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A BRIEF HISTORY: DRAFT 1877-1959

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Origins in Law and Social Change

  

Let's zip back to 1875 and start at the beginning. At that time, the school site was no more than a piece of open land used for market gardening and the town was in trouble with the authorities over its schooling. Ian Johnson has kindly forwarded this extract from W J Cox's Guide to Whitstable (1876) which sums up the situation.....

 

Fig 1: Extract from W J Cox's Guide to Whitstable (1876)  

   

The Committee of Council on Education was formed almost 40 years earlier. That was in 1839 - six years after the first state grants for education were paid through the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society. However, things really began to take off when the Education Act of 1870 gave the council some extra clout. Amongst other things, it enabled it to establish local School Boards in parishes and boroughs. This could be done if ratepayers demanded it.... or the council considered that school places offered by existing voluntary schools were insufficient.

In effect, the Council was the forerunner of a government Education Department and it was the start of  widespread state involvement in an education system that had hitherto been the province of the private sector, voluntary organisations and the church. Apart from its involvement in general funding and School Boards, the council also financed new teacher training colleges but, as we will see shortly, the output from such colleges was spread pretty thinly in state schools.

Once established, School Boards were responsible for providing elementary education at a local level for children aged 5-12 and their remit included the building of new schools. They administered grants and had the power to impose a school rate to raise funding. Nevertheless, most pupils were expected to pay a fee for their attendance.

Some supporters of the 1870 Act viewed the legislation as a way of creating widespread schooling free from Anglican doctrine. Churchmen of different denominations vied for control of local School Boards despite the fact that religious instruction was supposed to be excluded from the School Board sector or restricted to simple bible reading. In some parts of the country, political elements also became involved. It seems that educating the masses was a contentious issue all round and it concerned commerce, social structure, politics, religion and the basic struggle to earn a living.

Industry and commerce viewed it from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, businessmen recognised the need for an educated workforce in an increasingly competitive world. On the other, they  feared the loss of cheap "child" labour. 

The minority "Upper Classes" feared that they would be ousted by an educated working class majority. It was not an irrational fear. Whilst a large section of the poor probably regarded education with apathy or feared that it would delay their children from contributing to the family income, there were left wing elements that harboured hopes of revolution. Overall, there was, perhaps, an underlying feeling that control of education meant control of the future.

Whatever the thought processes, in-fighting (particularly between Anglicans and Non-Conformists) actually delayed the construction of some schools. Ian's extract suggests that similar arguments arose on a small scale in Whitstable. The Oxford Street site brought State Education to Whitstable on a significant scale for the first time but, looking at the makeup of the School Board, it seems that churches were still in a position to influence matters.

 

The Board Schools... All Three!

 

Ian's extract may surprise a few people as it refers NOT to the building of  ONE school but the construction of THREE schools. They were.... an Infants School... a Girls School... and a Boys School. Their administration by the new School Board earned them the title "The Board Schools".

The Boys Board school would eventually expand to take over the entire site and become the Whitstable Junior School of modern times. Along the way, the girls and infants would be relocated. However, almost a century later, the prodigal daughters would return to make it co-ed for the first time... in September 1978.

That sums it up in a nutshell... but let's crack the nut and have a go at the contents. 

 

Building a Future...

 

Despite the political and religious fracas, the Oxford Street site was acquired for 600 and, in 1875, a local builder (Cephas Foad) put his trowel to work for a further 4,589 10s. I wonder what the 10 shillings produced! I also wonder why we have always referred to the buildings as "Victorian" after old Cephas had spent a year or more beavering away on something "Elizabethan"!

"Elizabethan" meant a brick construction with tiled roofs, lofty "beamed" ceilings, wood flooring and elaborate chimney stacks. Windows were set high in the walls - presumably to prevent pupils being distracted by  the world outside. 

The school would undergo many changes in the decades that followed. However, whilst alterations were made and much added in later years, those solid "Elizabethan" creations would still form the heart of the complex in the 21st century. Cephas would have been proud!

 

Fig 2: The Oxford Street site in the year 2000. The old "Elizabethan-style" buildings on the left still form the heart of the complex despite major construction work to the right. 

