|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 8th July 1955, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Part of the ‘Spotlight on Rushden’ series
Crammed primary schools may turn away new pupils
Rushden junior and infant schools are so overcrowded that teachers say an educational breakdown will threaten if registers grow much larger.
New zoning measures are proposed that will spread the load more evenly over the schools, but this is not considered to be a long term solution.
Rushden’s growth, prosperity and large child population are placing the Victorian infants and junior school buildings under heavy pressure.
The large number of children is accentuating the shortcomings of buildings put up when educational standards were much below those of today.
National Policy to Blame
This problem at Rushden is not only to do with the post-war high birth rate “bulge,” or increased number of pupils, which has now reached the “eleven plus” age group and is passing into the secondary schools.
Rushden’s educational worry is also due to younger children crowding the primary schools.
The town is suffering because national policy now is to concentrate on secondary schools in which the large number of children born in the immediate post-war years can complete their education.
Rushden is getting its share of the expansion of the secondary schools through improvements at North End and Tennyson Road.
But this, it is feared, may push the primary schools out of the picture, and teachers comment: “We are afraid we may have missed the bus.”
The new Tollbar and Queen Street estates, in which young families live, are the homes of many of the children who are now straining accommodation at the Alfred Street and Newton Road schools.
At Newton Road, eighty children will leave the junior school at the end of the summer term, but 130 are due to move up from the infants’ school.
This means that as matters stand there will not be enough room for them, and thirty or forty may have to stay down in the infants’ school.
The effect of not “going up” when they should is likely to handicap them in preparing for the schools examination in a few years time.
In turn, this may affect the intake at the infants’ school, and it is feared that there will be no room for some children who have reached school age.
Newton Road is the school which not only uses the hall for classes, but which has been compelled to bringing a totally unsuitable attic into use as a classroom.
A hissing cistern is fixed on the wall above the pupils, the teacher has to stand in a window alcove to lecture, the stairs are narrow and steep, and try as they may the class has been unable to find a position for the blackboard where reflections do not spoil the view of some children.
A new classroom for the school has been promised since last August.
Classes of Fifty
At Alfred Street school the staff faces a similar position. There are several classes of fifty and over, and the hall has to be used as a classroom
A new classroom is expected to free the hall, but work on it is only in the early stages.
South End school has a problem all its own, for, although bordered by a large area of vacant land, the playground is so small that each child has only about three square yards in which to play.
The 306 children have 939 square yards of playground, which includes many odd nooks and corners too small for lively games
The school has tried staggering playtime so that infants and juniors are not out at the same time, but this is not practical because the noise of some children at play disturbs the others.
Other sources of complaint are the fact that children leaving their class for any reason often have to push through and disturb another class; the inadequacy of lavatories, and lack of staff room.
Beside and below the play ground runs a slimy and inviting brook. Projecting supports for the iron railings are a danger to running children.
Some of them anxious to see improvements say that at the last local election both political parties expressed concern about some of these things, but nothing has been done.
Meanwhile, because of the movement of young families away from it, Tennyson Road infants’ school is being denuded of pupils, and there is space there that the crowded schools could use.
Staffing, too, is a problem. Recruitment of teachers is now difficult because of the competition from well-paid jobs on the administrative and scientific side of industry.
Rushden, in common with other places, is feeling the pinch and finding more teachers would not be easy.
Already some staff members travel each day from Northampton and Huntingdonshire.
“About a hundred new families settling in Rushden would be enough to cause the education system to break down, in that it could not absorb all the children” was one assessment of the position this week.
But Rushden, it seems, will “get by,” though the effect on teachers and children of their crowded working conditions is hardly fair to them.
Rushden children as any caller at the schools will find, are clean, tidy, bright, and with excellent manners.
They deserve some at least of these handicaps to be speedily removed.