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Wootton Infants School

Wootton Infants School about 1900 [Z50/136/28]
Wootton Infants School about 1900 [Z50/136/28]

The direct result of the lack of provision of an efficient school resulted in the formation of a School Board in Wootton on 6th April 1875. Separate schools for junior and infants were created. The infants’ school was next door to the Cock Public House, the junior school across the road on the corner of Bedford Road and Church Road. The infants’ school was quite an ornate building with the unusual design feature of having the school teacher’s house in the middle of the block with class rooms on either side.

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. Wootton Board Infants School thus became Wootton Council Infants 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 report was made in 1909 when of the Infants' School, the inspector reported: "Order and tone are excellent. The School is skilfully organised, and carefully and intelligently taught, and its condition reflects very great credit upon Miss Squire and her assistants".

The infants' school was next visited in 1911: "This School remains in a thoroughly satisfactory state of efficiency. As usual order and tone are excellent and the character of the teaching and the attainments of the children are very praiseworthy".

The next visit to the infants’ school was in 1914. The inspector wrote: “The condition of this school is still quite satisfactory, and the class-rooms have been made lighter in appearance and more comfortable by the re-decoration and improvement of the premises”.

The next inspection reports were made after the Great War. The Infants were visited first, in 1922 when it was found that things were not quite so flourishing as before the war but still reasonable: "This school is in good order and methods of instruction are carefully considered. In Reading, Writing and Number progress is generally quite satisfactory, the first class being the best. In the 2nd Class some children are not exerting themselves enough; in all classes increased attention to clear speaking is very desirable. Handwork is good. Singing only wants more life to be quite creditable. Physical Exercises and Games, by no means neglected, also want more animation and enjoyment to make them good. Improvement would result if the Official course for infants were more closely followed”.

“It should be recorded that many of the children are rather old for their place in development. On 1st April 1922 in the 1st Class there were children of 7.10: 7.6: 7.6: 7.1; 6.11: 6.11: 6.10: 6.9 and 6.9: years and months. The age in the 2nd Class is equally high”.

The next recorded visit to the infants’ school was in 1925, when average attendance was 35: “Of the twenty-one children on the Register of the Top Class thirteen were absent on the day the School was inspected [14th January], though mumps. It is quite clear, however, that the class is taught with much care, and as far as could be judged from the few children who were present, adequate progress is made, Number being the least satisfactory subject. The other class also is taught in a painstaking way, and its work as far as it goes is satisfactory; but rather more ground should be covered in Reading and Number. In both cases greater audibility of speech is desirable”.

The next inspection was in 1930, average attendance 37: “It is some years since a report was submitted on this excellent little school. Several short visits have been paid for various reasons, and usually something has been seen of the work in progress, or of papers already done by the children. The impression left was invariably favourable, and is confirmed by a visit paid today. The great majority of the children have returned after a 6 weeks epidemic, when only 5 or 7 of those on the rolls have been available for school. Only two have escaped measles in the top class”.

“The standard of Reading is high, even with this shortage of time in school: the reason probably is that the attack is deliberate – no child is allowed to read fast although the words present no great difficulty – and they appear to understand the subject matter of the stories read very well. Writing is good and the best ‘Compositions’ are very creditable. Recitation and Music are both well selected and produced with enjoyment, and the Singing Games and little Dances are also well chosen and well performed. Other subjects, and activities seem to be equally successful: the children are very responsive and happy, and the Head Teacher deserves warm congratulation and commendation as does the young assistant”.

The last report in the scrapbook is from 1935, when average attendance was 50: “The numbers in this school have fallen latterly, thus each class has ample room for movement and good use is made of it”.

“The teaching is on thoroughly sound lines; the children are alert both in body and mind and enjoy their work to the full. The speech deserves special mention. There is practically no trace of accent, yet it is natural and fluent. The Assistant Teacher is chiefly responsible for this”.

“The standard of attainment in all work is satisfactory; a good foundation is laid in Number, Writing is well formed and neat, and the girls’ Handwork is of a very high quality”.

“The only suggestions offered were with regard to the training of good habits at lunch time, still further sectionising, and the recording of individual progress. It would be helpful to all concerned if copies of such records were sent to the Junior School to which these children are promoted”.

“This is a very happy school and a pleasure to inspect”.

The outbreak of war in 1939 brought changes to the schools. Children were evacuated to Wootton from Wykeham School in Willesden, London. The following entries from the Infants' School logbook [SDWootonInf2] give a flavour: on September 11th the entry records that: "Evacuated children with 4 teachers are using half of the school"; and a few days later on September 15th: "Emergency stock for use of London teachers delivered this afternoon". However, as the months went on many parents decided to bring their children back to London so that on January 15th 1940 the head wrote: "As there are now only 28 evacuated children in school some of the Wootton infants will now be taught by the Wykeham teachers, the classes being combined". Teaching was not the only concern. The school building had to be safe: June 25th 1940 "The Director of Education visited the school this afternoon to see what protection could be improved against air-raids".

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. Wootton Council Infants thus became Wootton County Primary Infants School. In 1954 the infants and junior schools merged to form one Wootton County Primary School. A new school was built further along Bedford Road and opened in 1962, the two old schools being demolished; the sites are now housing.