The Establishment of Hadfield Nursery School.

In the mid 1930s Hadfield was a place of high unemployment, a situation which the Hadfield League of Social Service, under the leadership of Mr & Mrs K. S. Laurie, of "The Thorns," Hadfield, did its best to relieve. The League decided, in 1936, that it wished to establish a nursery class at the village Social Service Centre. Glossop Council was approached to ask if a grant could be made towards the cost of equipment. The request was refused because the Board of Eduction would not recognise a school without a permanent building. The minutes of 24th February 1937, however, record the Council's intention to establish a nursery school at Glossop. Mr & Mrs Laurie pursued the matter and, following an unofficial meeting with Alderman Doyle (Chairman of the Education Committee) the Committee resolved (21st June 1937) to investigate the matter and collaborate with Mr & Mrs Laurie. At its meeting on 20th September 1937, Mrs Laurie informed the Committee that detailed plans for the site and building would be provided in due course.

Mr Laurie Mrs Laurie
Mr & Mrs Laurie

In the meantime, preparations went ahead to open the school in a room of the village Social Service Centre, almost all the school equipment being made by unemployed men at the Centre. Mrs Laurie persuaded Lady Astor (the leading campaigner for nursery schools) to guarantee the first year's salary of the superintendent. She also launched an appeal for subscriptions as the Board of Education would not fund the building. Glossop Council approved plans for the building but stipulated that the local education authority would only take over the school once it was satisfied that it would be a workable scheme.

Hadfield Nursery School opened in the Centre on Monday 17th January 1938, with nine scholars, and was the first of its kind in the country. There were already many nursery schools in the country but none which were run by the unemployed of the area, members of the village Social Service Centre. The first superintendent of the school was Miss Kathleen Barnes from the Rachael McMillan Training College, London.

Children at Hadfield Nursery School when it first opened in January 1938
Children at Hadfield Nursery School when it first opened in January 1938

There was a charge for each scholar of 1s. 8d. a week, for the provision of milk, fruit, and a mid-day meal each day. Women members of the club took turns to cook the meals as volunteers. The main purpose of nursery schools at the time was to take the children while their mothers went out to work, but the majority of the club members had no work to go to so preference was given to large families.

Within a couple of weeks the volunteers were hard at work making a garden and playground for the School so that, when the weather was good enough, the children could play in the fresh air.

Laying of the Foundation Stone
Laying of the Foundation Stone

By the end of the first term the number of children had been increased to 15, it had been possible to reduce the price of the food from 1s. 8d. to 1s. 6d. and the foundations of the permanent building had been started. The building of the school was undertaken by members of the Social Service Centre, managed by Mr. James Timmis, of Charlesworth.
The building was expected to cost about £700, £300 of which had been given by the Pilgrim Trust and another £20 by the National Council of Social Service. The foundation stone was laid by Mrs. L. Radcliffe, of Ashton, on May 28th, 1938.

In order to boost the fundraising, Mrs Laurie wrote to Lady Astor to explain how the school had been built and the purpose it would serve in the village. Lady Astor's reply, published in the Glossop Chronicle of 16th December 1938, read: "Dear Mrs. Laurie,—I am so glad that the roof of the nursery school is on and that you really think it will be ready for occupation by next February. I am quite sure that your venture must mean a tremendous amount to the people of Hadfield as well as to the children, and because I am so anxious that there should be no delay in completing the nursery school I am sending you a present of £150. I hope that this will stimulate local interest, and feel that with this plan complete, you can somehow collect the money for the superintendent's salary. With best wishes for Christmas. Yours sincerely, Nancy Astor." Mr & Mrs Laurie also arranged for an appeal for funds, by Brigadier General Sir Wyndham Deedes, C.M.G., D.S.O., to be broadcast as BBC radio's “Week's Good Cause” on Sunday January 29th 1939.

Hadfield Nursery School under construction in January 1939
Hadfield Nursery School under construction in January 1939

By the end of the school's first year, Mrs Laurie was able to report that the number of scholars was up to 27, with 21 names on the waiting list. The children had “developed a more friendly attitude to newcomers and to visitors, a desire for personal hygiene, a care for toys and apparatus that they may be kept tidily, and a sturdy independence of character”. They were also increasing in weight and had been very free from epidemics. Five Glossop children attended school, being provided by transport by the Rotary Club. It was intended that more Glossop children would be able to attend when the new building was ready. A Mothers' Club had been formed and, when the numbers reached 15, an assistant for Miss Barnes was appointed - initially Miss Daisy Ollerenshaw and then Miss Mary Hadfield. Mrs Laurie expressed her gratitude to the Pilgrim Trust, Lady Astor, the Westminster Bank Guild, the officials of the Lancashire and Cheshire Community Council, the Save the Children Fund Nursery School Committee, the people of the town who so nobly supported our flag day, and countless others who had worked so hard and given so generously to the school. Thanks to the members of the Hadfield League of Social Service and their friends the new building was nearing completion and it was hoped that the school would move in at the end of February.

In the event, the new building was opened for the first time on Monday 24th April 1939. It was officially opened by Lady Astor on Tuesday 21st June 1939.

Lady Astor opening the new school building 21 June 1939
Lady Astor opening the new school building 21 June 1939

Some 18 months later the success of the Hadfield Nursery School was such that it was being considered for recognition (and taking over) by Glossop Town Council. In December 1940, Alderman Doyle submitted a report (see below) to members of the Council. When this report was presented to the Education Committee it was adopted with a small amendment and the Town Council subsequently approved the decision without comment.

