A Socio-Political History of the School

A note on footnotes:
Hover over an asterisk for tool-tip references.
Early Education in Dinnington:

As far back as 1743, Dinnington had "one small private school with not more than ten children, carefully taught by a widdow woman"[Jonathan Turner quoted by A.Pickford: The Educational Facilities of Dinnington, 1937]. In his article "The Educational Facilities of Dinnington" written for the village's 1937 Coronation Year programme, Mr. A Pickard (the headmaster of Dinnington Junior School) tells us that "for some time a small school was kept in a house, recently demolished, at the top of Church Lane." [A.Pickford: The Educational Facilities of Dinnington, 1937]

The 1870 Education Act led to the establishment of a one-roomed Elementary School on Barleycroft Lane, built for £600 (raised by subscription) and designed to accommodate 65 children. 38 children enrolled at the new school on 30th March 1874.
[A.Pickford: The Educational Facilities of Dinnington, 1937] All remained pretty manageable until 1905 when Dinnington Colliery was sunk. This induced a massive twenty-fold population expansion in Dinnington: from 250 in 1901 to 5000 in 1911. The Middleton Institute was put to use in an attempt to accommodate as many children as possible. The West Riding County Council made plans for a 350-place school, which were soon redrafted to a two-school complex allowing an intake of 950. Some questioned the need for what seemed at the time to be a rather generous allocation, but when the two schools opened — the Infants' Department in April 1907, and the Mixed Department the following year — they were already fully subscribed.[A.Pickford: The Educational Facilities of Dinnington, 1937]

The arrival of Laughton Council School three years later relieved some of the strain on places, and the Dinnington School was able to expand its brief to the provision of evening classes, opening up the prospect of University education to villagers. This adult-provision was ended in October 1928, with the opening of the clock-towered Chlemsford Mining and Technical Institute (later Rother Valley College) by Viscount Chelmsford, Chairman of the Miners' Welfare Central Committee (the MWCC put up £17,500 of the building's costs). This provided classes in "mining, colliery engineering, colliery electricians', commercial, grocers', butchers', housecraft, motor engineering..., physical training, art, woodwork and the Workers' Education Classes." In 1931, the Institute established a Junior Technical School providing full-time day courses in commerce, industry and housecraft to students aged 13-16. It was administered by its principal, Mr. H. Ralph, BSc, AMIME.
[A.Pickford: The Educational Facilities of Dinnington, 1937]

The Fisher Education Act of 1918 had made Secondary Education compulsory up to the age of 14, and this was now putting a strain on the Mixed Department of the Dinnington School. The possibility of establishing a dedicated secondary school in Dinnington was first raised in 1931, the same year that the Junior Technical School came into being. The Mixed Department would become a Junior School, with the over-10s moving to a new Secondary Department. Entry exams at age 13 would allow some students to graduate to the Junior Tech or potentially even to a local grammar school. The arrival of the Secondary School would establish what is still, locally, a very familiar pattern of education: Nursery - Infant (4-7) - Junior (7-11) - Secondary (11-14) - [Tertiary (13+)]. Rises in the school leaving age and the replacement of tertiary education by the comprehensive system in the '60s have tweaked this pattern only slightly.

The building of a Secondary School on Doe Quarry Lane was embarked upon in 1933 at an estimated cost of £21,300.  The new timber-built school, in the contemporary quadrangle style, opened its doors on 2nd September 1935. It received an official opening on 14th September 1935 by Sir Percy Jackson, the chair of the West Riding LEA, and he defended the decision to build in wood as the only viable option given the financial situation (the great depression).[Rotherham Advertiser, 21/09/35]

In the school, boys and girls were taught separately, following heavily gendered curricula, with boys' classes (e.g. woodwork, metalwork, bookcraft) in the eastern half and girls' classes (e.g. cookery, laundry, needlwork, housewifery) in the western half of the school building. The two departments were effectively autonomous: two separate schools sharing a common campus. 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]

The Battle for Dinnington:

Dr Pickard writes in September 1939:

"The school closed for a fortnight. Dinnington was rather suddenly converted from a reception area to a vulnerable area. During the fortnight, staff took turns by twos in being present from 9 - 8 and in resisting any attempts on the part of unwanted persons to commandeer the premises for non-educational purposes.

