The history of the New Road School in Wootton Bridge on the Isle of Wight.

If you attended this school or taught there we would be pleased to hear from you.


Chapter Four

School Life Down The Years

We have some idea of what the village was like when the school was founded in the mid 19th century. Wootton Parish was very small but since the school was actually in Arreton Parish, pupils were drawn from a much wider area. A circular issued by the Vicar of Arreton in 1868 gives the population of Wootton Bridge as 237. A notice from the Arreton Parish Register, states that with room for 101 pupils, space was reserved for 25 from Wootton and Binstead35. An infant's room to accommodate 27 was also required. Even the extensions of 1873 (see Chapter 2) were soon perceived inadequate for the needs of the population round the school and further enlargement took place in 1882.

The area was mainly agricultural36, with some small industries such as boatyards, brickyards, the quay and corn mill in Wootton Bridge itself If employed, children would be most likely to have worked on the land. This was a matter of concern to the Managers, who, in the 1870s enquired as to whether the Workshops Regulations Act of 1867 applied to agricultural labour37. It did not. Government Acts of the period were aimed at regulating the number of hours factory employed children could work and were not really intended to cover other kinds of employment. The law prescribed that employed children should only work part time and be taught the rest of the day38. It was a system, which persisted in some areas till 1918.39

Probably the frequent references to part time schooling in thenearly part of the Arreton Schools Managers Portfolio indicate that the pupils were employed the rest of the time. Older children could also have been employed in the local brickyards. The 1871 census records that Wm. Hobbs, the owner, employed 3 men and a boy.

In the 19th Century children were still often set to work at a very early age. Compulsory education was not always welcome, involving as it did a loss of income, especially as there was often a charge for schooling, (see Chapter 1) 40.

Among the poor the lost income could be vital to family welfare. It is quite possible, going by national trends that at least some of the pupils of Wootton School, were there against their own wills and that of their parents. Nationally there was often considerable resistance and attendance officers were often met with violence. Little direct information has been found on this topic for Wootton. The earliest Log Book refers mainly to absences due to weather and sickness though it is feasible that some of the excuses may not have been genuine. There are also some references in the 1891 Log Book to absenteeism due to blackberry picking and scavenging and again in October 1921 to "browsing".

Further problems were created when the school leaving age rose to 14 in 1918. The Log Book for that period contains references to absence due to children withdrawn from school before their 14th birthday and to "Illegal employment " of under 14s. For example an entry dated September 1922, mentions a pupil under 14 years of age being absent without permission. Judging by the memories of one local resident, a schoolboy at this time, many children left school before their 14th birthday. He himself had left at the age of 13.41

Since there was, of course, no transport to school provided the majority of pupils had to walk to school, some for considerable distances and in all weathers. If they became wet on the way their clothes remained so, as there were no facilities for drying them42. No wonder that the weather played such an important part in attendance, which was often seriously affected by rain and snow. For instance the entry for 23rd June 1891 records "wet day, only 80 present". There would have been no street lighting either so, in November 1891 we learn that afternoon play was discontinued in order for school to finish early, so that pupils, many of them living at a distance could reach home before dark. In succeeding years, even as late as the 1930s, it was normal for school hours to be revised in the winter months for this reason.

There was no individual medical care. The Island MOH43 was responsible for general public hygiene matters, such as sanitation and water supplies." The first English School Medical Officers were only recruited in 1890, in London and Bradford. Both were responsible only for the broader aspects of health and hygiene, and individual medical examinations did not begin in this country until 190044. For the children of Wootton this did not occur till 1921 and when compulsory medical examinations began in that year this was much resented by the parents and caused more absenteeism.

One Log Book entry, (6th June 1921) reports that several children were absent because "their parents object", (to medical inspection). Perhaps this is why the notice of inspection, posted on the school gates in March 1923, was torn off and had to be reposted on the inside of the window".

