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Shortstown School

Shortstown Lower School April 2011
Shortstown Lower School April 2011

Despite houses having been built from 1917 onwards, Shortstown had no school until the mid 1950s. To judge from the admission register for Cardington School [SDCardington14] some children from Shortstown (despite what is said in the article below) seem to have attended that school as well as going to Cotton End School.

The Sites and Buildings Sub-Committee of Bedfordshire County Council Education Committee reported on 4th June 1954 under the heading Eastcotts/Shortstown proposed C. P. School: “The Ministry of Education has been requested to include a 1-form entry school in the Major Building Programme 1955/56. Sketch plans were submitted”. C. P. Stood for County Primary School, schools for children aged 5 to 11 set up under the Education Act 1944.

On 24th September 1954 it was reported under the heading Eastcotts C.P.School: “The provision of an instalment of this School has been included in the Major Building programme 1955-56”. It was recommended: “That 3 acres or thereabouts of land in the parish of Eastcotts, as shown on the plan now submitted, be acquired for educational purposes to provide 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”.

On 9th September 1955 it was reported: “It was reported that the R. A. F. Authorities would shortly be erecting additional married quarters on land at present used as a children’s playground on the Eastcotts Estate. The Authority had been offered the swings and roundabouts at present on this playground for use by the new C. P. School”. It was resolved: “That the offer be regretfully declined and that the R. A. F. Authorities be recommended to offer the equipment to other Local Authorities”.

The lowest tender received to build the school was £32,275/6/- by Lindum (Lincoln) Limited. This slightly exceeded the standard cost per place as laid down by the Ministry of Education. Nothing more is mentioned until 26th October 1956 a committee to appoint a headteacher was established. It was also resolved: “That an occasion be organised to mark the opening of the Eastcotts (Shortstown) C. P. School and other schools now in the course of erection”. It was also resolved to include the school in the Elstow Group of County Primary Schools for management purposes. On 21st December 1956 it was resolved to spend £3,187 on furniture and equipment for the new school.

On 1st March 1957 Mr. I Evans. Acting Headteacher at Eastcotts C. P. School (which was the name then used for Cotton End School) was appointed as Headteacher at Shortstown. On 22nd March 1957 the need to complete the school was sent to the Ministry of Education for inclusion in the Major Building Programme 1958/59.

The first attendance registers from the school begin on Monday, 17th June 1957. On 28th June that year the Schools Sub-Committee reported: “that by way of an official opening of the school, it was proposed that the children should arrange an “At Home” during the Autumn Term 1957.

In 1961 Iris Walker wrote a piece on the school for The Bedfordshire Magazine (Volume VIII, No. 58, page 55) under the heading A School of Transients. It read as follows: “Shortstown is a school with a problem – a constantly recurring problem: that of educating children who are birds of passage. This September, Shortstown County Primary School (to give it its full title) begins its fifth year. It was built in a village founded by the firm of Short Brothers in 1917 to house the airship-builders and their families. At that time their children went to school at Eastcotts [see above], but with the advent of the Royal Air Force to Cardington the community grew, and with it the need for a new school. Building began in 1956, and in June the following year County Alderman Simms opened it”.

“It is a cleverly designed school, where space has been planned carefully. Classrooms are light and airy; and its hall has a crenellated, sound-absorbing ceiling, and a red-and-white tiled floor, still unmarked by the hundreds of small feet that have trodden it. The spick-and-span air of newness which prevails reflects the pride of Mr. I. W. Evans, the headmaster, who insists on great care and attention being given to the school and all that is in it”.

“In spite of its problem, there is an atmosphere of serenity about the school. Almost three-quarters of its children come from R. A. F. families”.

“In an average primary school with a termly intake of five-year olds who, with few exceptions, remain until they are eleven, the teachers come to know them well, and can supervise them throughout the whole of their primary school life. Shortstown admits new pupils of varying ages almost weekly, and just as often says good-bye to more familiar faces. It caters for two hundred children, yet in four years the figure in the admission register had risen to well over six hundred. A normal school of similar size would take twelve or thirteen years to reach such a total. Of the 190 children on the roll when the school opened, only twenty-two remained at the end of last term. The others are scattered, not only over the British Isles, but in France, Germany, and even as far afield as Hong-Kong and Australia”.

“The paper-work involved by these movements – entries in records, transfer of documents, and so on – is no small consideration; but the main difficulty lies in dealing with children who can never stay long in any one school. Most of them have already been to three or four different schools, some to as many as seven before their eleventh birthday. Teaching methods vary widely in different areas; so do the standards attained. Children coming from hot climates have attended morning sessions only in their former schools. Syllabuses vary, too. Jack, from a school in Germany, has learnt decimals but not areas; Jill, from a school in Singapore, knows how to deal with areas, but has not done fractions; Nigel from Cyprus knows fractions and decimals, but has not started on volume. The task of absorbing these children of disparate standards into Shortstown without disruption is no light one. Much individual attention is necessary, but it must not be allowed to interfere in any way with the progress of the class as a whole, particularly the 11-plus class”.

“Mr. Evans, himself an R. A. F. man, knows the nomadic lives these children live and he and his staff are able to tackle the problem with understanding”.

“Whatever their destination, whether it be Malta, Colombo, Aden , Belfast of Bedford, the “ladies and Gentlemen of Shortstown Academy”, as the Headmaster sometimes calls them, will take with them affectionate memories of Shortstown, the school where so many learned so much in such a little time. The school mail, with its letters postmarked from the four corners of the earth, bears witness to that”.

In the early 1970s Bedfordshire embraced comprehensive education. The pervious system saw children undertake an examination at age eleven – the eleven-plus – which decided their school future. Academically inclined children went to grammar schools, those with a more practical inclination went to county secondary modern schools. The comprehensive system did away with this distinction and introduced a third tier of school. Children now went to lower schools from ages 5 to 9, middle schools from age 9 to 13 and upper school from 13 to 16 or 18. At the changeover to the new system Shortstown became a lower school, which it remains up to the time of writing [2011].