"c.7.15pm Wednesday 13th. Met Lieutenant Pepper and Sergeant Major Cressey in school. It appeared that they were keenly desirous of obtaining buildings as barracks for the locally recruited detachment of the 6th Battalion Yorks & Lancaster regiment. Had instructions to take only half the school and were anticipating immediate permission of such a step. On hearing that the boys urinals were at the east end of the site and the servery was in the centre they decided to take the Boys' Dept. rather than the Girls'...

"Next morning I waited at their temporary accommodation at the Middleton Institute as I was afraid they might move from there into the school without due authorisation from Wakefield. About 11am Lieutenant Pepper arrived, saying to Lieutenant Wark that Colonel Wales had definitely got permission to take over the Boys' Department. This statement needed confirmation and so I asked if I might use their phone to ring up the Divisional Clerk. [He] however confirmed that Wakefield had granted permission so I had to stand aside; he said a definite authorisation would be available by 12.20pm, and asked me to phone again about then. Arrived back at school 11.45am, and shortly after, Mr A Ecclestone, County Council Inspector, arrived to inspect the position. He asked me to accompany him to the Chelmsford Institute where the possibility of securing alternate accommodation for the Boys' Department was discussed with Mr Ralph [the Head there]. Mr Ecclestone phoned Mr [indecipherable] who gave the ultimate decision that the military be allowed in."

The military occupied the school on Thursday September 14th at about 1:30pm. The Boys' Department was broken up into groups of 50 pupils who were taught in the school on successive days. The girls' Domestic Science rooms were used to provide school meals, as the servery was in use by the soldiers.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the attendance of the Girls' Department in September 1939 slipped to below 70%. The Headmistress, Miss Butterworth, described the truants as "the usual bad attenders, who are evidently taking advantage of the war to exploit their own selfish ends".[Dinnington Senior Girls' Log Book]

But Dr Pickard continues:

"[There is a] certain amount of local feeling based on 2 primary objections:
a) presence of soldiers made all 5 schools into military objectives, and with the proximity of the pit there were now added reasons for attracting bombing.

b) the billets were undesirably close to a girls' school.

"Military authority were asked to leave by September 30th. [They] actually evacuated on Sunday October 1st... 17½ days... Very little damage [was] done and none of this was irreparable."
By way of recompense, the military dug the school regulation military-occupation trenches to take approximately 350 kids. This gave the school "reasonable argument in favour of being able to resume under fairly adequate ARP requirements".[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]

The Second World War:

Evacuees from Laughton were admitted in March 1940. There were 10 evacuees on the roll of the Girls' Department, and a presumably equivalent number at the Boys'. Air raid shelters were completed by April 1940, and the school could evacuate to them in under two minutes. Such an escape presumably took place for real on 26th August 1940, when Laughton was bombed. Another air raid in the early hours of the 29th saw the school attendance slip to below 50%.[Dinnington Senior Girls' Log Book]

The school dug for victory, with pupils turning over their playing fields for vegetables. Bees were also kept for honey, and plans were made for the keeping of pigs. These plans were disapproved in four meetings, and the scheme was vetoed, but it seems to have come back to life again with the arrival of Mr Pizzey as temporary Head of the Boys' (Dr Pickard, like many other male teachers, having left Dinnington for the war effort). Under Pizzey's tenure, a pig-sty was built, and 11 pigs were bought in October 1942.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]

The 1944 Butler Education Act established the Tripartite System of Education, and under it, the Dinnington Secondary School became a Secondary Modern School. In the West Riding this change was largely cosmetic. There was certainly no appetite for an 11+ system, and so Dinnington maintained the locally well-established 13+ programme. Entrance exams for Maltby Grammar, the Technical College (next door), and other establishments continued to be sat in the second year, leading to an exodus of students (mainly to the Tech) and a diminished population in the third (and final) year.


