Bishop Road School is a popular and successful
primary school in Bristol, founded in 1896
A Brief History
Bishop Road School is the largest primary school in Bristol with over 600 pupils, from three to eleven years old, housed in three large Victorian buildings and one smaller one. There are four playgrounds on the site and the school field is about 500 metres away.
Our most famous ex pupils were Cary Grant (Archibald Leach) the Hollywood film actor and Paul Dirac the Physicist, both of whom lived locally. There are two plaques in the school commemorating their achievements: the one celebrating the life of Cary Grant was unveiled by his great-niece, who was also a pupil at the school. It has been said of Dirac that his work was as important as Einstein's, but he didn't get the publicity! He made many crucial contributions to quantum mechanics, the theory which describes the world on very small scales, and shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics 'for the discovery of new and productive forms of atomic theory'.
Until quite recently, Headteachers were required to keep a record, similar to a ship's log, of events in the school. Early copies of these log books dating from the early 20th century are now in the city Record Office, but we have those from 1954 to 2002 in the school.
In 1954 there were three different schools on the site: Infant, Junior and Secondary, and over the years several other organisations have used the buildings, but since our school has grown we now use practically all the space.
There was an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectors in July 1954 which was recorded in the Infant School log-book by the Head Mistress, Ms Wittaker. There were 263 pupils and the report was copied into the log-book: 'The premises are cramping to this number of pupils, as the site is small and incapable of expansion. One of the classrooms is deficient in natural lighting, while the Hall has to house one class although it is the main thoroughfare of the building….. Despite their limitation the buildings are solid, well kept, and made to look bright and cheerful…. The pupils show confidence and frequent consideration for each other: they are articulate and take a great deal of satisfaction in their achievements.'
All kinds of events were noted - in November 1962 a 'Bring & Buy' sale in aid of the school fund raised the grand total of:
£28.11 ( shillings ).0 ( pence ) = £28.55.
This might buy a couple of books today!
On 20th January 1967 one classroom was closed so that the public could come to vote on the Bristol Docks Bill. Changes in staff were meticulously recorded and in December 1967 it was noted that Miss J K Sheppard retired after having taught at the school since August 1926; surely the longest serving teacher in the school's history?
The school was closed because of snow in January 1963, but there was a long report in 1967 when Mrs Smith, the Headteacher, wrote that the caretaker had left and there was no-one who could cope with the school boilers; parents took their children home because of the cold. Gas-fired central heating was installed in 1971, but problems continued and on Sunday 10 January 1981, the Head received a telephone call from the caretaker reporting that a boiler had burst again.
According to the records, parents have been very involved in school activities at least since the mid-seventies with annual events, such as the November firework party, going on for at least two decades. There are notes of 'PTA' and then 'PTFA' meetings including one about a change to the constitution about 1981.
In September 1980, the Infant and Junior schools were amalgamated under a new Headteacher. He wrote: 'my own log-book being very full, and to avoid unnecessary expense, I will commence a record for the new organisation in this, the infant record book'. The Secondary school was closed during the 1980s.
Entry 3 March 1983: 'Calculator course this pm' and on 21 November 1985: 'Head collected BBC computer from Cardiff today, having paid the sum agreed'. This must have been the first computer in the school.
The first nursery class was set up in January 1985, which proved to be very popular from the very beginning, having at least thirty children. In 1987 there were 259 pupils in school and 44 part-time nursery children. During the first week of September 1990 permission was given for the staff to be allowed three pupil-free days to prepare rooms, assemble furniture and unpack equipment for the additional number of children. BRAC (Bishop Road After-school Club) began at the same time; this continues today and has proved to be a great asset to the school community.
In March the following year the school was closed for a day to enable classes to be moved into what is now known as the Grant Building. It seems that teachers were expected to act as removal people then too. Work was also done on the roof, but at least the staff didn't have to do this themselves! The 'Official Opening of the Refurbished and Re-modelled Accommodation' by Chair of Avon County Council, Councillor Don Pearce, took place on 8 April. According to the programme for the event there were 343 pupils and 52 in the nursery at that time.
From the mid-nineties there are log-book entries about the National Curriculum vis á vis training and reports of meetings about the school budget, heralding the enormous changes that have taken place in education during the last decade or so. However, significant differences regarding the more recent entries are those that record the increasingly diverse activities and wider cultural opportunities that have become available to our children.
There is now a lot of pressure on all those who work in schools and the practice of regularly recording events is no longer required; sadly, therefore, the opportunity for future generations to read about the day-to-day life in school will not be available. Perhaps we need to think about this.
Term dates (link to Bristol City Council LEA pages)
BRAC - Bishop Road After School Club
MultiMap - location of Bishop Road School