   

Other Schools...

    

Before we start tracing the progress of the three Board Schools, it is necessary to reflect on the wider picture of nineteenth century education in the town. Other schools existed before Cephas Foad inserted his first shovel into the fertile soil of that market garden. Cox's Guide hints at this with its reference to the Whitstable and Seasalter parishes  "having failed to provide sufficient school accommodation". Interaction with some of those other schools helped to shape the development of the Oxford Street establishments in the decades that followed.

There were a number of private establishments. Doug West's book, Portrait of a Seaside Town, identifies several including Daylesford House High School (Canterbury Road), Cecil House School (Oxford Street) and Springfield House School (Canterbury Road). Although we do not know the precise lifespans of these establishments, it seems all were functioning around the 1880s. However, they were relatively small enterprises and will not affect our story to any great extent. 

For education on a substantial scale, we need to look to the Anglican Church schools that eventually became St Alphege Infants (located close to the railway bridge at the southern end of Oxford Street) and Endowed Juniors (located behind St. Alphege Church in the High Street). 

Ian Johnson helps to set  the scene with another extract from Cox's Guide to Whitstable....

   

 

Fig 3: Extract from W J Cox's Guide to Whitstable (1876)

 

The establishment described as "close by the Church" and "built during the encumbency of Mr. Dawson" was the Anglican establishment that would eventually acquire the name "Endowed". Ian located another reference that suggests that Mr. Dawson "encumbed" from 1843-1848... and that probably makes The Endowed the oldest school of substantial size in the town. Interestingly, it's creation followed just a few years after the the Committee of Council on Education arrived.

The extract also provides very clear evidence of the arrival of St Aphege Infants School in 1875. Comprising a single room, it followed just 5 years after the 1870 Education Act had paved the way for the creation of School Boards and two years before the Board Schools became operational. Was its creation an attempt to provide "sufficient school accommodation" in Whitstable and obviate the need for a local School Board? If anyone can throw light on that, let us know.

Although, in the early days, the Oxford Street establishments may have been viewed as rivalling the Anglican schools, considerable co-operation and interaction grew as the decades passed. 

Other influences eventually cropped up within the state sector itself. As the town increased in size, further state schools were opened. These included....

  

  • Albert Street Infants (opened 1879, closed 1904), 

  • Westmeads Infants (1904), 

  • Sir William Nottidge Secondary Modern (1952), 

  • Swalecliffe Infants (circa 1966?)

  • Swalecliffe Juniors (1967)

  • Joy Lane Lane Infants (April 1968)

  • Joy Lane Juniors  (April 1971)

  

All helped to shape the future direction, size and scope of the Oxford Street school and all will eventually need to be considered as we progress through the school history.

  

Oxford Street in 1877...

 

We have yet to discover precisely what the Oxford Street Site looked like in 1877...  but we hope to find out!!! For the moment, the best we can do is to produce a plan of the school in the 1950s (when so many of our readers attended the school)..... and try to work back from there. The rough chart below represents my own childhood memories of the "fifties". It is "approximate" but it should serve our purpose...

    

   

Some buildings (ie those greyed out in the illustration) can be discounted from any 1877 site plan as they were quite clearly of later construction. That leaves a hard core of buildings grouped at the south west corner of the site...

 

 

Does this extract accurately record the site development in 1877? Well.... "Not quite"! The reasons are contained in  a little gem of a booklet called Bell, Book and Boys. This was produced by the school to celebrate its centenary in 1977 and it is packed with history and wonderful stories. From its pages, we know that the original buildings underwent a number of changes as the school headed towards the twentieth century - including extensions, internal partitioning and interior wall demolition. As yet, I have been unable to map those text descriptions to our plan. However, our extract does give us a broad brush view of things.

The coloured rooms are arranged in three distinct blocks and, for the moment at least, I am going to suggest that this overriding format existed back in 1877. There are two reasons for this conclusion...

  1. It is consistent with a "three school" development
     

  2. Whilst Bell, Book and Boys mentions alterations, these appear to have been additions and amendments to existing blocks and there is no suggestion that any new blocks were constructed.

