Malhamdale Local History Group
Clicking on most pictures will show a larger version
of Teachers 1875 - 1974
Plan of Airton New School.
1925 - A shortage of books!
Airton primary School pupils 1954
School trip in the early 1950s.
Airton pupils from the late 1950s.
The History of Education in Malhamdale
Airton School (1875-1974)
In January 1875, the Trustees of Scosthrop School were given a Final
Notice of the inadequacy of the education provided by the school
and this notice was to expire in July of that year. The Education Department
required that the school should be made a Public Elementary School by
the engagement of a certified teacher, and the school was to be conducted
in other respects according to the provisions of the 1870 Education Act.
The Department calculated that according to the population of the four
townships of Airton, Scosthrop, Calton and Otterburn, 74 school places
In order to discuss this situation, a meeting of the ratepayers was called
in March 1875 with Rev T C Henley in the chair. The main issue was that
to comply with the demands of the Education Department, a minimum of £50
would need to be raised in addition to the present income of the school.
This could either be achieved by private subscription or by raising a
voluntary rate with a suggestion that it be paid half by the landlords
and half by the tenants. The alternative was the formation of a School
Board for the four townships as a United District. It would then be the
job of the School Board within twelve months to either rent Scosthrop
schoolroom, if terms could be agreed with the Trustees, or to build a
new school, an idea for which there was very little support. The chief
objection to the formation of a School Board was the cost of the election
of the members.
After several meetings of the ratepayers, the Airton School Board was
finally elected on October 30th 1875. It consisted of:-
The members were apparently chosen amicably at a ratepayers meeting
and elected without a contest, raising their first precept of a two penny
school rate on April 12th 1876, which provided the £54 required.
While all this was in progress, the Board had hired a cottage as a teachers
residence and Miss Moore was appointed as Mistress.
Due to the lack of any Log Book or Minute Book, little information is
available about life in the early days of the school. The main source
of information is from the published accounts of all the schools and the
Vicars letter, in the Church annual reports. From these we learn
that Miss Moore only stayed as Mistress for one year, to be followed by
Miss Paley in 1876 and Miss Alice Smith from 1877 to 1881. In fact the
turnover of staff was quite rapid with 9 mistresses, 1 master, 2 assistants,
6 pupil teachers and a sewing mistress recorded in the years 1875 to 1900
(with two years, 1892 94, not recorded). The number of pupils varied
from 44 to 73.
Space to accommodate the scholars must have been difficult because we
know that the enlargement of the classroom and the building of new "offices" ie. toilets,
cost the Airton School Board £26. 10s in 1887/8.
The following year the Vicar writes an explanation of coming changes
to the employment law. After September 4th 1892, no child between the
ages of 13 and 14 was to be allowed to work, either as a half-timer or
a full-timer at the mills, unless he had passed the exemption standard
which at Airton School Board District was the fifth standard, or else
held a dunces certificate, so a child who had
been working with a half-time certificate had to cease working at 13 to
attempt to achieve this standard in his final year. More radical still
was that after January 1st 1893, no child under the age of 11 could become
a half-timer at a mill!
Illness was also a regular occurrence. Airton School Board was closed
by order of the Medical Officer of Health in 1892 to prevent the spread
of scarlet fever.
Despite these changes, other problems were emerging. In 1898 following a visit from the Government Inspector, the then Mistress Julia Guttery, wrote a letter to an un-named person but presumably to a member of the Board, pointing out that the Government Inspectors previous recommendations had not been addressed. She wrote:
(For the year 1897/8 the school had 62 scholars and she was the sole mistress with only the help of Pupil Teachers.) Unfortunately we do not know the full reply to this plea but we do know that the accounts after that year, show that both a Mistress and an Assistant were employed.
Mr Edward Taylor who had been the longest serving member of the old School
Board, gave a tea to the scholars on his birthday in 1906, and the following
year gave a sum of £9 to be invested for a yearly prize, to be given
alternately to Airton and Kirkby Malham Schools.
Conditions for the welfare of the children improved under the LEA and
from January 1st 1908 it was their duty to provide medical inspection
of the schoolchildren. The Skipton Medical Officer was Harry Stansfield.