Possibly due to factors such as lack of health care, lack of vaccination, and poorer hygiene, epidemics of illnesses such as scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps and other ailments still current, (though much less common), in the present day, were frequent in the school and caused considerable absenteeism, which certainly seems to have been worse in the earlier days of the school. During some serious epidemics the school had to be closed, sometimes for long periods. For instance it was closed for 2 months, from November 1895 to January 1896 because of scarlet fever. Such closures were a regular occurrence. Ailments due to lack of cleanliness, such as ringworm and impetigo also occurred, and it was not uncommon for children to be excluded because they were verminous.

From the 1920s there were regular medical inspections, and visits by the school nurse and dentist. Not that the children themselves always appreciated this. One former pupil relates that everyone was "terrified" of the dentist, with his constant injunctions to open "Wider, wider". The same recollections are also recorded in "Newchurch Remembered'47. Presumably a whole generation was afraid of him.

Good attendance was considered so important that cash prizes, medals and even holidays were granted for its achievement. In December 1893 we learn that the managers had promised an orange and a shilling to each child who achieved full attendance, with amounts graduated to 3d if a child had been absent only twice. In May the following year,46 (about 1/3 of the total numbers) received a shilling, 2 received 6d and 1 received 3d. In other years medals for good attendance were awarded, though in 1895 attendance had been low and only 9 children were awarded full attendance medals. Even in the 1920s the attendance officer was said by one former pupil to visit if a child was absent for no more than half a day.48 Indeed, it was a matter of note if the attendance officer did not visit the schoo149. "Baring "prizes (after the Chairman of the County Council) were awarded for attendance from 1916. Attendance holidays were still being awarded in the 1930s.

On entering the school pupils would encounter a typical Victorian public building, which had a distinctly ecclesiastical style, with arched windows. There was a belfiy, which was finally removed in 1953. The school had, when complete two main classrooms, the rear and smaller one for the infants, the larger front one, which at some point was split into two. As was typical there was a central platform in the main room where the Headmaster sat. Heating was provided by coke burning stoves, which were evidently not wholly effective (apart from at creating smoke and fumes). There are many references in the log books to low winter temperatures in the school, e.g. a comment dated 19th December 1897, "Temperatures rose no higher than 43F throughout the day". Complaints about the low winter temperatures occur throughout all four Log Books despite various attempts to remedy the problem over the years. In February 1929 the temperature was low enough for the ink to freeze in the inkwells. One winter the Head gathered the children round the stoves in an effort to keep warm. Extra stoves were installed in the 1930s though even this was insufficient. A former pupil recalled that in the 1940s the Headmaster stood in front of the stove, to the annoyance of the pupils, who had to wear their gloves in school to keep warm, and often found their school milk frozen.50.

The problem was still acute and commented on, in the 1950s. Electric heaters fitted at the time proved insufficient, installation of a new heating system, together with more efficient draught proofing, was recommended. At the same time oil stoves were being put in the toilets during cold weather in a not altogether successful attempt to prevent the regular freezeups.

With high windows the interior must have been somewhat dark. It was presumably not considered necessary for children to be able to see out. The windows were lowered in the 1930s but still seem rather high. Since there was no electric lighting till the 1920s this would add to the gloom.

For sanitation, as in most domestic dwellings Wootton School possessed only earth closets.51 This created problems with hygiene and odours. The MOH described the system as defective. A log book entry in 1892 refers to rebuilding and installation of a flush system, in the boys lavatories. The girl's section was dealt with several years later. Since lavatories at the school were outdoor this made them susceptible to freezing in very cold weather.

The sexes had separate playgrounds till at least the 1950s. At one period the large playground at the front of the building had a wall running across the centre. There was no dining hall. Pupils either brought their own food, which they had to eat either in the lobby or the playground53 or they went home for lunch. When the School Meals service began in 1942 pupils ate in the classrooms, or from the 1950s in the St John's Ambulance Hall at Wootton Bridge.

At a later period, girls had to travel to Ryde or Arreton for cookery lessons, no mean feat with limited public transport. This meant whole days out of school and inconvenience, when, as sometimes happened lessons were cancelled and they had to return straightaway. Boys also had to travel to classes at Handicraft Centres. From around 1873, the Headmaster lived in a house built to save the £20pa cost of renting in the village. The residence consisted of a scullery, parlour and kitchen, with bedrooms on the first floor. Work on extending the accommodation continued till 1882. In 1906 the main building and master's house were modified, when a parlour was built on the site of the original pantry, and a larder, closet and passage on the site of the original parlour. The Headmaster was living away from the school by 1927, which meant the former residence was turned in to a classroom.