Of course, the precise shape and partitioning of the blocks would have been a little different from our drawing. That is an area we need to investigate when time permits.

One of the problems that have experienced in tracing the history is that Bell, Book and Boys is a book about the boys school - based to significant degree on school records. It only mentions the girls and infants schools in passing - probably because the records of these establishments were quite separate and may have disappeared when the girls and infants eventually vacated the Oxford Street site.  

Nevertheless, having identified three blocks, it is possible to have a  stab at locating the three original schools based on the stories contained in Bell, Book and Boys. The Boys Board School appears to have been located in the area shaded blue whilst the Girls Board School occupied the block marked in pink. Doug West's book Portrait of a Seaside Town contains a picture of the girls working in a classroom in 1892. 

Whilst we know very little about the Infants School, a simple process of elimination leads me to suggest that it was housed in the area marked in yellow.

Of course, locating the children isn't the only problem. Ian Johnson's first extract from W J Cox's Guide to Whitstable  suggests that the original building work included accommodation for both a headmaster and headmistress. So, where were they housed?

Well, my map identifies a building that I knew as "The Headmaster's House" and, fittingly, it is located close to the original Boys Board School block. My own headmaster (Frank Newsome) lived there in the late 1950s. Nowadays, I believe the building serves as a school office and staff room.

 

Above: The "Headmaster's House" (left) - now an office

    

Of course, it is unlikely that the School Board would have allowed the headmaster to share with a headmistress! So, we need to find another house on the site. The most likely option appears to be the home that was occupied by the caretaker (Harold Rowden) in the 1950s. This is located near the main entrance to the site and close to the blocks used by the Infants and Girls.

 

Above: The caretaker's office of the 1950s. Was it originally the residence of the Girls School headmistress?

   

Oddly, Cephas doesn't appear to  have been asked to build a house for the head of the Infants School. Perhaps, the post was considered less significant. 

Further enquiries may confirm these early thoughts. In the meantime, we need to unravel the metamorphosis that transformed three original establishments into the "single" junior school that we know today.    

   

1877-1883: Early Schooling... 

  

Bell, Book and Boys is a wonderful read in this context. From its pages, we know that, under the supervision of the first headmaster (Thomas Clements), the "Boys" section opened its doors to 88 boys on 8 October 1877 after a ceremony conducted by the Chairman of the School Board (Rev. W Blizzard). It was something of a haphazard beginning with school enrolments leaping to 114 and exceeding the proposed capacity of 102 after just two weeks!!!! 

However, it wasn't just accommodation issues that troubled Mr. Clements. He was the only qualified teacher at the Boys School and some teaching was undertaken by "Pupil Teachers". 

The "Pupil Teacher" system wasn't just a Whitstable phenomenon. It was a widespread policy designed to overcome a shortage of teachers in the early days of the state education system. The scheme involved a small number of "more able" students staying on after the age of 12 to teach younger pupils. In return, such youngsters were given the opportunity to become qualified teachers. However, it was a lengthy process. After two years as probationers, pupil teachers undertook a three year spell of "on the job training" before taking a final exam. If they passed, they were paid to attend a teacher training college.

The training of pupil teachers was the responsibility of the headmaster and it was intended that there should be two pupil teachers (approximately) for each qualified teacher. This must have proved difficult for Mr Clements at Oxford Street... bearing in mind that he was both headmaster and sole teacher! However, the school appears to have followed the guidelines as two Pupil Teachers are mentioned in Bell, Book and Boys and it seems that they received their lessons between 7 and 8 am - before the other boys arrived. 

The school was "small scale" by some modern standards and, often, several classes were located in a single, large room. In some cases, curtains were installed to improve the situation and, later, semi-permanent partitions (created of wood and glass) were used. 

Mr Clements also faced other problems. Education was still a novelty to many local people in the working classes. Thus, children absconded to attend more interesting events or simply to work in local trades. Parents and even local organisations turned a blind eye. Genuine illness amongst the poorer sections of the community also affected attendance.