Official handover to the council 22 July 1941
Official handover to the council 22 July 1941

The Hadfield Nursery School was formally handed over to His Worship the Mayor of Glossop at an open air function on Tuesday, July 22nd 1941. Mrs Laurie presented the Mayor with a short history of the school.

The full text of Alderman Doyle's report provides a flavour of the differing opinions surrounding nursery education at the time. It was printed in the Glossop Chronicle of 27th December 1940,and read:
"The Hadfield Nursery School has been the subject of contention right from the initial launch of the project, and had it not been for the intervention of circumstances which we cannot control, it is I think, doubtful if the question of recognition by either or both the Board of Education, and/or the Local Authority, would have entered the region of practical politics.
My own initial antipathy to the manner in which the project was launched, and its siting, remain unaltered. But we have now to examine the venture from a wider angle; the intervention of war, with its inevitable destruction of life—as large or larger in respect of civilians as the armed forces—is a compelling argument for the utilisation of every conceivable method to preserve such young lives as we have, especially when full consideration is given to a declining birth rate. Not to put too fine a point upon it, the nation, with its back to the wall, must employ every expedient to preserve the race. This argument may, on the face of it, appear specious, but it will stand the test of examination. The Board of Education has recognised the school after a full examination of its premises and situation in relation to existing school population, its equipment, and general conduct. Since the Board have never pressed for the establishment of nursery schools, nor have they unduly stimulated the institution of nursery classes, I am driven to the conclusion that the argument outlined above has now become one of their guiding principles, and that the conclusion of the war will usher in the compulsory adoption of nursery schools by all authorities. Should this be so, the Glossop authority, should it decide to recognise the school, would have an opportunity for first-hand observation both of nursery school methods and of their effects, socially and physically upon the infants.
After inspecting a similar building at Hayfield, I am of the opinion that the school could not be moved save at very great expense. Its life, with ordinary care, should be at least fifty years. It is a bright, cheerful, light, airy building. centrally heated, and admirably planned. If any fault should be found, it is that the school is small by about ten places.
Its equipment seems fairly complete. The managers have been the recipients of a number of large toys, etc., from discontinued voluntary nursery schools, within a reasonable radius of Manchester. It is short of cupboard space, and an annexe needs to be built, or the verandah enclosed by movable glass partitions to find covered space for the large toys.
The staff consists of a headmistress and probationer, the latter having to be appointed at the instance of the Board of Education. Burnham Scale salaries are paid. This staff Is considered by the Board to be competent to deal with forty infants. A cook-caretaker has been appointed, and upon her devolves all duties of cooking and caretaking, other than care of the stove. The duties are very similar to those of a home, and are, obviously, a woman's work.
The care of the heating apparatus is in the hands of a man, once unemployed, now, I believe, at work. I am not satisfied that this arrangement is a good one.
The main differences between the nursery school and the nursery class are that children are admitted to the nursery school at the age of two; to the nursery class of the age of four. An essential part of nursery school life is the hot mid-day meal as well as the mid-morning milk. In the nursery class the child gets milk and sandwiches. In the nursery school the child does not leave the school until the close of the afternoon session. In the nursery class the child goes home at midday. The explanatory note is necessary because the cost of food is an important item in the total coat of school maintenance.
I am advised that, at present, the cost of food at the Hadfield Nursery School is met by the payments of parents. If the authority recognised the school I presume the ordinary means test would be applied by the treasurer, and this would probably mean that some parents would pay more, some less, and others nothing.
The requisition cost is negligible since the education is more social than academic. The main cost is the salary cost. At the moment, this—plus the salaries outlined above—is £248, plus superannuation contribution, war bonus and National Health Insurance. The materials of which the building is made are such that the main cost of maintenance should be for a few years merely the cost of internal and external decorations.
I estimate the cost of running the school at, in round figures, £350 per annum. Of this, roughly one half will, from April 1 1940, be contributed by the Board of Education. Towards the balance your authority agreed to contribute some £65 per annum for two years. This contribution turns out to be somewhat illusory, for the Board will merely reduce their own contribution by their grant to the authority's contribution of £65. This means that if the authority recognised the school the additional balance to be found would be £140 per annum.
It should be possible-to fill the school to capacity by negotiation with the managers of the Hadfield Church of England School and thus relieve the congestion in the infants' department of that school: It is desirable to remember that whilst the Board were anxious to close the Waterside Infants' School, they have been anxious to preserve the Hadfield Nursery School from extinction, and have taken the almost unprecedented step of recognising a new non-provided school.
The conclusions I have reached are:
(1) The school should be recognised by the authority;
(2) It should not be recognised as a non-provided school;
(3) The Authority should agree to take over the school on lease at a peppercorn rent, the authority to keep the building or buildings in a reasonable state of repair - subject always to natural erosion due to the effusion of time; the managers to hand over to the authority such monies as they possess for the exclusive use of the school, after payment of all debts, to be used for the maintenance of the school premises. The authority would then obtain control of the school as return for its payment of the cost."

The amendment made by the Education Committee, mentioned above, was the addition in clause 3 of the words "On terms to be agreed and acceptable to the Board of Education.".

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Last updated: 13 January 2021