Until 1953 Wootton School was "all age". However, since the leaving age was only 1053, when the school was founded, this did not mean the age range was quite as great, at least initially, as this implies. The leaving age was raised in 1892 to 11, to 12 in 1899 and to 14 in 1918. By the 1920s older pupils would sit examinations for entry to secondary school, the passing of which was considered a considerable achievement, often leading to a special holiday for the school. A Log Book entry for 30th May 1937 reads "To impress upon the scholars., the fact that two girls have passed the examination for admission to secondary schools, is an honour for the school, I closed the school ..early". The departures to secondary School would probably explain the decline in pupil numbers during the following decades.

The pupils were divided into an Infant class and 7 standards. Usually progress through the standards was dependent on success in passing examinations. After 1926 standards became known as classes. Progress through the standards would be dependent on passing the yearly examinations. This meant that a child might remain in the same standard for several years if he failed the examinations. Numbers of pupils varied from an initial 78 to 226 in 1903. The school must at some times, have been very crowded. If typical of other schools of the period the children would have been packed like sardines into galleries or long desks, with little room for free movement. We learn from a report on the annual inspection in 1897 that, because part of the room was dark the Infants were seated in a gallery without desks. An HMI report in 1927 reveals that most of the pupils were still seated in "old fashioned" long desks. These must have been uncomfortable too, as they had no backs or footrests.

Depending on numbers of staff at different times each teacher would have taught large numbers and a variety of ages. For instance, in January 1906 there were just 2 teachers for Standards 1-7, and each taught around 50 pupils. Even in 1927 the staff consisted only of the Headmaster and 3 uncertificated assistants, whose level of training varied. In 1926, Miss Pritchard was repeatedly taken to task for her poor spelling. She was dismissed later that year. An HMI report for 1927 refers to the difficulties caused by frequent staff changes and to the Heads own problem caused by teaching 44 children (many of whom were backward) in 3 standards, which would have involved three different teaching schemes. Larger classes were normal. When the Infant's room was measured in 1908 it was reported that it could accommodate 57 children.54

Given these problems, including the fact that several standards were taught in the same room, the task of teaching must have been made even more difficult. Discipline in schools nationally was commonly very strict55. This may have been due partially to the different attitudes to children in the 19th century and to the problems involved in teaching large numbers of children en masse. We can reasonably assume that corporal punishment was employed though no punishment books for Wootton have been located. A log book entry dated in 16th April 1946, lists the members of staff responsible for corporal punishment according to the different age groups. The only mention of corporal punishment being applied dates from 1954, after one pupil had attacked and injured another. He was punished with 3 light strokes of cane, 100 lines and kept apart from his class. There are passing references to disciplinary problems, unauthorised absences, minor vandalism and possibly more serious offences involving the police.

As for the curriculum, as stated in Chapter 2 in the beginning there was great emphasis on Religious Instruction, with yearly examinations and prizes for the successful. These examinations were very thorough, involving separate tests in the Old and New Testaments as well as a great deal of rote learning of scripture passages and hymns. The rest of the curriculum would be limited by the necessity to "earn" the yearly grants, which were paid only for a limited range of subjects. It is worth noting that, narrow though 19th Century education might seem to modern eyes, it could still be inspiring. Laura Thompson's "Lark Rise to Candleford" recalls the very positive effect the schooling of her time had on herself and her brother.

A typical syllabus for 1891 consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, drawing and geography, with a list of songs and poetry for rote learning. Object lessons continued to be given till the end of the 19th Century. The lists of topics in the Log Book seem remarkably miscellaneous, comprising, for 1893-1894, diverse subjects such as clouds, rivers, railway, Post Office, farmyards, a variety of animals and foods, along with coal leather and glue, though there must presumably have been a scheme behind the choice. These lectures were such a familiar part of the curriculum that the term has passed into common speech. Domestic economy for girls and agriculture for boys were introduced in that year. Practical skills were apparently favoured over academic subjects since this replaced the teaching of English.

