St George's School, Wickford

By Bob Plimmer

Where was this school?

When was it existing?

Do you recognise anyone in the photograph?

Did you go to this school?

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'St George's School, Wickford' page

From the John Neville Collection

This page was added by Bob Plimmer on 17/10/2012.
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St. George's School was run by a Miss Hutchinson for twenty years.  Miss Hutchinson (first name a closely guarded secret) ran the school for all ages and both sexes. The school existed as an old barn and ventilation tower, straddling the block (as was then) between Sketchley cleaners and Wickford Market.  Unbelievable as it now seems, Miss Hutchinson managed to cram up to 60 pupils into this space and still managed to give them a top-notch education.  A thousand government regulations would nowadays operate to prevent any school operating in such a place. Even in the 1950s, Miss Hutchinson fought endless battles with the bureaucrats who wanted to close her. Yet she always somehow won, perhaps because she belonged to a proud and venerable tradition in education that of a Dame School. Children from age 4 through to school-leaving age were all taught simultaneously by this lone lady. While tots practised gym, middle grades would listen fascinated to Miss Hutchinson's accounts of Good Queen Bess and the Death of Nelson, while higher grades worked quietly at their logarithms. It sounds like a recipe for chaos. Miss Hutchinson's exam results tell a different tale. When Miss Hutchinson set up her school in the 1940s, Wickford was still a minute place. To the end of her days, she referred to it as 'the village'. And it still bore many of the touches of a village school, like the day when an escaped cow from Wickford cattle market went rampaging through the school assembly.  By 1956, Wickford had changed beyond recognition, and Miss Hutchinson decided that there was no longer a place for an establishment like hers.

Extract from Wickford Life Magazine, October 1995.

The old barn and ventilation tower were behind a big house (which still exits today). Was the house also used as part of the school? Regarding the photograph above, apart from Miss Hutchinson, were all the rest pupils? or some teachers?

By Diane Sheehy
On 05/01/2013

I take great exception to Wickford Life Magazine calling Miss Hutchinson's school top-notch education. It should be ready apparent that a lone teacher can not give a proper education covering many subjects to 60 diverse ability children aged from four through to school-leaving age simultaneously in one room. This glossy spin put on by the writer of this article was very different to what I experienced at the school. There was the occasional child that did well and that was generally because they had considerable tutoring after they went home by professional teachers employed by their parents. Due to my mother's health and a reduced ability to walk long distances I was transferred in 1953 at the age of 9 from the church school in Southend Road to Miss Hutchinson's school. I attended the school for one academic year. During that year my educational improvement was more-or-less nil. In fact I think I went backwards to the attainment level of an eight year child. I personally attribute this to the large number of pupils of mixed ages and abilities in one room. No teacher has the time to switch between 60 different aged children studying different subjects at different levels. The school generated an income for the owner. After a year my parents realising their mistake in sending me to this private school moved me back into the public sector to Wickford Junior School in Market Road. At that stage I was probably at least 18 months behind other children of a similar age. I was subsequently considered to be a child of very limited ability. I was not allowed to sit my 11+ and I went onto Wickford Secondary Modern in Market Road. This school at that time had an ability streaming approach for children. The children of the lowest ability were put in a class called Remove. Today I think we would say special needs; the next class level was Lower, followed by Lower Middle, Middle, Upper Middle and Upper making in total six ability levels. There was considerable debate whether I should enter the Lower or Lower Middle stream at the age of 11. After what I think was parental pressures I was put in the Lower Middle. I spent the next four years running to try and catch up on my missing education which I solely attribute to Miss Hutchinson's school. I left Wickford Secondary Modern when I was 15 in the top stream with results in some subjects in the top two or three of the highest achieving children. I spent the next ten years studying to continue to recover my initial education loss. I subsequently qualified as a professional engineer and taught engineering before changing career to eventually qualifying as a Charted Personnel Manager. The Wickford Life Magazine article referred to 'bureaucrats' trying to close the school down. Those 'bureaucrats' were probably in fact professional educationists and it is a great shame they did not succeed in closing Miss Hutchinson down. It would have prevented many children from having a blighted education. I hope children will never have to experience a Miss Hutchinson's education approach again.

