The village school 2

I need to explain more about the school. It was a traditional late Victorian village school, financed by the Church of England to enable village children to learn to read and write, get a basic education, which would not have been available otherwise. Those people who oppose the concept of Church schools may not consider their origins. Not that I’m arguing in favour of teaching dogma or excluding families who don’t toe your line. I am not in favour of schools’ admission criteria demanding that the children attend church or sign up to anything at all and I think that a range of views should be presented.

Anyway, back to the building work. As I said, the piece of land being looked at for sale was partly a small field and partly the village allotments, but it was situated right in the middle of the village, opposite the pub and shop and next to the village hall. The local landowner was and is a very good and fair man and, although it was not unreasonable that he should be willing to make some money out of an opportunity, he wouldn’t try to do it at anyone’s expense. He offered as an alternative another piece of land taken out of a field about 100 yards away and, when it was accepted, fenced it, manured the ground and left it in good order for the allotment holders. That land is still the site of the village allotments.

One of the reasons that the Local Authority wanted to close the school was that it was quite old-fashioned – that is, the school building was out of date. There were no indoor children’s toilets, which was the main problem, a large classroom and a small one and a small office. There was a rudimentary kitchen, but meals were brought in from another school. There was also a staff lavatory. In addition to the lack of facilities, pupil numbers were very low and there was a temporary Headteacher and just one other part-time teacher. In the afternoons, the Head took the whole school (age range 5-8) with the help of a teaching assistant who, in the morning, acted as the school secretary. That this wasn’t terribly satisfactory explained the low pupil numbers. And then the children went on to another school a 25-minute bus ride away, whilst the Yagnub middle and high schools were only two miles away.

So the landowner, the Rector and a small group of parents got together to make a plan, for the land to be sold, the village church to finance the updating of the buildings and a small new housing estate to be built which would help to bring in more young people who would be pupils. At that time, this village had the largest proportion of over 65-year-olds in the whole of Norfolk.

An extension was built to house a cloakroom and lavatories and the classrooms were altered so that there was one large room divided by a folding screen. This made two classrooms that could be turned into one hall for lunch, assembly and PE. The Headteacher was given a new office which was to be shared with the secretary. There was already a mobile classroom in the playground which was the third classroom when there were enough pupils to warrant it. The alterations cost around £48,000. And a new Headteacher was appointed on a permanent contract. The other agreement made was that the age range be increased to 5-9 (the Suffolk first school age, 5-8 was Norfolk’s) and our pupils go on to Yagnub schools – Yagnub being in Suffolk and our village being in Norfolk.

At the point when I became a governor, the indoor toilets had just been built and the new Head had been appointed. I was pretty green and clueless, but the Church Education Board (which is not its actual title) had as its director a lovely man called John N. who was immensely kind and helpful to me. Every time I needed to know anything, I phoned him and he would advise. I only realised several years later that this was not really his job at all and just how kind he had been.

7 comments on “The village school 2

  1. Anonymous

    What a kind landowner and so nice to hear people get together and make things happen.
    What does a school governor do? We have school boards, the PTA etc. but no governors.

    Reply
  2. Z

    Nowadays, they are responsible for the strategic management of the school, if you’ll excuse the jargon. The Head is in charge of the teachers and pupils, but the Head is answerable to us. I’ll explain more in a later post.

    Reply
  3. Tim

    Z, you have inadvertently entered into the world of politics, something I know you’re loath to do. But:
    This is precisely the kind of local co-operative initiative that has been going on all over the country for decades. They are usually well thought through, realistically implemented, and above all they are made to work without any hoohah or grandstanding. They have nothing to do with politics, class warfare or any of that.
    What a shame that the government chose to politicise this and brand it as ‘The Big Society’ (a sadly but typically inept choice of label, by the way: the whole point is that it’s small!). They should have kept their snouts out and just let us get on with it.
    Although, um, that’s what they did with the banks, isn’t it?

    Reply
  4. Z

    Tim, it was Mr Gove who, a few weeks ago, laid into school governors as local worthies interfering for their own ends. I’m not sure how well this went down with the Prime Minister because, as you say, we exemplify what he had been advocating.

    It’s not the case with us, but in bigger towns there are often political appointments to governing bodies and always have been.

    Macy, Suffolk’s system was First, Middle and High and has been since the early 1970s, when they abolished the grammar schools and brought in comprehensive education It still is in the west of the county because they have run out of the money to do away with three tiers, but now they haven done away with middle schools and have reverted to Primary and Secondary education, in common with most of England. There are some infant schools in places which take up to age 7.

    Reply
  5. mig

    I worked in school kitchens for a few years and I spent several terms taking prepared dinners to a little local school which was managed in much the way you describe. And as far as I know , it still is (though they do have indoor toilets). Actually, the majority of the smaller schools had dinners prepared at two or three of the bigger ones and transferred by kitchen staff.

    Reply

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