The life and times of village school retold

The playground at Dunstan School.
The playground at Dunstan School.

A timetable showing a six-day week, semolina and tapioca on the lunch menu and a pupil weeing on a teacher – the fascinating history of a former village school has been brought vividly to life in a new book.

Dr Pamela Buick, from Craster, has published The Life of a Village School, which tells the story of Dunstan school.

The school was built prior to 1824 by the local squire, Sir Shafto Craster, and provided education through to 1968.

During its life, the school changed from being a charity school to becoming part of national education provision.

The book draws on primary and secondary source materials and includes extracts from them. It integrates this material with anecdotes gathered from former pupils and their relatives.

Among the memories are the home-made school dinners and a boy who peed over a wall in a competition and splattered a teacher on the other side. The book also looks at the curriculum, attendance, school fees and closure.

Dr Buick said: “I sought to place the life of a local rural elementary school in our area within a national, historical context.

“This was not only to have local history documented, which is important, but primarily to illustrate how despite the various obstacles and particular circumstances of rural schools, the quality of education was good and the dedication of teachers undeniable.

“In the county archives I found a hand-written timetable from 1923 which shows a six-day week. With Sunday school the norm in those days, the children and teachers must have had a very full life.”

This timetable and extracts from log books and registers, wills and indentures are reproduced in the book.

Dr James Rose, a past pupil of the school, said: “This is work that is important, original and deserves as wide an audience as possible. The story of the school is very enjoyable and informative and well worthy of publication”.

The book is available from Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick, the Cottage Inn, Dunstan and the Jolly Fisherman and Shoreline Café in Craster, or directly from the author, by emailing pamandbryn@yahoo.co.uk