Church Preen's first school opened on January 15th, 1872, with twenty
children ranging from six to thirteen years of age.Only six of these children had
been to school before,but they were to learn the three R's in a fine new
building designed by Norman Shaw—the architect of Scotland Yard—who
had been commissioned by Mr. Arthur Sparrow, the owner of the manor.
Today, 90 years later, the new bounty Council primary school is nearing
completion in a field adjoining the old. The number of pupils, about
45, is much the same as in the 1870's and there are still only two
teachers to look after them, though both are now qualified. Yet the two
contrasting buildings epitomise the change in methods of teaching and
educational theories that have taken place in the intervening years.
What would present day children do if, like their predecessors of the 80's,
they were told 'to write on their slates what they knew of the Air?'
What would their great grandfathers, constantly exhorted, as the
headmaster's log records, "to come in clean boots" make of the tiled
footpath in the new main halt?
Norman Shaw's school was built a mile from the village, on the road to Hughley, and consisted simply of a house for the teacher with a large hall attached. It is a delightfully proportioned, sensitively designed building of stone and tiles with some bogus half-timbering added for decoration.
Although architectural quality of this sort was very rare in the 70's the school incorporated no unusual educational idea and was far more concerned with external appearances than the comfort and amenity within. The high empty hall, with its tall windows set too high for the children to see out, must have been a cheerless place. Indeed we learn from an H.M.I, report of 1914 that "some framed pictures have been provided and greatly improve the appearance of the school room.
Shropshire Magazine - October 1961 - by A. H. Jefferies
To begin with, the sons and daughters of the wheelwrights and waggoners, labourers and farmers were confined to the three R's and religious instruction. A few songs and some needlework for the girls under the direction of the Misses Sparrow completed the programme. The school had a family atmosphere, with Mrs. Sparrow distributing gingerbread and plum cake at intervals and Mr. Sparrow, in his capacity as H.M.I., regularly reporting that the needlework was 'deserving of praise.'
Each winter until the late 1930's the numbers fell drastically in severe weather. On February 19th, 1925, the log sadly records "only Gwennie Huxley came." Harvest time took its toll of pupils and epidemics almost invariably meant a closure.
The three R's sufficed for them
The March of Science and The Wind of Change
In 1891 "Natural Phenomena" were introduced into the syllabus and lessons on the potato, silk, the sea, and tea were recorded on the slates. By 1903 an elaborate list of items under the heading of elementary science were being taught. This was the year Miss E. Toimlinson took over — to remain until ly^u, alter a most successful 27 years of headship.
The present headmistress at Church Preen Primary School, Mrs. R. Beard, will move into a building which, though undeniably modern is unpretentious and straightforward and does not offend its graceful Victorian neighbour.
Built under the direction of the County Architect, Mr. Ralph Crowe, for the County Council, the new school started with an educational "idea", from which the plan developed, and the finished building is a simple three-dimensional expression of what goes on inside.
Although the special requirements of children in the various categories of primary, secondary and grammar schools have been thoroughly explored, the unique problem of the small rural school has been rather neglected until recently.
Some 40 children, aged from 5 to 11. drawn from a wide area clearly need to be learning different things at the same time, but economically only a small building is possible and the number of teachers must be very limited.
The Village School provides a special problem
At Church Preen the solution is attempted by encouraging work in small groups. Sliding doors divide off the infants' and juniors' classrooms from the central space, but these can be fully opened for special events. The classrooms are broken up by screens into a library corner, a 'story room' and 'wet' areas where paint pots are washed, newts and insects kept and other messy activities performed.
Outside each room is a paved and covered area for practical work and open-air lessons in the summer. The central space is so shaped that a small stage can be formed at one end and music played under a sound-absorbing ceiling. Climbing ropes and ladders for physical education can be hung from the roof.
Light, Airy and Colourful
In this way all sorts of activities can go on simultaneously with the children learning to live together in a small community, helping each other and developing a sense of responsibility and pride in what they do.
With its large windows and cross ventilation the new school will be light, airy and colourful. In winter, heated air from grilles in the ceiling will keep the children more comfortably warm than their grandparents dreamt of. It should be an exciting environment for the children—and stimulating for the teachers.
The clever interior construction, provides within the permitted 'primary' framework a good many features which normally are not found even in the most modern village schools. It is to be hoped that this type of adaptation will be the rule throughout Shropshire's educational rebuilding.