The History of Stapleford School in the Twentieth Century
The Village School in 1900
The Master in charge of the school in 1900 was Francis Harris who, but for a break of two years,
had held the position since 1888. Mr. Harris was paid an annual salary of £90 plus a share of the
grant (the money used to run the school) which usually gave him an extra £5 or£6. He also had
free accommodation and coal to heat the schoolhouse. His wife taught the infants. There were two
other assistant teachers. Daisy Elbourne was paid £16 p.a. and Miss Lowson who was paid £18 .4s
p.a. The huge difference in pay between that of the master and his teachers is partly explained by
the fact that his wife was also a teacher but her salary was included in his pay! Every three months
the accounts for the quarter were presented to the School Board and there, amongst other
handwritten entries, are the following:
£22 . 10s
£4 . 11 . 0
£4 . 0 . 0
No attendance registers exist for this period but we know from an entry in the logbook in 1901
that there were 78 children on roll. During the warmer months of the year 85% was considered a
good attendance figure but during the winter months it often fell below 50% and sometimes below
40%. The School Board, the equivalent of today’s Governors were W.S.Heffer who was chairman,
Mr. Bull, Mr. Finch, Mr. Hagger and Mr. Westley. They met every month and among other duties
they were responsible for giving the starting dates and length of the school holidays, deciding how
much the teachers were paid and actually paying them. W.Cadge a carpenter acted as attendance
officer for which he was paid £6 p.a.
In November Mr. Harris and his wife resigned. No reason was recorded in the Minute Book of the
School Board but during the year a request for a rise in salary to £104 p.a. was refused and, we
may presume, that as he was highly regarded they moved to another school for more pay. During
his ten years he had worked hard to raise standards and, above all, to improve the pupils’
attendance. This was no easy matter as some parents regarded compulsory schooling as an
infringement of their way of life and continued to send the older boys to work in the fields while
the older girls looked after the younger children in the family and assisted with the housework.
This is the entry in the school logbook for the 11th July 1888 towards the end of his first term.
“Harry Matlock, aged 12, has made only 12 attendances. I sent to ask the reason and received a
verbal message that the boy never got up till dinner time and then has to take his father’s dinner to
the field and did not return until teatime. The mother appeared to consider this a perfectly rational
excuse for his absence. The Compulsory clause in the Education Act is a failure in this parish and
the attendance officer is useless.”
The Minutes of the School Board are full of cautions sent to parents for not sending their children
to school regularly.
Attendance was very important because the money given to run the school was, since 1891,
awarded on the basis of the average attendance of each pupil. Before that, it was based on a system
of payment by results according to an HMI’s annual testing of the pupils. This system was hated
by teachers who regarded the HMIs as the enemy and it was a constant source of conflict between
them. Unfortunately, the work of the Master was often undermined by members of the School
Board who sometimes gave parents permission to keep a child away from school or even
employed children to run errands or pick fruit.
At this time the school had three classes: infants, 2nd class (standards 3 and 4) and 1st class
(standards 5,6,and 7). Although payment by results had been abandoned in 1891, the children were
still examined by HMI on one of his visits. Almost a 110 years later the wheel has now turned a
cycle with the present government proposing to bring back payment by results as a method of
raising educational standards.
In January 1901 Charles Lowden became the Master on a salary of £80 p.a. plus 5 per cent of the
grant which, that year was £125, so his total salary was £86-5s. Daisy Elbourne continued as
assistant teacher on £16 p.a. which included cleaning the school and lighting the fires by 7.30am.
However, by the end of the year her salary was raised to £20 and a Mrs. Harvey was paid 2/6
(12.5p) a week to do the cleaning and firelighting. Daisy Elbourne must have rejoiced at the
improvements in her conditions of employment that year. Miss Lowson’s salary was raised to £22
p.a. The next year they had another big rise in salary with Miss Lowson earning £30 and Miss
Elbourne £26. Bertha Challis was appointed monitor on £3-18s a year. During the 1890s the staff
received pay rises every three or four years and in 1899 Daisy Elbourne was earning just £8 p.a. so
her salary rise in three years to £26 was quite significant and a reflection on the low rates which
Stapleford School had been paying.
Many readers will remember having, themselves, been monitors. Perhaps you were responsible for
the distribution of those small one third of a pint bottles of milk to each pupil in the morning,
keeping the inkwells filled or cleaning the blackboard at the end of the day. This freed the teacher
of some of the mundane chores of the classroom and allowed him or her to spend more time on
marking books and preparing lessons. It was also intended to give the pupil a sense of
responsibility. Bertha Challis’ appointment as a paid monitor was rather different. She was, in fact,
a very poorly paid instructor. The school monitor system was based on educational systems
devised by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster in 1797/8 whereby a teacher taught several
monitors who then taught a number of children. This was cheaper than employing more qualified
teachers. In the Lancastrian Model School in Southwark 365 pupils sat in rows in a room 40 feet
by 90feet at 20 desks each 25 feet long. There was just one teacher and 31 monitors. The teacher
taught the monitors who then stood round the edges of the room and instructed ten or eleven
pupils each. This system as a form of mass education didn’t last for many years but by the end of
the 19th century the older and more able 14 and 15 years old girls and boys were employed as
monitors to assist the teachers with large classes. Shelford schools also employed pupil teachers.
These were usually girls between 13 and 18 years old who were gaining practical experience (but
little help or advice and no further education) while waiting to go to a teacher training college at
18. Pupil teachers were paid more than monitors and none were employed in Stapleford school.
During the early years of compulsory education the curriculum was very much based on the three
Rs and Bible studies. The latter proved surprisingly controversial during its passage through
Parliament and eventually most School Boards adopted the principles of the London School Board
on religious education. “The Bible shall be read and there shall be given such explanations and
such instructions therefrom in the principles of morality and religion as are suited to the capacity
of children, provided there is no attempt to attach them to a particular denomination.” One other
stipulation was that the girls should be taught needlework and the logbook regularly records the
visits of Lady Godolphin and, later, Lady Gray to inspect the girls needlework. Both ladies also
heard the children read on these occasions. While the girls were practising their needlework the
boys were learning netting.
The curriculum for the older children had gradually increased to include drawing, geography and
some history, although not every member of the School Board was in favour.
“Mr. Heffer (chairman of the Board) says it is all humbug teaching so many subjects. Reading,
writing and arithmetic are sufficient”. Nevertheless, this was still a very limited curriculum in
comparison with the range of subjects taught in primary schools today. It is worth noting that Mr.
Harris had organised evening classes in woodwork, drawing, vocal music, geography and
mensuration (land measurement). These were called School Continuation classes and were held on
four evenings a week. Some four months after the start, the school was inspected and earned the
following report. “A successful beginning has been made with the continuation school work in this
village. Excellent discipline has been maintained and very good progress has been made especially
with mensuration and woodwork. Vocal music should improve”. The only form of physical
education was drill. There is no record of the drill used in Stapleford School but it was likely to be
very similar to the scheme practised in schools in Birmingham.
