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Noel Longbottom
Headmaster from 1972-1993




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The History of Education in Malhamdale

Memories from Noel Longbottom, Headmaster of Kirkby Malham United School (1971 - 1993)

I came to Kirkby Malham Primary School, (number on roll 39) from a large middle school on a huge housing estate in East Hull. It was quite a culture shock but it didn’t take me long to get into the swing of things.
Miss Jean Imrie Senior HMI in West Yorkshire, and Miss Bloomfield the Area Inspector, gave me a great deal of support and help in my earlier years at the school, and as I settled in I always enjoyed a good relationship with the Inspectorate. Without exception all the inspectors said how much they enjoyed visiting Kirkby Malham School.

Because of the size of the school there was a danger that the children would be disadvantaged. I tried to overcome this by encouraging links with other small schools through sport and other joint activities. I was one of the head teachers who joined together to start the Inter–School Sports in Skipton, and the school took part in the Langcliffe 5 a side football tournaments.

Last but by no means least, I tried to forge links with people in the Dale. We didn’t have a PTA. We had The Friends of Kirkby Malham School. This group of people organised money raising activities. Kirkby Malham School Whist Drives were renowned far and wide for the excellent prizes and the superb suppers. The people of the Dale injected much needed money into the school.

Some things stand out in my memory. Thinking of the state of the world today, we had a similar ‘stand off’ in the seventies and we had a visit from a retired military man working for the Civil Defence. He came to tell me what provisions were to be made in the event of a nuclear attack. Kirkby Malham Village Hall was to be the feeding station and the food would be cooked in the kitchen at the school. This would be possible because the Dale was not wholly reliant on the National Grid. Scalegill Mill generated its own electricity and the civil defence would commandeer the mill. In all seriousness he told me that the Dale would be sealed off and machine guns mounted to repel people fleeing from Bradford trying to get to safety.

Another time I was asked to be host to a group of Education officers from Ghana who wanted to see how children of different age groups could be taught together.

In 1973 the school grew in numbers with the closure of Airton School. We increased very briefly to 74 on roll and the following year the school celebrated its Centenary. It was a lovely day – the sun shone – the marquee on the field was full of guests and parents and children. Some of the children were dressed as children from 1874. Sir Alec Clegg, Chairman of the West Riding Education Committee, gave a speech. In the school was an exhibition of antiques provided by the people of the Dale. The day was a great success but it did not raise the money it was expected to raise for the enlarging of the turning circle (car park).

The school had a reputation for the excellence of its meals and I was approached by the Sunday Times to ask if their reporters and photographers could come and sample the food and take photographs. Unfortunately the day they chose to come was also the day the new temporary classroom was to be delivered and huge cranes etc blocked the dale for hours. Consequently the Sunday Times people arrived several hours late, but Auntie Hannah’s peas were still voted highly delicious and Kirkby Malham School was ‘mentioned in despatches’ in the Sunday Times revue of school meals.

The school forged excellent links with Malham Tarn Field Centre and Tony Thomas, the Deputy Principal at the Tarn came down to the school and worked with the children on Environmental Studies. This led to some amusing happenings. Measuring the speed of the beck at Tranlands, one boy became so engrossed and enthusiastic, that he threw everything in including the measuring instruments.
Another time Jaquie Asquith fell into water up to her neck. A very bedraggled child had to be taken up to Tarn House where Audrey Disney found fresh clothes for her. Mrs Milner, the then caretaker at the school was not amused with these environmental experiments because she said it brought too much mud into the school and removed the polish from the floor. She threatened to report me to the Governors!

Other things which stand out. The wonderful Christmas plays ranging from Heavenly Choirs, Men from Outer Space and a marvellous Son et Lumiere where we sang carols old and new to a succession of slides taken around and about telling the story of the Nativity.

We went on some superb trips – to the world of Beatrix Potter, Carlisle and York (where Mrs Craydew bought a ‘big muriel’). Parents and friends were invited to join us.
Several times the whole school went to Clarke Hall and lived life as 17thC children for the day. The Juniors visited Holy Island with the Rev Barry Newthe, myself, Brenda and Jean Lonsdale, who was invaluable in getting the children out and about. Shizuko Akijamo came to demonstrate the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Last but by no means least (particularly to the children) Mr Malcolm Rhodes came up to school to get rid of a rat which had been seen scurrying across the playground. When he saw the rat loitering near the kitchen, he blasted it with his shotgun. He killed the rat but also blasted a hole into the playground!

During my time as Headmaster I saw many changes in the educational system, but I always believed a good basic education could not be bettered. Some people thought I was old fashioned – didn’t move with the times – but looking at the way things are today I think that a lot of people have come round to my way of thinking.


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