Schooling in Cullompton

The first record I can find is of two schoolrooms being built in 1816.  One for poor boys and one for poor girls. The schoolrooms were built on land donated by Revd  Walter Gray, who was vicar of Cullompton 1814-19, at the top of Exeter Hill.  The cost of building these two school rooms was met by gifts of £200 each from Henry Brutton and the Trustees of the late Miss E Pryor (who had left money for benevolent purposes for the town) plus a grant of £100 from the National Society.  Church of England principles were taught, along with reading, writing and arithmetic plus needlework for the girls.

In 1872 a new school was erected in Exeter Road where the Hayridge Centre and car park now sit.  The building cost £2315, the money was raised by voluntary subscriptions, grants, church collections and the proceeds of the old school premises.

school on Exeter Road
The school on Exeter Road

The annual examination of the school was published in the Parish Magazine.  An example from 1892 states that “the Senior Inspector for the Diocese, the Revd R J E Baggis carried out the inspection of 534 children; 175 boys, 158 girls and 201 infants.  The Boy’s School report was

“…very good discipline is thoroughly maintained, and the boys have been taught with much ability…. The Catechism, however, wants fuller explanation, and the Prayer Book subject has not received sufficient attention, but otherwise the work of the school is excellent”

The Girl’s school was said to be “in admirable order with much attention devoted to the instruction”.

By June 1903 the number of children on the school register had fallen to 510 but standards were still high and the annual inspection of that year praised the girls in particular as the report stated:

“the girls throughout have a very full and intelligent knowledge of Christian Faith and Duty, the result evidently of earnest and painstaking teaching and of loving care for their moral and spirited well-being”

The school was built and maintained by the Church. Parishioners in Cullompton were exempt from paying school fees unlike in some other areas where people were expected to pay.  The Sandon Act of 1876 imposed a legal duty on parents to ensure that their children were educated and The Elementary Education Act 1880 required school boards to enforce compulsory attendance from 5 to 10 years, and permitted them to set a standard which children were required to reach before they could be employed.  Poorer families were often tempted to send their children to work but they were required to have a certificate to show that they had reached the educational standard and employers who were unable to show this were penalised.

The 1891 Elementary Education Act provided for the state payment of school fees up to ten shillings per head which meant that primary education could be provided free.  The Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act 1893 raised the school leaving age to 11 and extended compulsory education to blind and deaf children and made provision for the creation of ‘special’ schools.  An Act in 1899 raised the school leaving age to 12, it was later raised to 13.

The Education Act 1902 changed things as it required that all ratepayers should be liable for their proportionate share in the support of the education provided in elementary schools. Local Education Authorities were set up and school boards were disbanded.  The Fisher Education Act 1918, which was not implemented until 1921, made secondary education compulsory up to age 14 and gave responsibility for secondary schools to the state. 

St Andrews Primary School was built in 1937 and all the children between the ages of 5-11 moved from the school on Exeter Hill to St Andrews and the school on Exeter Hill became known as ‘Cullompton Senior Secondary Modern Mixed’.  The headmaster’s office and the staffroom were in the peak of the roof over the centre of the hall and were very cramped.  Games were played on a field in Duke Street and the asphalted playgrounds were used for netball and gymnastics. There were no changing rooms, the boys removed their football mud at one basin in a corridor outside the needlework room.  The toilets were across the playground and very draughty.  There was no science lab, just a collection of batteries and jars, but there were areas for woodwork, needlework and cookery.

When Mr Ken Edwards arrived as Headmaster in 1963 the first thing he had to do was have the ceiling beam in the head’s office removed as he was considerably taller than his predecessor Mr Chapman.  As the school could not be adapted to provide more modern facilities a brand new school was built in Exeter Road.  The new premises included a hall/gymnasium, library, science laboratory, housecraft rooms, history and geography rooms and six classrooms.  There was also additional space for music and technical drawing.  The cost of the new school was £132,000 and the move to the new school took place in summer 1964.

In 1974 the school underwent another building programme when it became a comprehensive.  Prior to 1974 any child living in Cullompton or the surrounding area that passed their 11plus went to Tiverton Grammar School.

Willowbank infants School opened Sept 1980 as St Andrews was starting to become crowded.  The younger children moved to Wilowbank (age 4-8) and St Andrews became a junior school for children aged 8-11.  In the early 1990’s it was suggested that Willowbank Infants School and St Andrews Junior School should become primary schools.  The Secretary of State approved the change in 1992 with effect from 1994.  However financial constraints delayed the implementation until September 1996.

There are plans to build a third primary school as part of a new development between Tiverton Road and Rull Lane, on land behind the Integrated Centre for Health in Willand Road but this may still be a few years away.

Other schools previously in Cullompton include:

Our Lady of Dolours Convent School: The sisters came to Cullompton at the request of Revd Bouchier, they bought Heyford House to establish a school and lived at the Walronds.  The school flourished throughout the 1930’s but closed towards the end of the Second World War.

Gurdlestone School: The school was run by Miss Gaynor Roberts and Miss Winstone and used a variety of buildings, rarely staying for more than a term or two.  These includes Church Street, The Glen in Willand Road, Sellwood House in Pound Square and the Baron’s in Queens Square.

 It was taken over by Mrs Lucy Hill and was transferred to St George’s House. In 1938 her husband bought Victoria Hall in Tiverton Road and their daughter Barbara set up Glanherne School there. The rooms were very cramped and the school transferred to Heyford House in 1946/7.  Miss Hill married a Mr Brocklehurst and the school continued under a new headmistress called Miss Ewart.  The school closed in the early 1960s and for a time the property became Dr Hammond’s surgery.