Proposed Closure of Christ Church School
County Council Inquiry, March 1923
By Geoffrey Cordingley
A report in Hertfordshire Mercury, 31st March, 1923
COUNTY COUNCIL INQUIRY
PROPOSED CLOSING OF A HERTFORD SCHOOL
A public inquiry was held by the Hertfordshire County Council on Tuesday evening [27th March] at Christ Church Infants School, Bengeo into the proposal to close the school on the ground that it is no longer required for the needs of the district and entails unnecessary expense to the ratepayers.
The inquiry was held by three members of the County Council, namely, Cannon Glossop (chairman of the County Education Committee) who presided, Sir Charles Hadden and Mr W. Graveson. Sir. Charles Longmore (Clerk of the County Council), Mr. A. Hallidie (Chief Education Officer of the County), the Vicar of Christ Church, Lady Longmore, Mr. C Cox, Mr. A. Earl, Mr. F.G. Brient (managers of the school) and about 30 parents and parishioners were also present.
Canon Glossop explained the object of the inquiry. He said there were only about 40 children in average attendance, and within a short distance there were 50 vacant places at Bengeo School, 100 places vacant at St. Andrew’s School, and 66 vacant at Cowbridge School. If this school was kept open it meant an expenditure of £462 a year in teachers’ salaries. He could quite understand that there would be regrets at the closing of the school, because it had an very excellent head mistress [Marion L. Porter], but it was rather a strong order to want to retain it at such expense when there was accommodation elsewhere in the immediate neighbourhood.
The Vicar said he could not oppose the closing of the school. It was claimed that the children would lose their church teaching, if it were closed, but he found that in five years, out of 114 boys and girls who had left the school, 26 boys and 24 girls went to church schools whilst 29 boys and 25 girls went to non-church schools. So the probability was that if the school was closed they would still get as many children attending church schools.
Canon Glossop, in answer to a question, said that probably another school would be found for the head mistress at the same salary if the school were closed, especially as she had done such excellent work here.
Mr. H. D. Wheatcroft said that on grounds of economy and sentiment the retention of the school was indefensible; but he wished to put in a word for the mothers of the children, whose anxieties would be increased if the infants had to go further and face greater dangers of traffic.
Mr. A. Earl, as one of the managers, strongly opposed the closing of the school. As a churchman he felt it his duty to keep the school open if possible. He contended that there would be very little saving in expense by the closing of the school, and it was undoubtedly going to put the parents to great inconvenience if they had to take their children further from home. He criticised the attitude of the County Council in wanting to economise by closing this small school, and yet they spent £4,000 on buying the land for a Grammar School which would not be utilised for years. In 1919 there were 94 children attending this school, and he believed it would get back to this number again.
Mr. Brient said the managers were faced with a very serious expenditure for improved lavatory accommodation, and they had not got the money. It was only by the kindness of the Medical Officer of Health that the matter had been allowed to lapse so long.
Canon Glossop said that it would cost a good deal of money to put the school into proper condition, and the parishioners would have to put their hands in their pockets , because the the County Council were not allowed to spend the ratepayers’ money on repairs to Church Schools. He was of opinion that the children would get a better education in a larger school, and there would be a great saving of expense. It would be very difficult to stand up to the County Council and defend such a position as they had here.
Mr. Welch said there seemed to be a lot of red tape about this business. The church people had wangled the County Council to close the school in order to use it as a lads’ club. They had bought a piece of ground but could not get the money to erect the building and now they wanted to turn the children out to make way for this club. The building was given as a church school, and they had no right to put it to any other use.
Canon Glossop said there was no red tape about the rates, they were a serious matter. This was not the only case in the county. There were quite a number of schools in a similar position, and some of them had already been closed without injuring the interests of the children in any way.
Several questions having been answered, the inquiry was closed, the Chairman thanking those interested for their attendance.