Physical exercise would be taken as a group, in some instances in the classrooms if other space was lacking. One result of the growing cult of Empire at the time was a greater emphasis on promotion of discipline and fitness, with more PE in schools56. One form of group exercise known as Military Drill was introduced in 1900. Later Swedish Drill was employed. The cult of Empire was also reflected in the yearly celebration of Empire day, which lasted till the 1930s.

Then, as now children normally started school at the age of 5, though it is noticeable that in the 1871 census some of the recorded "scholars" were under 5. One was only 3. Possibly the toddlers were taken along to school by older siblings for child minding purposes. To begin with children would be set to form their letters or numbers with a stick in a sand tray which made erasing of mistakes fairly simple. From there they progressed to slates and eventually to paper. They used bead frames for counting and chanted their "tables".57

There was no school uniform until the 1950s. The first mention of plans to introduce it is dated January 1949, when samples of ties and hats were examined with a view to securing "uniformity of dress".

School holidays were short, with, for instance, closure at Easter only from Good Friday to Easter Monday. In 1914 the Easter Holiday had lengthened to one week. The summer holiday of only 4 weeks was known until 1906 as the Harvest Holiday (emphasising the mainly rural nature of the area) and after that year was variously known as the Midsummer or Summer Holiday.

All was not work for children in the late 19th Century however. Attendance at a Sunday School (sometimes more than one) was usual if only to benefit from the frequent Sunday School outings and parties. The Log Books record frequent absences or holidays due to varying local events, Church Outings, Tea Parties (both C of E and Nonconformist, to fetes, carnivals, regattas. They sometimes went to similar events further afield as well as to the IOW County Show. There was also the occasional National, usually Royal Event.

The whole village turned out to celebrate the wedding of Princess Beatrice in 1887. The Bridge was decorated with archways for the newly married couple to pass through on their way to their honeymoon at Quarr House, and many local house were decorated as well. A tea for over 1000, including 300 children was served, in relays, on the lawns at Wootton Lodge. The local children marched in a procession which included two bands58 through the village to the Lodge for the tea, after which everyone marched to the Bridge to greet the Prince and Princess, later returning to the Lodge for organised sports, with prizes for all donated by Mr. White Popham, the owner.59 The Golden Jubilee was similarly celebrated, with a church service, procession, with both village bands, sports and a tea, and commemorative mugs for the children.60 It would be interesting to locate the photographs that were taken on this occasion.

There was a holiday for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The Bridge, Mill and various private houses were decorated. The children assembled at the school, dressed in their best clothes and marched in procession round the village to the meadows owned by Mr. Souter, the miller., for an afternoon of games and sports followed by tea, with more games and another feast at the Mill. The children each received a Jubilee Medal (Log Book entry dated 6th June "Received 2 gross of medals donated by Miss Brodie of Fernhill.) Attendance was low for several days afterwards. Judging by the scale of celebrations this is not surprising. The adults had enjoyed themselves as well. After their own feast the day culminated in a procession, led by the brass band to the Jubilee bonfire at Wootton Farm. Villagers returned to their homes at midnight only to be disturbed by enthusiastic locals firing a gun salute, followed by the village band playing the National Anthem. Most of the village also turned out to watch the Fleet Review on the following day.61

The funeral of the Queen was also marked. The Log Book entry recording her death is bordered in black and the wreath paid for by village residents was on show at the school.

Such frequent absences would certainly not be encouraged now, but were listed without comment in the Log Book then.

Out of school life was very different as well. Children at that period and into the first half of the 20th Century had a greater freedom than present day children, to play, explore and roam the country side without restriction. As one older local inhabitant comments, "Life was more free for children in those days, there was no fear of violence, abuse etc. Parents did not have to worry about the"62 From the early years of the 20th century school life began to change. With some older children moving on to Secondary Schools pupil numbers gradually began to drop. This decline continued, with variations, until in the 1960s, when numbers began to rise again owing to the growth of the village. It was these greater numbers and the growing inadequacy of the buildings that finally prompted the building of the new school in Church Road in 1969.