By John Fuller
On 02/07/2013

I began my education with Miss Mason, at the age of 4 years and 2 months. (See Miss Mason's school page). When sweet little Miss Mason died suddenly one day from old age, I was sad. It meant I had to go to a different school, this time Miss Hutchinson’s. Her school was in a maroon corrugated tin hut behind Barclays Bank. There was just one very large hall and I don’t remember there even being a lavatory there, but I assume there must have been. There were a lot more pupils than at Miss Mason’s – probably thirty or more, with ages ranging from four to fifteen and horror of horrors, we were all taught together! But not songs or plays or French, as at my former school, just long division! I was told to put my workings out in the margin but at five years old, since I had no idea what I was supposed to be working out, I just wrote down any numbers that I knew and invented others. She wasn’t at all pleased with me and told my Mum so. My Mum was horrified – to her I was very bright, had read from an early age and loved reading and reciting endless poems and stories. But sadly, at Miss Hutchinson’s school, all we ever read was long division! I didn’t last long there! I was very soon packed off to Wickford Infant School in Market Road for a very short spell, pending our move to Chelmsford. [It was at this new school that I met children who are now life-time friends - Phyllis D'Ath (now Tilly Lovekin), Sheila Self (now Sheldrake), Yvette Sadler (now Spiller), Deirdre Poole (now Dids Ollington) and Peter Peirce.] Interestingly, looking at the photograph above of Miss Hutchinson's School, (never knew it was called St Georges), I can only spot boys - there don't appear to be any girls. Was the school perhaps all boys initially? I do remember girls being there - Mary Offord, also a member of the Mala was one that I remember. Would be intrested to hear of any others there around 1948-9.

By SANDRA ELLIS (nee Flexman)
On 25/11/2013

Both my sister, Valerie, and I went to Miss Hutchinson's tin hut. She passed 11+ and went to Brentwood County High School. I left when it closed and had a year at the Junior School which then got me through the 11+ for Brentwood. It was a bizarre schooling system that would not suit all. The older pupils helped younger ones with those dreaded tables and reading. I am sure we did sing as it was quickly apparent I had no great voice! There was a loo tucked away behind the stage somewhere. Amazing to think we walked from Belmont Avenue on our own to the hut and back in all weathers. Half day on Wednesday with sometimes a trip on the 251 to Romford Market. Happy days!

By Frances Dartford nee Gadsdon
On 12/02/2015

I remember Valerie Gadston at St George's.  I was at the school for nine years as because of the war and living also in London I did not start school until I was six, I left in 1954. We did get inspected for standards, but I never heard any talk of us being unsatisfactory in our learning ability. In fact it was harder to learn then as we had to understand what was on the blackboard before it was wiped off, we had no reference books during our first years. Some pupils did go on to High School, a few others were slow learners and to-day would have been sent to a special school for extra tuition. It is a credit to Miss Hutchison that she coped as well as she did and even today her former pupils write and spell correctly, which cannot be said of students at my local university. The toilet was behind the school and we shared it with the shop workers, we did not even have a tap of our own and got water for painting class by going into the back room of one of the shops. No playground but we ran around outside in break time where the TV and radio shop repairmen parked their vans; one was CHJ 93. What a memory! 

Two hours for dinner time, if a child lived too far away to walk home and back in that time, the mothers would come into the town to sit with their child in the school building.

By Lorraine Taylor
On 10/03/2015

This St. George's must have been behind what is now Barclays Bank, but in those days was the poultry packers, a noisy and messy place where women worked with feather stripping machines on chickens and geese etc. The doors were open to all passers by, including all us children who said they were cruel because the chickens seemed to still be kicking. Health and Safety would have had a field day!

By bobcroot
On 04/02/2016

My wife went to St George's for a week, didn't like it so went to the Church school where she knew of John Fuller. Her name then was Maureen Cooper, John do you know her?

By bobcroot
On 07/12/2016

I remember the smell and noise from the chicken "factory" it was most distressing to see chicken bodies upside down with their heads in tubes, maybe being strangled , or so we imagined at the time, wide doors were open out on to  the road beside the Animal Market area. Most children went along the main road and took a small passageway to St Georges School to avoid this horror. 

By Lorraine Taylor
On 30/09/2017
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