24th May 2024

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Working hard for the people of Wickersley

Schools in Wickersley

The Church School can be traced back to 1714 when Leonard Purseglove was master. The early school was conducted in private houses and in a small building near the main road. A new National School and master's house was erected in 1855 at a cost of £750. On the death of the master, Thomas Shaw, in 1864 a dispute arose between the Rector and the Vestry Meeting over the right to appoint a new master. The Rector prevailed but the Vestry attempted to keep the old school going by appointing a master of their own. This breakaway failed after a few years for want of pupils and the old school was converted into a stable and then a blacksmith's shop and a storeroom before being sold by the Parish Council for £45 in 1911. By the 1890s the National School housed c150 pupils with three teachers.

With the growth of population in the village, the church school became overcrowded and in 1909 a temporary tin school was erected on Bawtry Road. The temporary school was replaced by the Bramley and Wickersley Council School in 1911. These buildings now form the nucleus of Wickersley School and Sports College. The building of houses at Listerdale led to a great increase of children at the Council School which was not relieved until the opening of Listerdale Primary School in 1938. This enabled the Wickersley schools to be re-organised and the Council School became a mixed Secondary school. The Church School became Voluntary Controlled Primary School in 1947 and a new Church School, St Albans Primary, was erected in 1965.

Wickersley Northfield Lane Primary School opened in 1967 - again in response to an increasing Wickersley population.

Wickersley 'Dame' School

These are images of the 'Dame school' in Wickersley. It is located at the rear of Sorby's hairdressers and can be accessed from Morthen Rd on a narrow footpath which links through to Sitwell Terrace.

It looks more like a coal shed or outhouse.

The story goes that the larger door was for the teacher and the smaller door for the children. When a child was too tall to enter through the small door, standing upright, then they were deemed 'big enough' for work!!

'Dame schools' were small, private schools run by working class women, and occasionally men, often in their own homes. References to dame schools can be found from the 16th century onward. They were the precursors of nursery, or infant, schools in England. They existed in England possibly before the 16th century in both towns and rural areas and survived into the 19th century. The school was frequently in the teacher's home, in which the children were taught the alphabet and some reading from the New Testament and given household chores.

Often, 'Dame schools' had a poor reputation and were seen as a cheap form of daycare. The London inspector of the British and Foreign School Society in 1838 reported that "I am quite satisfied in the dame schools they cannot teach reading"; he had never found a dame-school child who could read unless the child had been taught in an infant school.

The British Newcastle Commission reported in 1861:

The number of children whose names ought (in summer 1858 in England and Wales) to have been on the school books, in order that all might receive some education, was 2,655,767. The number we found to be actually on the books was 2,535,462, thus leaving 120,305 children without any school instruction whatever.

The Commission looked at the previous year's data and found that 2,213,694 children of the poorer classes were in elementary day schools. But of this number:

  • 573,536 were attending private schools, such as dame schools where a woman provided child care facilities and a little reading, writing and arithmetic in her own home. These failed to give the children an education which would be serviceable to them in later life.
  • The other 1,549,312 children were attending public elementary day schools belonging to the religious denominations (church schools), but all but 19.3% were under 12, so were in primary departments. Only 300,000 were receiving any form of extended education, which was believed to be essential.
  • As many as 786,202 attend for less than 100 days in the year and could therefore hardly receive a serviceable amount of education.
  • A large proportion of the teaching was inefficiently done.
  • "Much, therefore, still remains to be done to bring up the state of elementary education in England and Wales to the degree of usefulness which we all regard as attainable and desirable"

The Elementary Education Act 1870 an outcome of the Newcastle Commission, set the framework for schooling of all children between the ages of 5 and 12 in England and Wales. Subsequently, most 'Dame schools' closed.

Wickersley School and Sports College

Wickersley School and Sports College

Bramley and Wickersley Council School built in 1911

Bramley and Wickersley Council School built in 1911

Wickersley School and Sports College

Wickersley School and Sports College

New buildings at Wickersley School and Sports College

New buildings at Wickersley School and Sports College

St Albans Primary School

St Albans Primary School ...

The new playground for the infant children at St Albans School

The new playground for the infant children at St Albans School

Northfield Lane Primary School

Wickersley Northfield Lane Junior School opened in 1967 and the Infants School opened two year later in 1969. The school is built on the north field of what was a nearby farm - hence the name - on land owned by the Warde Aldam estate. The school was needed as the population of Wickersley grew with the building of new houses - especially the 'Trees Estate' and the lack of capacity in the Local church School, St Albans and the nearby Listerdale School which had been built in the 1920's / 30's(?) to accommodate children from the Listerdale Estate.


The first headmaster of Northfield Junior School was Mr Roy Stubbs. It is said that he lived on site in a caravan as the school was being built and had input into aspects of the building process. It was he who asked that spare soil be used to create 'hills' to add more interest to the outdoor play space for children. In the early stage there were two schools – Infants and Junior - and these were organised and run as two separate establishments on the same site.

The Junior Headteachers were Mr Roy Stubbs; Mr Jim Hind;

The Infant Headteachers were Mrs Plant; Mrs Potts and then Mrs Margaret Blackburn

When the two schools amalgamated in 2003 the new Head of both schools was Mrs Margaret Blackburn following the retirement of Mr Jim Hind. She was followed by Ms Liz Ruston; Ms Sue Warner.

