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Chancellor's School
Written in 1989 to mark the 25th anniversary of the school

Chapter Two
What Happened to the rural children 1944-1964

The Education Act is now the law of the land. The Bill has been placed on the Statute Book by a joint effort in which I gratefully acknowledge the aid and advice of those who speak for the Local Education Authorities. Now to convert legal phraseology into a living force will call for great and sustained exertions.

“I look, therefore, with every confidence to Authorities to join with the Minis­try in tackling the new responsibilities which the new Act lays upon us. Let us see to it that the children and young people of our country derive real profit from this, the first measure of Social Reconstruction which has been passed in these his­toric days, and is born of a faith in the part that Education has to play in shaping the future destinies of our country.”

This was the stirring message sent to Local Education Authorities in 1944 by the Minister of Education, Mr. R. A. Butler, nearly a year before all hostilities had ended in the Second World War. There was little opportunity for Local Education Authorities to take action in the immediate future but planning for the post-war education of the Country’s children could begin. The Act was designed to have a fundamental effect on all levels of education but had specific implications for secondary education.

The Act had made it a statutory requirement for Local Education Authorities to provide secondary education for all children up to the age of fifteen from 1st. April 1945. It, thereby gave the force of law to the pre-war policy guidelines in the various Reports on Education by the Board of Education’s consultative committee of the 1920s and ‘30s originally under the Chairmanship of Sir Henry Hadow.

It was Hadow’s intention that elementary schools should be reorganised to take children up to the age of eleven. All children over eleven would be transferred to separate secondary schools. The secondary sector would be sub-divided into three categories to suit children of different aptitudes and abilities: grammar, technical and modern. Places for the children of Hertfordshire at all three types of school had to be provided as well as the separation of primary and secondary sectors. This latter pro­cess was referred to as “Hadow” reorganisation.

In September 1944 Hertfordshire County Council’s Education Secondary subcommittee discussed these two issues. It discovered that 11,728, or 23%, of children in Hertfordshire attended unreorganised schools. Of these, 4.439 pupils were over the age of eleven. In addition, with the raising of the school leaving age from fourteen to fifteen, a further 3,000 more children would require secondary school accommodation.

The Committee were of the opinion that “For the children to remain for an additional year in the conditions obtaining at many of the smaller country schools in particular and at some urban schools also, where no playing fields or practical instruction rooms and no assembly halls are available, will not only place a considerable strain on the teachers, but will render almost worthless the extra year of school life. It is hoped that the conclusion of hostilities will see an improvement of transport facilities, which will have the effect of permitting the older children from many unreorganised schools to be conveyed to existing senior schools as a temporary measure.

Whilst the Committee realised the limitations of the situation it was in, it suggested certain principles, one of which was that, at least, arrangements be made to transfer thirteen to fifteen-year olds to reorganised schools. But even this would cause over­crowding in existing secondary schools.

The seriousness of the problem was recognised by the Minister late in 1944 and the Education Committee was informed that “owing to the impossibility in the present circumstances of finding the additional teachers and of providing the additional accommodation (including the repair of war-damaged schools)” the raising of the school leaving age to fifteen would be delayed until after 1st April 1946. In fact it did not come into effect until 1st April 1947.

Nevertheless arrangements had to be made for this later date. The Government introduced a scheme known as HORSA (Hutting Operation for the Raising of the School Leaving Age). 600 HORSA units of two classrooms each were put up at Hertfordshire schools between 1947 and 1950. Many of these were attached to unreorganised elementary schools purely to provide separate accommodation for the older children. This was the case in both Cuffley and Little Heath Schools. It is felt by some that HORSA caused the postponement of the building of many secondary schools subsequently.

Reorganisation was the priority before 1947, however. The County’s Education Secondary subcommittee received a Report on the reorganisation of schools in Hertfordshire in June 1945, only one month after the War in Europe had ended. It pointed out that, particularly in the rural areas, reorganisation had not been completed when the outbreak of war put an end to school building. Twenty new secondary schools would be needed to respond to the Ministry of Education’s latest pamphlet ‘The Nation’s Schools’.

This stated that, “The most urgent reform to which the development plan must be addressed is the completion of ‘Hadow’ reorganisation. So long as all-age schools continue, it cannot be claimed that either the junior children in them are receiving an adequate primary education or that the senior children are receiving a proper secondary education. To raise the leaving age for them will be little more than a gesture.”

