In the 19th century National Schools were created all throughout England and Wales by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. These schools were to provide elementary education to the children of the poor in accordance with the teachings of the Church of England. They were amongst the first schools to provide a near universal system of elementary education. Gradually, they were absorbed into the state system which came into existence either as fully state-run schools or as faith schools funded by the state.
The aim of the National Society was to establish a school in every parish. The schools were usually adjacent to the parish church and named after it. As part of this initiative, in 1832, a school was opened attached to St. John’s Church, Hyde Park Crescent. In 1862 another school was opened attached to St. James’s Church, Sussex Gardens and two years later a third school was opened in the area attached to St. Michael’s Church, Star Street. These schools served the local communities some of whom lived on barges on the canal. The schools took boys and girls from infants through to 14 years of age which was then the official school leaving age.
At the outbreak of World War II all three schools were evacuated to Cornwall and St. John’s School never reopened. Sadly, St. Michael’s Church was destroyed during the war and the parish eventually rejoined the parish of St. John’s. However, the school continued until 1970 when it closed down with any remaining pupils joining St. James’s School which later added the name of St. Michael’s to its own.
As time has passed the connection with the defunct church and school of St. Michael’s has become but a memory. Our communities now are based around the parishes of St. James and St. John. Therefore in 2013 the Board of Governors decided to change the name of the school to better reflect this. From September 2014 the new name will be St. James & St. John Church of England Primary School.
The school has come a long way over the past 40 years and though the main school retains its wonderful Victorian buildings behind a striking facade on Craven Terrace, the inside provides up to date facilities and a modern approach to learning underpinned by Christian values. The school has gained more space by having the Early Years’ unit in a refurbished part of St. James’s Church complete with its own playground. In the main school another section has been redeveloped to provide two modern classrooms plus a stunning, brand new extra classroom making use of the wonderful vaulted roof.