In November 2014 the school became part of the White Woods Academy Trust and the Headteacher then became Mr John Henderson. He was succeeded by Miss Claire Middleton who is the current Headteacher (July 2020)

Memories of the school in its early days

One of the original pupils who has retired this year from working at Northfield, remembers playing in the nearby wheat fields.

Both school halls were boarded with beautiful wooden panelling, still there but covered over in a more modern style. The parquet floors are still lovely and have been the pride of many caretakers, not to mention a lot of hard work.

There is a small area off the Junior Hall where dinners are now served. Originally, that was the Junior dining room, large enough at the time as the vast majority of children went home for dinner. The Juniors had a foot shower room, now a library, for use after PE. The 4 lower end classes interconnect and originally did not have separating doors as Mr Stubbs wanted some integration between classes. In 1979, there were curtains between classrooms but they were soon replaced by doors.

There used to be a school bonfire each year. The Parish Council asked if it could be for Wickersley rather than just for the school. Eventually it became too big to organise safely and so was stopped.

The school also used to hold a big Summer Fair organised by the PTA with stalls, refreshments and entertainments provided by the children and the staff. One teacher recalls her and her husband teaching the children country dancing so that they could put on a display.

Success at sport and music

Northfield children were very successful at sports and music. During his time there, Mr Stubbs ran gym and orchestra classes. Staff ran many out of school hours clubs such as football, matball, art, drama, recorder and guitar. Peripatetic teachers taught string, woodwind, brass and percussion. The school held concerts, a Carol service and at Easter put on plays. One play was led by Mr Stubbs with pupils from the top year. One was put on by the then year 2 (now Y4) children which was led by their two teachers. Staff had to write, cast, rehearse, organise or make costumes, do make up, provide or create props- a lot of hard work but a highlight of the year. Later, the school performed pantomimes, again written and organised by staff, which were always hilarious.

When the Primary and Junior schools amalgamated in 2003 grant funding was secured to build a new entrance and this is when the two iconic blue upturned boats were introduced. These were used to provide a shared staff room and a teaching area.

More recently, the concept of a Learning Journey was introduced, a short topic which led all the learning for children. One of these was Science led about growing plants. This led to a relationship with Winthrop Gardens.

Said Sharon Cooper, a former teacher at the school, "We decided to put on a Garden Centre for parents at the end of the Learning Journey. I had heard of Winthrop from a couple of people who had visited it and it seemed a shame to waste such a valuable local resource. We had a visit to school by a volunteer who told the history of Winthrop. Children then visited for inspiration, had a talk from the Head Gardener who explained the sensory nature of the gardens. The children were particularly interested in the feel of the plants and in Winthrop's iconic 'red wall'. We then grew plants from seeds and produced a range of items, such as decorated plant pots for a gift stall and sold refreshments at the Garden Centre for the children's families. It was always a huge success. Years later I am now a volunteer at Winthrop - in the Tea Rooms!!"

A close up version of the iconic 'blue boats

A close up version of the iconic 'blue boats

A landscape view of Northfield School

A landscape view of Northfield School

The iconic 'blue boats'

When the Primary and Junior schools amalgamated in 2003 grant funding was secured to build a new entrance and this is when the two iconic blue upturned boats were introduced. These were used to provide a shared staff room and a teaching area.

This photograph above is of the buildings which join the school containing staff room, office and teaching areas. It was agreed that the schools would never be truly integrated until there was one staff room large enough to be used by both staffs and a place to hold meetings.

The building won a grant for the innovative design which has only curved walls. It is made of sustainable materials. The insulation was such a new concept that no one knew how to cut it. Garden shears were used in the end I believe- I think it was made from sheep's wool.

On the left of the photograph is the Old Junior school , now KS2 and you can see the kitchens here. On the right is the old Infants building, now KS1. You can see what used to be the Infant kitchen but is now offices. On the front of that is a smaller half 'boat' which is the reception area.

The space where the boats are built used to be the car park for both schools. There were only 9 members of the teaching staff and 2 part time non teaching staff in the school's early days. They were a secretary who came in on Monday and Friday mornings to deal with dinner money mainly and a Non Teaching Assistant, as they were then known, who worked in the mornings to do the mounting for the whole school and run a pupil's saving bank scheme. A similar number worked in the infants. Some of the staff were able to walk to work so there was ample room.

When the building happened, one of the two Junior playgrounds became the new car park. The junior staff room, office space and staff toilets became a computer suite. Round 'pods' were added as work areas for staff.

Says Sharon Cooper, former teacher at the school "The school has changed beyond recognition since I started teaching there. Even the wall panels and windows have been renewed. The hills created by Mr Stubbs when the school was built have been levelled for safety - children ran up and down and played roly-poly on them. A shallow fish pond in the grounds was filled in many years ago and trees planted by a retiring teacher have grown from saplings to maturity. Fences and security gates have been installed. The strength of the school has always been the staff and that continues to this day."

The school celebrated its Golden anniversary on 15th September 2017. Staff members all contributed to a souvenir pamphlet. A time capsule was also buried with an agreement that it would be dug up in 25 years - so make a diary note to go along in September 2042!

The Parish Council is grateful for the help of Sharon Cooper, a former teacher at the school, for her help in compiling this short history of the school.

Last updated: Mon, 14 Sep 2020 14:23