March at a uniform rate, at even distance
The turns, right, left, half turn right, half turn
and with good carriage.
left, right about turn.
(b) Change step and do the about right turn
(b) Dressing of lines
on the march
(c)Counter marching, march in line
(c) wheeling in fours, backwards and forwards.
Backwards and forwards.
It will be seen that the drill had more to do with instilling discipline and order than physical
During the thirty years from 1870 to the end of the century there were several Education Acts
which brought various changes. The 1891 Act that brought in payment by attendance rather than
results has already been mentioned. It also abolished the payment of fees. These amounted to 2 or
3d per week which would have been a hardship for many Stapleford families although those who
were very poor could claim exemption. The 1876 Act made it an offence to employ a child below
the age of 10 but those between 10 and 14 could be employed half time. 22nd
March 1901 “ HM
Inspector examined Bertie Willis, Sid Hoppitt and John Carter for their Labour Certificate. Each
boy passed and is now qualified as half timers, having declared their ages as 12”.
1902 Education Act
The Education Act of 1902 brought in a series of major changes including the raising of the
leaving age to 13. Much administration was transferred from central to local government and local
authorities were required to appoint education committees and education officers. The work of
HM Inspectors was also reformed and henceforth schools and pupils were merely subject to
random, unannounced visits. Many HMI found this new, benign role difficult to cope with. The
Act also required changes to School Boards and on Sept. 1st
Charles Lowden wrote in the logbook,
“Today the school became Stapleford County (provided) School. The County Education
Committee have appointed Mrs. FJ Armistead, Messrs Hawkins, W. Finch and S.Hagger as
managers and at a parish meeting Messrs Bull and Searle were also appointed.
Charles Lowden stayed only three years and this is his last entry in the logbook. 17th
1903 “My three months notice terminates on Jan. 3rd
, hence I finish work in school today.”
1903 Inventory of the school
One of the first acts of the new local education authority was to carry out a survey of all the school
buildings in the county in 1903. Plans and descriptions of the buildings were produced along with
inventories of furniture. This is how Stapleford School was described. “Walls of red brick. Roofs
tiled. Floors boarded except for entrance cloakroom, which is tiled. Walls match boarded to a
height of 4feet above which bricks show. Ventilation by high windows to east and south, no
ventilation in the roof. Water supply drawn by pump from a well to NE of the house. Closets –
privies, state of repair – good.”
The Rough Inventory listed:
6 desks, 9ft. Long, folding to make either steep desk or table with seats.
10’6” plain desks with seats: 1 ditto 6ft. long for infants
2 7ft. “ “ “ “ “ “ “
benches for infants, 1 table, 2 blackboards, 5 easels, 4 cupboards, 1 Masters desk,
carpenters’ benches (presumably for evening classes) and drawing models.
The description makes no mention of heating although we know that there were coal fires. The
inventory reveals pretty basic furniture and a sad lack of teaching aids. Other village schools were
better equipped, e.g. Great Shelford had a piano, three harmoniums and a rocking horse for the
infants. Was the lack of a piano the cause of poor vocal music in the continuation class?
On 4th January 1904 Mr. FE Brown a certificated supply teacher took temporary charge until Mr.
A.B. Norman arrived four days later. On 15th January Mr. Norman wrote, “Mr. Brown got tired of
this school and left. My daughter Miss E. E. Norman took charge assisted by my second daughter
Dora. During the next few months the atmosphere in the school became highly charged until it
exploded on November 25th. “Miss Norman grossly insulted Miss Lowson by spitting in her face
and calling her beastly names on three consecutive days. I severely censured my daughter and sent
her home until the Managers have considered the case.”
28th November “The Managers have suspended Miss Norman for gross misconduct to her fellow
teacher Miss Lowson”. She resigned on 6thJanuary 1905 and was appointed to Cottenham School.
There must be more to this case than is shown in the logbook because it is very unlikely that
another school would so readily employ a teacher after such behaviour.
On the 1st May Mr. Norman resigned to take up a post with Hertfordshire Education Authority. On
2nd June Miss Lowson left the school and also went to work in a school in Hertfordshire. Was this
the cause of the trouble among father, daughter and another teacher?
Threatened Closure of the School
During the spring of 1905, before the problems reached a crisis, the school was visited Mr. HG
Fordham, Chairman of the Education Committee accompanied by the Secretary, Mr. A Keen. Mr.
Norman recorded that, “they made a careful inspection and were very pleasant.” A few days later
he wrote in the Logbook, “the proposal of the County Council to close the school causes much
anxiety.” A month later he recorded, “An Inspector visited to meet the Managers to gain
particulars about closing the school.” No reasons are recorded for thinking of closing the school
but the Managers wrote a letter to the Education Committee listing the problems which would be
caused to the children and the village in general if the school were closed. These arguments must
have prevailed on the Authority because no further action was taken.
Mrs. Gertrude Harvey
Mrs. Gertrude Harvey who was to serve as Mistress of the school for nearly 14 years, arrived in
December 1905 with her husband and two sons. Her husband died in March 1908 aged 37 and she
remarried again in December 1914 when she became Mrs. Foster. In December 1906 Miss Daisy
Elbourne left to be married and she was replaced in January by Miss Charlotte Steven.
June 1907 The school year was changed from Sept. 1st to May Day.
1909 12th July The School Inspector reported that “The number of scholars has now risen to 80
and the staffing of the school has become inadequate: the Supplementary Teacher has to deal with
33 infants and the Headteacher is clearly overburdened: the latter has to instruct 47 children
working in a number of different standards.”
1 Nov. Miss Laura Seamer started as an uncertificated Teacher on probation.
1910 T he Managers agreed that on May Day all children over the age of 11 would be transferred
to Shelford School.
21st Feb. Part of the Inspector’s report reads as follows, “Since the last report in 1909 the
staff has been strengthened, the attendance has decreased hence conditions of work are much
more favourable. The instruction is not, however, especially meritorious, were it quieter it might
be more effective. The Head and her assistant talk down to the children. It would be better to
strive for better enunciation on the part of the children ….. the children should adopt hygienic
positions for writing and should not be trained to fold their arms behind their backs.”
The Inspector was so concerned about the poor quality of education that he returned in April and
again in May and submitted an even stronger report. “This is a very unsatisfactory report and it
should receive the earnest attention of the Managers. The school is well staffed and better results
should be obtained. The older children have not been transferred to Shelford as agreed. A great
improvement should be expected on the next occasion.”
10 April Mr. Keen (Education Secretary) has asked me to spare Miss Marshall to assist at
Hauxton school where the headmistress is single handed.
30 April Miss Marshall is still absent and work is suffering in consequence owing to the fact
that one or another of the classes must be left to work alone.
