A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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Schoolmasters were reported in 1619 and 1629, (fn. 1) also c. 1690. (fn. 2) The master recorded 1723-40 (fn. 3) probably taught 30 children at the school which in 1745 had recently moved into the main body of the church from its north chapel. (fn. 4) About 1805-15 there was not even a Sunday school, (fn. 5) but by the late 1810s schooling even for the poor was available. (fn. 6) One master was teaching at Fordham by 1823. Another, Thomas Lovett, (fn. 7) opened in 1829 a boarding school, which in 1834 took 37 boys aged up to eighteen and was styled by 1837 Fordham Academy. (fn. 8) By 1833, besides two other boarding schools, there were five paying day schools, between them taking c. 140 pupils, half girls. A sixth day school started in 1829 by the vicar and curate was teaching 14 girls in 1833, when the church Sunday schools under a master and mistress had 28 boys and 50 girls. The Independent chapel Sunday school, supported by subscription, however, then had 93 pupils, over half boys. (fn. 9) The church still had only a Sunday school, with 70 pupils, in 1846. (fn. 10) About 1850 almost 200 village children, almost half male, were receiving some schooling, a number reduced by 1861 to only c. 125, some probably still at dame schools. (fn. 11)
The dissenters managed to start their British day school first, in 1844, (fn. 12) possibly instructing up to 200 pupils, not all from the parish, in 1850, under Philip Smith. In the 1850s it taught not only elementary subjects, but Greek and Roman history, English, and geography. (fn. 13) After Smith's death in 1855, (fn. 14) however, it languished, not being recorded after 1860, when its schoolroom on Mill Lane, probably that close to the Congregational chapel, still housed social events. (fn. 15) In 1879 the Congregational minister kept a grammar school, including some boarders. (fn. 16) A girls' day school on Carter Street, successively under a mother and daughter, survived into the 1880s. (fn. 17)
Meanwhile in 1848 William Dunn Gardner (II) had given a site at the south-west corner of the village, north of the Burwell road, for a National school, (fn. 18) built, mainly in brick, in 1849. (fn. 19) In Gothic style with cusped triple windows to the street, it originally had one large schoolroom with a teachers' house. An infants' schoolroom was added in 1874. (fn. 20) In the 1850s, besides schoolpence, the master received a £20 salary from subscriptions organized through the vestry. (fn. 21) In the 1890s the vicar could still easily raise by subscription the money, the third of the £390 annual cost not state-provided in 1898-9, which was needed to preserve it as a church school. Another new classroom, for infants, in 1899 was funded by a voluntary rate, a fourth being added in 1916. (fn. 22)
The National school's managers were still trying to convince villagers of the benefits of education in 1853, when a new master was to be chosen, (fn. 23) who with the curate taught 20 labourers at a winter night school in 1856. (fn. 24) Attendance at the church day school, perhaps c. 100 in 1854, (fn. 25) was only 80, under an uncertificated master, in 1862, when the new vicar started another night school. (fn. 26) The fourth, certificated, master, A. F. Clarke, who had taken on in 1873 an enrolment of 110 pupils including 60 boys, taught with his wife and then his daughter, besides pupil-teachers, c. 1872-1912, (fn. 27) becoming the village factotum. (fn. 28) The night school, which had had 22 pupils in 1875, began to provide instruction in agricultural techniques in the 1880s. (fn. 29) Attendance at the day school had risen steadily, 1865-85, almost doubling to 158, (fn. 30) and reached 230, a third infants, in 1910. In the 1920s and 1930s it varied only between 200 and 230. (fn. 31)
From 1949 the older children were sent to Burwell school and from 1958 to Soham village college. Fordham church school continued as a controlled primary one, run by headmasters until 1975. (fn. 32) In 1973-4, when that school was about to outgrow its capacity of 200, a new school for 280 pupils, to the county's standard one-storeyed, flat-roofed design, was built and opened west of the Isleham road, a little north of the crossroads. (fn. 33) By 1984 further growth in numbers required the use of mobile classrooms. (fn. 34) The church primary school was still open in 1996. Its aided status was then supported from the proceeds of selling the 1849 buildings, which had reverted to Gardner's heir Mrs. Miriam Leader and were converted c. 1975 to four dwellings. In 1977 Mrs. Leader gave the price, c. £6,500, of the teacher's house to endow the Leader Fordham charity, yielding over £500 a year by the 1990s to assist educational and recreational activities for villagers. (fn. 35)