First steps to new girls' school

School opening 1919

  • MP Cecil Harmsworth pictured on September 30th, 1919, opening the ex-Army huts which by then were to be used as a temporary Modern School for Girls pending a permanent building. With him is Helen Sheldon, the new headmistress.

Alderman H. O. Williams, Chairman of the Sites and Buildings Sub-Committee, told a meeting of Luton Education Committee that it would be remembered that when the war broke out ground had been bought at Denbigh Road for the erection of new schools, competitive plans obtained and selected plans approved. But owing to the war the construction of the buildings could not be commenced.

In view of the possibility that they might soon be able to proceed they had been going over the plans again to see whether any modifications were necessary, and now recommended that the scheme should be extended to include handicraft and cookery centres.

There was no doubt that before long that would be a thickly populated part of the town, and it would be very desirable to have these centres on that site. There would be no room on the present site, but some of it was back ground, and the frontage was still available.

The vendor was willing to take £8 per pole for the land, about 20 poles, and the committee recommended that this additional land should be bought.

In the meantime they proposed to try to acquire some huts from the Duke of Bedford and use them to provide temporary accommodation pending the erection of the permanent building. This would relieve the pressure on Beech Hill.

Councillor Primett, supporting the proposal to purchase the additional land, said it had been failing in the past to have their school sites too small. It had been rumoured that building materials were only to be released for housing schemes, so it might be five years before they could attempt to erect the permanent buildings.

If a hundred houses or so were put up in the next few years they would have to find accommodation for the children somewhere, and if they could only provide accommodation in the huts for 300 or 400 it would be very useful. It was proposed to put them on the playground part of the site, so that they would not interfere with the erection of the permanent building when it was commenced.

Mrs Slatter suggested there should be a lady member on the sub-committee, for in connection with the provision of cookery centres particularly a woman's help was very necessary.

It was pointed out that this could not be arranged unless one of the present members withdrew, but that the plans would not be proceeded with until all the members had opportunity of examining them, and that the time arrived the view of lady members would be specially asked for.

With reference to the proposed temporary buildings, Councillor Barford said it was the only thing they could do at present. All the materials that could be produced would be required for huge housing schemes that were contemplated, and it was now stated that the 300,000 houses proposed nationally were a long way short of the requirements, and that probably the Government would be making further suggestions to local authorities on this matter.

In that case it was obvious that for general construction there would be a dearth of materials for many years to come, and a recent circular of the Local Government Board mentioned 1927 as the probably time when a return to stable conditions might be expected.

Councillor Briggs suggested that the inclusion of a small laboratory for elementary science should also be arranged for. Under the new Act changes in the curriculum were to be expected, and while they were building this school they should arrange to provide what it would be necessary to provide in every school later – a small laboratory for teaching elementary science.

As the the temporary accommodation, the huts, when they ceased to be used for teaching, copuld be transferred to the playing fields, which would also be a feature of the provision.

Mr Blundell questioned as to the accommodation which would be provided by the huts it was proposed to purchase, and the Chairman replied that they were expected to meet the needs of the next three years.

Alderman Arnold said he did not think it was desirable to make provision for more than three years. He was not quite so pessimistic as to think that materials would not be available till 1927. Materials were being released a little now, and without restrictions as to their use, and he could not conceive the Government would take this step unless they had reasonable ground to think the materials necessary for the housing schemes would be available, as those schemes were ready to be put into effect.

Alderman Williams said the committee would be very pleased to have the advice of lady members when the plans were being considered. The temporary huts would provide for about 300 children and would be sufficient for about three years, by which time they hoped to be able to go ahead with the permanent building,

With regard to the science laboratory, he did not know to what extent a laboratory was necessary for the teaching of science in an elementary school, but it was a suggestion which should have been considertion.

The recommendations of the committee were approved.

[The Luton News: Thursday, February 13th, 1919]