Lea & Garsdon CofE Primary School - History

There was no school in the parish in 1818, but two schools by 1833. There may have been a school at Garsdon in the 1840s but by 1858 the Garsdon children attended the school at Lea. They had a total attendance of 22 children. The school at Lea was affiliated to the National School by 1846. This was originally a one room thatched building, with a stone floor, which became very overcrowded. The pupils were taught by a Master and a Mistress. There was also a small 'day and boarding' school in Lea which taught about 15 scholars. A new school was built in Lea in 1873 with a school house and this served Lea, Cleverton and Garsdon.

Fees were paid for each child until 1891, normally at the rate of one penny (0.4p) or twopence a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with assistant teachers, pupil teachers and monitors. The pupil teachers were taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College and eventually became teachers themselves. They mainly taught the younger children. Monitors were also paid but tended to be younger and helped to look after the younger children or teach the infants.

School holidays were at similar times to those of today but often there was only 2 days at Easter but a week at Whitsun. The summer holidays were of five or six weeks and were called the Harvest Holidays as the children either helped with the harvest or carried food and drink to their parents, who were working in the fields. There were more half-day and whole day holidays for special events. Half a day would be given after the annual H.M.I. or Diocesan inspections and there were holidays for school treats, choir outings, chapel teas, Christmas parties and at times when the school was needed for other purposes.

There were also many unauthorised absences. These would be for seasonal work, such as haymaking (June) and early or late harvest (July or September), being kept at home to help their parents, and working when they should have been at school. Bad weather such as heavy rain, cold weather, or snow kept children away from school, often because their parents couldn't afford to buy them suitable clothes. Apart from the usual colds and coughs there were more serious illnesses than today and these included, mumps, measles, whooping cough, scarletina and diphtheria.

The elementary subjects were the '3 Rs' - reading writing and arithmetic. Scripture was often taught by the vicar and children would have attended church for services on some days. Older children were taught history and geography and there may have been some study of natural history. Singing was taught to all ages and all the girls and some of the boys would have done needlework. Drawing had been introduced by the 1890s.

Attendance at the school fell from 94 to 39 between 1906, when Wiltshire County Council took over the ownership of the school, and 1919, and there were 42 children in 1936. By 1954 the older children attended the secondary school in Malmesbury leaving about 36 children in the village school. The school buildings were then extended in 1976, and by 1989 there were 110 children in attendance. In 2007 about half the 97 pupils lived in the traditional catchment area of the parish while the remainder came from Malmesbury and other villages; there were four mixed age classes. In May 2010 there were 87 pupils at the school.