BUCKDEN SCHOOL

A comparison of education in Victorian days with today

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PRE-VICTORIAN SCHOOLS

The first school in Buckden was started in 1665, when a rich and generous man called Robert Raymond died and left in his will a sum of money that should be spent on the education of the children of Buckden.  Where that early school was we don’t know but it continued till 1774.  In 1778, John Green, Lord Bishop of Lincoln, left a  house, garden and salary for the master of a school and fees for 30 boys.  It was not until 1842 that the existence of a girls’ school was first mentioned in the records.  1870 was the turning point for Buckden School, and schools in general, with the Elementary Education Act.  Under the Act the State now had powers to enforce attendance of most children from the ages of 5 to 10.  The Act also funded the building of lots of new schools, one of which was for Buckden.

Above.  An 18th Century school.  Courtesy of Nantwich Museum.

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VICTORIAN BUCKDEN SCHOOL

The first part of Buckden School opened in 1871 but it was very different to the school of today, with boys and girls treated very differently.  In 1885 Buckden school became mixed but in 1890 the then headmaster returned to a split boys and girls education.  Until 1891, when education became free, pupils were expected to pay 4 old pennies and infants 2 old pennies a week.  Some boys were still receiving grants from Mr Raymond and Bishop Green and got their teaching for free.  In 1893 the leaving age for pupils was raised to 11; a year later Buckden School added the Infant room to the back of the girls’ school.


Although attendance was enforced, many elderly pupils were kept away from school by their parents to help with the farming.  Some parents got fined for keeping their children away but often this was overlooked, especially at harvest time.  Attendance was much more dependent on the weather in Victorian days.  There were times when Buckden school had to close because of deep snow or floods and there were many times when the heating failed to reach a temperature of even 10 degrees!  Covid aside, public health was also an issue:  quite often the school had to close because of epidemics of scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, measles and jaundice.  


Lessons in Victorian Buckden school would have been very different.  Windows were purposely built high up to stop children from being distracted from their work and looking out.  Walls would have been mainly bare.  Teachers would write on chalk-boards and children had to copy exactly what the teacher had written onto slate boards.  Lessons were mainly reading, writing, arithmetic and some religion.  Classes were very regimented with pupils repeating a lot of what the teacher said until they could say it without mistakes.  Teachers were untrained and generally lacked any creativity, and learning was very much a strict and uncomfortable place for pupils.  Unlike today it was common for children to be physically punished for minor breaches of discipline - even parents could ask teachers to punish their children!  Normally boys would be caned on their bottom and girls would receive their punishment on their legs or hands.  All children were expected to be able to work at the same pace and if a child was slow they were often humiliated by being made to sit in the corner and wear a dunce hat.  It was no wonder that most pupils left school at the age of 11.


The school day was longer in Victorian days.  It was normal to start with Christian prayers and religious instruction, with lessons from 9 am to 12 pm.  Pupils were expected to go home for lunch and then afternoon lessons ran from 2 pm to 5 pm. 

Above, Buckden Village School, 1900

Thanks to Carol Swepstone for the history of Buckden School 1871 - 1971

 
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LATER YEARS

In 1912 physical education was introduced and in 1919 the School year altered from 1st April to 1st September.  In 1931 electric lights were finally installed into Buckden school.  In January 1935 the Milk in Schools scheme commenced (until the practice was ceased in 1971),  and in 1944 the boys and girls were finally reunited once again into one school.  In 1949 school meals were served at Buckden school for the first time and in July 1954 the first school sports were held in the Grounds of the Towers.  

Toilets at the school were very primitive compared with today and in 1956 it was common for the chemical toilets, which were emptied twice a week, to overflow into the playground from overuse.  In 1957 a new toilet block was opened and the old toilet building used as a coke store for the heating.  In 1966 a new infant school opened and in 1972 a new junior school opened, both on the existing site.  In 1978 Buckden school suffered a disastrous fire which gutted the newly built classrooms.  Luckily no one was injured in the fire but it caused serious disruption until it could be repaired (In the June 2021 edition of the Roundabout Magazine, Carol Swepstone, who was a teacher at the school, gives a vivid account of the day's events.  To read it press here).

Above, Buckden School Photo, 1964, thanks to Angie Bruce.

Back Row, Left to Right: Peta Sprekley, Julie Baxter, Steven Johnson, Helene Walker, Yvonne Lumbers, Shelagh Fawcett, Janet Peach, Susan Burton, Jeanette Cooper.

Middle Row, Left to Right: William Walker, Gerald Day, Peter Sabey, Christine Andrews, Susan Bucknell, Janet Steel, Angela Richardson, Anthony Pond, Miss Diana Phillips.

Front Row, Left to Right: Carol Coleman, Angela Milner, Kevin Woods,  Carol Underwood, Ann Burton, Julie King, Linda Dudley, Carol Swepstone, Jackie Baxter

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BUCKDEN SCHOOL TODAY

Buckden Church of England Primary Academy (Primary Academy Trust) is a vibrant and welcoming primary school with 327 pupils. It is a school that is at the heart of the local community, with strong links with the local parish church of St Mary’s and the local community of Buckden.  As a Church of England school it emphasises the development of the whole child – both academically and spiritually, with a strong Christian ethos.  In 2015 The school was rated Outstanding by the Ofsted inspectors and continually strives to “do things better”.


Buckden, along with most other schools in the UK, follows a curriculum relevant to children to live in a globalised society to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be the global citizens of tomorrow.  The Buckden School Curriculum is based around the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 to be achieved by 2030 encompassing Philosophy (Think it), Theology (Believe it) and Human & Social Sciences (Live it).  Buckden has a strong emphasis on inclusion and caters for children  with a wide variety of needs and abilities.


If you walk around the school today it is so different to what it would have looked like in Victorian days.  Windows are large to fill the rooms with daylight; walls are covered with children’s work and everyone’s contribution is valued; teachers are highly trained and give exciting and stimulating lessons, supported by modern technology; and children (mostly!) love being at school and thrive in the learning environment.

Above, thanks to buckdenschool.co.uk