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This is an abbreviated version of Chapter 10 from GATLEY the Pictorial History of the Parish of St James the Apostle by Frank & Terreta Mitchell published in 1980

EDUCATION in Gatley has followed the pattern common in many Cheshire villages. This means until the beginning of the 19th century there was almost no formal education, and except for a few wealthy or progressive families, few people could read or write. Then in the early 19th century the nonconformist Chapel in Gatley started to provide some day-school education in addition to religious education, and the Church of England followed later with similar facilities.

The local gentry did not usually send their children to these church schools, which catered for the children of farmers, tradesfolk and cottagers, and instead they often engaged private governesses for their younger children.  From about  1898 a number of private schools opened in Gatley to care for the more affluent or education-conscious families, and one of these still survives (1979). Nowadays, with minor exceptions, all schools within the St. James Parish come under the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport. 

GATLEY’S FIRST DAY SCHOOL. Photo. c.1871. This day school (also used as a Sunday School) was built in 1821 onto the side of the old Congregational Chapel in Old Hall Road. In 1871 it was rebuilt. The oldest Sunday School Record starts in 1821 and shows that even at that early date secular education had started there in a small way, because, among other classes, there was one called ‘’Reading Made Easy’’, and another for complete beginners called ‘’The A B C Class’’. The Congregational Sunday School Accounts of 1845 include the sums of £2 12s. 0d.for night schoolteachers, £1 15s. 0d. for copy books, and £2 7s. 6d. for books and stationery. This suggests that the Chapel was also trying to deal with the problem of adult illiteracy. Whites Directory of 1860 states that there was a day school in Gatley, principally supported by Mrs. Alcock of Gatley Hall. Elizabeth Henshall and Alice Smith were mentioned as teachers, and the entry probably refers to the Congregational School. A Report of 1875 mentions for the first-time receipt by the School of a Government grant of £28 2s. 8d. for its 35 pupils and describes it as a British and Foreign School Society School. A Report on Schools in the Stockport Union Poor Law Area dated 1877 describes it as a ‘’British School’’, the headmistress being Matilda Royle, with 13 boys and 37 girls attending, but with places for 60 boys and 60 girls. Melsoms’ Directory shows Miss Royle as still being there in 1887.

The school was in financial difficulties by 1892, and in 1894 it closed as a Congregational or British school. A minister’s report of 1899, however, shows that the school room was being let for day school purposes, presumably to some private teacher. For further details of this school, see W. H. SHERCLIFF, Gatley United Reformed Church, 1777-1977, 1976, pp.19, 22-3, 25-6, 30-1. 






ST, JAMES CHURCH SCHOOL. Photo. c.1890. Situated at the eastern end of Gatley Green. Opened as a Church of England National Society Day School in 1875, and officially closed as such on 8th June 1936. The schoolroom was, however, used by the Local Authority as part of Gatley Primary School from 1936 until 1st November 1955, when they moved into two additional classrooms built at the main school. This brought to an end eighty years of day school education at the little school on Gatley Green.

See T. M. MITCHELL, The Story of a Parish Hall and Village School, 1975).


SHARSTON SCHOOL. Photo. c.1903. Situated outside St. James Parish at the junction of Altrincham Road and Sharston Road. It was once of importance to Gatley children because some of them used it before the chapel or church schools were built in Gatley, and even later. It was built some years before 1814 on land given by William Tatton, Esq., Lord of the Manor. He stipulated that both boys and girls were to be taught reading, spelling, writing and accounts, and the girls were also to be taught sewing and knitting. The school was later one of three Church of England National Schools under the Rector of Northenden, in whose parish it lay, and was extensively rebuilt, altered or rebuilt in 1842 and 1869. It was sold in 1901 and was used as a tearoom until c.1930. It was later demolished, and the Sharston Hotel was built on the site. For further details see SHERCLIFF, Ed. Wythenshawe, etc., 1974, pp236, 308 et seq., and 320.