1913 3rd Sept. 17,000 troops with guns transports, etc. marched through the village on their way to
army manoeuvres to be watched by the King and it was impossible to keep the children in
3rd July HMI Report “The headmistress is working single handed in four classes above the
infants but is doing all she can to surmount the difficulties by strenuous work., and in many
respects the results are creditable to her. The children are responsive and well-behaved but
the difficulty of taking a class of 43 children in four divisions renders the teaching of
anything beyond merely mechanical methods almost impossible. Certain rules of arithmetic
are taught and slavishly followed but the children are quite unable to think out simple things
for themselves. Reading on the other hand is creditable in all classes above the infants and
writing is generally fair”.
Older Children Transferred to Great Shelford School
The Education Secretary visited the school on 31 July and reported that “The special
circumstances of this school have been carefully considered on many occasions, with the result
that it was eventually decided to transfer the older children to Shelford School where a well
qualified staff is employed and a good curriculum provided, so reducing the numbers to make
Stapleford a two teacher school. This arrangement has now been in operation for several years and
has worked most satisfactorily. In order to meet the criticisms in the last report, I recommend that
Standard 4 be also transferred to Shelford School, thus leaving the headteacher with Standards 1,
11, and 111, with the assistant in charge of the infants as at present. Standard 111 is for all
purposes a better dividing line than Standard IV and is commonly preferred by the Board of
Education in similar cases. This would leave quite manageable numbers, and Mrs. Harvey and her
assistant should then be able to do excellent work. As to the assistant, a change had already been
made before the report was received; the late teacher resigned and the managers had already
appointed an uncertificated teacher of considerable experience in her place”.
One would have expected the pupils to have transferred at the beginning of the new term but
education moved very slowly and it was not until the 11thof June nearly a year later that eleven children moved on to Shelford school.
Regrettably, for later generations, Mrs. Harvey’s entries in the logbook were very limited when
compared with her predecessors, especially after 1913. Weekly attendance percentages and
closures for epidemics are carefully reported as are departures from the normal timetable but many
pages contain only the comments of managers who visited most weeks to check the accuracy of
the attendance registers. One would have expected some comments on the way in which the Great
War affected the life of the school. Children must have been absent when fathers, uncles or
brothers were killed or injured, or at least have arrived in school very upset. However, Mrs. Foster
sticks strictly to absences or departures from the normal curriculum.
In 1915 the number on roll fell to just 51.
“May Empire Day A.V.Clements, a manager, gave a talk giving specific prominence to
the wonderful way in which our colonies have rallied to the help of the Motherland during the
Great War. A roll of honour designed and painted by S.J.Foster has been placed in the school
containing the names of all the old scholars who volunteered to serve their king and country.”
23 rd June “The Head was granted the day off to be with her husband before he went to France.”
1917 9th Oct. “The children and teachers were out of school this afternoon picking blackberries to
be made into jam for the troops according to instructions received from the education Secretary.”
1st Nov. “The school was closed for a week because the Head’s husband unexpectedly arrived
home on leave.” (This was not an extra holiday and was taken from the normal allocation of 12
1918 The school should have reopened on the 16th
Sept. but there was an epidemic of whooping cough and Mrs. Foster and the Health Visitor went to every house in the village and found only
two families which were not affected. The SMO closed the school until October11th but this was
extended until the 28th October. Before the children could return the village was hit by the ‘flu
epidemic which swept through Europe killing even more people than the recently ended Great
War. The school didn’t reopen until the 17th November, so the children had been away for 14
weeks. To make up for the lost time the Christmas holiday was reduced to just one week.
July 18th 1919 was the National Day for the Celebration of Peace and each child was presented
with a mug which was paid for by Mr. Worland and Mr. Giddings
Reading through the Logbook during the opening years of the century three things stand out. The
first is the number of times that the Medical Officer of Health closed the school for one or two
weeks because of epidemics of common diseases such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and
whooping cough and also those which are now very rare such as scarlet fever, diptheria and
consumption (TB). In fact, nearly every year the Logbook records the names of pupils who had
died from diseases that are now very rare and quickly cured.
The second point is the patriotism that was fostered by the school. Trafalgar Day was always
celebrated with plays and special history lessons recounting the naval successes of Nelson. This is
the entry in the Logbook the day that the Boers admitted defeat.
1901 3rd June “ ‘Peace proclaimed’ so ran the happy legend yesterday. The scholars met in the
school yard and sang the National Anthem and gave three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers at
26th June The unfortunate sickness of His Majesty (Edward V11) entirely precluded the thought of
two days’ holiday this week.
The 24th May was Empire Day when the children sang the Empire song, recited poems and
performed little plays for the benefit of the other children and also visitors to the school. Here is
just one example from the year 1909.
“The programme included a recitation ‘Empire Day’ by the juniors: ‘Flag of Britain’ by all
children as they saluted the flag; recitation ‘The Union Jack’ by Ada Jennings. Address on
‘Citizenship’ by the vicar, Rev. F.W.Hawes: sketch ‘Britannia’s Birthday’ by the seniors during
which most of the colonies were represented in character presenting their gifts to Britannia.”
Boarded Out Children
The third is the existence of ‘boarded out’ children in the village. These were orphans from
parishes in London who were sent to live with families in Stapleford and other villages. The
system would have been very similar to fostering children today. Their welfare and progress were
checked on annually by the Board of Guardians from the parishes from which they came.
Sometimes they returned to the parishes when they reached school-leaving age and sometimes
they stayed and were employed locally.
1903 13th February “The Camberwell Board of Guardians want Mary Bowdery (a boarded out
girl) to be trained for service, and for that reason Mrs. Wright wants the girl every Monday
1918 Education Act
The Education Act of 1918 (the Fisher Act) raised the school leaving age from 13 to 14 and
abolished part time attendances which had previously been permitted so that children could help
on the land. Part time had not just meant absences on one or two days or half days a week but
sometimes extended to several weeks at a time and there is more than one complaint in the
logbook that certain boys had returned to school after many weeks and could remember nothing of
their school work. Whereas education acts of the late 19th century had been mainly concerned with
what we now call primary age schooling, those from 1918 and onwards concentrated on the
secondary age. Many cities, including Cambridge, already had some separate secondary schools
but the rural areas still had all-age schools. Education Authorities were encouraged to recognise
the importance of physical training and to develop proper programmes to replace the regimented
drill then in vogue. Another change was the formation of the Burnham committee to negotiate
teachers’ salaries. At first, there were four scales for different parts of the country as well as
different rates for men and women. A pension scheme was started. It was hoped that improved pay
would lead to better teachers becoming available and a more even distribution of good teachers.
Until then the wealthy authorities were able to pay higher salaries and thus attract the best
Mrs. Foster was absent for several weeks during the Easter term and again in the summer term
with illness which culminated in an operation. During her absences the other teacher Mrs. Samuel
carried on single-handed or, sometimes, with the help of supply teachers. Mrs. Foster gave three
months notice and wrote this final entry in the Logbook. 1920 30th July “School closed for the Harvest Holidays (6 weeks). I, Gertrude Foster terminate my actual duties here today, my three months notice of resignation expiring on August 1st
Emily Rodhouse started as the new Headteacher on Sept. 1st 1920.
