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20th Century Education in Woburn

Woburn Council Girls' School group 1916 [Z252/3]
Woburn Council Girls' School group 1916 [Z252/3]

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. Woburn Board Boys, Girls and Infants Schools thus became Woburn Council Boys, Girls and Infants Schools.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a scrapbook of School Inspectors reports for a period from just before the First World War through the inter-war years [E/IN1/1]. Thus in 1909, all three schools were visited and all were: "doing well and each year making steady and substantial progress in nearly all directions". Of the Boys School in 1910 it was reported: "The tone of the School is very good and the interest shown by the master and scholars in the School Gardening and outdoor observation work is a very pleasing feature of the School". The Girls School was similarly good: "The tone and discipline are most priaseworthy…The condition of the School as a whole reflects much credit upon Miss Smith and her Assistant".

In 1913, when average attendance was 79 at the boys, 48 at the girls and 46 at the infants schools, an epidemic of sickness was noted at all the schools, but in spite of this creditable work had been done. There was then a break in inspections due to the upheaval of the First World War. Inspections resumed at the Infants School in 1918 when the Inspector complained about the closing of the registers in the afternoon "25 minutes after the proper time for closing them". Otherwise inspections for all schools recommenced in 1922 where, at the Boys School there was: "plenty of evidence of steady, painstaking work" and 1923 when the Girls School was "making really good headway" and at the Infants: "The teaching is quite industrious, and the methods of instruction are, as a rule, such as should lead to satisfactory results; yet the progress of the children is certainly not as good as it should be. This is chiefly due to the fact that order is lax, and a few of the brighter children are allowed frequently to call out and monopolise the teacher's attention". Both Boys and Girls Schools were also inspected in 1925/6 and progress was generally satisfactory.

In 1928 the three separate schools were amalgamated to become Woburn Junior Mixed School, which had an average attendance of 70 at the time of its first inspection in 1930 when it was noted. The school met in the original 1582 school and the 19th century girls’ school which stood at right angles to it, the boys’ school in Leighton Street being sold.

The inspector reported in 1930: "This school deteriorated under a Mistress who left rather less than 2 years ago. After an interval the present Head Teacher came in September 1929…the work at present is not too satisfactory, probably because each of the two lower classes has exactly the same teaching and tests for all its members in far too many subjects". In 1935 it was found the improvements had been made to the building and: "the standard of attainment is high throughout the School…children are well mannered and behave very well in School under discipline of happy friendliness…The Head Teacher deserves high commendation for her conduct of the School".

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. Woburn Council School thus became Woburn County Primary School.

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. Woburn is thus now a Lower School and still meets in the Free School buildings of 1582, which must be the oldest educational buildings in the county.

On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire County Council was abolished. The former county was divided into two unitary councils, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire. The local authority for Woburn is now Central Bedfordshire Council.

School prospectus from 1995 [E/Pu4/4/212]
School prospectus from 1995 [E/Pu4/4/212]