However, it should be noted that attendance at school was not compulsory in 1875. Individual School Boards could create a bye-law and lay it before parliament in order to enforce attendance.  We don't know if this particular option was pursued in Whitstable but there is some evidence to suggest that the board did compel pupils to attend. 

Overcrowding and truancy was a major issue and it was a problem that continued for decades. Bell, Book and Boys tells us that over-subscription led to senior boys being housed in part of the Infants block in 1878. Accommodation had become quite an acute problem for the Whitstable & Seasalter School Board and solutions needed to be found to appease school inspectors. Some of the problems may have eased a little in 1879 when the board opened an additional and quite separate Infants School in Albert Street. The Albert Street school continued until 1904 when it was replaced by the current day Westmeads Infants in Cromwell Road. You can can read some of its fascinating history by reading the Albert Street Infants article on the school's menu.

Education eventually became compulsory for children up to the age of 10 by virtue of the Education Act of 1880 

  

1883-1899: Progress towards the Twentieth Century 

  

Mr Clements left the school in 1883 to be replaced by  a Mr. Kirkby who remained in charge for 40 years.

Mr Kirkby inherited many of the problems of his predecessor..... and he also encountered other difficulties in the form of additional legislation. This included the Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act of 1893 which increased the compulsory school age to eleven and, later, thirteen. The state system was expanding and becoming more sophisticated.

Despite the changes and consequent increases in demand, the Oxford Street premises continued to cater for Boys, Girls and Infants schools. This is confirmed by an email from Diana Suard (Paris) in which she draws attention to an entry in the Blue Book Directory for 1894. The record includes the names of the Oxford Street headteachers......

  

Board School Boys: George Kirkby, 

Board School Girls:  Miss H Lepingwell

Board School Infants: Mrs George

 

  

Diana has also highlighted a similar entry in Kelly's Directory for 1899.....

  

"Board Schools, Oxford Street, built in 1876, enlarged in 1893 and 1896, for 350 boys, 100 girls, 195 infants; average attendance, 227 boys, 100 girls, 120 infants; Geo. Kirby, master; Miss H. Lepingwell, mistress, Mrs. Mary George, infants' mistress."

   

Thus, we know that the basic "three school" setup remained unchanged until at least the end of the 19th century. 

The Kelly entry is interesting for other reasons too. Firstly, it emphasises the building expansion that took place in the 1890s and gives us a clue as to the size of those enhancements. In 1877, the Oxfrod Street site was built  for 475 pupils whereas the establishment of 1899 could accommodate 645. Secondly, it highlights some problems! Take a look at these attendance percentages....

  

  Capacity Ave Attendance Attendance as % of Capacity
Boys 350 227 65%
Girls 100 100 100%
Infants 195 120 62%

   

Obviously, care needs to be taken with these figures. It could be that the enhanced accommodation exceeded demand in the case of boys and infants. However, a more likely explanation is that truancy and other types of absence were taking their toll.

Perhaps Boys were more likely to risk truancy and the likelihood of punishment. There would certainly have been greater pressure on them to give school a miss in order to boost family income by working in local trades or helping out in family businesses. 

Similar reasons may have applied to infants - particularly boys. However, there may also have been another cause. Low standards of living and poor living conditions amongst the working classes resulted in health problems. It seems likely that these affected the youngest members of society to a greater degree and resulted in genuine absenteeism at infants schools. Diana also supplied the Kelly figures for the nearby Albert Street Infants school and they show a similar picture - with a school capacity of 150, average attendance of 82 and a "% attendance" of just 54%.   

Mr Kirkby had plenty to think about during those 1890s!

    

Into the Twentieth Century....

  

Despite the hassle, Mr Kirkby continued at the school until the early 1920s. Meanwhile, a fast developing local education system swarmed around both him and his school.   

Amongst its many gems, Bell, Book and Boys contains a lovely chapter contributed by a former pupil - Mr. Albert Stroud (Page 10). This gives us a glimpse of the system employed in 1904. Mr Stroud describes his transfer from an Infants School to "Big Boys School" at the age of 6. In fact, he moved into the Boys Board School at Oxford Street and he points out that this became known as "The Council School" and, later, Whitstable Boys.

