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School History

Written by Iyra Patel when in Year 6:

St. Giles’ Church of England Primary School is a fun, vibrant school for everyone. It is located in South Mimms, Hertfordshire and is attended by 98 bright pupils coming from various towns and villages around the local area including Shenley, Potters Bar, Borehamwood and many more. We were delighted that St. Giles’ was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in the most recent visit. Despite its small size St. Giles’ has a lot of history.

In the early 1800s (the Victorian era) schools were for the wealthy. Children had to pay a sum of money to fund the school. This money was called the school pence. Half of the population of children did not go to school; they were too poor and they usually worked to help support their families.

During the Victorian era, people began to realise that education was important to support the economic growth of the country and more and more schools were founded, which enabled more children to access education from poorer backgrounds. One such body was the National School for Promoting Religious Education, which was a Church of England organisation. It was founded on the 16th of October 1811 with the goal of using religion and the values of the church as a foundation for children’s education.

St. Giles was founded as a National School in 1836, although it wasn’t to be called St Giles for a while after. It was a mixed school with infant and junior classrooms and a teachers’ residence.

St. Giles was given a parliamentary grant of £75 in 1837. At this point of time girls and boys were taught a different range of subjects. Boys were taught, arithmetic, reading, literature, English and conduct. Victorians thought that boys’ education was more important than girls’. They did not have many holidays. Girls were taught to sing, knit, play an instrument, sew and home economics. There were three different types of schools, National, Ragged and Dame.  A’ Ragged’ school was a school run by charities and for poor people. Whereas a ‘Dame’ school was run by one woman in her own home also for poor people.

In 1857 the Headmaster and Headmistress of St. Giles took care of 93 pupils. Did you know that back then teachers lived in part of the school itself? There were regular parliamentary grants until 1870. One inspection report praised the teaching the infants but noted that mixed attendance prevented the junior school from progressing as well.

School became mandatory between the ages of 5-10 years old in 1880. Children had to have a basic education. This was so people could be smarter and build and invent better equipment and technology. Four years later, the school was built for 180 children. The exterior of the building (outside) had a Victorian appearance. It was comprised of three main sections: two infant classrooms, two junior classrooms and a two storey teachers’ accommodation. The school leaving age was raised to 12 in 1889 and in 1891 families did not have to pay the school pence anymore. This was to help children’s education because still not everyone went to school as they couldn’t afford it. The average attendance in St. Giles’ was 115 in 1893. Also there were historical documents that reported that St. Giles’ like it was a good country school doing excellent work.

One well known teacher at the school was Dorothy Louise Philpot, who was a teacher from the First World War and worked at St. Giles for more than 40 years! She dedicated her life to St. Giles’ and spent all of her career here.  D.L.Philpot was also the Lady Sacristan and a Sunday school teacher. She was buried in the churchyard and you can still see her grave today. During the leavers’ ceremony, Year 6 children remember Mrs. Philpot by leaving a flower on her grave stone as a mark of respect for her many years’ service to the school.

Throughout the First World War an infant’s classroom was reinforced with wooden beams to make a bomb shelter. Pupils stayed there when the alarm was raised.  Fortunately no bombs hit South Mimms but it was recorded that one went very close. Punishments for misbehaving in class at that time were things like getting caned, chalk thrown at you (they used chalk and wooden framed slates during 1945 and 1951) or even a plimsoll to your bottom. Now corporal punishment is not allowed in schools.

In 1947 Fredrick Gower, who had an award called an MBE, resigned from the headmaster role. He was the well-known in the field of local education and was also a local councillor. This was when Dorothy Louise Philpot applied for head teacher and got the job. Also in that year the secondary section of the school was closed down and moved. The secondary part was moved to Potters Bar and was now called Parkfield.

In the old school building which was used before 1957 there building there were no dining facilities. Children who had lunch were allowed to go home to eat, whereas pupils who did not have anything to eat had to go to the Parish hall to have their lunch. There was no kitchen there but there was pre-heated food from the council.

In 1957 St. Giles’ moved location closer to the church. It moved from Blanche Lane to ‘Glebe Field’. The move cost an amazing £30,000 and was built by the Claridge and Hall Brothers of Harpenden. The school was opened by the Bishop of London and consisted of 98 pupils at that time. The following year D. L. Philpot sadly died of heart trouble.  Through the 1950s decade nobody at St. Giles’ wore school uniform. It was only in 1970 that it was introduced.

St. Giles’ is still standing strong today and holds 100 pupils. The school has changed a lot from when it was built in 1957.  It now includes an I.C.T suite.  Also it has expanded and just had its 60th anniversary from its move. As you have seen despite its small size St. Giles’ has a lot of history.