St Mary’s School, originally known as the ‘Ware National Schools’ came into being in 1820 in a small building in Church Street which is the site of the Christadelphian’s meeting hall. The vicar of St Mary’s took up the challenge of raising the educational standards. In 1844, the schools moved along Church Street to new premises behind the church next to the Manor House. The head teacher lived in the house adjacent to the school.
A weekly charge of one penny was made for children attending the school. In addition, the children were required to attend Sunday school in line with the school’s aim of ‘making them good members of society’.
Alongside financial pressures were concerns about the children and their teachers. Early reports state that the children were often absenting themselves with excuses about ‘nursing the baby’ or ‘going on errands’. Concern too about the teachers was raised after an inspection in 1846 reported that discipline was unsatisfactory, none of the children were clean and instruction was scanty. Even the master and mistress were labelled as of no great capacity and unfit for the job!
By the 1860s the Ware National Schools had become known as St Mary’s National Infants, St Mary’s National Girls and St Mary’s National Boys schools to distinguish them from a second set of National Schools, known as the Christ Church schools, that were. erected on New Street.
The 1870 Forster’s Education act allowed the state to set up its own schools. Following this, a new building in the Gothic style was opened in 1874 after a public subscription raised more than £600.00. These original buildings can still be seen on Church Street close to the church buildings.
At some time, probably after the Second World War, the school became a Voluntary Controlled School. On 13 June 1967 the new school opened as a Voluntary Controlled Church of England Primary School to help serve the new Kingshill estate. The church owns the land that the school buildings stand on and provide 3 governors to sit on its board, including the vicar of St Mary’s. Initially the infant children moved to the new building with the Junior children remaining at the Church Street building until Kingshill Infant School opened in 1971 on the same site.
‘The new building was not immediately popular with staff or children. To the staff it seemed noisy and was often too hot in summer or too cold in winter. There were also great distances to be covered to get to any part of the school. The children missed their “nooks and crannies” outside the old building and did not feel at home in the large open spaces of the new school grounds. Needless to say we soon all settled down in our new surroundings and appreciated its benefits’ (Jean Hobbs 1997 p2)
There is evidence of discussions between the Diocese of St Albans and the Local Education Authority of Hertfordshire about whether, or not, Kingshill should also be a church school. The decision was not. St Mary’s has been a church junior school ever since.
Today, the children of St Mary’s come mostly from Kingshill Infant School, with a few entrants from other schools. When they leave us the majority go on to a Secondary School in Ware or Hertford, with the majority going to Chauncy School
It is very pleasing that our school has moved on somewhat from its first inspection in 1846 and that we no longer have unsatisfactory discipline or ‘scanty’ teaching, let alone ‘unfit’ leaders! Our last inspection in 2014 stated that we are a good school, friendly and welcoming where pupils say they like their teachers and enjoy lessons. The school is managed well and runs smoothly day-to-day, with school leaders recognised for regularly checking the quality of teaching and learning to make sure pupils make good progress. What a difference 197 let alone 50 years can make!
- The ‘Preface’ and ‘Introduction’ taken from ‘The Log Books of Ware St Mary’s Schools: Selected by Jean M.F.Hobbs’ first published by The Ware Society in 1997.
- St Mary’s School Newsletter; ‘150th Anniversary Edition - From Old to New’ November 1994.
The school is a single storey building with eight large classrooms and a multipurpose hall at its centre. We have two well resourced libraries, our own stage lighting, an extensive playing field, two playgrounds with a gazebo and pergola, tree seats, play equipment, two adventure playgrounds with a safety surface, a traversing climbing wall, a developing nature area, a pleasant courtyard with benches and parasols, a Craft room with a kiln, and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Our ICT education is delivered through a network of wireless laptop computers, which are available to all classes. All PCs and laptops are linked to the internet with broadband. All classrooms have interactive whiteboards connected to our network and a sound system. All classrooms were completely refurbished to a high specification in 2009.
We aim to provide the best possible learning environment for the children and our school is well resourced. Facilities are improved as funds become available and we aim for high quality. In 2011 and 2012 we increased storage space and improved our hall facilities. In 2013 and 2014 we improved access to ICT through iPads, heating in the school hall, improved security through a new CCTV system and improved the school office to allow better access for our parents.Over the Summer holidays 2015 a completely new computing infrastructure was installed including touch screen laptops, server and the latest wifi. In early 2016 the old adventure playground including equipment and the rubber surface were all replaced following ideas by the pupil school council and chosen democratically from 7 plans by our children. Most recently we have replaced all our interactive whiteboards in the classrooms with 65” touch screens to ensure we help to futureproof our ICT provision.