The term "Council School" actually came about as a result of the Education Act of 1902. This piece of  legislation abolished the local parish School Boards and established large Local Education Authorities at County and Borough Councils. For Whitstable, that meant the Kent County Council. Thus, the word "County" would also appear in the school name in later decades. 

Mr Stroud mentioned that another option was available to youngsters in 1904. Some pupils moved from Infants school to a "Trust School" that would later acquire the name "Endowed". This is quite significant for us as it tells us that the Endowed offered an alternative to an "all boys" Oxford Street Council school. The Trust School catered for both sexes and it is possible that its classes were co-ed. We have also learned that the system had some flexibility and that it wasn't a case of The Board and Anglican schools providing totally separate progression channels.  

That flexibility may also have had some roots in the statute book. The 1902 Act allowed government grants to be paid to church schools for the first time and this may have encouraged or compelled greater co-operation between council and church establishments. Mind you, on a national scale, it did cause something of a rumpus as some avid non-conformists refused to pay school rates if they were destined for Anglican schools. Protestors were fined and some imprisoned.

It wasn't just the system that was evolving, changes were being made to the Oxford Street site to keep pace with the needs of industry and commerce. Bell, Book and Boys mentions a significant addition in 1914 - in the shape of  a new Woodwork School .The book adds that the handicraft teacher was, appropriately, a Mr. Tapp. This appears to have been a separate establishment at the outset and it may even have been a private concern. The book does not pinpoint the location but we can make an educated guess.

Throughout the 1940s, 1950s 1960s and 1970s, there was a classroom located at the eastern end of the site. This is shown in black on the plan below.... 

   

   

It was clearly not part of the original school of 1877. Whilst it used similar brickwork, it was much lower in height and it boasted a slate (rather than tiled) roof. Perhaps, more significantly, the windows stretched down from the guttering to waist height - quite unlike the Victorian windows of the older blocks. However, perhaps the clinching piece of evidence comes from Tony Stroud (one of our Simply Whitstable regulars) who tells us that the room was used for woodwork in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

By 1914, the school leaving age was 13 and Britain was one of the world's industrial powerhouses. Increasingly, vocational skills were being incorporated into the school curriculum and the need for this change was accentuated in 1918 when the Fisher Education Act further raised the leaving age.... to 14. 

Before we leave the early twentieth century, let me pick up on one particular point. Some people may be surprised by mention of the nearby Endowed School catering for both boys and girls- particularly if they grew up during the mid-twentieth century when the school was the town's premier "all girls" junior. Well, somewhere along the line, the Endowed mislaid its boys..... and the answer to that particular mystery may be found in the Roaring Twenties when some major re-organisations took place involving the Oxford Street school. Let's take a look..... 

  

Reorganisation: The 1920s

  

Bell, Book and Boys tells us that Mr Kirkby remained as headmaster at Oxford Street until 1923 when there was a significant upheaval in local education. The Oxford Street Boys School was re-vamped and separate Junior and Senior sections were established. 

The junior section was formed from the junior classes of the old Boys Board/Council School AND the junior boys of The Endowed. It's headmaster was the former head of The Endowed (Mr. Sparshott) and the pupils were housed in the old Infants and Girls blocks on the Oxford Street site. The senior section came under the supervision of a new headteacher (Mr. Parmree) and occupied the old Boys block of the site.

The 1920s also saw other rationalisations. The independent woodwork/handicraft centre (mentioned earlier and labelled room 4A on our plans) was  absorbed into the school estate and the handicraft teacher transferred to the school payroll. A gas supply was added to provide metalwork facilities. 

In September 1925, a school canteen was built. As far as I can make out, this was a wooden structure erected alongside room 4A. In 1928, outdoor activities were also improved with the creation of a substantial school garden at the eastern end of the site. It all began to look like this.....

  

  

In the same year, the school gained access to extensive playing fields at Church Street. 

Just one further change was necessary to create a basic structure that would become so familiar to those who attended the school during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. That also came in 1928 when the Senior School headmaster assumed responsibility for both Senior and Junior sections. It gave us a Whitstable Boys School managed by one head teacher and occupying all of the original buildings of the Oxford Street site. It may also have resulted in an "all girl"  Endowed School a short distance away in the High Street. 

