Thomas Whitehead C of E VA Primary School

Thomas Whitehead CE Academy

A member of the Diocese of St Albans Multi Academy Trust

Believing & Achieving together

Church School
Xtranet VLE

School History


Thomas Whitehead’s school has played an important part in the history of Houghton Regis since its inception in 1654. In those days a few enlightened people were beginning to see the need to give a basic education to the children of the poor. Small schools began to be established throughout the country in which children would at least be taught the three "Rs". One of the largest of these was at Houghton Regis where Thomas Whitehead, who had been second master (or First Usher as he was called at the time) at Repton from 1621 to 1639, left part of his estate for the purpose. The following is an extract from his Will:- dated 10th September 1654

"Whereas I also stand seized of an inheritance … in Houghton Regis in the County of Bedford commonly called the Stranges beinge the place of my birth to which I beare greate respect and give and bequeath the same tomy executors and their heirs for ever together with tow hundred and fifty pounds of lawful English money to … convert part of my now dwelling house or buildings thereto belonging into a school house or else erect a new one … my will and mind is that my said executors and their heires shall for ever hereafter pay unto some honest paynfull schoolmaster who shall bee employed there to keep schoole to teach twenty schollers there freely without any salarie for his paynes fifteen whereof to be children of fifteen poore in- habitants within the said Towne and the other fyve to be the children of fyve other poore inhabitants living within ye Hamlets next adjoining …."

It seems to have been his intention that in addition to the three "Rs" they should be instructed in the faith and practice of the Church of England.

Thomas Whitehead died in October 1654. His salary whilst at Repton School had been £10 per annum.He was able to leave £250 in his will (25 years earnings!) to the parish for setting up the school. He must have been a very wealthy man for his time to have been able to do this.

In April 1859 the School was known as the Houghton Regis Free School and a group of ten trustees were set up to manage the trust lead by Humphrey Brandreth of Houghton Hall and the Vicar of the parish, Rev Hugh Smyth.

The school did not become a Church of England school officially until the implementation of the Butler Act in the 1950s. It was previously known as the Houghton Regis C.E. School, where the C.E. meant Charity Endowed. In 1956 the school took the name of its founder and became Whitehead Voluntary Primary School. The school was situated adjacent to the village green until 1967 when it was moved into larger, new buildings behind Bedford Square and was then called Whitehead C. of E. Primary School.

In the early to mid 1970s, the school was gradually changed to a Lower school and was called Whitehead Church of England Lower School.

Disaster struck in 1975 when a fire, caused by fireworks being pushed through the letter box, destroyed the school buildings. This setback was overcome by a massive effort on the part of the Trustees, who, using some of Thomas Whitehead’s funds and the insurance settlement, rebuilt the whole school within a year. Whilst this work was being carried out the Local Authority seized the opportunity to add on a purpose built Nursery Unit. This Unit, the first in the area, opened in January 1977. The school still retains mementoes of the fire, the most moving and evocative being the charred remains of a wooden cross which had, some years prior to the fire, been presented to the school in memory of Frank William Faiers, a much respected former Headteacher.

The Thomas Whitehead Trust fund still exists today and the Governors can apply to the Trustees for assistance with the maintenance of the school. The trustees today are the Vicar of All Saints and the two Church Wardens.

In recent years it has been used to purchase books for the school library and will be used to fund the lease of computers in the school.

In September 1981, the school adopted the full name of its founder and became ’Thomas Whitehead VA Lower School’. This is an appropriate title because both the staff and the Governors of the school are keen to ensure that Thomas Whitehead’s wishes are honoured. The curriculum today, whilst being more broadly based than in the past, still encapsulates the key elements laid down by Thomas Whitehead ie. "not only the three ’Rs’ but the faith and practice of the Church of England".
The school moved into another new phase of its long life when it attained Grant Maintained Status on 1st April 1992. The Government passed legislation in 1998 abolishing Grant Maintained School status. From September 1st 1999 the school became a Voluntary Aided Church of England School. As a voluntary Aided School the Governors are responsible for staffing the School and are the Employing Body as well as the Admission’s Authority. They, together with the staff, set the ethos and policies on which the School is built.

In September 2013 Thomas Whitehead School changed to a Primary School allowing the age range to extend to age 11 thus providing education for Year 5 and 6. Extension to the school premises will support accommodate a further 90 children.

Headteachers and Masters at Thomas Whitehead School

Rev Daniel Clithero 1654-1657

Rev James Paddon 1657-1704

Rev Francis Paddon 1704-1731 (There is no further information until 1773)

John Lesley 1773-1815

George Taylor 1815-1820

Richard Cumberland 1820-1874

Asa Heap 1875-1902

Harold Brown 1903-1930

Sidney Chaperlin 1930-1954

Frank Faiers 1954-1972

Margaret Jones 1972-1980

Jack Graham 1980-1981

Bryan Owen 1981-1994

Robert Garrard 1994- 2010

Elaine Fairclough 2011 -