In August 1946, the catchment area was extended to Kiveton and Wales. A third of pupils were bussed to the school.[HM Inspectors' Report, October 1950]

Potato picking was an annual nuisance to the timetable. The first reference to it in the Log Books comes in October 1944, when the attendance in the Boys' Department was as low as 40%. Boys were allowed out in the fields if the had prior permission in the form of a blue card. Those without blue cards were sent back to school. In 1951, the decision was made to lengthen the Summer Holiday by a fortnight to avoid the potato disruption.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book] Meanwhile, the Head of the Girls' Department, Mrs Goldthorpe, constantly refused girls to go potato picking, and was pleased to observe that by October 1952 the practice had completely died out.[Dinnington Senior Girls' Log Book]

In 1947, the compulsory school leaving age was raised to 15, and this (confounded further by the emergent baby-boom in the next decade) led to an increasing shortage of teaching space.

By October 1950, Dinnington was one of only two segregated schools in the Rother Valley Divisional Executive, with the other being Maltby. Academic standards were not particularly high, not least through oversubscription and understaffing. The Halls were being used for teaching, and there were up to 40 pupils per form.[HM Inspectors' Report, October 1950] Between 1948-1956 there were 16 appointments to the permanent staff of the Boys' school and 51 temporary teachers, during a severe staffing crisis considered so bad that the HM Inspectorate felt in necessary to postpone their visit to the school.[HM Inspectors' Report, April 1956] In 1954, the West Riding prefab classrooms were erected at the back of the school, and this alleviated some of the pressure, but by August 1955, the Girls' Head, Mrs Goldthorpe, described the school as "grossly overcrowded".[Dinnington Senior Girls' Log Book] By 1956, the population was almost double that on opening, while the school had only increased its accommodation by about a third.

Academic Innovation:

Mining was an attractive career choice for many pupils, mainly for the relatively high wages and the National Service exemption. Perhaps in an effort to broaden the horizons of the more academically minded Modern student, the Boys' Department, now under Mr Spelman, instituted the first final leaving exams at the school in 1953 (initially in English, Maths, Geography, History and Science, with Art, Metalwork, Woodwork and Music coming a year later), based on papers set by the College of Preceptors. Inter-House competition was formalised and expanded under Spelman, and a uniform was introduced for new boys in 1955; the Head having previously noted that pupils were "badly turned out and many arrive in rags".[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book] In June 1956, for the first time at Dinnington, a select group of four boys sat the College of Preceptors' exams in English (Language & Literature), Art, Maths, Geography, General Science, Woodwork, Metalwork and Technical Drawing. Two candidates passed in five subjects and the other two in four.[Dinnington Senior Boys' Log Book]


When Mr Spelman, left the school in 1956, some felt it was time to amalgamate the two halves into a single mixed school under the headship of Mrs Goldthorpe. A vote of the governors went 5-5, with the chair casting in favour of the status quo. The LEA intervened and a new vote was taken, but this also went 5-6 against coeducation. Then the government stepped in. The HM Inspectors report of the inspection of the Boys' School during 18th-20th April 1956 resolved that Dinnington Secondary School should be amalgamated from Spring 1957. The report was accepted "under protest and very grave disquiet" by the school board[School Governors' Minutes], and Mrs Goldthorpe was approached by the County Officials in May 1956 to oversee the amalgamation. Despite great anxiety from parents, the combined school was announced on November 7th 1956 and opened under Mrs Goldthorpe on 7th January 1957.[Dinnington Senior Girls' Log Book]

Mrs Goldthorpe wrote of the amalgamation:

The first week of the new school has been surprisingly smooth. The pupils accept the new regime with ease and little apparent excitement. Staff are finding it not so easy. Many of the women staff who have never handled boys before and men teachers who have never taught girls are having to adapt their teaching and relationships accordingly."[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book]
The oversubscription of previous years continued to be a problem. By the end of 1957, the school population was 948, and a year later the Primary School and Nursery Block were being magpied for classrooms. Overcrowding was also behind the decision, in 1959, to institute the 11+ from 1961, replacing the 13+ that had previously existed at Dinnington. The arrival of the 6-roomed Annexe in 1959, helped restore the school to a single campus, but by now the roll was in quadruple figures.[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book]

