Badwell had its own school for over 150 years, until it closed in 2013.
According to a ‘Tribute to Miss Payne' in The Bury and Norwich Post, 1916 ‘…when first established it was well ahead of most village schools…as long as she was able, Miss Payne kept constant oversight, and taught almost daily. She refused any Government grant, and it was with reluctance that she relinquished her management about 5 years ago' (when she would have been 85 years old).
The school thrived throughout the first half of the twentieth century. It was taken over by the state, with extra funding from the church, and became a first school in Suffolk County Council (SCC)'s three tier education system, teaching children up to age 9. It was renamed Badwell Ash CEVAP (Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary) School.
In the 1960s St Mary's Crescent was built and the population of Badwell Ash expanded. The school building in Richer Road was no longer large enough for swelling pupil numbers. In 1970 the school moved to purpose-built premises on The Street, right in the centre of the village. Shaped like a honeycomb, it had hexagonal classrooms radiating off a central hexagonal hall. The school backed onto the village recreation grounds.
Soon after, even this three-classroom building was not big enough, and an extra ‘caravan' classroom was installed on the playground. The school roll in the mid 70s reached 118 pupils.
Since this heyday pupil numbers declined gradually as the average age of Badwell residents rose. In 1982 the SCC placed the school on a ‘hit list' of 59 schools with a roll of fewer than 60 pupils ear-marked to close. It survived but numbers still fell. By 2000 the school taught about 30 pupils. The number of teachers fell from three to two. By 2005 classes contained two year groups. In 2006 Suffolk County Council voted to change to a two-tier education system, with pupils going to Primary Schools up to age 11, and then Secondary Schools. Despite promises that small First schools would not be closed but would become Primary schools, this move was the beginning of the end for Badwell's school.
When the long-serving headmistress retired in 2008 the governors attempted to federate (share a head and some administration) the school with Walsham le Willows First school. Between 2009-13 this, and other attempts to federate the school failed, largely because headteachers were already overworked organising the change from First to Primary in their own schools. Temporary heads also came and went.
With uncertain, oft-changing leadership, and little help from the SCC or the church, the school foundered. Teachers left, the school got a bad Ofsted report and pupils left too. Despite a robust campaign to keep the school open run by parents and supported by the community, the school closed in December 2013.
(with thanks to Julie Evans for historical research)
The Old School Remembered
The old school in Richer Road was started in mid Victorian times, and was always considered a successful and well run school. I remember it in the late thirties when the teachers were two sisters, Miss Miriam and Miss Eva Howse. Miss Miriam was the headmistress and was in charge of the larger room, and the younger sister, Miss Eva was in charge of the infants in the smaller room.
In those days, one of the school's successes was a competition open to all West Suffolk schools called the "Bird and Tree". The ladies were very keen naturalists and taught the children how to present a paper on a local bird and a local tree. Badwell school won this competition many times and were very proud of this achievement. The older boys were each given a small allotment and were taught how to grow their own vegetables. This was very useful as the war was imminent.
The teachers and most of the pupils always attended Sunday School under the firm but kindly eye of the Rev. Fanshawe. Although I was never a pupil of the school, I always joined them for this. Miss Miriam led the hymn singing and I still remember her rendering of 'Loving Shepherd of thy Sheep.'
With the War came many concerts in the Church Hall, and the school always did their part with dancing and performing small plays.
The school leaving age in those days was 14, and the village school saw them right through to this age. Many of the older pupils helped with the harvest during the summer holidays for the princely sum of ten shillings a week, or fifty pence in today's currency.
Such a happy school was this, but with the population explosion in the 60's, plus the closure of Gt Ashfield and Stowlangtoft schools, a larger school had to be built.
The old school is now a private house, but leaves many happy memories behind.
Roy Le Grice