By 1927 the Headmaster no longer lived in the schoolhouse. We know that Edmund Brading and his successor Harry Salt lived there. A Log Book entry for Sept 1964 refers to a visit from Mr. Salt's son who talked about his childhood at the school house. "Skipper" Leonard, Headmaster from 1927-1935 occupied a house in the village. The former dwelling could then be used as classrooms and as a Headteacher's office as well as a staffroom.

The curriculum became less formal. Payment by results was phased out by the end of the 19th century. New subjects, such as history and a broader geography syllabus, nature study, and even shorthand to examination standard were introduced, as well as English taught at a greater depth. Outside speakers began, more and more frequently to visit the school. It would be interesting to know what the children made of the yearly lecture from the Band of Hope on the dangers of alcohol. They did produce prize-winning essays on the topic. Nationally there was a new emphasis on vocational training63 and at this time teaching of cookery and gardening were also introduced. The school was given its first radio in 1937 and as time went on there were visits to film shows and live performances of varying kinds, from instructional films to performances of Toad of Toad Hall and ballets such as Coppelia.

Visits and outings, both local and as time passed, further afield gradually began. The first school outing to the mainland took place from 28th April-9th May 1930. This was obviously considered a milestone in school life for it was preceded by an essay competition on the subject of "Why I wish to go on the School Journey", a camera being awarded to the winner. There was some intensive fund raising).

Pupils seem to have been enthusiastic. They had given up part of their very short half term holiday in order to attend the sale of Work, which raised £30 for the School Journey Fund. They were allowed to go home half an hour early on the next school day as a reward. There are numbers of references in the Log Books to visits by mainland schools so these trips were presumably part of a national trend. Children were encouraged to take part in football and swimming, which led to tournaments and matches. Swimming took place variously at Seaclose in Newport, Lakeside, Little Canada and Woodside. The first annual swimming gala took place at Little Canada, in September 1946. Children also began to attend concerts and shows, and once they became more common, film shows as well, while film shows and naturally, school broadcasts took place at the school as well. School holidays became longer. This seems to be balanced by fewer absences to attend outings etc, though they still occurred, if less frequently, till the 1950s e.g., the school was closed in July 1950, to allow attendance at a Parish Church Sunday School Treat. From the 1930s, when holidays with pay were becoming more common we sometimes see mentioned absence due to family holidays, something else which is not encouraged now.

One social change reflected in the curriculum was the introduction in 1931 of Road Safety lessons. The reason given was the danger posed by the increase in street traffic, especially in the summer months. Obviously the increase in car ownership was having an impact! One wonders what would have been made of present day traffic volumes.

A major impact on school life would, of course have been the two World Wars. References in the Log Book to war time conditions in the 1914-1918 period are sparser than for 1939-1945 possibly due to the greater effect of the Second World War on the civilian population. Most of the local casualties would have been former pupils. We learn, in 1918 of the installation of a Roll of Honour board donated by Sir Edgar Chatfeild Clarke (later Liberal MP for the IOW). The following year we read the sad news of the death from wounds, of former pupil, Newton Coffen aged only 19. He must have joined up at a very young age, possibly even lying about his age in order to do so, as so many young men did at that time. Remembrance Day has been observed at the school ever since. Pupils knitted socks and balaclavas for the Red Cross and took part in War savings schemes, with the encouragement of the Mayor and other local dignitaries. A National Savings group was set up in 1917 and still existed 50 years later when a special certificate was presented to mark the occasion. In 1916 daylight saving time was introduced in order to save fuel and make it possible for farmers to work for longer. British Summer Time, of course persists to the present day.

As food shortages increased there were "Unexplained absences" later attributed to "food hunting." as pupils searched for supplies of meat and margarine, which were "very scarce".64 Meanwhile the school experienced cold due to fuel shortages, which continued post war.

It has generally been held that the post war flu epidemic was a result of wartime conditions and this too hit the school with much reduced attendance. At one point only half the pupils arrived. With staff succumbing as well teaching must have been difficult.