One thing to bear in mind is that true secondary education was still unavailable to many youngsters. Thus, for the majority of boys, the school still represented the final "port of call" before they alighted into the workplace at age 14.

   

Missing Infants and Girls!

 

By the late 1920s, the Oxford Street site had completed its metamorphosis into a wholly Boys School. Unfortunately, that presents us with a problem...... Exactly when did the Girls and Infants vacate the premises and where did they go? Well, to date, we have failed to come up with any precise answers and we have devoted a separate page to the discussion of this riddle. Click here to view. 

If you can help, we would love to hear from you!

  

The 1930s: Stability & Consolidation

  

Mr Parmree left the school in 1927 and a Mr Shoesmith carried the school forward into a new decade before handing control to an eccentric character called William Henry Metcalfe (1931-1935). In Bell Book and Boys, R G Hawkins, a former pupil, describes Metcalf as "a tall thin man who sported a pencil thin moustache and often wore tweed plus fours and flat cap". It was obviously 1930s England at its most stereotyped! 

Europe may have been in political turmoil with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany during the 19403s but, for the Oxford Street Boys school, it was a decade of stability, consolidation and relaxed plus fours before the World went mad in 1939. By then, the reins had been handed on to one of the school's longest serving heads and a character that so many of us will recall form our schooldays. It was, of course, the formidable Frank Newsome who arrived at Oxford Street in 1935 and didn't leave until his retirement in 1960.

Mr Newsome may have started his Whitstable career in relative tranquillity but the educational storm clouds were gathering on the horizon......

  

The War Years: 1940-1946

  

We now move into wartime and an era for which many of our readers can provide first hand accounts.

Despite the dangers and conflict of a World War, the school not only continued to open its doors.... but widened them to accommodate pupils from other establishments! John Harman picks up the story....

 

I first started school in 1937 at the Convent School (St Marys), this closed at the outbreak of war.

At the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940, I started school at the Boys School at the age of 8 and was there until 1946 -  leaving at the age of 14 to go to Canterbury College of Art.

When I first started, because of the air raids, we only attended 1/2 day, some attending school in the morning and others in the afternoon - carrying gasmasks!

I think I am correct in saying that when entering the Boys School, it was called THE WHITSTABLE BOYS COUNCIL SCHOOL.  In 1945, whilst still there, it became . . .THE WHITSTABLE BOYS PRIMARY SCHOOL.

John Harman
Sidney
British Columbia
Canada

 

There were some necessary modifications to the site to provide protection over and above personal gas masks. These included air raid shelters which John has plotted on our emerging site plan....

    

   

The structures were provided in two blocks - one at the western end of the playing field and the other in the school garden. Both were constructed of yellow brick with flat roofs and, of course, no windows.

John has also marked some other changes. By the early 1940s, metalwork classes had been removed from the main site and transferred to a workshop at the rear of Oxford Mansions on the other side of Oxford Street. In 1945, dining accommodation was extended with an additional building being erected at the eastern end of the senior boys playground.  

Britain and the school repelled Hitler's stormtroopers for six years but, with peace in sight, the Oxford Street bastion of boyhood did fall to an invasion. This was driven not by loaded weaponry but by empty stomachs.... and, rather than fear, it created curiosity. John explains... 

   

Girls from the Endowed now came to eat at the new dining hall in 1945. Being of that age, I particularly remember them walking through the senior playground.

John Harman

 

As a sleepy seaside town, Whitstable was not a specific target during the war but it did suffer sporadic bomb strikes brought about by accident or opportunism. (NB For general information about Whitstable at War, take a look at our special feature by clicking here). The school suffered no direct hits but it did feel the impacts of isolated explosions elsewhere in the town. The most widely felt blast resulted from a V2 rocket landing on Londons Fields in old Bridge Road.... 

   

I was in Mr McKenna's class when that V2 arrived. My ruler jumped about a foot high as my desk shot forward. The desk returned, the ruler fell back in place, the ceiling fell in as we all dived under our desks. I recall a white powder coated McKenna still standing before us looking rather surprised). That V2 was reputedly only half charged! 

