Leslie Watkins, headmaster 1945-1963, with the sixth form, 1956 Leslie Watkins
with the sixth form, 1956

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The Education Act of 1944 saw for the first time in England and Wales the universal provision of state secondary education, and in Stratford KES was to participate in this provision. The school evolved from a fee-paying boarding school to one which admitted local day-boys free of charge on the basis of their results in the 'eleven-plus' examination.

Use the scrollbar below to move from left to right to read this selection of staff and pupils' reminiscences describing life at the school.

Under the 1944 Education Act the governors had the choice of [the school] becoming Controlled, Aided or Independent… The governors seized the opportunity to become Aided. The entire policy of the school, except finance, is in the hands of the governing body of 18 members… 14 being local men entirely chosen for their interest in this particular school.

Leslie Watkins, headmaster 1945-1963, writing in the school magazine in 1953

Only perhaps 25 to 30 boys would automatically pass through on the initial 'eleven-plus' exam. Another 50 or so boys were then invited, this included myself, to spend a full morning at KES during the winter of 1960, when we took a further written mathematics and English examination with Mr Wood and Mr Taylor from which a further sorting was made. The final part of the jigsaw was a couple of weeks later when each of us had individual interviews with the headmaster, Leslie Watkins, and two school governors.

David Dumper, pupil 1960-1966, speaking in 1992

The Staff, 1945

The Staff, 1945
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The school timetable included eight lessons a day, of which the fourth started with the consumption of milk through straws, in the classrooms. Lunch had to be consumed in two sittings. The master in charge of each sitting said grace at the beginning and end of the meal and decreed the order in which food was to be collected from the serving hatch.

Patrick Adams, French-master 1950-1988, writing in 1978

One morning, the headmaster, Mr Watkins, announced that, as from the next day, there were going to be 19 societies in the school. Each boy had to belong to two. This was not a very good arrangement because, as a result, the photographic society consisted of about eighty boys and you can imagine being in complete darkness with eighty 'idiots' roaming about the place. Mr Watkins soon saw that some modification was necessary.

Denis Dyson, physics master 1926-1975 and second master, speaking in 1983

Forms 2A and 2B were housed in NC1 and NC2 respectively, above the canteen, whence there rose daily the smell of cooking and the sound of rumbling water pipes. NC1, under the rule of Mr Horace Horn, was separated from NC2 by a thin wooden partition which was removed at the time of school exams. I remember the occasional confusion when the sounds from one room invaded the other. NC2, like NC1, was lit by gas lamps fixed to the massive beams that spanned the room at little more than head height.

Patrick Adams, French-master 1950-1988, writing in 1978

Cycling to school
Cycling to school

…Big School meant impressive assemblies at the start and finish of term; awesome oak desks, whose hardness never encouraged sleep… Big School was also the temporary stage and auditorium for the annual school play - occasions of inspired spontaneity led by the unique talents of Alan Wood… Thespian schoolboys thrived on this temporary stage. For them the mystique of the theatre held sway in these ancient buildings.

David Biddle, pupil 1950-58, writing in 1982

Passing the batton on the Manor Road field, 1950s
"Passing the baton", 1950s

There was a limited choice of games which allowed time to hold three matches for each house group in rugby and cricket, and to organise athletic sports in the Lent term. These consisted of sprint and track events, hurdles, high jump, long jump, the steeplechase and throwing the cricket ball. But it was a continual anxiety that there would be fine weather to complete the sports. Conditions on the Manor Road field were Spartan since the pavilion of those days could not accommodate everyone on games afternoon.

Patrick Adams, French-master 1950-1988, writing in 1978

Big School, c1950

Big School, c1950
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… many educational changes took place during Mr Watkins' stewardship (beginning with the first intake of 'eleven-plus' examination entrants) and I think it must be the verdict of history that he negotiated them all with skill and restraint… He allowed the staff to run their subjects as they thought best, stepping in with a restraining influence only when he thought enthusiasm might seem in danger of outstripping prudence; sharing their successes with pride and pleasure and sympathizing with ventures that perhaps did not come up to expectations; and protecting them from the extremist of external pressures by a judicious filtration.

Denis Dyson, physics master 1926-1975 and second master, writing in tribute to Leslie Watkins in 1989

Other resources on the 1944 Education Act

Contemporary guide to the Act

The 1944 Education Act was a revolutionary piece of legislation and despite many subsequent amendments forms the basis of the education system in England and Wales
This review of the Education Act explains its significance

Cycling to school

In My first day at school Graham Cooper describes what it was like to join the school as an eleven-year-old pupil in 1953

Or return to the Education Act contents page

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