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The schools at Southernknowe and Kirknewton :  details

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There was a purpose built school, for all children,in Kirknewton from 1794. The Vestry Minutes for the 4th June that year record the decision to build it. This was a very forward thinking descision and perhaps is partly due to Mrs Grey, a member of the liberal Grey family and grandmother of Josephine Butler, together with Mr culley, the noted agricultural innovator, being Church Wardens in the Parish at that time. A fascimile of these minutes is available to view in the village hall foyer. The school at Southernknowe has an interesting history. It was opened in 1854 and had periods of closure during the late 19th century as pupil numbers fluctuated. It always had a very small number of pupils owing to its remoteness and sometimes not enough to keep the school open. It was always linked to Kirknewton as pupils were expected to go there when the school at Southernknowe was closed. The log books of Kirknewton school from 1909 mention pupils from the College Valley who have no school to go to:

10th May 'One child admitted from Trowupburn, aged seven and half, never been to school, distance to walk 5 miles'


17th May 'A child from Whitehall, aged 8, never been to school, distance to walk 4 miles'

In 1911 the school at Southernknowe finally re-opened and remained open until its final closure in 1968. Even in its last days it was different, remaining an all age school with pupils up to 15 long after all the other schools in the area had sent pupils at 11 to the Secondary School in Wooler. Huge efforts were made to keep the curriculum broad for the older pupils with trips out as the roads were improved, films after the supply of electricity in the 1960s and speaking to pupils at other schools by telephone after that was installed. As the only telephone in the valley messages were often taken for other people in the community.  Teachers from Kirknewton and Southernknowe would exchange for the supervision of external exams and back in the 1930s the pupils would go down to Kirfknewton to sit the 11+. The school day at both schools followed a similar pattern and ended with the hymn 'Now the Day is Over'.

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