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The Croft Nursery School first opened in 1942.

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Hungerford Nursery School, Aug 2009


Hungerford Nursery School, Aug 2009

schools-024 croft nursery 1981
schools-024 croft nursery 1981

The original Nursery School, 1981

schools-nursery 1988
schools-nursery 1988

The original Nursery School, 1988

nursery school
nursery school

- Hungerford Nursery School, August 2009.

- The original Nursery School, 1981.

- The original Nursery School, 1988.

- Hungerford Nursery School, August 2009.

The history of the Croft Nursery School:

[The following account is based on information from Miss Stella French, Head Teacher 1954-84, written in 1987].

The original pre-fabricated building was built on the site of the farmyard of the adjacent Parsonage Farm, which included cowsheds, pigsties and the well.

The nursery opened as a Wartime Nursery (later re-named Day Nursery) administered by the Ministry of Health, to provide young mothers with crèche facilities whilst they worked at local factories involved in the war effort, including the Vickers Armstrong Aircraft Factory in Eddington and the Chilton Aircraft Factory. The nursery was staffed by a matron and nurses, helped by other young women who had taken a three month "Child Care Reserve" course. The nursery was open from 7am until 7pm, and as well as providing meals (including breakfast), the emphasis was on health and cleanliness.

The Day Nursery closed for a short time in 1946, but re-opened as a Nursery School for children aged 2-5 years, on 9 Dec 1947, under the Ministry of Education, with local control by Berkshire County Council (Newbury District Education office).

At that time the staff comprised a Superintendent (Miss Beryl Cheetham, a qualified teacher), a Deputy Superintendent (also a qualified teacher), and two Nursery Assistants (CCRs). There were 22 children only - restricted because of a shortage of equipment. By 1948 the roll had increased to its permitted maximum of 30 children.

In June 1948 an Open Day was organised, at which a Toy Fund was started, and most parents gave one penny per week.

The post-war emphasis was on a happy atmosphere and learning by experiment. Health and hygiene were still important, and included toothbrush and handkerchief drill. There was a nutritious midday meal for all children, which included orange juice, rusks, 2/3 pint of milk and a daily dose of cod-liver oil. There was a 90 minute rest period after lunch, with children lying on stretcher beds with blankets supplied. Most children actually slept! There was limited outdoor space, so long walks were arranged, and whenever possible children stripped off to play in the sunshine.

In 1949 Miss Jean Earle was appointed Superintendent. The land extending down towards the canal was cleared and added to the playground.

In 1953 the Superintendents officially became "Head Teachers", to emphasis the teaching role. CCR qualification was replaced by a 2-year training for the National Nursery Examination Board Certificate. Hungerford Nursery was an official training school for students on this course.

Many Nursery Schools, especially in the south of England, were closed during the 1950s, and there was a national ban on nursery building due to scarce resources after the war. However, Berkshire retained its 13 nurseries and had the first new permanent nursery with open plan built at Cookham. Visitors came from all over the world.

Hungerford's Croft Nursery School continued to thrive, under the Head Teachers Miss Stella French (1954-84); and Mrs Angela Pomroy (1984-1998). See "Head says farewell", NWN 30 Jul 1998.). An extension to the building was added in 1994.

At this time the Assistant Teacher was Miss Nicola Dunks, with Nursery Nurses Mrs Pat Eggbeer (1957-July 2001) and Mrs Rosalie Brady.

The line of excellent head teachers continued with Mrs Jane Simons (appointed 1998), and it was largely due to her energy and drive that the local authority agreed to build a completely new nursery school, at last replacing the 1942 pre-fab (which had well-surpassed its 10-year predicted life!).

Hungerford was indeed fortunate to have a grand new Nursery School building, which opened in January 2005. (The official opening was on 25th June 2005). The new school is double the size of the earlier one, and includes a separate head teacher's office, staff room, and hall. The text below is from the information available after the re-opening in 2005:

Centre for Children and Families
The Croft Hungerford
Hungerford RG17 OHY
Headteacher: Mrs Jane Simons

"Our new Nursery reopened on January 10th 2005 back on the original site in the Croft. We are now able to boast extra facilities not only for children, but also for their families, hence the change of name. The Centre is situated in a beautiful setting backing onto the Kennet and Avon canal. The school caters for children from the age of 4 spending three terms with us until they reach the age of 5 when they transfer to primary school. The time children spend in nursery gradually increases from part time to fulltime sessions through the year. We are able to accommodate the equivalent of 40 fulltime children in the nursery school which usually means there are approximately 60 children on our roll. Now we have more space we have a designated area for other services and groups catering particularly for parents/carers and professionals working with under 5's. This hall is known as the 'Play Centre'.

We are now able to offer a breakfast club from 8am and an after school club to those children attending the nursery, the Hungerford Playgroup or those children in the Foundation Stage class at the Hungerford Primary School."

Jane Simons retired in March 2008, when the new head teacher was Suzanne Taylor.

The nursery school continues to get excellent Ofsted reports. In 2012-13 it was "outstanding" in every way - the third successive outstanding report. See "Three cheers for our nursery", NWN 24 Jan 2013.

By 2018 the Hungerford Nursery School Centre for Children and Families comprised three separate but connected branches  – the Nursery School, the Family Centre and the Teaching Centre. Each has been thriving under the leadership of Suzanne Taylor and her team, an achievement recently reflected in her award of an MBE (for services to education) in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List . The Centre has received its fourth ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report and is now a National Support School meaning that it has an official role in helping other schools to achieve the same high standards.

In June 2022 the Nursery School's 80th anniversary was celebrated with a day of fun and activities. See "80 years and still running", NWN 30 June 2022.

Headteacher Suzanne Taylor is to leave the school at Easter 2024, her role being taken by Mrs Chloe Summerville.

See also:

- "Nursery celebrates its mark of quality", NWN 27 Nov 2003

- "Glowing Ofstead report for nursery", NWN 15 Feb 2007

- Invitation to Jane Simons' Retirement Party, 2008

- "Three cheers for our nursery", NWN 24 Jan 2013.

- "Five in a row for outstanding nursery school", NWN 25 Nov 2021.

"80 years and still running", NWN 30 June 2022.