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In 1870 the Portsmouth Town Council received a report showing at least 8,000 children in the town were lacking school accommodation. Consequently the Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting the provisions of the 1870 Elementary Education Act, so in January of that year the School Board for the Borough was elected. The following November saw the first Board School in Portsmouth, this being the Boys Department at the Swan Street, Lancastrian School. By the end of 1872 three entirely new Board schools were being built. 1880 marked the Board’s first ten years during which twelve entirely new schools had opened providing 9,000 places, although there were 11,000 names on the school registers.
In 1874 Mr Palmer sold half an acre of land to Portsmouth Borough Council for the sum of £900 and the School Board appointed Davis & Emmanuel of London as architects for a new school on Albert Road, Southsea. Davis & Emmanuel had previously won a competition to design some of the Board's first new schools in New Road and
On the 11th of January 1875 Southsea Board School for Boys, Girls, and Infants opened its doors for the first time. It had been designed to cater for 218 boys, 218 girls and 298 infants. It was built at a cost of £5,669. Not long after its construction an extension, designed by Alfred Bone, was added. In the rush to build schools cost was a major factor and this led to problems, by 1880 the roof of the infants and girls departments had deteriorated and were leaking to such an extent that the roofs had to be re-tiled.
In 1903, in accordance with the Education Act 1902, the Portsmouth School Board was dissolved and its functions were transferred to Portsmouth Borough Council as the new Local Education Authority.
Like many of the schools in Portsmouth the school has changed not only its name, but its function, many times over the years; changing from mixed junior and infants, to just a junior school, then back again, then to a middle school, and then to just Infants. In 1966 the infants moved to Highland Rd School, (now Cransewater Junior) and its name changed to Napier Middle School. Only a short while later in 1976 it reverted to Infants only and became Southsea First School, and subsequently Southsea Infant
School in 1993.
Over the years many things have changed, the old school headteacher's log books reveal many interesting tales, and also the everyday workings of the school. In the past medical, dental and cleanliness inspections were routine, as were vaccinations against diphtheria. The school regularly shut for Ascenion Day. However, some things never change such as the school closing for use as a polling station for elections, Harvest Festival and school trips. The following contains some of the highlights and lowlights from the logbooks.
In 1927 the School had success in an essay writing when Jessie Stubbs, 13, won the Mayor's competition for the best essay on Mayor Making, after the schools visit to the previous ceremony at the Guildhall. She was presented with an inscribed sliver wristwatch by the Mayor Cllr. F J Privett.
In 1928 following the Haddow Report the Portsmouth Education Committee was addressing the shortage of Junior school places in the City. There were however surplus Infant places and the 'Long Room' at Albert Rd School so it was divided into 3 so that one room could be used by the Juniors. Also as a temporary measure 2 classes of Juniors were re-located to Highland Road School.
The roof was still a problem in 1929 when it was re-tiled again, as well as other improvements including concreting the kitchen floor.
Following the success in essay writing in 1927, in 1937 9 1/2 year old Joan Pullinger won an Essay Competition run by Help Your Self Annual from of an entry 2,147. She received a prize of a £200 scholarship and the school received a 16mm film projector and 3 terms worth of educational films as well as £20. The finalists, 9 girls and 10 boys, spent the night in a London Hotel, and visited Olympia, before the judging, which also included an oral examination. Joan's essay was on the subject of The value of animals to mankind, and was the only entrant to tackle this subject.
Headmaster Mr R Patten, who was also President of the National Union of Teachers, was honoured in 1937 with the award by Reading University of an Honorary MA degree. He had started his teaching career at the age of 13 as a 'paid monitor' at St. John's School Portsea, and became a 'pupil teacher' at 14. He Attended Westminster Teacher Training College and returned to Portsmouth in 1901. His career flourished and he rose to be a head teacher and union president, also serving on the Burnham Committee, and was involved in the Union's Parliamentary work and represented the Union abroad.
1938 saw a sudden increase in the number of School evacuation drills, this was a prelude to the outbreak of war in 1939. The school opened during the summer holidays of 1939 to answer enquiries concerning evacuation arrangements, a portent of things to come.
Test evacuations were carried out on 28th August 1939. On the 31st August the Head's log book records: "notice was received by wireless that School Evacuations were to take place on Sept 1st 1939". The log book goes on to say: 1st September 1939: "Fifty seven children accompanied by Head Mistress & staff & 4 helpers were evacuated to the Isle of Wight". War was declared two day later.