SCHOOLCHILDREN ON GATLEY GREEN. Photo. c1908. Most of these are from St. James Church School. The houses to the right of centre still survive, but the ancient cottage at the far right has gone. 

● Before proceeding to the modern local authority schools let us look briefly at some private schools which have existed in Gatley. These seem to have first appeared here around 1898, although there were probably one or two ‘’Dames’ Schools’’ before this. The Census Returns of 1841 and 1851, as well as Whites Directory of 1860, each list Gatley school mistresses, but without stating where they taught. In June 1898, a Miss Bentley opened a private school at ‘’Eversley’’, Northenden Road (opposite the present Recreation Ground). In 1906 Miss Bertha Smith had a small private school over Thomas Goodier’s stables at number 1 Northenden Road by 1912 she had moved it to 171, Gatley Road. The syllabus included Pianoforte, and the school was popular with some of Gatley’s better-off families until it closed in about 1958. Miss Smith retired to Southport and died there at the age of 90 plus.

Around 1929 no fewer than three more private schools opened in Gatley. One was the Gatley High School for Girls, situated on the south side of Gatley Road, near Kingsway. This catered for Kindergarten, Junior, and Senior Girls, in the age range of 5 to 17 years, with about 100 children on the books, and was started by Norman and Hermon Spoonley. It was sold in 1946 to a Mr. Farnfield and later to Mr. J. Garner. It closed as a school in 1960 and was converted to flats which still remain as 103, Gatley Road.


Another private school was started in 1929 by Miss Maude Lowcock at Torkington Lodge She included dancing in her syllabus. Torkington Lodge was demolished in c.1932, and Miss Lowcock moved her school to Delamere Road, Gatley. It was henceforth called ‘’The Orchard School’’ and had about 30 children. It had closed by 1962.

 The third school was at Oakbank and Shortacre at the junction of Gatley Road and Kingsway. It is called ‘’Cheadle High School’’, although it is in the Parish of Gatley. This too started in 1929 as a girl’s school. It still exists (in 1979 ), but accommodates about 90 boys and girls aged 3 to 11. Mrs. Ada Higson was the first owner, and her son and daughter Mr. A. H. Higson and Mrs. B. Jones are the present proprietors. Mrs. L. Simmons is head.

GATLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL. Photo. 1979. Situated in Hawthorn Road. This was Gatley’s first Local.Authority school, and it grew out of the St. James Church School. The first assembly took place on 9th June 1936, but the L.A. also used the old St. James schoolroom until 1st November 1955. It is an Infant/Junior School, with places for about 365 boys and girls, and the present Head is Mr. D. J. Sexton. St. James used it as a Sunday School until the late 1950s.




BROADWAY SCHOOL for boys. Photo. 1979. This was situated on Broadway, postal address Cheadle. It opened in September 1939, and in 1979 had places for about 990 boys of the age range 11 to 18 plus. The Head was Mr. G. J. Nicholls.

Combined with Kingsway in 




KINGSWAY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS. Photo. 1979. Situated at the junction of Foxlands Road and Kingsway and opened in 1964. In 1979 it had places for about 950 girls of the age range 11 to 18 plus.Tthe Head was Miss S. R. Brown.

2021 1448

LUM HEAD JUNIOR SCHOOL is also in St. James Parish and is described in Chapter 12. 

HIGH GROVE INFANT SCHOOL is outside the Parish but is described in Chapter 11.

(Taken from Gatley the Pictorial History of the Parish of St James the Apostle by Frank & Terreta Mitchell) 


Changes since 1980

Broadway and Kingsway secondary schools have combined under the name of Kingsway there are still two sites as before. 

Lum Head Junior and High Grove Infant now operate from the Lum Head site on Troutbeck Road as Lum Head Primary School



National Schools (from 1811) and British Schools (from 1808)

The National Society was established in 1811 with the ambition of establishing a National School in every English and Welsh parish. The Society built schools next to parish churches. Charitable in purpose, affiliated to the Church of England, the curriculum majored on religious education. The established Church had returned to the history of education. Charitable and missionary.

