1935 - 1939 : Dinnington Senior Schools

2nd September 1935 saw the opening of Dinnington's first dedicated secondary schools: Dinnington Senior Boys and Dinnington Senior Girls. They were housed in a single building erected in a cleared hollow of land at the corner of Doe Quarry Lane and Manor Lane. The wooden walls were built on a solid brick foundation. There were glass-roofed corridors, and one side of each classroom was composed of glass casements facing "the sunniest aspect".[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35]

The governors had wanted a brick school, but according to Sir Percy Jackson, the Chair of the West Riding LEA, "Dinnington would never have had a new school building at all if it had not been a wooden one".[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35] The Rotherham Advertiser explains that the question of the school was raised "at the height of the economy stunt". There was recognition, by both the governers and the Board of Education, that the maintenance required by wood would mean that brick was likely to prove cheaper in the long term,[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p118] but "at the time the Board of Education would hardly permit the building of schools at all, and even then they only allowed it under exceptional circumstances". Building in timber was reckoned to provide a saving of 30-40% over brick, and this had allowed the West Riding to continue building schools.  Wood was felt to have certain benefits beyond its cheapness: it was considered healthier and easier on the voice than a more solid brick structure. But as we now know, wood rots if not looked after, and burns easily. Low pressure hot-water heating supposedly meant that "the possibility of fire is reduced to an absolute minimum". It also meant there was hot running water in the sinks. Despite this, the governors were still vocally disappointed that the school was made of wood and not brick.[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35]

Dinnigton's timing couldn't have been much worse: in 1936, as a drive to reduce unemployment, school building came back into favour, and the Board of Education returned their new-build grant to the pre-1931 proportion of 50% of building costs rather than the 20% it would've been when Dinnington was put up.[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p118]

Based on the designed intake (640), and including the halls, the school averaged a floorspace of 23 square foot per pupil; without the halls it was 17½ square foot per pupil. This appears to be pretty-much average for schools at that time.[Seaborne and Lowe: The English School Vol 2, p117]

The boys' half and girls' half each had nine classrooms and a hall, arranged in a "H". This double-H created an enclosed central quadrangle and two open-ended quads, as depicted below (girls west, boys east).




The two halves were very separate entities, each with its own staff teaching a profoundly gendered Secondary Modern syllabus: boys' were taught the likes of woodwork, metalwork and bookcraft, while girls learnt cookery, laundry, needlwork and housewifery. A hot meal was provided to pupils at lunchtimes, at a cost of 3d, and the catchment area was predominantly Dinnington, Laughton, North & South Anston, Woodsetts and Firbeck.[HM Inspectors' Report, February 1938]

Layout wise, Dinnington is fairly typical of its time, but I've so far been unable to find a directly comparable structure in the local area, not least because (as already outlined) school building in the early '30s was something of a minority pursuit. That said, the primary schools in Kiveton, despite being brick-built, have near-identical gables and windows to Dinnington, and so may well share a common ancestry. The Fred Milner School in Retford, also in brick, has a similar quadrangle arrangement, and a near-identical arrangement of offices in the Entrance Hall.

When opened, the school lacked a library or gymnasium, and it was hoped that these would arrive in the future.[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35] As it was, the library had to be improvised. But a shared Gym and an Art Room for each department was provided in 1938. The Gym was sited behind the school, while the 300'x300' Art Rooms were genuine extensions to the main school building, closing off the once open quadrangles.

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