During the Second World War school life was naturally widely disrupted, with visits by various officials, builders working on necessary structural modifications, by the presence of evacuees, which necessitated changes to the timetable, and of course by air raids and all that that meant. Despite the proximity of two major ports the Island, was considered suitable for evacuees, a view that Islanders who found themselves in the firing line undoubtedly did not share. (The Island later became a "pink area", ie considered liable for invasion.65) Enemy bombers jettisoned their bombs on the way back to base and aerial "dog fights" were a familiar sight.

In 1939 children were fitted out with gas masks which, of course, needed to be regularly inspected. They would have been given the standard type, all except for one little girl with an exceptionally small face who needed a Micky Mouse mask, designed for toddlers. Windows were covered with mesh in to protect them from blast damage. A Log Book entry for 15th Nov 1939 reads " Workmen busy all morning nailing mesh..the work of the school was badly disrupted". The peak period for air raids was during 1940 with further alerts at the time of the VI's in 1944.

Disturbed nights caused general tiredness and daytime raids disrupted lessons as everyone scattered to nearby houses, or from September 1940, to the school air raid shelter in the garden of what is now Crossways, sometimes having to return only minutes later. Sitting in the dark waiting for the all clear to sound must have been an unnerving experience. On the instructions of the Mayor school started at 10 instead of 9am, after night time raids. This happened on many occasions. With the arrival in September 1939, of 23 evacuees and their teachers from Meon Road School in Portsmouth, lessons were taken in split shifts, from 8.45-12 noon for the Wootton pupils and from 12 - 4.15pm for the evacuees. All but one teacher returned to the Portsmouth School the following Easter though the children remained and took part in a normal timetable. Eventually many of them drifted back home again till only a handful of evacuees were left. Evacuations later in the war (because of the V Is) do not seem do have affected Wootton School. The disruption caused by the War also included splitting the Summer Holiday into two parts, during 1942, 43 and 44. In 1944 the school closed on 16th June, reopened on 4th July,, and closed on 18th August for part 2 of the holiday, reopening on 12 th September.

Pupils probably enjoyed the variety provided by the various regiments billeted locally especially as they put on parties for the children.67 While adults must have experienced constant anxieties, children, who would barely remember peacetime, took conditions more for granted.68

Although rationing was in force general nutrition was possibly better. School milk had been provided from 1934 and school meals supplied from a central kitchen in Ryde, from April 1942 as well as occasional treats such as chocolate essence given by the American Red Cross. Entry dated 28th April 1942 " The meals at school scheme started today. 30 children enjoyed a hot meal at mid-day." The service was not without the occasional hiccup however. On one occasion two helpings of vegetables and no pudding arrived so that the Head had to buy tins of fruit to replace the missing sweet. On another the pudding proved inedible and fruit had to be dispatched as a substitute.

Pupils were encouraged to take part in the War effort. They "dug for Victory" in the school garden on land loaned for the purpose, by Mr. Aedy and Councillor Salter. The school target in "Salute the Soldier Week" in 1944 was £100. The target was not only reached but passed. A book drive in the same year gained an award for the highest number of books collected. Savings drives, salvage and poster competitions are all mentioned as well as collection, at the request of the central kitchen, of blackberries and rosehips, made necessary by food shortages. Rationing continued after the war as well. So did the collections, which helped provide a vital source of nutrition. Salvage was also still in progress in 1949. The school was closed for the Newport Victory celebrations in September 1945. There must surely have been a sense of partaking in history in the making at this time. With world-wide news reporting now taken for granted we seem to have lost something of the freshness of impact. Broadcasts and observation of major events were considered noteworthy for recording in the Log Books, such as the broadcast in June 1945, of the ceremony granting General Eisenhower the freedom of the City of London. Victory Day in June 1946 was marked with a reading of the King's speech and distribution of illuminated cards and new shillings.

Horizons expanded too. For instance, in December 1945 the pupils hosted 23 Dutch children at the school Christmas party, and in the 1950s and later, overseas visitors were usual.