The school remained closed until April of 1940 when it re-opened for half time education. Full time education resumed in May, only to be closed again on orders of the Board of Education in June "until further Notice, teachers to attend on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to await instructions". 13 girls and the Infants were then evacuated to Basingstoke. The school re-opened in July for the remaining junior pupils, 7 more girls going to Basingstoke. It was during this time that the School's name carved on the front wall was boarded over, in common with other signs being removed should they be helpful to an invading enemy. The School was completely closed from 2nd August to 23rd of September due to extensive air raids.
When the school re-assembled after the 1940 summer holidays in September the pupils and staff still had to contend with numerous air-raids and air-raid warnings. Attendance was noted as being poor at times due to the heavy raids. On occasions during 1940-42 the school was closed as it was being used as an Emergency Centre for homeless people as a result of the bombing. Gas mask inspections became a regular occurrence.
The campaign to raise money for aircraft, and in particular Portsmouth's second Spitfire, took a boost when the School donated a cheque for £66 10s. This was helped by donations from two benefactors, Miss Mewes & Mr Bawden, who wrote: "this is due to the enthusiasm of the children, staff, parents and friends of this, one of the smallest schools in Portsmouth. With it comes our combined good wishes for the success of "Our Plane" and for the safety of those who pilot her. May she do "great things" in defending our loved City from the enemies of freedom."
On the afternoon of 10th Sept 1943 the School was closed in celebration of the surrender of Italy. However, although less frequent, air-raids still continued, it being noted that on 26th June 1944 only 68 pupils were present following a night of almost continuous air-raid alerts.
The school played its part in keeping moral up, in 1944 a Teens Club was running in the evenings. Events included dances and dance lessons, indoor games, badminton, PT, and interesting talks.
here to view a list of the air raid warnings that the school had during WW2.
The war had other consequences too; in January of 1945 the school was closed due to a lack of coal for heating. The closure on 8th May was for a much happier reason, the log book notes: "School closed for Peace Celebrations". That was VE day.
During 1946 the School was reorganized. The Infants' Department opened as a separate unit with Miss E Silvester as Head Mistress with 129 pupils on the roll, rising to 172 by July. 1946 also saw the installation of electricity!!! The School was being refurbished, and in October the Head comments on the disruption caused by "decorators, stone masons, electricians, carpenters and plumbers" interrupting the normal running of the school. The workmen were still there after the half term break in November; and still there when the school closed for the Christmas holidays.
During the cold winter of 1946/7 the school closed on several occasions due to frozen toilets; and poor attendance due to heavy snow falls. The head notes that "the sanitation of the school is obsolete and entirely inadequate". Several week later things have not improved: "There has been a continuous frost and it has been impossible to flush the lavatories for 2 weeks. In view of the severe weather making it impossible to have playtime the children will dismiss at 3:30pm". The head's frustrations continued later in 1947 when the air raid shelters in the playground were finally demolished: "The work of the School has had to be adjusted to cope with the noise of the pneumatic drills demolishing the shelters", over a week later work was still continuing: "The continuous noise of the workmen demolishing the shelters has made routine work impossible in Class I & Class IV". On the 20th November the school was closed to celebrate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth.
At the start of1949 a measles epidemic resulted in low attendances. Miss Silvester left as head teacher at the end of 1949, moving to George St Infants. Miss Mabel Williams took up the post of Head Mistress.
Finally, in May 1951, work to update the lavatories started. The Boys lavatories were completed for the start of the new term in September. In October 1951 intruders stole 7/6d in dinner money after breaking locks overnight. By December the school as whole had become overcrowded, so St Simon's Church Hall in Albert Road (now The Salvation Army) was pressed into service accommodating 2 classes. Miss Williams left the school at Christmas to become head of Francis Avenue Infant School; Florence Irene Hide took up post as Head Mistress in January 1952.
The School closed on the afternoon of 6th February 1952, due to the death of King George VI. A short service was held. In May 1953 to celebrate the coronation of the Queen a service was held in St Simon's Church, about 600 pupils and parents from the Junior and Infant School attended. A tea party was held in the school hall and "a truly festive atmosphere prevailed". Two extra days were added to the Whitsun holiday. On the 15th of June the school was closed when the Queen reviewed the Fleet at Spithead.