Mrs Foster’s ill health together with the lack of continuity of staffing during her absences must
have contributed to the lowering of standards which were commented on during the next
1921 18th April HMI Mr.Thurston visited the school and submitted the following report.
“Great credit is due to the Headteacher for the sound work she has been doing since she was
appointed in September of last year. Her task has by no means been easy. For some months
previous to her arrival there had been little continuity of instruction in the upper part of the school
owing to frequent changes of staff, and, in addition, many of the children, some of whom were not
unintelligent were decidedly backward for their age, the flow of promotion having been somewhat
irregular in the past. She has, however, within this short space of time succeeded in effecting a
marked improvement in the work of the school. She has concentrated on the backward children
and their attainment is appreciably higher than it was six months ago. The standard reached by the
school as a whole is now fast approaching normal. The new scheme of work makes excellent
provision for various forms of handwork for which many children show a considerable aptitude.”
This improvement in standards was also reflected in the improved attendance. One hundred per
cent attendance became common and the children were rewarded by school finishing early on
Friday afternoons. During the school year 1921-22 the school received a shield for having the
second best attendance record in the county. The reason for requiring high attendances was
mentioned earlier and this preoccupation with the accuracy of the registers is shown by an entry in
the logbook dated 21st Sept. 1922. The Headteacher entered the wrong date in the girl’s register
and had to get the chairman of the managers to come and witness the alteration. During the 1920s
and for many decades to come, inaccurate registers were a much greater offence than poor
Austin Keen the secretary of the county education committee visited the school again in April and
submitted the following report.
“It is quite clear that the Headteacher —- effected a very great improvement in the work done and
loyally recognised the relation which was established between this school and Shelford School
some years ago. For the sake of the school it is regrettable that Miss Rodhouse has quite recently
been transferred to Papworth Everard School but she has been succeeded by Mrs. Ford who will, I
believe, carry forward the improvement which Miss Rodhouse has begun.”
Emily Rodhouse was obviously a talented teacher and brought great improvements to the school
in just six months. Unfortunately, her doctor ordered her to give up for health reasons (she had
TB) and she transferred to Papworth School.
Mrs. Ford’s entries in the Logbook are very brief and mainly restricted to attendance percentages
and the opening and closing dates of the school terms. She joined the school on 1 st March 1921
and left on 31st December 1924. However, she made two lasting contributions to the school. The
first was the inauguration of an annual Prize Day and the other was the founding of a library.
Prizes were awarded for conduct, academic achievement and a number of different subjects. She
had to rely on the generosity of the managers to provide these annual prizes. Mrs. Gray always
gave four while the others usually gave two each. The other achievement was the forming of a
school library with books bought with money raised by the children who put on a series of
Environmentalists who are concerned about global warming may be interested to know that Feb.23rd
1921 was so warm that the children had lessons were held outside on the lawn.
Two teachers were temporarily in charge until the new headteacher, Winifred Elsden, could take
up her post on 3rd March 1925.
1925 Oct. 26 HMI Thurston visited again and made the following report.
“The standard of attainment is, in general, very low; the school contains an unusually large
proportion of children who are difficult to teach. It is to be hoped that there will be an
improvement under the newly appointed Headteacher.”
Assuming that Mr. Thurston was consistent in his inspections, the standards in the school do seem
to have varied quite considerably during the early Twenties when the number on roll was between
50 and 60.
1929 22nd Oct. HMI’s report.
“While the level of attainment is still somewhat below the normal for schools of similar type, there
has been substantial improvement during the past three years. The number of children unduly
retarded is now considerably less than formerly and there are indications, particularly in the infant
classes that further progress will be forthcoming. It is suggested that the development of
Handwork would serve to widen the interests of the older children and provide a useful stimulus
for the backward pupils in the lower section of Class 1.”
Henry Morris and The Village Colleges
The low attainment of the children in small village schools had become a matter of concern by the
early years of the Twentieth Century but transport problems and financial difficulties prevented
any large-scale attempt to improve the situation. Children who failed to get a place in a town
secondary school were condemned to waste much of their time from eleven onwards.
In these circumstances, Henry Morris, who succeeded Austin Keen as Secretary for Education for
Cambridgeshire, formulated his plan for the development of village colleges. His original memo,
prepared in 1924, envisaged the reorganisation of village schools into “a system of senior or
central schools in the larger villages, supported be tributary junior schools for children under
eleven in the surrounding villages.”
Most schools had fewer than forty pupils over the age of eleven. Morris said, “The numbers of
older children in attendance at the senior schools will make possible the organisation of a class
system in each school that will have regard to age and attainment. It will be possible to concentrate
the facilities for handicrafts, domestic subjects, general elementary science and gardening in a
limited number of centres.
The reorganisation of primary and secondary education, as Morris knew, would not be sufficient to
preserve and enrich the social and recreational life of the countryside. There needed to be a
grouping and coordination of all educational and social agencies. Within a village college the
whole community and neighbourhood could be established and developed. Morris had difficulty
convincing councillors that it was a worthwhile scheme, and in the end he took it upon himself to
raise much of the money to get the first village college off the ground in Sawston. He went abroad
and secured grants from charitable organisations such as the Gulbenkian Foundation and then
persuaded Henry Spicer to donate a piece of land.
Sawston Village College was duly opened in October 1930 and all the children aged over eleven in
Shelford School, including those from Stapleford, transferred to the new secondary school.
In September 1931 eight children from Stapleford transferred directly to Sawston Village College
for the first time.
Grammar Schools and Minor Scholarships
In 1920 the LEA had changed the status of two existing schools and reopened them as grammar
schools to be known as the County High School for Boys and the County High School for Girls.
Entrance was by successfully passing an examination and the ability to pay the necessary fees. To
assist a few of those from impoverished families the LEA gave a number of ‘minor scholarships’
to the brightest pupils who had their fees, uniforms and transport paid for. No mention is made in
the logbook of any Stapleford children even being entered for the examination until Feb. 25th
when ‘Children of the correct age took the preliminary examination for the minor scholarship.’ On
March 14th Jean Baynes and Jean Kellock who had passed went to Great Shelford School to take
the minor scholarship examination. There is no mention in the logbook if either girl passed.
Not until 1936 did two boys,Ernest Scotcher and Keith Linsey, pass as fee payers. The first pupil
from Stapleford to win a minor scholarship was Norman Challis in 1938.
In January 1933 there were 70 children on roll and the entries in the logbook that year are almost
entirely concerned with illnesses especially those of the three teachers. Hardly a week went by
without one of them being ill and the classes having to be merged.
In January 1935 the number on roll had crept up to 77.
In January 1936 Mr. Knight, a manager, lent the school a wireless so that the children could listen
to the funeral of King George Fifth.
The school was obviously impressed by the funeral broadcast and bought a wireless at the
beginning of 1937 and used it to listen to a series of nature programmes. The number on roll
increased to 81 and some infants had to be turned away. In April the Co-op in Sawston started to
deliver school milk. One girl passed to go to the High School for Girls.