The Royal Lancastrian Society (later the British and Foreign School Society) had a similar mission but was non-denominational, and less extensive.

Both sought to provide elementary education for the poor, and on a very limited budget. Similarly, they both used a monitorial teaching style. Older and more able pupils were taught with standardized repetitive exercises. And they in turn taught the younger and less able pupils. As a result one teacher could teach a class of hundreds of pupils.

The curriculum was basic but it was the first attempt at universal education. Access to elementary education rose from 58% in 1816 to 83% in 1835. But average attendance was for one year only. Their legacy is as faith schools within the state system.

The Taunton Report 1868

The report published by the Taunton Commission which stratified educational need according to social class. It was to influence educational policy for nearly 100 years.

It divided parents into three “grades”, in effect, gentry, middle and working classes;

The “first grade” who wished for their children to be educated up to and beyond the age of 18, and who had “no wish to displace the Classics from their present position in the forefront of English education”.

The “second grade” who wished their children to be educated to the age of 16. These parents would “approve of a curriculum which included not only Latin, but also a thorough knowledge of those subjects which can be turned to practical use in business”. Meaning English, maths, science, and a modern language.

The “third grade” who wished for their children to be educated to the age of 14. These parents belonged to “a class distinctly lower in the scale”, and who wanted a curriculum with no Classics but only reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Elementary Education Act 1870 (The Forster Act)

For the first time, the government mandated the provision of elementary education for children aged 5-13. Attendance was compulsory for boys and girls, aged 5-10, thereafter until attainment of the “educational standard”.

As stipulated by Taunton (1868) the curriculum was limited to the 3Rs (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic). The schools were all fee paying, with exceptions for qualifying “poor”.

Board Schools were to be built where current provision by Church and private schools was inadequate. Board schools were funded by the state, secular, and managed by locally elected school boards. By 1900 Board Schools accounted for half of all elementary schools. An unexpected consequence of this new school building initiative was that Church schools doubled in number (to 12,756) by 1895, capitalizing on the 50% maintenance grant. But they overstretched and ran out of money.

There were attendance exemptions for illness, children in employment, and those living too far from the school. But exemptions were revoked in 1880 and enforced by School Attendance Officers.

Education Act 1902 (The Balfour Act)

By the turn of the century, Church schools taught one third of elementary age children. The schools lacked cash, were “appallingly old and out of date” and “pigsty schools”. Trading cash for influence, control and “efficiency” the Balfour Act was highly controversial.

The Act established the Local Education Authorities (LEAs), with the ability to raise local taxes to fund schools and disbanded school boards. Church, board and endowed grammar schools now came under the supervision of one of 328 LEAs.

LEAs paid for the teachers, maintenance of all schools, but if the Church schools wanted a denominational curriculum, they had to pay for their own new buildings. The Act didn’t include non-conformist schools, only Catholic and Church of England.

The Act also led to the establishment of over 1000 new “municipal” or “county” secondary schools, including 349 girls’ schools.

The LEA was responsible for secular curriculum in all schools. The curriculum for the county and municipal schools now included science and languages. In 1904 the Board of Education mandated a four year subject-based course of English, geography, history, foreign language, mathematics, science, drawing, manual work, physical training, and, for girls, housewifery. For the first time in the history of education the broad curriculum was available to all.

The school leaving age had been raised to 11 in 1893, 12 in 1899 and then to 14 in 1921.

Education Act 1944 (The Butler Act)

In the spirit of post war consensus and the desire for social reform the Butler Act created an educational landscape that is recognizable today. State education was now free for all children.

The Act created separate primary schools (5-11) and secondary schools (11-15). LEAs also had to ensure nursery provision, disability provision and boarding. The compulsory school age was raised to 15, then 16 in 1973.

Extracts reproduced with permission from the Schoolsmith Website (



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