In 1954 a letter was received from the City Education Department congratulating the School on the "excellence of the report made by HM Inspectors following their visit". However, the inspectors did comment of the continued use of St Simon's Church Hall, the size of all of the classes, "40 or more", and the congestion due to sharing one hall between the Infant and junior schools, particularly at lunch time when the Infants have to use a classroom for meals. September of this year finally saw St Simon's Church hall vacated after nearly 3 years.
September 1955 saw a reduction in Infant classes from 5 to 4 due to falling numbers on the roll.
The 1956 Christmas Party and Nativity in the Hall are shown in the following pictures.
Many thanks to Muriel Roberts and Roland Clark for the pictures and other recollections included below.
1956 CHRISTMAS PARTY
During the summer holidays of 1957 the whole schools was re-decorated. The start of the Autumn term saw over 25% of the pupils absent due to a flu epidemic. March of 1958 was no better, measles being the culprit. October was also no better; mumps this time! The cycle continued into 1959 when flu struck again.
In May 1959 the Duke of Edinburgh accepted the freedom of the city on Behalf of the Royal Marines, followed by a march thought the City. Pupils lined Albert Road to cheer. Every child received a Union Jack in honour of the occasion. June marked another Royal event when the Queen opened the re-built Guildhall. The school was closed from 1pm so that the children could see the Queen & Duke as they drove through the City. March 1960 saw the school closed again, in celebration of the birth of a son to HM The Queen.
During April of 1960 a chicken pox epidemic saw attendance down to 76%. Yet another royal event: the school closed for the wedding of Princess Margaret in May.
Christmas 1961 marked the retirement of Florence Hide as headmistress, Georgina Hand took over the post for the start of 1962.
The winter of 1963; the school endured freezing temperatures and heavy snow falls, and the school heating proved to be "inadequate & working conditions were extremely uncomfortable". The toilets froze and the school closed. The school heating was examined by the council who also found it inadequate. "Temperatures only reached 48 degrees Farenheit by the end of the day". The school was closed from 15th to 25th January, however, as conditions improved pipes burst and the school was forced to close again, and it did not re-open until the 29th. Portable heaters were finally set up towards the end of February. In September gas heaters were being installed to replace the existing coal fires in the classrooms. However, by December the new gas heaters also proved to be inadequate and a report was sent to the council. The gas company worked over the Christmas holidays to try to rectify the problems.
February 1964 saw a mumps epidemic hit the school with only 75% attendance. In 1965 there was another another break-in at the school, 15 shillings of School Fund money, 7 shillings of Tea Fund money, and a pair of scissors were stolen, as well as the contents of the teachers' desks being strewn around the classrooms.
The Infant School ceased to exist after the Summer Holidays of 1966, the pupils and Staff being transferred and amalgamated with the infants of Highland Road, which changed from Junior mixed and Infants to being just Highland Road Infant School, Southern Secondary Modern for Boys also shared that site. The Junior School took over all of the Albert Road site with Mr E Spurgeon as Head Master.
Following the 1974 local government re-organization Hampshire County Council became the Education Authority. September of 1975 saw Portsmouth schools being reorganized. Albert Road Junior became Napier Middle School. The Infant School was still at the Highland Rd/St. Ronan's Rd site and became Southsea First School. Southern Secondary Modern for Boys, also on that site, became an annex to Priory School in Fawcett Rd, but would become Southsea Middle School in 1976. In October of 1976 Southsea First School moved back to the Albert Road site and the Middle school moved to the Highland Rd/St. Ronan's Rd site becoming Southsea Middle School (later in 1981 Craneswater Middle School when Cumberland Middle and Southsea Middle were amalgamated).
In June of 1977 the Queen's Silver Jubilee was celebrated, each child received a commemorative booklet from the City Council. Later in the month the Queen Reviewed the Fleet at Spithead and the school was closed for the day.
Industrial action caused disruption to the School on several days in 1979, school meals were not delivered several times and the school was not unlocked on another occasion. In November of that year a Fire broke out in the roof of the hall during a session of the after-school karate club. It was quickly brought under control by the fire brigade, but the hall was out of action for some time. It was thought that a blowlamp used by workmen on the roof during the day was the cause of the fire.
Due to falling numbers, in 1981, the four classrooms on the upper floor were closed as an ecomony measure. A removal firm moved furniture and equipment to the ground floor at the end of July. There were 118 pupils on the roll, falling to 89 by Christmas.
Georgina Hand retired as Headteacher, after 20 years, at the end of the Summer term in 1982 , Susan Kanavan took up the post as of the start of term in September of that year.