In December 1960, Dinnington was the first school in the area to hold a Careers Convention. Despite this, it was noted a year later that there were more leavers without a prospective job than had been known before.[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book]


On the 14th November 1961, TV journalist James Mossman, augmented by a BBC film unit, arrived at Dinnington to make a Panorama item on "Corporal Punishment in Schools". It would examine contrasting discipline in two schools in the West Riding; the other being a school in Leeds.  Dinnington may have been chosen because of the close professional relationship between Mrs Goldthorpe and the progressive Chief Education Officer of the West Riding Education Authority, Alec Clegg.

Mrs Goldthorpe writes:

"The BBC teams were most efficient and very little interference with the timetable was necessary. Shots were taken of many of the activities of the school -- dance, drama, handicraft, English, Maths, etetc. The children were very interested in the filming technique and asked many pertinent questions of the camera crew. Interviews with the head teacher, the deputy head and several teachers were arranged."[Dinnington Mixed Modern Log Book]
On the 29th there was some follow-up shooting. And then on 4th December 1961, programme 264 of Panorama aired on the BBC ([BBC programme number LCA6833S]). The episode contained items on Tanganyikan (Tanzanian) independence, new immigration controls, and decimalisation, in addition to the two reports on school discipline. Of the interviews filmed on the 14th, Mrs Goldthorpe's seems to have been the only one used. She writes: "The 'cutting' was drastic and the school was not shown as the busy, healthy, happy place it is, but our views on corporal punishment were fairly stated. The Leeds school emerged in a bad -- totally wrong impression -- almost sadistic." The suggestion is that the comparison in the programme came out in favour of a more progressive discipline regime at Dinnington, though it is hard to judge without having seen the programme.

Comprehensive Education:

In a way, the arguments that surrounded the 1957 amalgamation of the school were slightly academic, as a merger between the Modern and the Secondary department of the Tech was already on the cards. The idea of a Comprehensive in Dinnington had been mooted by January 1956, and the land for the new campus was infact bought in the same month that the Modern went mixed. The new merger led to another vote in 1962, this time over what the combined school should be called: Dinnington High or Dinnington Comprehensive. The result was 8-4 to the former, and Dinnington High School was born.[School Governors' Minutes]

The West Riding Education Authority was, as already noted, one of the more progressive, and it was a leader in comprehensive reform. Dinnington would be the first Comprehensive School in the Rother Valley area, with the Tripartite System being systematically disassembled. To emphasise its educational breadth (and suitability as a replacement for the Grammar School system) the school would expand upon its old House-based pastoral system with a physical, collegiate House Base campus; very classy. The school was designed by Hardy Glover of Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Fergusson, Edinburgh; the company behind Sussex University and the celebrated Coventry Cathedral rebuild.[Rotherham Advertiser, 16/04/60] The modern Phase I extension, with its two-storey blocks and glazed flyovers (not to mention extensive sports fields and athletics tracks) opened a fortnight later than planned, on 23rd September 1963, with a formal opening event taking place on 14th November 1964. For this latter event, the school was opened by celebrity educator, mountaineer and panel-show presenter [Jack Longland MA], Director of Education for Derbyshire, who compared the new building to the Parthenon, saying DHS was "fit, beautiful and apt for its purpose", the "first of its kind in the country", and "helping to raise the standard of public building".[Rotherham Advertiser, 05/12/64]