In 1938 Norman Challis was awarded a minor scholarship. The next year there were three
successes and John Matthews remembers that he was given 5s bicycle allowance instead of a bus
In July 1939 there was meeting with an electrician to discuss the positions of lights and points.
The Second World War
The First World War may have had little impact on the school but the same cannot be said of the
Second. Weeks before the outbreak of hostilities, children were being evacuated from the major
towns into the countryside and several arrived in this village. The start of school in September was
delayed by a week and a hundred children turned up on the first day so that the Institute had to be
used as a classroom. On November 10th an air raid warning was received from the Chief Constable
at 09.45 and the children were either sent home or to neighbours as previously arranged. News of
the all clear was brought at 11.50 but few children turned up for the afternoon session! Much
money and time had been spent building air raid shelters for the towns but the programme had not
yet reached the rural areas so the school could do little more than send the children home.
In July 1940 plans were drawn up for air raid protection and by September all but 5 of the
evacuees had returned home. In November Mrs. Hoare took over as Headteacher while Mrs.
Elsdon was away. The same month the County Architect inspected the new air raid shelter and an
air raid warning device was in place. The evacuees gradually returned and from 1941 two registers
were kept, one for the village children and one for the evacuees. The latter were either far more
hardy or there was less call on their time because their attendance was always superior, often by as
much as 50per cent. In March Mrs. Elsdon resigned because of ill health and Mrs. Hoare became
the permanent Headteacher from 1st April.
The disruption to the life of the school can only be guessed at from some of the entries in the
logbook. Evacuees came and went as did some of the extra teachers drafted in. No supply teachers
were available. With aging teachers who were frequently ill and over a hundred children with few
resources for teaching, life must have been very difficult for the Headteacher. Sometimes she had
to take the whole school of over a hundred children on her own. In June there were 82 Stapleford
children and 40 evacuees. On such occasions she must have been only too pleased when children
were absent. She did her best to keep to a routine. Children still sat the minor scholarship
examinations including the London evacuees who sat for entrance to Bancroft and Christ’s
In addition to the problems created by the war, Mrs. Hoare was engaged in lengthy
correspondence during 1941 with the school managers about the practice of emptying ashes from
the fires together with the contents of the buckets from the school lavatories at the end of the
school garden. Naturally, she wanted an end to this ‘revolting practice’.
In January 1942 Mrs. Hardy, who had been at the school for 21 years but who, since the start of
the war had rarely managed to attend for a whole week, finally left because of ill health. During
the rest of the war there are few entries other than those recording attendances and absences and
one whole year is covered in just three pages. The Minute Book of the Managers is equally sparse
because they met only four times during the war years: on one occasion to appoint a new cleaner
on another to appoint Mrs. Hardy’s replacement.
1945 8th and 9th of May the school was closed for VE Day celebrations.
1944 Education Act
It is not without significance that the Education Acts of 1902, 1918 and 1944 were passed in time
of war when people turned to education as a hope for the future. During the war years public
opinion was increasingly interested in education and increasingly determined to make educational
facilities more adequate and more accessible. The great Education Act of 1944 was steered
through Parliament by Rab Butler who was Secretary of the Board of Education and lived in
Saffron Walden. It was a very lengthy Bill in five parts but its main features were:
The Board of Education was replaced by the Ministry of Education.
The school leaving age was to be raised (without exception) to 15 from 1st April 1945 and to 16 as soon as possible. For practical reasons, the rise to 15 was delayed for 2 years while the rise to 16 didn’t happen until 1972.
Fees were abolished in all LEA schools.
Meals and free milk were introduced.
The tripartite system of education – the provision of grammar, technical and secondary modern
schools – became standardised so that all children would be provided with an education most
suited to their aptitudes and abilities.
The immediate raising of the school leaving age was quite impractical for two main reasons. First,
few repairs had been done to schools or any buildings for 6 years and hundreds of thousands of
buildings had been destroyed or damaged by bombing. There was a shortage of building materials
and skilled builders yet thousands of new classrooms would be needed for the extra numbers.
Second, it was estimated that to replace the war casualties and cover the extra pupils 70,000
teachers were needed but the annual output from the colleges was only 7,000.
The government embarked on a crash programme of building, offering LEAs an erection service
for a standard style and size of ‘temporary’ classroom. These became known as HORSA huts –
Huttting Operations On Raising School Age. Many were built for local schools including Sawston
V.C. (but not Stapleford) and some are still in use fifty years later. The shortage of teachers was
overcome by an Emergency Training Scheme with courses lasting just one year. It was open to all
men and women between the ages of 21 and 35 who had served in H.M.Forces or other National
Service work. Although not every school was ready, the leaving age was raised to 15 in 1947 as an
act of faith.
During the late nineteen forties, the entries in the logbook continue to be very sparse but from the
reasons for absences and early closures it is possible to detect a gradual change and widening of
the curriculum. Teachers attended lectures and conferences and there are visits from specialist
advisory teachers in art, handicraft, and English. The pupils also participated in sports days at
Sawston V.C. and in Cambridge.
The entry for Dec. 1 st 1946 is the first time that any writing in the logbook appears in ball point pen although Mrs. Hoare soon returned to using pen and ink.
In April 1947 two male students from Wimpole Park Emergency Training College arrived at the
school for a teaching practice. These were the first men to work in the school since the beginning
of the century. For the next few years students from the college were regular visitors to the school.
On 3rd March 1948 11 children who reached the age of 11 this year took an intelligence test which
formed the first part of the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination. On 10th March five of the children took the written parts of the examination. However, we are not told if any were successful and it is not until 1951 that the examination is mentioned again.
On 31st May 1951 Mrs. Hoare retired and was replaced by Mrs. C.Tuffs. In October George
Edwards the Assistant Chief Education Officer visited the school and after discussions, the school
was rearranged with all 34 infants in the Big Room taught by Miss Mullocks. Miss Pawley had 33
7-9 years old while the Headteacher had 22 pupils aged 9 plus. It was generally agreed that this
was a much more satisfactory arrangement.
In 1952 Marjorie Stock arrived to do some supply teaching with the infants. In September she
became part time and finally full time in January 1953. She taught at the school for over 20 years
and afterwards continued to take an active part in the Umbrella Club and is still remembered by
many in the village today.
In 1953 Lady Rowena Gray who lived at Gog Magog House died. She had been a most
conscientious visitor to the school since her appointment as a Manager in 1920, hearing children
read, looking at needlework, giving prizes and above all checking the registers regularly. In her
later years her signature became shaky but was still clear and legible. On 28 th
March there was a memorial service in her honour and also for Queen Mary who had died the previous day.
In April the school started rehearsals for a coronation pageant which took place on 1st June and
there were four days holiday. In May George Edwards arrived again to discuss the overcrowding
in the infant classroom. Stapleford like schools all over the country was suffering from the huge
post war rise in birthrate commonly referred to as the ‘bulge years’. At the end of June it was
decided to put Infant Class One into the Institute.
23rd June Mrs. Tufts died less than four years after being appointed and her successor, Mrs.
Perkins, was unable to start at the school until January six months later.