A serious epidemic of Typhoid hit the village in 1946, possibly caused by infection from one of the local dairies.69 At the school it made necessary the introduction of special hygiene precautions, such as sterilisation of crockery used at school dinners, and exclusion of known carriers. There were no local fatalities but it was a serious enough epidemic for a Thanksgiving Service to be held at the Parish Church when it was over70. There was a risk of after effects such as heart weakness, for which the children were examined in May 1946. All the pupils examined were declared fit.

Another sign of changing times was the move away from a paternalistic attitude and the increased participation of parents in school affairs, in such matters as fund raising. They began to be invited to Open days and events throughout the years as well as public meetings. A milestone was reached in 1967 when the first PTA was set up. The pupils too, took a greater part in Community affairs. From around the 1920s they began to participate in the IOW Music festival, often very successfully, while annual and very well attended Harvest festival and Carol Services were held at the Parish Church, particularly in the 1950s. From 1944 pupils went weekly to the Parish Church for religious instruction from the Rector which was naturally met with varying degrees of comprehension! A discussion recorded in the Parish Magazine for November 1945 went as follows.

Lesson on Confirmation

Rector "What service does a Bishop take that other clergymen do not take?"
No answer.
Rector " When you were babies you were baptised. When you grow older the Bishop holds a special service when you kneel and he places his hands on your heads. What does he do?"
Bright boy "Please sir, he cremates you"

(The Holy Spirit was manifested at Pentecost as tongues of fire! Ed") National events such as the King's death and the subsequent Coronation of Queen Elizabeth were still being marked. There were holidays, distribution of souvenirs, visits to the cinema to view the Coronation film and presentation of new climbing equipment for the Recreation Ground'. A party visited the Festival of Britain in 1951. Locally a pair of golden Babylonian weeping willows, regrettably since vanished, was planted next to the Bridge, by the children.

During the national polio epidemic in 1950 the school was closed for a week. Rambles and games were laid on instead. Half time sessions began on 20th September and full time lessons restarted on 2nd October. Whether any of the children actually contracted polio is not recorded.

The bitterly cold winter of 1962-63 caused plenty of problems for the staff. The caretaker went into the school on the weekend before the Spring Term started in order to put on the heating, but the school remained cold as power supplies fluctuated. The outside toilets froze, as did the water supply in the Red Cross/Dining Hall. Several times dirty crockery etc had to be sent to Ryde for washing. Transport was difficult, ferries were diverted to Yarmouth, as the mouth of the Creek was blocked by ice. The whole Island was affected to some degree72.

The children, however, enjoyed themselves enormously. The Creek was frozen for weeks and locals of all ages took advantage of the novelty to cycle and walk on the ice. There was skating on local ponds, skiing and tobogganing on "every available slope". Children made slides in the playground, built snowmen and had snowball fights. They were probably not as relieved as the staff when the thaw finally arrived.

Pupil numbers dropped during the 20s and 30s and remained low in the immediate post war years as 14-year-olds were transferred to Senior schools to finish their education. The school was considered overstaffed in 1938. However, by the 1960s new housing meant a large influx of young families into the village and more children entering the school. By the time the new school in Church Road was opened numbers had doubled from ten years previously. As pupil numbers grew this created many problems. There was discussion about the necessity of a new school. as early as 1946 when a survey reported "these premises cannot be retained for future educational use". There was no room on the premises for cookery and woodwork lessons and no room to expand either buildings or grounds. The aim took a long time to achieve.

In 1949 the Works and Buildings Committee had decided that a new school site should be sought, as the present one was too restricted. The HMI report of 1951 stated that "these premises have been improved as much possible." As there were four classes the lager front room could not be used as a hall. The playground was still partitioned The report commented favourably on general standards but recommended reorganisation to provide for juniors. The school was actually redesignated in 1953 as a Junior School with over 11's going elsewhere.

Discussion of the problem continued for the next decade. Negotiations for acquisition of a new site were in progress by 1965, but Mrs Marley commented that she had been promised a new school as early as 1954. Her obvious forebodings were justified. It took another 4 years. She had brought the matter up at Manager's meetings for many years.