I'll take advantage of the 40 year rule and the fact that he's dead to tell you that Longland was only the third choice for the job. The governors had originally hoped for [Lord James of Rusholme], at that time Vice-Chancellor of contemporary educational establishment the University of York. The Archbishop of York was second choice, with Jack Longland third on the list. The others considered were: Lord Newsom (author of the Newsom Report of 1963, which proposed greater relevance of curriculum to the lives of disadvantaged working class pupils, and brought about the Newsom course - an ostensibly vocational curriculum for less academic kids), [Sir John Wolfendon] (former public school headmaster and chair of a number of government committees on education, but most famous as the author of the Wolfendon report of 1957 which effectively recommended the legalisation of homosexuality in the UK) and Lord Scarbrough (educationally minded and locally seated peer (Doncaster), responsible for the Scarbrough report of 1946: seemingly an enquiry into the teaching of Oriental Studies).[School Governors' Minutes]

Longland offered a cup to the school, and though I don't remember a Longland Cup competition, I expect such a thing existed. Mrs M A Butterfield, Head of the Board of Governors gave the Butterfield Cup, which was awarded to the House with the most Merit Cards. And while we're on the subject, there was also the Rastall House Championship Shield which was dedicated to the memory of Mrs A Rastall, the first chair of the Governors (or of the Kiveton Park District Education Sub-Committee, to be strictly accurate).[School Governors' Minutes]

The merger saw an increase in the length of the school day. Changes in the school uniform were met with less disapproval by pupils. Girls, for instance, were happy that they could now wear black stockings and be "with it".[1963/4 Year Book]

Not everything about the merger ran smoothly. Tensions were evident between the staff of the Modern, the staff of the Tech and the growing ranks of newly employed qualified teachers. Mr B Fox writes:

"Diktats from Mr Moreton [the new Headmaster]  that everyone had to use the New School staff room only (and ignore the one in the old wooden secondary modern building) marked the reluctance of the SMod teachers to mix.  They thought they'd be shafted with an inlfux of new people with degrees.  Where would they get promotions?"
Indeed, the vast majority of Departmental Headships went to new (graduate) staff. The older (largely unqualified) staff were pacified with the Head of House positions, with each house divided equally between a Tech and a Modern teacher: Athorpe and Hatfield had House Masters from the Modern and House Mistresses from the Tech, while Osborne and Segrave had the opposite arrangement (coincidentally, Osborne and Segrave's internal layout is also a reflection of that of Hatfield and Athorpe - see House Construction).

Wales and ROSLA:

When it opened, Dinnington High School served 1,633 pupils from a catchment area consisting of Anston, Dinnington, Lindrick (the West Riding portion thereof), Woodsetts, Firbeck, Letwell, Harthill, Kiveton, Thorpe Salvin and Wales, with some students also coming in from Thurcroft and Maltby. Roger Whitfield adds: "some of my mates came from further out that way, Thrybergh and Sunnyside." It was a large catchment area that required a large school. But the second and third phases of extension would be abandoned when it was decided that a new Rother Valley South school would be built for the end of the '60s, taking away half of Dinnington's catchment area. This was a mixed blessing for Dinnington, especially in the years before Wales High School opened, when most pleas for further campus development would be quashed on the grounds that half the catchment would soon have new digs. As it was, things didn't quite work out that way. It's true that Dinnington's school population has gone down since 1963, but only by about 150. Population growth thanks to the establishment of the Commuter Belt has meant that Dinnington has been stuck with more pupils than it was made for for most of its lifetime.

Slight respite came in the run up to the 1972 legislation that raised the school age again, this time to 16. Dinnington got one or two new teaching blocks out of this, but of course at the cost of, again, a slightly larger population.

Things pretty much stayed this way for then next couple of decades, though there was greater access to funds after the opening of Wales High School, leading to the construction of the Pool and the Sports Hall.[School Governors' Minutes]

The Battle for the Pool:

The Swimming Pool was only partly funded from educational coffers. Among the fundraising attempts was "a hundred mile sponsored walk by approximately twelve 6th formers". The fundraising wasn't limited to DHS. Peter Scott writes: "I remember fundraising for the pool when at Primary School." At the end of 1969, Kiveton Park Rural District Council offered £10,000 for the pool on the proviso that it could be used by the public, and they later upped this figure to £15,000.[School Governors' Minutes]

So when, after a couple of years, the school decided it'd like the pool to itself, the public who'd paid for it naturally kicked up a bit of a fuss. A four year dispute came to a head in 1978, when Rotherham Council threatened to pull the plug on the £30,000 per year running costs, and ceased building work on new changing rooms.[Rotherham Advertiser, 15/09/78] The school had no choice but to allow the public in. An uneasy balance was maintained until the early 1990s, when the pool was divorced from the school, and DCS finally dropped swimming from the curriculum.


