Otterton Church School

Otterton Church School

 Before the Education Act of 1870, parents had to pay for their children to attend school, and therefore most working class children in Otterton were unschooled.  Instead, they served as apprentices to local farmers, learning the ropes of agricultural labour from a young age.  The 1870 Education Act, however, established a framework for the schooling of all children between the ages of 5 and 12, and created school boards for the district that would pay for the education of poorer children. This Act had a huge impact on the village children, and the small village school.

Naturally children were taught many of the same subjects as today, but as well some more surprising ones. During the 19th century lace making was a key trade for many of the children’s families and mothers in particular.  Not only would village shopkeepers set themselves up as lace buyers to trade between the women and the clothing manufacturer, but a Mr and Mrs Lawrence set up a very successful lace shop in 1830 in Sidmouth that bought lace from up to 96 people in the local area.  It therefore seemed only right that the art of lace making was taught in the primary school, and it remained on the curriculum until as late as the 1930s.

During the Second World War the school and its pupils worked hard to gather salvage for the War Effort in the 1940s.  Some children were even evacuated from London to attend the school and live with  families in houses in the village.  The school continued to thrive until the 1990s, when a shocking headline reading ‘Village School Under Threat’ in a local newspaper reported how school attendance had worryingly dropped to just 25 pupils.  Under head teacher Bob Jones, the school made the necessary decision to accept children from outside the parish, and numbers began to rise again. The school has maintained a consistent attendance since, and is now part of the Raleigh Federation, which unites the school with Drakes CofE Primary in East Budleigh.