Highbridge, Now Beechfield, Infants School

The Education bill of 1906 was intended to secure full public control of all rate-aided schools and to appoint teachers without reference to religious belief. This would have destroyed the purpose for which the church schools had been built; it encountered strong opposition from Anglicans throughout the country.  In Highbridge, it raised a storm of protest and at a public meeting a resolution was passed that was forwarded to the Bishop of the Diocese the Rt. Hon. A.J, Balfour, M.P. and to the Marquis of Lansdowne, for presentation to the “House of Lords” On September 9th 1913 there was great excitement when Mr. H.Shepherd opened the Infant School for the younger children at 5.pm. It had been built to accommodate 160 children in four classrooms, with the maximum amount of access to sunlight through the windows. Classrooms were made to open up into corridors and then onto verandas, so that teaching could be done in the open air. It was heated by hot water, each classroom also having an open fire with inlets for circulating warm air.

It had been built near the Church School to allow the siblings to transport them safely to school, whilst the nearness of the Church may have been a reminder of what was owed to the Church and her labours in the matter of Education.

The first Headmistress was Miss Ellen S. Baiden her assistants were Miss Edith Brooks and Miss Eliza Bowering. Miss Bowering was still teaching young pupils in 1934; it therefore appears that she was happy with her task having been at the school since 1913.

Extracts from School Log Book

February 6th 1928: from H.M. Inspectors Report:

This school possesses all the characteristics of a good infants school. The children are very bright and active, willing and eager to talk. They clearly enjoy coming to school. It is a happy place.

November 12th 1934—- The ‘Milk Scheme’ was started here today. Mr T. Marsh of Walrow, Highbridge supplied 91 bottles. The children drank it with relish, through straws.

September 11th 1939 ——Gas mask drill throughout the school.

A.R.P. During closure, strips of white paper, 1 inch wide were gummed on the school windows, so-‘X’ as prevention against splintering glass. Buckets of water and earth were placed outside the building. At this time all children carried their gas masks to and from school.

In 1945 school numbers were at 260 and attendances at 91% over the previous year; staff comprised the Headmaster and deputy, plus eight teachers.  A new kitchen at the premises ensured meals were cooked and served at school; seven dinner ladies kept order.

After St John V.C. Junior School had opened on Burnham Road, alongside the Infants School in 1973 there appeared to be a problem of identity for the two schools, it was decided to change the name of the Highbridge Infants School to Beechfield Infants School.

With numbers at the school continuing to increase a major building programme was undertaken in the mid 1970’s to expand the school with additional teaching areas, these were added to the original building. Then in 1990 major building took place resulting in 2 new Classrooms, Main Hall, and Dining Area and a Staff Room.

Mrs. S. Aslett, the current Head Teacher (2004) and her staff, kindly provided the information.

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