drawing is creditable: Physical Training is on the whole satisfactory; but note singing should improve".

"The Teachers are, all things considered, doing well in very difficult circumstances and there is no reason why creditable work should not be done throughout when the older backward children leave".

The next report was made after visits in May 1924 and January 1925. Average attendance was 199 and, rather than give an overview, the inspector made a report in detail: "The children recently promoted into Standard I and the present First Class read well and speech is better than was formerly the case. The reading of Classes 2 and 3 is not, now, below average".

"Writing is fairly good. Number is the weakest subject. Handwork, Singing, Recitation and Physical Training are fairly good also".

"The weakness in Number is due to a lack of concentration and the constant prompting habitual to the children. Until this disciplinary matter is seriously taken in hand and improved the work will not reach the level which might reasonably be expected from classes containing but 25, 21 and 21 on the books".

In 1925, following the merger with the short-lived and unsuccessful Sandy Central School, the report noted that average attendance had shrunk to 147 and another reorganisation had taken place - the school was now just Sandy Council Mixed School. "This school has been formed by the amalgamation of the former Senior and Junior Departments. A report made in March 1923 showed the condition of the Senior Department to be at that time unsatisfactory. The work of the upper classes in the Junior Department also had certainly fallen off greatly in the year or two prior to the amalgamation, and the children of those classes had got a good deal out of hand. There is little fault to find with the discipline now…The Head Teacher, when he took over the combined Department, found in many of the children in the upper part of the school a lack of power of application, and this has hindered progress. Some time must elapse before the work of the upper classes - especially Writing, Composition, Drawing, Geography and History - can reach a really good level; but already Arithmetic and Singing show decided improvement, and as the condition of the two lower classes is thoroughly sound and the children of the upper classes are working much better the future of the school seems very hopeful. Some of the children in the middle of the school are too old for the standards in which they are working, but this matter will gradually be put right. In most classes speech needs very careful attention".

The report of 1929 was a long one, following the merger with the infants' school two years earlier, which read: "There are at the present time 233 children on the register. About 60 of these come from six neighbouring villages, Blunham and Roxton accounting for 46 of these. Twenty bring their own dinner and have the use of a classroom for it. The other forty take advantage of the excellent hot meal provided by the Authority, and for this they pay one shilling per week. The dinner is all that could be desired both in quality and quantity, and it is interesting to know that it is self-supporting. The arrangements are admirable. Tables are laid with cloths, cutlery and glasses and flowers in vases usually decorate them. Members of staff preside in turns. The children behave properly at table and it speaks well for them that on the fourth day of the week there was scarcely a stain on the tablecloths. The meal on one day consisted of Stewed beef and Mashed potatoes followed by chocolate pudding with sauce. Four children wait on the others and assist in the washing up. Boys and girls take these duties in alternate weeks".

"Including the Infants there are seven classes of which all but the three highest are composite. The Teachers of the First and Third have exchanged classes since the summer holidays. The teacher of Class 2 returned only a week ago after twelve months leave of absence during which she visited Australia under the scheme for the interchange of teachers. The Head Master was appointed in June and the extended summer vacation accounts for nearly half of his time here. With these changes in mind and others contemplated, the inspection took place at an opportune time".

"The Head master has thoroughly surveyed the school with regard to both the work of the pupils and the staff. With the latter he has held conferences and has kept minutes of the proceedings. He proposes rightly to make the two top classes of boys and girls respectively, and although they will be composite, they are at present re-shuffled for Needlework and Physical Exercises and disorganised for Woodwork and Domestic Science. The new arrangement will lessen all this. The Head Master followed the inspection very closely, assisted in marking the various tests and in consultation at the close agreed that the estimate obtained coincided with his own survey".

"There are many good points in the school. The children are clean, tidy and well behaved. They are honourable under examination tests and apparently do their best both in written and oral work. The staff to without exception work hard".

"But somehow the success achieved is hardly commensurate with the effort. The three highest classes were given tests in mental, mechanical and problematic Arithmetic, and the results were below those which have been averaged from a great number of instances. Oral questioning confirmed the opinion that they often do not understand the rules they employ. A test on a passage read silently showed a lack of power to assimilate new facts, though a test in Composition was well done and provided that details of an episode from a story had been remembered".

"Under oral questioning the children gave the impression that they have not been taught to think for themselves. Questions of fact may be answered, but those requiring the application of matter taught are not answered nearly so readily. This was most apparent in Geography and History".

"The work of the lower half of the school was not subjected to such rigorous tests, and peared quite satisfactory".

"The Head Master intends to discuss the situation with his staff at once. He has now a clear field and it is confidently expected that at the next visit the points criticised will be rectified".

In 1935 the average attendance was 203 and the inspector reported as follows: “This is a School of 213 children whose ages range from four to fourteen years. There are seven classes; the Head Master himself takes charge of the class of 32 oldest boys. Of the 149 children in the Senior classes 83 come from five Junior Departments in the neighbouring villages”.

“Adequate provision is made for the instruction of all the older children in practical subjects. There is a dual purpose room for Woodwork and Domestic training but there is no garden. The dining room in which the excellent and tastefully presented mid-day meals are enjoyed by the children is also used by some 20 children who attend the Council School”.

“There is no hall and no room adapted for the teaching of Elementary Science and Craft work”.

“The standard of attainment throughout the School, especially in the main subjects of instruction, is very creditable. In other branches of the work there are signs of careful attention to modern developments in methods and procedure. Good work was noted in the teaching of Literature in the upper classes, of Drawing by the specialist teacher and of Music in a combined class of the older boys and girls”.

“A special note should also be made of the Head Master’s interest in the teaching of History. He has devised an ingenious Time Chart which serves as a background to which the children attach prepared labels or pictures as the lesson proceeds. The method seems to have developed in the children a clear sense of time sequence”.

“The teaching given in the Junior and Infants’ classes continues to be very sound and thorough”.

“Much praise is due to the Head master for the condition of the school as a whole. The happy effects of his influence are seen in the conduct and behaviour of the children and in the whole-hearted co-operation of the members of his staff. The young graduate Assistant Mistress is making good progress in her Craft. Of the Assistant Master who began here fresh from college on the day of inspection, it is, of course, too early to speak”.

“At the conclusion of the visit, the Head Master’s contemplated ideas for developing the teaching of Craft work and practical Mathematics were discussed”.

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, they are usually Anglican or Roman Catholic schools. Voluntary Controlled schools own their own buildings whilst the staff are employed directly by the governors. For five years following the implementation of the new act the school continued as a Voluntary County Primary School. In January 1952 schools in Sandy were reorganised with the result that the former Voluntary Primary School became a Voluntary Counrolled County Primary Infants' School, for children aged 5 to 7, still in the former church school premises in Saint Neots Road.

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. The Voluntary Controlled County Primary Infants School was intended to still take pupils from age 5 to age 7, the older children going to Laburnum Lower School. However, in 1977 the school became a normal lower school, dealing with the 4 to 9 age range as Saint Swithun's Voluntary Controlled Lower School.

At the time of writing [2010] the school is in purpose built accommodation on the corner of Ivel Road and the High Street, where it moved in 1987. The site of the former schools in Saint Neots Road is now housing.

Saint Swithun's Lower School April 2010
Saint Swithun's Lower School April 2010