A History of Innovation
The school was opened on 25th September 1911. It was then known as Outwood and Kearsley Council School and there were 246 children in attendance. Children were jammed together into rows of long desks with over sixty pupils in each classroom.
During the ninety years that the school has been opened there have been only five headteachers. The first headteacher was Mr J Slack. He was replaced in 1918 by Mr E F (Teddy) O’Neil who at 28 years old became the youngest headteacher ever appointed in Lancashire.
On arriving at Prestolee Teddy O’Neil introduced progressive methods and his controversial methods led him into dispute with the Local Education Authority. He encouraged children to learn by experience rather than doing lessons all day, every day.
Prestolee School became known as ‘the do-as-you-please’ school.
In the evenings the school was used as a community centre called the ‘ Palace of Youth ’. This catered for up to four hundred people a night for dances and other cultural activities, at a cost of 6d (2½p) per night. The playground was constructed by the children and contained a windmill, water gardens, fountains, a well and a large paddling pool.
Prestolee School gained national recognition during the period of Teddy O’Neil’s headship. The school received many visitors to observe his child centred methods and one of Teddy O’Neil’s proverbs explains the essence of Prestolee School at that time.
A School Should Be
A place for lectures and teaching
For his sixtieth birthday in 1950 Teddy O’Neil organised the ‘Festival of Prestolee’. This included illuminations and attracted over 20,000 visitors. Later that year Teddy O’Neil received the MBE in recognition of his services to education.
In September 1953 the senior children transferred to the new George Tomlinson secondary modern school and Prestolee became a County Primary School.
At the end of December 1953 Teddy O’Neil retired and the new headteacher was Mr W Bostock (Mr O’Neil’s son-in-law) who remained until 1969. He was replaced by Mr J Henaughan (1969 – 1989).
In September 1989, Mr Mel Pilkington, took over the leadership of the school. He remained until he retired in2004. The new headteacher is Mr M Tonge who has guided the school through its recent successful OFSTED Inspection and continues to improve the school for the good of the community.
More information is available about the history of Prestolee CP School and Mr O'Neill, in 'The Idiot Teacher' Gerard Holmes, ISBN 085124 1794