Brian Smith 
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia

  

I was in Mrs.Holman's class at Frank Newsome's school at the time and part of the ceiling fell in.

Bill Dancer
Victoria
British Columbia
Canada

  

Despite wartime dangers, the school garden continued on a very substantial scale. This is shown in a sketch kindly provided by John Harman....

 

   

The allotments to the north were maintained by senior boys with manpower allocated at the rate of two boys per allotment!

 

Expansion & Transition: 1947-1952

   

Whilst the country struggled to recover from World War II, staff at Whitstable Boys School were struggling with another issue that also had its roots in the years of conflict. That was Rab Butler's Education Act of 1944 which instigated yet another revolution in the world of teaching.

Amongst other things, the Act....

  

  • Imposed a clear new division between primary and secondary education ("Primary" schooling would cater for pupils in the age range 5-11 and "Secondary" would provide more advanced education from the age of 11 to 15).
      

  • Abolished fees at all state grammar schools and, for the first time, made secondary education a right rather than a privilege.
     

  • Introduced a Tripartite system for secondary schooling based on the idea that children should attend schools that best matched their ability and aptitude. (Three categories of secondary school were defined ... grammar, technical and secondary modern. It all led to the infamous "11 Plus" exam - a test that would determine which type of school a pupil attended after reaching age 11).

 

(Note: We discuss the arrival of secondary education in more detail in our Sir William Nottidge School article on the schools menu).

One of the problems with politicians and theorists in education is that they implement theories of education during the verbage and produce theories of implementation during the carnage. Thus, education plans are not always  flamboyant creations for the near future but desperate corrections of the recent past!

Whilst the school leaving age was raised to 15 in 1947, Whitstable did not have a dedicated Secondary Modern School until 1952 when the Sir William Nottidge School opened its brand new doors at Bellevue Road. In the meantime, the Whitstable Boys School continued to provide both primary and secondary education with an increased number of pupils.

The Bell, Book and Boys publication describes the dilemma of headmaster, Frank Newsome. Two classrooms and two practical rooms were due to be erected by April 1947.... but severe delays were encountered in the supply of accommodation, furniture and equipment. By September 1948, the school had "taken over two new HORSA. rooms". 

I must admit that I pondered the word "HORSA" for some time. Was it a new architectural style? Eventually, I discovered that there had been some planning after all and the mysterious term was no more than an acronym for "Hutted Operations for Raising School Age". Thus, HORSA units were those "temporary" white block huts with sloping slate roofs and metal window frames that became a feature of most junior schools of the era.

HORSAs were presumably intended to tide things over for 5 years or so while a massive building programme was undertaken to produce separate secondary schools. However, some HORSA units remained for decades. Was this a precaution against Hutted Operations for Raising the School Age to Anything!!! No wonder Frank Newsome's wavy locks had turned wholly white by the time I arrived at the school in '56!

So, where were the HORSAs built? Well,  Tony Stroud (Australia) has plotted a couple on our site plan. These are shown in yellow and marked 4A and 5....

     

  

It seems that the boys' HORSA development was located in the North West corner of the site - near the main bus stop in Oxford Street. To pave the way, the World War II air raid shelters were demolished alongside the playing field.

As yet, we do not know the total number of HORSA units or the precise layout. However, Tony has thrown some light on the two that we have charted. Room 4A was used for handicraft. Room 5 became a metalwork shop - thereby consigning the off site workshop to history.

 

1947-1952: Return of Girls

  

Now, we need to pay some attention to the North East corner of the site as there may have been something going on there too. By the early/mid 1950s, that corner had been fenced off for another HORSA development. However, these buildings were not constructed for Boys. They actually provided ovesrpill accommodation for the Endowed Girls School. It seems logical that this change of ownership actually occurred a few years earlier - in the late 1940s.

Let's consider the situation. Rab Butler's Education Act didn't just raise the school leaving age for boys and turn the hair of headmasters white. It also raised the stakes for girls and challenged the follicles of headmistresses. Thus, the Endowed School also needed to expand and there was precious little space to do so at its main site at the rear of  St Alphege Church in the High Street. It all seems to fit into the late 1940s scene.