Nowhere was the need for such reorganisation more needed than in the Parish of North Mymms and in the rural areas around Brookmans Park. Accordingly a one-form-entry secondary school was proposed for Brookmans Park as described in the last chapter.

At the time the Education Act came into force all the local primary schools were unreorganised. Children who passed the new eleven-plus examination could transfer to Queen Elizabeth Boys and Girls Schools in Barnet, since Barnet at this time was still under the administrative control of Hertfordshire.

The nearest secondary modern school was St. Audrey’s C.E. School in Endymion Road, Hatfield. Unfortunately this had been destroyed by enemy action in October 1944. In June 1945, therefore, the only secondary modern school in the area was housed in temporary accommodation and consisted of four classes in the Public Hall, two classes in the Hatfield Court House, two classes in the County Surveyor’s Hut and some classes at Newtown Junior School largely using salvaged desks and chairs.

One of the first tasks, therefore was to provide permanent accommodation for St. Audrey’s. A new building was erected on the old site by the Managers. There was a shortfall in financing the project so the County Council was asked to take over the new school as a ‘Controlled’ school under the new Act. The new St. Audrey’s Secondary Modem School was formally opened by the Minister of Education on 26th July 1946, being the first new school to be built in the country after the Second World War.

This did not relieve the problem substantially, however, as two letters to Hatfield District Education Committee in July 1946 demonstrate, These letters were from parents requesting that their children be transferred from North Mymms Boys and Little Heath schools to St. Audrey’s Secondary Modern School. The child from North Mymms Boys School was allowed but not the child from Little Heath as accommodation at St. Audrey’s was limited.

In October 1946 the poor educational facilities available to senior children still attending unreorganised schools in North Mymms was raised at the Hatfield District Education Committee’s meeting with the hope that these children, who would eventually go to the Brookmans Park Secondary Modem School, could be accommodated in St. Audrey’s. The Committee was informed that since the autumn however, the numbers had increased and unless further accommodation was taken this would not be possible. A letter was written to the Governors of St. Audrey’s asking them to consider taking the North Mymms children if any extra classroom space could be found, possibly at the Congregational Hall.

The Governors replied that there was very strong local feeling in Hatfield about children occupying huts outside the school so the children of North Mymms could not be taken. The Committee still persisted, even suggesting that a gate be provided in the fence between the Congregational Church and the school.

The matter of the reorganisation of North Mymms schools was taken up at County Hall. It was recommended that three hutted classrooms would be needed at St. Audrey’s to cope with the raising of the school leaving age and that a one form entry Secondary Modern School be provided in Brookmans Park to relieve overcrowding for the children of North Mymms, Little Heath and the Westfield area.

With the raising of the school leaving age to fifteen in April 1947 it was agreed that the children staying an extra year at North Mymms Girls and North Mymms Boys schools should transfer to St. Audrey’s to have the advantage of a secondary modern education in their last year. The rest of the senior pupils would have to stay in their all-age five to fourteen schools.

In November 1947 the local education committees were themselves reorganised. The Hatfield District Education Committee evolved into the Mid Herts Divisional Executive. One of the ten Powers and Duties given to its Secondary subcommittee was “to engage the sympathy and support of the parents and to promote activities in the interest of secondary schools and the teachers”. It was responsible for the Mid Herts area, which included Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn Rural District and Hatfield Rural District. It had four secondary schools in its area: two in Welwyn Garden City, one in Welwyn and St. Audrey’s Secondary Modern School in Hatfield. Cuffley was excluded at this time on the grounds that it should be in East Herts. Potters Bar was catered for by Middlesex County Council until April 1965.

The problems for the new Divisional Executive were no less difficult than for its predecessor. But it may have been heartened by the criteria announced in February 1948 in order for projects to qualify for inclusion in the County’s Educational Building Programme. These were to meet new housing developments or increased birth rate or to relieve gross over-crowding. Hatfield Rural District appeared to qualify on all counts and great efforts were being made to find a school site in Brookmans Park as described in the previous chapter.

