The final bell rings for primary school

It is the end of an era as pupils leave a Wigan school for the very last time today.

Friday, 21st July 2017, 10:59 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:32 pm
Shevington Community Primary School

The final classes will be held, the last dinners will be served and goodbyes will be said at Shevington Community Primary School.

More than 200 years since it opened as Broad o’th’ Lane School, it is time to close the doors.

Council bosses decided one of the three schools in the Shevington Federation had to shut due to surplus places and the cost, and Shevington Community Primary was chosen.

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Pupils at the school

It will bring to an end the tradition of generations of village families walking through the hallways and attending lessons at the school.

Executive headteacher Karen Tomlinson said: “I have lived in this community for 25 years and my children came to the nursery school here, so I’m quite attached to it even though I’m new, and I do think it’s very sad as to what’s happened.

“But I want to give credit to the staff here. Even throughout the difficult 18 months, the staff have shown me so much support, and the previous executive headteacher, in ensuring the children have not lost out at all.”

Head of school Gill Smith said: “It’s such a privilege to work here. The whole community is fantastic.”

From left, Executive headteacher Karen Tomlinson, head of school Gill Smith, teaching assistant Denise Murphy and admin assistant Carolyn Anderton

Louise Wade, a volunteer archivist, said: “It’s the kind of school that people go to for generation and generation.

“Children who are here now, their grandparents and great-grandparents came here.”

Jean Bretherton, who works as the school crossing patrol and a kitchen assistant, said the members of the school community made it special.

“It’s the people - children, parents - everybody was so friendly with me the first week I came,” she said.

Pupils at the school

Broad o’th’ Lane School opened its doors in 1814 and was founded by the vicar of Standish, the Reverend Richard Perryn.

Education was not compulsory at that time and boys and girls from all kinds of families could attend.

Mrs Wade has been looking into the school’s archives for the past two years and compiling its history.

Some of the earliest records are from Victorian times, including weekly diaries kept by the headteacher going back to 1872.

From left, Executive headteacher Karen Tomlinson, head of school Gill Smith, teaching assistant Denise Murphy and admin assistant Carolyn Anderton

She said: “It was a very rural community around here in Victorian times so most children came from either farming families or canal families, going up the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.”

She said children living on farms would walk to the school from quite a large area, as well as going home and back at lunchtime. This led to attendances dropping if the weather was bad or if children were needed to help during harvest.

Children were traditionally taught the “three Rs” but also had object lessons, where they learned about silk or glass for example.

And each year they had to learn a poem and recite it when an inspector visited.

There have been many changes to the school over the years, with the original building on Miles Lane now two houses.

The school moved into its current nearby building in the 1920s and it has been extended several times.

It was originally heated by coal fires and around 100 children would be taught in one room by a single teacher and two pupil-teachers, who were teenagers training to become teachers.

There have been several name changes over the years, including Shevington County Primary School, before it took its final name in the early 2000s.

The school retains aspects of its history, including an oven in the headteacher’s office and an honours board presented in 1932 by Mayor of Salford, Coun JF Emery, who lived in Shevington.

Perhaps one of the most famous features of the school was its open-air swimming pool, which was used by pupils from the 1960s to 1980s.

Mrs Wade said: “People remember it with a mixture of love and horror. They loved it if it was a really nice day, especially at the end of term when they would spend all day splashing around, but if it was cold it was horrible and full of moss and leaves.

“Everyone remembers it fondly in the community.”

Carolyn Anderton joined the school as a pupil in 1971 and works there as admin, having previously been a teaching assistant.

She said her favourite memories of the school were the swimming pool and she still swims with her head up to avoid items floating in the water.

She also remembered the school dinners served when she was a pupil, including semolina with a large blob of jam.

Mrs Anderton said: “I’m absolutely heartbroken, it cuts deep. There are so many memories here.”

Denise Murphy, a former pupil who became a teaching assistant at the school, remembered getting changed in the corridor before PE lessons.

She said: “My father came here, I came here, my children came here - whole families have been through here and that’s something you can’t replace.”

And it was not just the swimming pool that people remember about the school.

Mrs Smith said: “Older members of the community have talked about the discipline that went on at school and how they were brought into the headmaster’s office.

“Quite a few of them remember surnames of headmasters so they must have been revered people. They remember coming to the office to get the slipper.

“They remember some of the teachers as well and the school being different, the outside toilets etc.”

Since the closure was confirmed, people have been travelling from far and wide to pay a final visit to the school, with one man even coming from Canada.

Today there will be leavers’ assemblies for the remaining 51 pupils at the school, which was rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted last year.

A time capsule is being put together with the school’s uniform, a diary and other things related to it.

Efforts are being made to ensure that although the school is closing, the memories of those who attended and worked there will live on.

Mrs Wade has compiled a large collection of material from over the years, including many photographs, log books, admissions, registers and inspection reports.

There is a punishment book from the 1960s detailing what children had done wrong and how many strikes of the cane they would receive.

They were put on display for an open evening at the school on Tuesday evening, attended by former pupils and members of the community.

The items will now be passed to Wigan Archives so they can be accessed by future generations.

And Mrs Wade is looking to write a book about the school, which will preserve its history for years to come.