Rapid Growth of the School
During the early nineteen fifties the school numbers increased dramatically. From 89 in 1951 they
rose to 123 in 1956 and 164 in 1957. From as early as 1954 it was clear that extra classrooms were
necessary and a development plan was drawn up with the LEA, which was also asked to buy half
an acre of Vine Farm from Mr. Giddens. As nothing had happened during the next 18 months, the
situation was becoming desperate. During the summer holidays the county architect and CEO met
the managers who approved the development plans costing £10,000 and the provision of a block
of temporary ‘Elsons’ costing £227 to be erected before the school opened in September.
Mrs. Perkins left at the end of the summer term in 1959 to take up a post in Oxfordshire and Mr.
Harold Holt was appointed as the new Head, the first permanent male teacher for 55 years. He was
unable to start until January 1960 and Miss Pauley acted as Head until he arrived.
Harold, as he was known to all the adults in the village, was an experienced headteacher who
quickly made an impact on the school. Within 6 weeks of arriving, he presented the PTA with
plans for building a swimming pool. A questionnaire to parents showed wide support and fund
raising began in May. During the last week of the summer term the children put on three concerts
to collect money and £200 was raised in less than three months. Parents contributed £5 per family
and the total cost of £600 for materials was raised. Parents and friends worked on the construction
of the pool on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings and it was completed in less than six
months. It was opened on June 24th 1961 by Dickie Jeeps, a well known ex-England rugby player
from Willingham, who was chairman of the Sports Council. There are no further details in the
logbook but a brochure produced for the opening and a statement of accounts can be found in the
Parish Council Minute Book. This was the start of the traditional midsummer Pool Party which
was held in the afternoon and was followed by a dance in the evening. The need for the pool
becomes obvious when it was noted that only 6 of the 154 children in the school could swim when
the pool was opened but by the end of the term, just 4 weeks later, 51 children had learnt to swim.
With swimming becoming an established feature of the summer timetable for all the children, it
was rare for any pupil to progress to secondary school being unable to swim.
New Classrooms, a Hall and Kitchen
The inexorable rise in numbers continued from 154 in January 1960 when Harold arrived to 242 in
April ’64. More classes were formed and new staff appointed. Two classes were crammed into the
large room in the Institute and then one of the rooms in the schoolhouse had to be used before the
new classrooms were completed. These were occupied for the first time in October 1963 and the
new hall and kitchens were handed over by the builders two months later at the beginning of
December. Throughout all these changes Harold continued as a teaching head although he started
to share the teaching of his class first, with Joan Riley and then another teacher. Secretarial
assistance arrived in May 1963. No better tribute could be paid to his energy, enthusiasm and
ability as a teacher than the report by the HMI in March 1963.
“The school has grown considerably since the date of the last report. There were, at that time, 83
children on roll organised in three classes: there are now 170 children in five classes …… special
mention should be made of a valuable amenity provided since the present headmaster took charge
in 1960. The staff and parents, in co-operation, have constructed a fine swimming pool…..in the
short time since he was appointed, the headmaster has made a considerable contribution to the
success of the school by his stimulating teaching, his energy and his enthusiasm. He has the loyal
support of a hard-working and effective team ……. in spite of the disturbance caused by rapid
growth, building operations and changing staff, the school has maintained its good traditions and
forms a very happy community …. progress and achievement in the basic subjects are very
satisfactory. Reading is particularly good, this year in the two top classes some simple science has
been introduced …. the children have learned a good variety of songs and sing with evident
enjoyment … there is a keen recorder group which it is planned to increase. In most classes
attractive painting and handwork can be seen …. many children come from a cultured background
and relations between pupils and staff are excellent.”
From the introduction Education Act in 1944, the pass rate for the eleven plus examination varied
from none to three per year throughout the nineteen fifties. In 1960 five children passed but in
1964 thirteen went on to grammar schools. This examination success drew in children from
surrounding villages and reversed the trend of the Fifties when Stapleford parents took their
children to Shelford and Trumpington.
Having sorted out the school Harold turned his attention to the village and was elected as a parish
councillor in May 1964. Just 3 years later was elected to the Chesterton Rural District Council
(this later became South Cambridgeshire District Council ) and within another 3 years he had
become chairman. He served on the Parish Council and the District Council for 25 years. Among
his particular interests were the provision of better sports facilities and while nothing in Stapleford
is named after him, he is remembered in Cottenham where a plaque on the wall shows that the
lounge in the sports hall is called the Harold Holt lounge.
The School and the Community
The building of the swimming pool brought the village together and the Parent Teacher
Association thrived. The children and parents worked together to put on plays and musicals
throughout the year and the Umbrella Association was formed to look after the popular activities
which were taking place in the evenings. Drama and music had been a feature of the Stapleford
W.I. since its formation in 1920. Now the Umbrella Club started to put on a series of plays and
musicals which performed to packed, appreciative audiences. It participated in the Sawston
festival of music and drama and even went to the Edinburgh Festival. The school became
renowned for its strong community links.
In July 1966 Miss Pauley, who is still remembered by many village people, retired after 31 years
at the school and what changes she saw! As she said at a party in 1956 to celebrate 21 years,
‘when I arrived there was no electricity, there were bucket toilets and water came from pump’.
The Institute Becomes a Mathematics Centre for Training Teachers
In January 1967 the Village Institute was acquired by the LEA and set up for running courses for
teachers under the direction of the County Maths. Inspector, Bob Stone. These courses were
usually held in the afternoons and evenings so that the school had use of the rooms and equipment
during the mornings.
Stapleford Becomes a Show School
The school continued to grow. In 1967 there were 259 children on roll with 6 classes having more
than 33 pupils. The next year it went up to 290. In fact, 1968 was a particularly good year with 22
pupils passing the eleven plus out of 34 eligible children. The school participated in area
competitions in sport, dancing, music and swimming and the classes went on a wide variety of
educational visits. By then, the school’s reputation had grown and teachers and administrators
from all over the world visiting Cambridgeshire were directed to Stapleford to see a successful
school at work. LEA inspectors recommended teachers from other schools in the county to visit
the infant department to see how reading and maths. were taught. Groups of students from teacher
training colleges from as far away as Leeds also paid visits.
In July 1971 Harold and the vicar decided to do their bit to bring about better understanding
between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland a year or so after ‘The
Troubles’ began. They organised a very successful camp for ten Protestant, ten Catholic and ten
Stapleford children assisted by many village people to ‘ help a festering problem’.
Although most classes still had well over thirty pupils Maureen Finlayson was appointed to
specialise in teaching music. This led to the next big PTA project- building music practice rooms.
Work started on 19th May 1973 and the rooms were opened on 4th March the following year.
New Grammar Schools
It wasn’t only Stapleford that was growing but the whole of the Cambridge area. To cope with the
large numbers of children passing the eleven plus examination two more schools were
reconstituted as single sex grammar schools in 1957. These became the Grammar School for Boys
which is now Netherhall School and the Grammar School for Girls which is now Parkside
Community College. Later, as the numbers continued to grow two grammar streams were added to
Impington Village College and another to the Manor school. To get to them Stapleford children
had to set off early in the morning and catch two buses.
