Provision for schooling in Aldbourne dates back to 1668.
By 1839, it had a church school consisting of two rooms, where the vicar and church wardens were trustees. It’s unclear where this building was, but by 1848 there were 100 pupils being taught by two school masters and two school mistresses.
In 1857, The Brown family donated land and £200 towards the building of a new mixed junior school. A flint and red brick building which included the school master’s house which was designed by William Butterfield. The head teacher was to be in charge of religious and moral education. The managers, early governors, had to belong to The Church of England, have property in the Village and contribute 20 shillings a year to school funds. A room for infants was added in 1873, although was operated and stood completely autonomously from the junior school. Records show they merged in 1923, coming under the leadership of a single head master.
No penny meant no school!
Until 1891, children paid a penny a week to attend school. No penny meant no school! School log books show that attendance figures were influenced by the weather – snow in the winter and good weather in the summer, meaning children had to help with the harvest. Illness was a big factor. Cases of diphtheria, measles, influenza and German measles, which at one point was recorded for over three months as being rife among the children.
With the formation of Local Education Authorities in 1902, Wiltshire County Council took financial responsibility for everything apart from the buildings. Under the 1944 Education Act the school took on ‘aided status’, meaning the Church of England once again had a significant responsibility for the school.
The Parochial Church Council had to approve the majority of governors who in turn employed the staff. The Governors were responsible for maintaining the buildings and had their own Admissions Policy.
The Butterfield buildings fell into a bad state of repair and in 1957, the infant room floor collapsed due to dry rot. The children were moved into the junior room and Class 1 went over to the Memorial Hall until the floor had been repaired.
A new school built in 1963
In 1963, all but the infant room were demolished and a new school built. The new school was opened immediately next-door to the old. A compact one-storey building with four classrooms, including one large room for the infants, a hall, staff room, head teacher’s office and a kitchen. With its shiny parquet flooring and gymnastic equipment, the hall was, and still is, used for P.E. lessons, assemblies and lunch. The floor isn’t quite as shiny, but the gymnastic equipment is thriving. The play ground is the only part of the new school which was inherited from the old. The school playing field was acquired from the Browns in 1964 and in 1974, an infant block was added to the rear of the school.
Little has changed in the last thirty years
St Michael’s School now has Aldbourne Preschool on site and apart from cosmetic changes the building has changed little in the last thirty years. Its position to the west of the Church, looking out towards the rising down lands, is very special. The number of children attending has steadily grown in the last few years reflecting the strength of the teaching. It is no longer unusual for teachers to travel long distances to school each day and children’s attendance is not affected by the farming calendar though the winter weather still has the ability to close the school!
So what of the remaining Old School Room?
From September 2013, The Old School Room returned to educational use. With a single classroom, large meeting room, kitchen, toilets & hot and cold water, 30 children moved over from the main building. Our history is enabling us to blossom in a way we never imagined.