John Beddoes School: Bell ringing tradition used in protest

Benji Kirkpatrick from Bellowhead Benji Kirkpatrick from folk band Bellowhead has a son at the school

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A week-long bell-ringing protest is being staged in support of a struggling Powys school.

John Beddoes School in Presteigne could shut this year and reopen as a campus of Newtown High School 33 miles away.

The school is named after the wool merchant who founded it in 1565.

Inspired by Beddoes' instruction that a curfew bell be rung every night, the campaign began on Monday with 65 bell ringers making the 10 minute walk from St Andrew's Church to the high school.

About 40 people took part in the protest on Tuesday.

More than 100 bell ringers are expected to attend on Friday, when the John Beddoes curfew bell will also be rung too.

The bell-ringing protest is being organised by the Friends of John Beddoes School action group.

JOHN BEDDOES SCHOOL - A HISTORY

The school was founded in 1565 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I by a wealthy wool merchant "to bring up the youth ... in virtue, discipline and learning".

It was to be maintained from the rents of certain properties in the town and the neighbouring parishes, of which 73 acres still provide an income today.

The school survived outbreaks of the plague in 1593, 1610 and 1657 but was destroyed by fire in 1681.

Education continued in the town and it is believed the school moved to its current site in 1907.

John Beddoes also left rent from a field - Bell Meadow - to pay for a person to ring the curfew bell.

He stipulated that if the bell stopped the school should be closed and its endowments handed to his heirs.

The bell is still rung every night from 20:20 BST for five minutes, but it is now automated.

Source: John Beddoes School website

The group claims John Beddoes was a good school until about six years ago.

A spokeswoman said: "Newtown High School's head teacher has been helping our school since January and we welcome the support.

"The school has started to turn around but we don't want it taken over by Newtown.

"For one thing, Newtown is 33 miles away. We would not have our own head teacher or heads of subject and the school would be run by a board of governors in Newtown."

She added that John Beddoes was the second oldest endowed school in Wales.

Special measures

Consultation over the takeover plans, which would see Newtown and John Beddoes with one head teacher, started earlier this month and ends on 2 June.

An expanded Newtown High School would operate as a spilt-site campus with children aged between 11 and 16 educated in Presteigne.

Powys council has said John Beddoes' exam results in recent years have been poor and it is a band five ranked school, while pupil numbers have dwindled from 550 to 350 in five years.

In December it became the first high school in the county to be placed in special measures.

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