The Introduction of Comprehensive schools
During the nineteen fifties a number of parents and teachers became concerned about the tripartite
system of schools. In spite of everyone’s best efforts to run an effective selection system, some
children were considered to be misplaced and the examination was a crude method of predicting
future intellectual development. Some people also considered it to be a socially divisive system,
separating friends and families. Those arguments still continue. The Labour controlled LEA’s of
London and Hull started to build a new type of school that catered for children of all abilities and
called them comprehensive schools. Until then most schools were small with just 3 forms of entry
(90 pupils). These new schools were far bigger with 8 or 9 classes in each year and twelve
hundred or more pupils. Unfortunately, the educational arguments soon became obscured by
political rhetoric as the Labour Party considered grammar schools elitist and supported
comprehensive schools as more befitting their ideal of an egalitarian society. The Conservative
Party supported grammar schools because they offered a high standard of education with excellent
examination results and it believed that their loss would lead to lower standards rather than higher
ones. Slowly, the Labour controlled LEAs started to bring in comprehensive schools by either
building new ones or, more commonly, combining grammar and secondary modern schools. Then,
in 1965, the Labour government issued its famous ‘circular 10/65’ requesting all local authorities
to submit plans for comprehensive reorganisation. When the Conservative Party returned to power
they issued circular 10/70 revoking circular 10/65 but by then many LEAs were at an advanced
stage of planning and parental pressure forced them to continue. Cambridgeshire took its time and
planned thoroughly for changing the village colleges into 11-16 comprehensive schools with
pupils then transferring to two Sixth Form Colleges or to the two 11-18 schools (Impington VC
and Netherhall) to study for ‘A’ levels or to the College of |Further Education. So in September
1974 comprehensive education was introduced and all the children at Stapleford school went to
Sawston Village College.
More Classrooms and a Larger Playing Field
During the nineteen seventies the school grew still further. The separate block of classrooms was
built and in 1976 the school field was extended. The Umbrella Club also raised the money to
extend the hall by moving the west window out thirteen feet to provide room for a permanent
stage. The highest ever number of pupils on roll was reached in September 1977 with 332
children, although some 27 of these were infants who attended part time until they reached their
fifth birthday. The same number was again recorded in 1979 but thereafter the numbers started to
fall as the birth rate had declined and during the nineteen eighties the number of children in the
school stabilised at between 270 and 280.
Harold Holt retired in July 1980 after 20 very eventful years although his wife continued to teach
for another year before she too retired.
Simon Hoad ,who was head of Barrington Church of England Primary School, was appointed as
the new headteacher and took up his appointment on September 1 1980. The subsequent years
following Simon Hoad’s appointment as headteacher is a period in time which is too close to be
objective and there is also a 25 year restriction on public access to documents such as logbooks
and minutes of governors meetings which are deposited in the county record office. Therefore, the
following information has been taken from Acts of Parliament, information from the Department
for Education and Employment and discussion with those currently in education as well as Simon
Numbers on Roll
The number of pupils on roll which had begun to fall during Harold’s last years continued into the
eighties and early nineties to a low of 230 children who were divided into seven classes (two
fewer than in the seventies). However, numbers increased again and have stabilised at 260-270. It
is interesting to note that there was an increase after a glowing Ofsted report in 1995 which shows
that some parents are willing to move their children from one school to another in search of good
education. Today there are 60 pupils i.e. the equivalent of two classes of children spread
throughout all the classes who live outside Stapleford. So the school has maintained its reputation
for providing high quality education.
The Great Education Debate
In 1976 Jim Callaghan, the Prime Minister, started a debate on education in England and Wales in
an attempt to articulate public concern over the education service. Although there were genuine
concerns about the slow rate of improvement, the real driving force was the enormous socio-
economic turmoil of the seventies which continued into the next decade. Industry was undergoing
a revolution. The heavy industries of coal mining, iron and steel and ship building which
employed large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled men were in decline. Service industries and
those, which were computer/electronic based, were expanding. They needed more school leavers
with high literacy and numeracy skills.
Slowly the changes began. In 1980 there were just two policy circulars from the Ministry of
Education and Science. In the five years beginning January 1988 there were 78 and in the next five
years ending in 1998 there were 82. Not all of these policies were relevant to primary schools but
many of them were and the flood of legislation continued. Hardly a week passed without the
arrival of a new policy, the revision of an old one or some other reform.
The Education Reform Act 1988
Many of the policies affecting schools stem directly from the Education Reform Act of 1988
which has brought about the greatest changes since the 1944 Education Act. There were so many
reforms that they had to be implemented gradually and then some were revised when they did not
produce the intended improvements. The main changes affecting Stapleford school were the
introduction of a national curriculum, the delegation of financial management from LEAs to
schools and the opportunity to opt out of LEA control and become grant maintained. The money to
run the school would then come directly from the Ministry of Education and Science, or the
Department of Education and Employment which succeeded it.
The National Curriculum
The Reform Act established a curriculum, which was to be broad and balanced and would develop
the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical welfare of all pupils. This was to be achieved
through eleven separate subjects. First there was a core of three subjects consisting of English,
mathematics and science. Then there were the seven foundation subjects: history, geography,
technology, music, art, information technology and physical education. These were to be taught to
all children and none could be dropped in order to concentrate on other subjects. Finally, there was
religious education which had to be mainly Christian with a daily act of worship.
A curriculum group was set up for each subject and they laid down programmes of study which
described what had to be taught from the ages of five to sixteen and these were to be tested
through attainment targets at the ages of seven, eleven, fourteen and sixteen. These periods of
time became known as Key Stages. So Key Stage one covered the age group which used to be
called infants and Key Stage four ended with GCSE examinations. To avoid any mistakes classes
were numbered from one (five years old) to thirteen (upper sixth). The curriculum groups were not
all set up at the same time but over a period of two or three years. Draft programmes of study were
sent to all schools and then revised after comments by anyone who had time to read them. Each
subject group worked independently. The core subjects were the first to be absorbed into the
school curriculum and were gradually followed by the different foundation subjects. When the
whole curriculum was complete it soon became clear that teachers were expected to cram a quart
into a pint pot. The enthusiasm of the subject specialists had not been curtailed by anyone with an
authoritative overview and it was simply impossible to teach all the programmes of study for all
the subjects in the time available. Teachers did their best for a couple of years but sense finally
prevailed and since 1992 the subjects have been under constant revision and slimming down.