Discussion about provision of a school kitchen took place as early as 1945. After consideration of the School air raid shelter for the purpose the St John's Ambulance Hall at Wootton Bridge, was finally pressed into service as a dining hall in 1954. Judging by the constant complaints in the Log Books over poor cleanliness, poor facilities and infestation by vermin, it was not altogether suitable. However, alternative accommodation was unavailable and it continued to be used until dining facilities were provided at the Church Road School. (Though the school was ready for use in 1969, dining facilities were not available straightaway.)

The Red Cross hall was also used for jumble sales and other events, which took some of the load of school premises. As time went on the problems of overcrowding increased. Sites away from the school had to be sought for football and other sports. When the newly created recreation ground was opened it was employed for these purposes. Events such as Open Days were complicated by lack of space. Mrs Marler commented in 1963 that the complete reorganisation necessary might not be possible in the future. Medical inspections were taking place in the Head's Office (which also served as a Staff Room). Parents had to queue in the corridor. By the mid 1960s even the School Christmas Party had to take place in two stages owing to lack of space.

The number of classes rose and more staff were required. By 1962 numbers were over the ceiling for a 3-teacher school and the following year the school was reorganised into 4 classes. There was still no immediate probability of a new school in 1965, despite frequent representations by the Head regarding the "inadequate premises, staffing and out door facilities. By 1966 numbers were such that use of a local Methodist hall for a 5th class was considered. In June of that year large numbers of concerned parents attended a meeting at the school where it was again stressed that numbers were rising owing to new housing (and more planned) and that school premises could not be expanded. By 1968, when the new school was imminent numbers had risen from a low of 57 in 1959 to 133. By 1964 Mrs Marler strongly felt the need for a Deputy Head who was finally appointed in 1969.

By 1967, with 123 on the roll and 11 more on the waiting list the Head informed the C.E.O. that no more 10-11 year olds could be admitted. In the same year building plans began to be discussed. Visits were made to a Southwark school, which was considered, as a model. By 1968 a site, formerly Church glebe land had been found for the new school and work began in June of that year with completion expected in April 1969. It was ready, but only just as Summer Term had to be delayed since the building was not ready. Finally, on April 24th 1969, pupils and teachers moved in, though even then there was disappointment as some sections were still not complete and the builders were still working on the new classrooms. BBC and ITV crews arrived to film the first morning in the new school. The formal opening ceremony, attended by various dignitaries took place on July 4th 1969.

It is at this point however that the history of the New Road School, as a school finally comes to an end, though the building continues to be used for other purposes.

  • 35 Managers Minute Book
  • 36 Billington, also Census returns
  • 37 Managers Minute Book
  • 38 Horn, the Victorian Town Child
  • 39 Curtis and Boltwood
  • 40 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 41 Memoirs of Mr. R William
  • 42 Memoirs of Mr. R Williams
  • 43 MOH Annual Reports from 1885
  • 44 Horn, the Victorian Town Child
  • 45 Log Books
  • 46 Mr. Cheverton
  • 47 Richards ed, Newchurch Remembered, Pub 1984
  • 48 Mr. Cheverton
  • 49 Log Books
  • 50 Mrs. A Williams
  • 51 Medical Officer of Health Yearly Reports
  • 52 Mr. Williams
  • 53 Oxford Companion
  • 54 Oxford Companion
  • 55 Oxford Companion
  • 56 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 57 Mr. Williams
  • 58 At that time Wootton had both a brass band, led by Edmund Brading, and a drum and fife band led by Mr. H. Hobbs.
  • 59 Isle of Wight County Press
  • 60 Isle of Wight County Press
  • 61 Isle of Wight County Press
  • 62 Mrs. Whiller
  • 63 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 64 Log Book entry for February 1918
  • 65 See the Memoirs of Percy Harwood
  • 66 Joyce Wade
  • 67 Log Books
  • 68 An Evacuee's Story
  • 69 Isle of Wight County Press
  • 70 Parish magazine, Easter 1946
  • 71 Isle of Wight County Press
  • 72 Isle of Wight County Press

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