Oak Bank School Leighton Buzzard
Oak Bank Special School June 2008
Oak Bank was conceived as a school and hostel for maladjusted children (the preferred modern phrase is children with emotional and behavioural needs). The original project was set up by the devolved education service in Luton when it was County Borough between 1964 and 1974 and aimed to help both those children able to return to mainstream schooling after a while and those who could not. The school was built in 1975 and opened on 5th May 1976 under the auspices of the Local Education Authority, Bedfordshire County Council, Luton having lost its County Borough status in the Local Government Review of 1974.
The original advertisement for a headteacher ran: "Required for September 1975 if possible, a Resident Headteacher for this new mixed Residential School for maladjusted pupils aged 8 - 16 opening Easter 1976. Accommodation for 40 boarding and 20 day pupils. A four bedroomed house is provided…This school and a Hostel for Maladjusted Children at Kempston, near Bedford, are new ventures for the County. It is expected that the school will be completed in January 1976 and that children will be admitted after Easter 1976…It is also envisaged that the development of the school at Leighton Buzzard will proceed at a moderate rate of admission so that the school can build up to its full size without undue haste. The teaching accommodation will comprise three general classrooms, one small teaching space, one reception classroom, one art room, one science room, a workshop and a library. The boarding accommodation will consist of two dormitory blocks, each with two 10-bed units. Each unit will have its own study area ad common room. The staff accommodation to be provided is as follows: -
(a) House for Head with four bedrooms, dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.
(b) House for Deputy Head with four bedrooms, dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.
(c) A three-bedroomed flat and two bed-sitting rooms associated with one dormitory block and two two-bedroomed flats and two bed-sitting rooms associated with the second dormitory block.
(d) caretaker's House with two bedrooms, dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.
(e) Two flatlets for Housekeepers (The actual provision to be determined in consultation with the Head Teacher)".
In August 1975 the staffing limits for non-teaching staff were set at a matron, six house parents and a secretary plus a caretaker/groundsman, assistant handyman/driver, a cook/caterer, "necessary kitchen/domestic staff (Miss Taylor is dealing with this)" and two welfare assistants. The set up for house parents was modelled closely on the provision at Stockgrove Park School just over the county boundary in Buckinghamshire: "1 Principal…1 Senior…and 4½ House Parents (2 female, 2 male and the half is part time)…because the Leighton Buzzard school is so close to Stockgrove Park we need virtually the same salary ranges…"
The advertisement for teachers ran: "…These children will be boys and girls…who have been deemed maladjusted and in need of special education. They will have exhibited a variety of behavioural and emotional disorders in their homes and previous schools. It is probable that there will be a wide variation in I.Q. and academic performance. Many will be functioning well below their chronological ages and potential. It is hoped to provide a therapeutic environment in which the children may improve relationships with their peers and the adults in their lives while realising more fully their educational potential. Teaching will be in groups of about 10 pupils and this should enable teachers to deal with children according to their individual needs".
The school continues as a special school. On 1st April 2009 Bedfordshire was abolished. The new Local Education Authority for Leighton Buzzard and area is Central Bedfordshire Council, a unitary council discharging both county and district functions.
Note that some sources may not be available in order to protect personal details
CA6/24: correspondence regarding proposed special school: 1972-1973;
SDLeightonBuzzardOakbank: correspondence file including setting-up of school; governors meeting minutes; a school magazine; staffing matters; school running etc.: 1973-1987;
E/SE2/3/1: initial establishment of new school: 1975;
CA8/975: building maintenance file: 1976-1984;
E/TE3/5: return of teaching staff: 1981;
E/SE3/2/1: offer of places at school to maladjusted girls from out-county in order to make up numbers: 1982;
CC/HS3/1/1: provision of an aerial walkway/ropeway: 1986;
CC/HS7/1/1: removal of asbestos from Flat 1: 1986