Craven Herald of December 8th 1916 reports that the scholars, their
mothers and children under school age, were treated to tea in the Wesleyan
School at the invitation of Miss Garnett-Orme of Scosthrop House. Songs
were sung by the scholars and a lantern slide show was arranged for the
children. No doubt in the middle of the period of the war, this was a
great treat for the children.
Perhaps the children at Kirkby Malham United School were more fortunate
in the facilities provided for them, because in 1926 Fanny Nussey wrote
to Rev Baron asking if it was possible to have the loan of a few books
from time to time, from the library at Kirkby School. She wrote It
would give the children great pleasure, and be one means of enlarging
their outlook on life.
It is remembered that school life over that period was not very exciting,
so no doubt the annual school trip to Morecambe was greatly anticipated
and enjoyed at a time when few people took holidays and treats were rare.
It involved the children walking to Bell Busk station to catch the morning
train, then the day being spent at the seaside before returning by train
and finally walking back to Airton. Another treat was the June Tea Party,
a joint venture with Kirkby Malham School. Tea was provided in the Church
Hall, following school sports. Coniston Cold School used to send a team,
but for the relay only. This was their strong event which they usually
won, much to the annoyance of the other competitors!
In 1934 Miss Carter became the Infant Teacher and the following year
Miss Collin was appointed Headmistress. Miss Carter lived in Settle and
for many years cycled to Airton each day. After the introduction of the
school taxi, she made use of that service for at least part of her journey.
Miss Collin lived at Wayside Cottage in Airton.
One of the reforms of the Education Act 1944 was that secondary education
was to be available for all children from 11 years of age, and it was
to take place in separate schools specifically for that purpose. These
changes were introduced over the next few years meaning that all children
at 11 years took the scholarship examination to determine which school
they were to attend, either Ermysteds Grammar School, Skipton Girls
High School or initially Barnoldswick Secondary Modern School, later Aireville
School in Skipton. Miss Collin kept an Honours Board and any child passing
the scholarship exam, or gaining any other outstanding achievement, had
their name placed on this Roll of Honour.
Marion Wellock, a pupil at the school from 1947-53 and Joan Barker (nèe
Scarborough), a pupil from 1949-55, remember many details of school life
during these years. There was free milk supplied by W Sharp of Skellands
Farm which came in small bottles with a cardboard lid on each. The bottles
were placed near the pipes in winter to take the chill off them. School
meals originally costing 1 shilling were introduced. They were cooked
at Hellifield School and transported by car in large containers. Transport
was also provided, with a taxi from Beecrofts of Long Preston collecting
children from the farms, Hull House, Goal Farm, Wenninber Farm and the
village of Otterburn.
The school day started with an Act of Worship in addition to Scripture
lessons two or three times a week. Piez ball (rounders without a bat)
was played and drill was something of a team effort. Nature walks took
place in summer and dancing was a regular lesson enjoyed by most. It
was held for Standards 2 to 5 every Wednesday afternoon from 2.30 to
3.30 with Miss Collin as the teacher and Margaret Bolland playing the
piano. One of the outstanding memories of Marion and Joans schooldays
was the day when the BBC came to Malhamdale in February 1951, to record
for Childrens Hour. The producer was Gwen Payne and Bertha Lonsdale
assisted, possibly as the pianist. The junior children of Airton School
sang the spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. They also recorded
part of the Christmas pantomime, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, performed
in Airton Chapel Sunday School, which was produced by Mrs Mary Mason.
This was a major event they were going to be on the wireless!
In the early 1950s Miss Carter went to College for a year to further
her training and was replaced for that time by Mrs Clark from Malham.
Mrs Hodgson from Gargrave also taught at Airton for a short time. Miss
Collin retired in 1958 and was replaced by Miss Roberts who was the sole
teacher after the retirement of Miss Carter in 1972, until the school
closed in 1974.
The number of scholars in the early 50s was approximately 30, and as with many small schools, the decision was taken to close the premises and transfer the pupils to Kirkby Malham United School, leaving just one school in the Dale from 1974. The school building was sold in the late 1970s and became a private residence.
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