The Summer Fayre of 1983 raised a total of £750, including £571 towards the School's first computer.
On the 6th June 1984 the School was closed due to the 40th Aniversary celebrations of D-Day. During 1984 and 1985 occasional industrial action called by the NUT caused some disruption to the school. Handbag theft was also a problem in 1984 and 1986, a staff member's handbag was stolen in September '84, and the Head Teacher's handbag from her office in May '86.
Suasan Kanavan left as Head Teacher after 5 years in post at the end of the Spring term of 1987 to become head at College Park First School. Mrs Emmot took over as acting Head for the Summer Term. Miss Clare Sutton was appointed as the new Head Teacher, and she took up her post at the start of the Autumn term 1987, Mrs Emmot reverting to the post of Deputy Head.
October 16th 1986 was the day of the 'Great Storm'. The School suffered significant damage. The gable end of the building had been blown out. as well as other minor damage. The estimated cost of repairs was £80,000. The school was closed until the 21st, and teachers worked hard to move equipment from the effected classrooms.
Work to repair the building started on 16th November by the contractors Barnes Builders.
In March of 1989 the school stated its Environmental Development Programme, which continues to this day. A Hedge Planting Day was held, all of the children and many parents helped to plant 210 hedging plants at the front of the school. By the start of the Autumn term of 1989 'phase 1' of the environmental enhancement scheme had been completed. A shelter, timber decking, and Raised flower beds had been built in the main playground. Total redecoration of the outside of the building was also underway.
Another break-in occured on 17th October 1989, a window was broken, but this time the Alarm sounding scared the intruders away. No property was stolen and there was no serious damage.
The start of the spring term of 1990 saw continued progress on the environmental project, in Phase 2 the area at the front of the school was re-landscaped, a pond, gravel path and wildflower meadow were created. Also the special unit, now Red Class, was established. Bad weather again hit the school, on 25th January high winds broke 2 windows and dislodged many tiles from the roof. There were no injuries, but many parents arrived early to collect their children. There was considerable property damage in the local area. A 'Green Day' was held in March; all the staff and children came dressed in green or fancy dress, £107.12 was raised towards the purchase of plants for the pond, which were planted with the help of a representative of the British Conservation Trust. Also in March workmen drilled through a water main whilst erecting a new fence in the playground causing the school to close for the day. In May of 1990 the Lord Mayor Syd Rapson came to the School to officially open the Environmental Area.
The weather was again to play its part in January 1991 when a a storm weakened a chimney stack and it was in danger of collapse.The pupils from the affected classes were asked not to attend. Builders worked for two days the repair the chimneys and five chimney pots were removed.
In April 1991 a day trip for 20 children to Hayling Island Amusement Park was donated by an anonymous benefactor.
The end of the Summer Term in 1993 brought an end to Southsea First School, as from the start of the summer term the school would be known as Southsea Infant School.
The head teacher joined a liaison visit by other heads in Portsmouth to their French counterparts in Caen in April 1994. The head notes that it was "an eye opening experience" and provided many talking points in the staffroom. Staying with the French theme, The Tour de France visited Portsmouth in July of that year and Portsmouth schools were closed for the day. Many roads were closed making it difficult to get to school for staff and pupils. Large crowds watched the race, and the head also notes that "we all enjoyed the extra days holiday".
The head teacher, Miss Sutton was married during the Summer Holidays of 1994, returning in the Autumn term as Mrs Welfare.
Builders were renovating the outside of the school in April 1995 when they discovered the long hidden school name carved into the front wall that had been boarded over during the war should it be of help to an invading army. After more than 50 years the name "School Board for Portsmouth Public Elementary School" was again on show for all to see. It was good timing as it coincided with the 50th anniversary celebrations of VE day.
In 1997 the School's Site Manager suffered a heart attack, which meant that the Head Teacher and others had to unlock the school and the cleaners worked overtime until a temporary caretaker could be found . After a period of long term sick the old site manager retired due to ill health and a new site manager was appointed. Unfortunately the newly appointed site manager walked out after 2 days, saying that the job was too hard! The head teacher's husband provided temporary cover, and the cleaners again worked overtime! The head teacher's husband then took on the post of site manager on a permanent basis.
Ofsted visited the school in March 1998, and spent a whole week looking at all aspects of the school. The Head notes that "the overall report was pleasing and felt to fairly reflect our achievements". However, she also notes that "the experience was particularly stressful for all school staff".
