The Bawburgh School
1876 - present
Queen Victoria was on the throne, when Bawburgh School opened its doors on 27th March 1876. It flourished under the stern Headship of Frederick Jackson (1892 - 1925) but floundered during the Seventies and Eighties. In 1987 there were only 37 pupils on the books - today there are over a 100.
Some background History: The School is a vibrant and important part of the village, and since Ann Rix Carter was the first School Mistress. A succession of women were in charge of the school, for the first 16 years, but when Frederick Jackson arrived on the 1st August 1892, it was the start of very different era, as two long-standing Headmasters would in turn take control of the school for the next 62 years.
Previously, discipline and attendance had been poor, and when the school was examined in Arithmetic and Dictation on 15th September 1892, they were found "throughout to be in a very bad state". The number of pupils had risen from 54 to 77, from 1876 to 1892, and when Frederick Jackson retired in 1925, and handed the reins over to "Jack" Steed, there were around 80 on the registers. Mr. Arthur J Steed was remembered as a much easier and kinder headmaster, although the school still suffered from absences through illness and through the children working on the farms.
From 1901, for a period of 30 years, the assistant teacher was Miss Charlotte Child - daughter of the family at the Mill. She had her own house built near the Bridge - now known as Meadow View. Another stalwart assistant was Mrs. Mona Sewter, who came temporarily, and stayed 25 years, finally retiring in 1984, assisting four Heads in all. During Mr. Steed's headship, the school and village endured another World War, and the Log book describes gas mask drills, badly nourished children and increased numbers of evacuee pupils.
Early 20th Century Bawburgh School.
Headmaster, Frederick Jackson, left. Assistant teacher, Charlotte Child, right.
Post-war, a variety of school outings could be added to the curriculum. Upon Mr. Steed's retirement in 1954, the school lost its older pupils to the new Costessey Secondary Modern School, although soon the nearby Marlingford school would close, and pupils merged. Inadequate space and pupil numbers were major problems throughout the 20th Century. When the School celebrated its Centenary in 1976, there were over 60 pupils, which level was to decline to 27 in 1982/3.
The Fight to to save Bawburgh School (Article by Jenny Press Bawburgh News May 2017)
Bawburgh School opened on 27 March 1876 with 50 pupils on the register, but 108 years later in 1984, the numbers had dropped to just 29. In that year Mr Jack Dilrew retired after 15 years as head teacher and after 25 years the infants' teacher Mrs Sewter retired too. Mr Jervis, the new acting head and Mrs Fountain, teacher for the little ones, were appointed but in May we were told by the County Council that because of the low numbers, they would recommend closure. At a PTA meeting on 14 June a subcommittee 'The Bawburgh School Defence Committee' was formed. Then at a crowded open meeting at the school in July, the County Education Officer Mr Bradford set out the council's arguments for closure, which were unanimously contested by the villagers.
On 26 September, a petition against closure was handed to the County Councillor Gillian Shepherd (later to become a Conservative MP) at County Hall. It was signed by 388 villagers from Bawbugh and Marlingford, including current parents and past pupils. A 20 page document was drawn up by the 'Defence Committee' ready for the council meeting on 3 October. Strong arguments were put forward, including the expected growth of Bowthorpe, whose parents may wish to choose to send their children to a village school just 1 mile away and the school's success educating and integrating traveller children. Throughout the fight we had good local newspaper coverage; including at least 11 articles and several published letters from villagers. In the October's Bawburgh News, the Defence Committee asked everyone to write to Norfolk County Councillors Mr Edwards and Mrs Shepherd and the November issue carries a letter thanking the village for their support and saying that things were beginning to look more favourable.
Amazingly, even with the threat of closure still hanging over us, by the end of 1985, the number of children attending the school had grown to 40. We had proved that growth was likely to carry on and so it was agreed that the council would look again at the closure plans in one year. In a letter in Bawburgh News that February, Frank Press (a member of the Defence Committee) said, "If pupils continue to arrive, the authority may have to appoint a third teacher and install a new classroom. That would shock everyone!" He was right! On 16 February 1985, the EDP carried a delightful photograph and story headlined - "A pregnant pause in school's future". Seven new babies were expected during that year! "We are doing our utmost to increase numbers," said mother to be Mrs Sheri Wilson. And it worked. In 1987, a permanent head, Mrs Cindy Baldwin was appointed and since then Bawburgh School has grown and developed with new buildings and playing fields and two further head teachers, Jan Staff and, this year, 2017, Carla Stedman.
So, thanks to the strong parent association, which campaigned for the continuation of the village school, Bawburgh School was saved, and from thence grew from strength to strength. Mrs. Cindy Baldwin who took over in 1987 steered the school through great growth. A new classroom in addition to the one added in 1959, has been added to the Victorian building, to replace a 1960s mobile, and even as recently as when School returned in September 1994, they were celebrating indoor toilets and a new tarmac-ed playground! A new Assembly Hall was added in 2005.
On Mrs. Baldwin’s retirement at the end of 2008, Mrs. Jan Staff became Head. In 2016 Mrs Staff left and Carla Steadman took up the reigns. The School continues to be a popular and important part of the village, although popular also with pupils from the surrounding area.
Central heating did not arrive until the Sixties and indoor toilets as recently as 1994. The original building is still used, and a new hall added in 2005. The Hall not only allows Assembly, but also for the whole school now to share lunch together every day, as well as many more opportunities with parents and visitors, and provides a fantastic indoor space for lessons. The building work undertaken in 2005 also included a brand new kitchen, and relocation of the School Library and Staff-room. Further improvements were made in 2010 with the relocation of the Headteacher’s and secretary’s offices, which has created a modern and welcoming reception.
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