The building that the village knows today as St. Mary’s Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School first opened its doors near the end of August 1934 as Timsbury Secondary School. The opening of the new school in 1934 was a mere 66 years before the dawn of the new millennium.
During those 66 years state education has been discussed and reviewed frequently, and the school letter box has received and admitted a tremendous amount of mail. The first major change was the 1944 Education Act and this followed by a steady stream of subsequent acts and reforms, climaxing in a plethora of print in recent years, arriving in brown envelopes containing the national curriculum, the revised national curriculum, standardised attainment tests, OFSTED reports, school management documentation and school league tables, all produced with the worthy aim of raising standards in education!
Back in 1934, the school opened with a headmaster called Mr. Thomson and a headmistress called Mrs. Greenland at the helm. The newspaper account of the event described the new building as having a ‘flow-through air system’, meaning there were plenty of windows that could be opened on at least two sides of most of the rooms.
These windows remained in situ until 1997 when the majority were fortunately replaced. The 1934 windows certainly admitted plenty of fresh air and in recent years, an over-abundance of the easterly wind during the winter months. When the building was a secondary school the pupils were bused in from Marksbury, Farmborough, Priston, High Littleton, Hallatrow, Temple Cloud, Camerton, Dunkerton, Inglesbatch and Withyditch, and pupils could come from Cameley in the van transporting the school meals, if there was room on board. School started at 9.20am all those years ago, as car-owning teachers were a rarity and the first public service buses from either the Bath or Bristol directions arrived in the village at 9.05am. Phrases such as ‘equal opportunities’ had little educational significance in the secondary schools of that era as it was only the girls who were taught needlework and domestic science, whilst instruction in gardening and wood-work skills was solely for the boys. Games lessons for girls and boys were held simultaneously but separately, and when it rained, mixed country dancing lessons took place in the hall.
In 1970, following a major national review of secondary education, grammar schools were phased out to give way to comprehensive schools. Locally this resulted in the grammar school at Midsomer Norton becoming a comprehensive school, and all the staff and pupils at the then Timsbury Secondary School being transferred to the newly named Norton Hill Comprehensive School. At the Timsbury building the domestic science room, woodwork room and science lab were converted into ordinary classrooms. The open veranda walkways were enclosed and renamed corridors, and a ‘new’ primary school for the village came into existence.
The existing primary school staff and children, under the leadership of Mr. H. Blake, (known universally and with affection as Bert – Editors Note) moved from their Victorian primary school situated in South Road Timsbury, and quickly settled into the 1934 building.
In the August of 1973, the primary school began the new academic year with a new secretary, new school cook and new headteacher. In the mid-seventies, there were 310 pupils on the school roll occupying ten classrooms, two of which were temporary classrooms situated on the lawns at the front of the school.
During these last 30 years of the current millennium, the pupils and staff who have occupied the 1934 building as a primary school have experienced and implemented substantial educational reforms and changes. Going hand in hand with all these new acts and procedures, the children attending the village primary school have achieved considerable academic and sporting successes, of which everybody involved should feel justifiably proud. One attribute enjoyed by the primary school is the large amount of support it receives from the community generally and the Parent/Teacher Partnership in particular. The schools’ annual summer fete and Christmas bazaar are very well attended by parents and villagers, and all individual class activities and school based events are always well supported.
During the last years of this millennium the one subject that has had a most profound effect in terms of educational change, is Information & Communications Technology (ICT), involving the use of computers, scanners, networking, the Internet and E-mail. With the development of the new library and computer suite at St. Mary’s Primary School Timsbury, the school is well on its way to providing its pupils with the type of ICT education that will help them become successful citizens of the new millennium.
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ‘education’ as the process of bringing up young persons and the systematic instruction, schooling or training given to the young.
In the primary school situation this means creating a good working partnership between home and school, with parents and teachers working together to bring about the successful development of the young people in their joint care, in a stable and stimulating environment where successful pupil motivation is the ‘raison d’être’.
St. Mary’s Primary School Timsbury has a very good teaching team ably assisted by a committed support staff and parents who are prepared to become involved in the education of the children. As the old millennium closes and preparations are made to welcome the new, I address the following words to all at the village primary school. Step forward into the year 2000 with all your wonderful attributes, and develop and prosper as an educational establishment of excellence.
This account was written by Nick Furzland, retired Headteacher of Timsbury School 1973-1998. It is reproduced from ‘The Timsbury Book’ by kind permission of Timsbury Parish Council.