In 1982, the school was condemned for its poor condition: Roofs leaked, making floors slippery; Broken windows were left unreplaced; Equipment in the Art department lacked the appropriate safety guards; PE had to deal with occasional floods.[Rotherham Advertiser, 09/07/82] The school has had to juggle these sorts of problems pretty much consistently. It always had problems with vandalism and build quality, even in the '30s. But as populations and surface areas increase, so do the problems. In the '80s, every House had at least one pinball machine. Constant theft meant that there was only one left in the entire school by 1997.

Conservative Educational Reform:

There were some changes in the early '90s as the 1988 Education Reform Act kicked in, and this was most obvious in teaching styles. The National Curriculum saw an increasing reliance on ticking boxes and distributing photocopies, as long established teaching plans had to be revised to meet Key Stage guidelines.

In 1993, DCS was designated a Technology School by the DES. It was the first such designation in Rotherham, and probably the last, as all future Technology Schools had to opt out of local government control to get it. Dinnington just slipped in under the net. The deal provided DCS with specialist equipment and machinery in order to run NVQ courses in CAD and Manufacturing. On top of this was £183,000 for new Technology equipment, along with a year's free maintenance. In exchange, DCS had to provide a course in Diploma Foundation as a kind of advert for GNVQs.[Rotherham Advertiser, 15/10/93] PSE was dropped to make room for it.

A couple of years later, the revamped Technology Block arrived, containing the school's first IBM-compatible PCs.

The Fire and its Aftermath:

By far the biggest changes to the school as a political unit were brought about not so much by the flaming torch of the Conservative government as by the flaming torch of Lower School. 1997 was almost as dramatic a watershed for the school as 1963. Both years saw a major new school build and a change of Head.

The blank sheet of paper provided by the 1996 arson attack that laid waste to the original 1935 school building has ushered in dramatic changes both to the campus, and (thanks to the the provisional measures employed in 1996/7, principally the partition of Athorpe House Base) to the pastoral structure of the school. The House Base system has effectively been abandoned in favour of a Year based organisation.

The campus development in recent years should not be underestimated. Since 1993, the Small Kitchen has been refitted as classrooms, the Tech Block has been extended, the New Lower School building has emerged from the flames of the original building, the Terrapins and their ilk have been wiped off the map, and the Phase I buildings are being reclad. After ten years, the school is close to unrecognisable; the wood-panel burnt away or hidden behind sheets of red plastic.

Changes of appearance are also apparent in the pupils themselves. The old school tie of navy, purple and silver-grey stripes was phased out at the turn of the millennium. Its replacement has smaller stripes, and the school badge emblazoned on a field of navy blue. There's also a new alternative summer uniform with white polo shirt and blue sweatshirt.

On 27th January 2005, the school announced success in its bid to become a Specialist School in Science and Engineering. This basically means that the government gives the school a grant of £100,000 and an extra £126 per pupil for four years (which works out at about £850,000 all told). In order to get that though, the school had to raise £50,000 (it got £28,000 from school funds and parent teacher partnerships, and £22,000 from local business (£5,000 of that (the biggest single donation) from Hazlewood Prepared Foods, now Greencore, in Wales)), but that still works out as £800,000 for nothing very much. Or £800,000 for selling out the Comprehensive Ideal, if you prefer. Aside from the cheque though, all Specialist School Status really means is having to be able to offer a bit more science than the norm (which the school already did). You can also select 10% of your intake, which is a bit scary, but probably not terribly relevant for a school whose only meaningful competition in these days of catchment meaninglessness is the similarly performing Wales High School.