Also in 1998 the School's Assessment Unit was re-designated as a provision for language disordered children. The Caretaker's Lodge had still been occupied by the caretaker who had retired due to ill health and his wife, but in June of 1998 the City Council found new accommodation for them and the Lodge was refurbished for use as a community facility. Contractors also started work in April on a significant programme of repairs to the stone work of the school's window frames. This work progressed slowly, the work not being completed until February 1999. Mrs Warnes, a dinner lady, who had worked in various roles at the school for 27 years to the day finally retired in January of this year. A special lunch was held a Rolls Royce took her home. Brambles Nursery temporarily relocated to the School whilst their building was refurbished.
Autumn term of 2000 saw the official opening of the new pedestrian access gate onto Albert Rd., the hope was that this would help reduce the congestion in Collingwood Rd. mornings and evenings. In the Autumn term of 2000 a mystery illness hit the school, 50% of Year 1 were absent, and there was a high rate in the rest of the school. Advice was sought from the Occupational Health Unit, but no cause was found, and after a week everything was back to normal. After major electrical upgrading in November two new computer suits were installed, one in both Year 1 and Year 2.
Two Governors of the School, Dr Chafer and Mr Jakobek, attended a Civic Reception at the Guildhall accompanied by the Head Teacher, for Governors attaining 10 years plus service in March of 2001. A new extension to house the Office staff was constructed during the summer holidays of 2001, as well as a full school clean, new carpets and furniture in the entrance area and Head's office and new floor coverings in Year R and Year 1. Purpose built computer workstations were also fitted in the two Year R classes.
Ofsted returned for a second regular inspection at the end of September 2001. After a week's inspection a final report was delivered on the 11th October. The Head and Governors were "Delighted with the excellent report received". A new Breakfast Club was established in the Lodge in October.
In November a local artist Julia Thomas commenced work on the stained glass window project, which the head notes: "should provide a dramatic feature in the main entrance area". The artist translated some of the childrens' designs onto the windows.
Environmental activity continued with Mr Marshman and the children planting "(very small)" trees in the environmental area. A representative of the City Parks Department attended as assembly and congratulated the children.
The Head Teacher was pleased to be able to take the oldest boy and girl to the reserved enclosure at Gunwharf Quays when the Queen visited Portsmouth as part of her Golden Jubilee Tour in June 2002. Each child was given a gold coin to commemorate the occasion. On the 10th July the Lord mayor of Portsmouth and the Lady Mayoress officially opened the new entrance area complete with stained glass windows.
After 15 years in post the Governors agreed that the head teacher, Mrs Welfare, could be released early in order to take up a post at a School in Nottinghamshire. Miss Cook, the deputy head took up the post of acting head initially for two terms from September. Mrs Welfare's husband was also the Site Manger, so interviews were held and the vacancy was filled by Mr Steve Thacker. So on the 23rd July 2002 Mrs Welfare left as Head, and Miss Lyndsey Cook took up the post as Acting Head Teacher.
J Gould 1888-1891J Gould 1888-1891
A Williams 1898
H Brumham 1900-1905
H Billinghurst 1911-1918
F Goodwin 1923-1928
Mrs S Clancy 1888-1891
Miss S Wiltshire 1898-1905
Miss G Saunders 1911-1918
Miss G Robson 1923
Miss K Gray 1928
Miss N Bark 1929
Miss M Haynes 1888-1891
Miss S Mason 1898-1901
Mrs E Smith 1904-1911
Miss Cutts 1918
Miss F Le Page 1923
Miss B Skeen 1928
1934-1940 Boys & Girls
F Goodwin 1934
C Scaddan 1936
R Patten 1937
A Thomas 1938-1940
Miss L Cull 1934
Alice Orchard -1937
Miss E Passell 1936
Miss Daisy Craddock 1937-1940
1946 Boys and Infants, Girls
Boys and Infants Master
G Adams 1946-1948
N Clark 1951
Miss M Cassell 1945
Miss Sylvester 1946
Miss M Williams 1950-1951
1953-1966 Junior mixed and infants
N Clark 1953-1958
Mrs F Hide 1952-1961
Georgina Hand 1962-1966
1966-76 Junior mixed
Mr E Spurgeon
1976-93 Southsea First School
1976-1982 Georgina Hand
1982- Susan Kavavan
1993 Southsea Infant School
1993-2002 Miss Sutton (Mrs Welfare from 1994)
2002- 2021 Miss Lyndsey Cook
2021 Mrs J Clark