John Harman's carefully tended allotments had succumbed to an influx of young ladies!  The girls were back on a long term basis as confirmed by this 1977 photo of the "temporary" HORSA development....

  

Above: The Endowed Girls overspill site at Oxford Street with a HORSA unit on the left. Built during the reign of a King, the huts survived the Silver Jubilee of a Queen. (Picture supplied by Ian Johnson)

 

Revolution & Contraction - 1952

   

The year 1952 produced the biggest shake up of local education since the 1920s and it was all down to the arrival of a brand new establishment at Bellevue Road.... The Sir William Nottidge Secondary Modern. Butler's Education Act was finally taking effect on a grand scale.

It would be easy to note it as just another event in the local education calendar of 1952....until you consider the massive impact that it all had on Whitstable Boys School.

Senior pupils (over the age of 11) were removed and sent to Bellevue Road.... along with books, equipment.... and a sizeable chunk of the teaching staff. This left the school with a wholly primary school clientele aged 7-11. The very function and focus of the school had changed. Rather than provide a route into the adult world of employment, the school was now expected to dovetail with the new tier above and to supervise a path to secondary education.

The curriculum was beheaded. The vocational classes so necessary to prepare senior boys for the workplace were no longer required. Teaching became less specialised and focused more on basic academic subjects with a heavy emphasis on the "Three Rs".

There were tasks and duties performed by 12-15 year olds that were beyond pupils aged 11 and below. One example concerned the massive school garden. This was trimmed back in size and a grass play area created along the Northern and Eastern boundaries.

Furthermore, a smaller number of boys were now rattling around in a school designed for a larger age range. To some extent, this was already being offset by the unfurling of a post war baby boom into the education system. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that accommodation may have been released for other usage......

 

Return to a Three School Site

  

By the mid-1950s, some HORSA classrooms in both the North East (ie Boys School) and North West (Endowed Girls) sections of the Oxford Street site were being used as overspill for the St. Alphege Infants. 

St. Alphege had previously been confined to a cramped site near the railway bridge in Oxford Street. Did the school acquire the HORSAs in 1952? Was it all made possible by the arrival of the Sir William Nottidge Secondary Modern and the freeing up of classrooms at both the Boys School and Endowed Girls? If you know the answers, please get in touch!

One thing is certain. By the mid 1950s, things had turned full circle. The Oxford Street site had returned to its original 1877 function by accommodating 3 separate schools - boys, girls and infants. The only difference was that the 1877 schools were all state establishments. The 1950s arrangement included a state boys school, an Anglican girls school and an Anglican infants. 

  

A Period of Stability: 1953-1959

   

I arrived at the school in 1956. By then, there were no signs of the traumas of '52. Seemingly to me, the "Ghosts of Education Yet to Come" had done it all in one night and Mr Newsome's wavy white locks were the only remaining evidence of the transition. The teachers were rewarded with a new staff room (marked "S" on the plan below) and by the late 1950s, the site looked like this.... 

   

 

   

It was a period of tranquillity and stability that led to the ultimate test of nerve and IQ. That was the dreaded "11 Plus" examination. It determined which tier of Butler's Education Act would would steer the pupil through adolsecence and into a career in the adult world.

My time came in the 1959/60 academic year. The school was closed for the day to provide a cathedral like atmosphere as befits an activity that would determine my entire future. We 4th year pupils entered the school hall with trepidation and emerged with relief  to join our younger school mates for what remained of a one day holiday.

At the end of the year, I said goodbye to many friends as we all disappeared into the parallel but separate tunnels of Rab Butler's three tier system. Mr Newsome also abandoned ship and followed a fourth tunnel into retirement. At the final assembly, they presented him with a telly. It was the latest gizzmo complete with BBC..... AND the new commercial channel. However, the world and Mr Newsome would have to wait a few more years before ITV advertised the remedial gift of Grecian 2000.

 

Just a Draft

   

Please remember that this brief history is merely a draft at this stage. Comments are invited. We will then move on to the period 1960-1980.

  


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