Devolution of School Budgets
During the nineteen eighties Cambridgeshire pioneered the Local Financial Management of
Schools. Essentially this meant giving schools money based on their number of pupils and
allowing them to decide how it should be spent. In practice, by the time that salaries and the
utilities – electricity, gas, water and oil – had been paid, there was very little money left for schools
to spend. However, the government decided that giving money to schools would cut local
authority bureaucracy and reduce the power of local education authorities so the Cambridgeshire
system was adopted nationally. The change from a Conservative to a Labour government has not
brought any change in this policy and managing the school budget has had a huge effect on
headteachers and their workload. Enormous amounts of time are now spent on looking after the
school site, organising repairs and redecoration and trying to save money in one area in order to
spend a few pounds more in another. Inevitably, this means that headteachers have little time for
teaching on a regular basis. It is worth noting that in the years 1998-99 and 99-2000
Cambridgeshire primary schools were amongst the worst funded in the whole country.
Every state school was given the opportunity to receive its funding directly from Whitehall and the
governors were compelled to discuss and make a decision about opting out of local authority
control. The main advantage was that the school would receive the money which the LEA had
held back for central administration – in Cambridgeshire at that time, this was about 25% – plus
an extra grant. If the governors voted in favour of opting out a meeting was held to explain the
reasons to parents and a referendum was then held.
The government now requires all schools to have 30 essential policies covering the teaching of the
NC subjects and other matters such as sex education, special needs, child protection and staff
development. They are also recommended to have another 14 policies covering such things as
attendance, governors’ visits and a dress code. The LEA assists by producing some guideline
policies which schools may use or adapt to suit their own circumstances. These cover discipline
and behaviour, lettings, home school agreements, pupil records etc. which are all in the DFEE list
but also some extra ones such as school trips and journeys and staff discipline. Finally, the school
may decide that it needs other policies such as ones for school and visitor security. Naturally, these
policies cannot just be written by the head but have to be discussed with staff, parents and
governors and revised regularly. It is the governors who are ultimately responsible for these
To ensure that all schools are teaching all the subjects of the national curriculum and have all the
necessary policies in place a new system of inspections was required. The independent Her
Majesty’s Inspectors carried out valuable surveys, subject inspections and occasionally general
inspections but were far too few inspectors to inspect every school in the country within three
years, so a new body called the Office for Standards in Education was created. Ofsted as it is
commonly known rapidly trained hundreds of new inspectors and set out to inspect every school.
It is ironical that the ranks of the inspectors were swollen with headteachers who took early
retirement because their own schools were judged to be performing badly!
Ofsted Inspection October 1995
Stapleford was one of the first schools to be inspected and received a glowing report in Oct. ’95.
This was not, like former reports, written on a single sheet of paper after a half-day visit but a
detailed report 31 pages long written after several inspectors had spent a week in the school.
“The school has a clear set of aims and values which have a positive influence on many aspects of
its work. The school provides a warm, caring ethos which fosters good behaviour and positive
attitudes to learning among the pupils.—The school benefits from the strong management and
leadership of the headteacher and governors. The pupils enter the school with higher than usual
levels of knowledge, skills and understanding.”
The only criticisms were the need to improve teaching in some of the Key Stage 1 classes and to
implement “a consistent and accurate system of reporting and recording pupils’ work.” On the
other hand, “In English, mathematics, science and technology standards are higher than national
Ofsted Inspection November 1998
The style of inspections changed a little and the second one began with a meeting at which parents
were invited to make comments about the school – a daunting experience for all who work there.
This report is 51 pages long and begins with a number of statistics with the following summary.
What the school does well
Pupils attainment is above average in English, mathematics and science.
Most pupils make good progress in most subjects.
The school has successfully introduced the National Literacy Scheme and pupils writing has
improved significantly in K.S.1
* 89% of teaching is satisfactory or better.
* The attitudes, behaviour and personal development of pupils are good.
* The school makes good use of its accommodation and resources.
The school has successfully developed a very positive community ethos.
Where the school has weaknesses
*There is no formal appraisal of teachers and insufficient monitoring of the quality of education.
*The school’s procedures to ensure day to day assessment of pupils are not consistently used.
“This is a good school. Following a report in 1995 the school has continued to improve. As a
result there are few weaknesses and many strengths. The weaknesses are far outweighed by what
the school does well.”
How the school has improved since the last inspection
The school has improved and overcome most of the weaknesses pointed out in the last inspection.
Standards have been raised in English, mathematics and information technology. They have
improved in geography and PE. In other subjects standards have been maintained. —The school
has effectively achieved a balance of time and emphasis for each subject and has implemented an
assessment, recording and reporting policy.”
The Labour party won the 1997 election campaign with the slogan, ‘Education, education,
education’, so the stream of policies and directives has continued. The minister for education and
employment has aimed for a huge improvement in basic literacy and numeracy with 80% of all 11
year old children achieving level 4 or better by the year 2002. To achieve this, a literacy hour was
introduced in Sept. 1998 with very specific details of what children should know and be able to do
in grammar, spelling, writing, etc. at each age. A numeracy hour with equally detailed programmes
of study was introduced the following year and both appear to be achieving the improved results
aimed for but not without some misgivings on the part of experienced teachers. The striving for
ever better results and the publication of league tables so that a school’s test results can be
compared locally and nationally, has put enormous pressure on teachers and children with an
emphasis on academic success leaving less time for social development. Schools faced with
performance management and target setting are now using the language of commerce and business
with children being the products.
With little scope to choose what to teach, schools are now becoming mirror images of one another
so that it is difficult to maintain any individual identity. However, Stapleford School prides itself
on being a little different. First, there is open access to the school with parents usually able to see
the head or class teacher to discuss problems the day they occur. Second, the teaching is built on
sympathy and tolerance for all children. Third, children with special needs get extra support under
the guidance of a coordinator. Fourth the school is fortunate to have so much space, not only on
the playing field but also within the buildings where there are 12 classrooms and a community
room used by just nine classes. Finally, the school has been able to retain some educational visits
with every class having at least one day trip and the Year 6 children having a week’s residential
During the last twenty years considerable changes have been made to the composition and role of
school governors. In the attempt to make the schools more answerable to their communities, the
number of governors appointed by the LEA has decreased while parents, teachers and non-
teaching staff now elect their own representatives. Along with these changes in composition have
come ever increasing responsibilities and workload. It is now the governing body and not the LEA
which appoints the head and teachers (although the LEA gives advice). Every year the governors
must hold a meeting to report to parents and listen to what parents have to say. Ultimately, it is the
governors who are responsible for the budget, staffing structure, the curriculum, the buildings and
everything which happens in the school. Just to emphasis the point, the DFEE has issued
governors with a large poster which lists 81 tasks and decisions which they have to make.
In 1900 about 70 children aged from 5 to 11 attended the village school and received a minimal
education which officially ended on their twelfth birthday but for many it was much earlier. Any
further learning was the preserve of the wealthy. We know that the vicar had a degree and Lord
Godolphin who lived in Magog House had also probably been to university but it is most unlikely
that any other inhabitant had any kind of further education. Today, the people of Stapleford are
among the most highly educated in the country. Children have a minimum of eleven years
education. Most continue on to one of the sixth form colleges to take ‘A’levels or advanced
National Vocational Qualifications and progress on to university. The 1991 census shows that
38.6% of the population had higher education qualifications and the next one will probably show
that this has increased to nearly 50%.