Meanwhile temporary relief was found for the children of the Hatfield Rural area with the opening of Howe Dell Secondary Modem School in Hatfield in January 1949. Accommodation was in three prefabricated buildings of three classrooms each made by Arcon Ltd. This extra accommodation made it possible, at long last, to reorganise the rural schools of North Mymms Boys. North Mymms Girls, Little Heath County Primary, Northaw Voluntary Primary. Newgate Street Voluntary Primary and the Royal Victoria Patriotic School in Bedwell Park.

In October 1948 Mid Herts Divisional Executive Secondary Sub-Committee were asked by parents of children at Westfield School if their children could transfer to Howe Dell School at age eleven. They were told they could lilt was agreed by the Managers of the School.

Two interesting asides mentioned in the Executive’s Minutes in 1949 were requests for schools to help out with the harvest due to the shortage of labour and the new Instruments of Government of Secondary Schools. This latter related to nominations to governing bodies of schools where some of the pupils were girls. In this case one third of members nominated, with a minimum of one, should be women.

With the official opening of Howe Dell on 26th March 1949 the immediate concerns for North Mymms secondary children altered from accommodation to transportation. The Divisional Executive discussed the cost of the fare from Essendon and North Mymms to Hatfield in March and May 1950. Also parents asked that a bus shelter be provided at Essendon Mill and an additional bus to take their children from Essendon Church to Essendon Mill.

The high cost of hired transport to Howe Dell School in the Old Rectory. Hatfield for 160 children from all-age village schools was reported to the County’s Education Special Services Sub-Committee in December 1949. This amounted to £4 10s. per day (£4.50 in decimal currency). The total cost of school transport in Hertfordshire in the year ending 31st March 1948 was £66,649.

This short respite from accommodation problems with the opening of Howe Dell School did not last long. The County’s Planning Committee was informed in June 1949 that a New Town for 26,000 people was planned for Hatfield. The population was currently 8,250. Two new Secondary Modern Schools of four-form-entry, one gram­mar school of one-form-entry and a technical college would be needed.

Meanwhile one of the last unreorganised rural primary schools in the area was reorganised. That was Cuffley Primary School. In September 1952, fifty-seven senior pupils transferred to Cheshunt, Cambridge Road Secondary School. This was despite the new scheme of Divisional Educational Administration whereby Cuffley Junior and Infants schools were to be included in the Mid Hens Division.

In September 1954 Burleigh Secondary School in Hatfield admitted children for the first time. Two schools would be created out of the existing St. Audrey’s in Hatfield. Children living south of the St. Albans/Hertford Road, which included the North Mymms and Brookmans Park children, would remain at St. Audrey’s with the rest of the children transferring to the new Burleigh School in Wellfield Road. Howe Dell, which had become a department of St. Audrey’s, would cease to be used for secondary education from September1954 whilst it was intended that St. Audrey’s would transfer to a new site in Travellers Lane in 1956.

As is common in all such schemes the official opening of St. Audrey’s on the new site did not take place until 17th October 1958. The old St. Audrey’s School building is now occupied by Countess Anne Primary School. Similarly the old Howe Dell Secondary School is now a Primary School with the same name and still using the Arcon classrooms.

There were so many concurrent events taking place at this time both in the County and in Hatfield which affected the eventual building of Chancellor’s School, but one that reflects the mood of the time took place in October 1961. The County’s Education Committee received a Report which stated that “For many years children of Secondary school age from the rural areas of the Mid Herts Division have gone to school at Hatfield but from 1963 all the places in St. Audrey’s School will be required for New Town children. It is essential, therefore, that the Brookmans Park School should be available by that date to accommodate the country children.”

It would not be until this was achieved that for the rural children in the Brook­mans Park area. R. A. Butler’s message of 1944 would have any real relevance. It was this action that, for them, would “convert legal phraseology into a living force”.

Foreword and details about the author
Chapter One - The search for a site
Chapter Two - What happened to the rural children 1944-1964
Chapter Three - Construction - The first instalment
Chapter Four - The Completion

Aerial views of the site 1947, the school in 1968 and 1980 click here
The assembly hall and the main teaching block 1964 and sixth form block 1980
Form photographs 1964/65 and staff photo summer 1966
Library block under construction and completed 1967
Science block and mathematics block 1980

Note: The original book, written by Lilian Caras, had a number of other sections covering the teaching staff, first pupils and lists of head girls and boys, chairmen of governors, governors and chairmen of the PTA, but these parts of the book are not reproduced here.

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