History of Clifton Primary School

This page was developed with the help and support of Val Hart and Chris Sutton of the Balsall Heath Local History Society.

Clifton Primary School has a long and rich history. We are very lucky that we still have access to many artefacts and primary sources of evidence that have helped us piece this together and that have given us an insight into school life in the past.

The Early Days

Clifton Road School opened in 1878 with three separate departments; Girls, Boys and the Infants. It was a 'Board School', set up by the Kings Norton School Board.

Clifton Road School c1900.
Clifton Road Boys School (Group 4) 1922.

Science equipment being taken around the schools, 1900.
Girls School Netball Team.

We know a lot about these early days as we still have the school Log Books from the Girls and Infants schools; the Log Book was a 'diary' kept by the Headteacher. They include an early Inspection report written in 1879, very similar to our Ofsted inspections today.


Inspectors Report 1879
(Girls' School Log Book)

'The Girls' Department is taught with much care. The answering of many scholars shows the traces of previous neglect and bad teaching which cannot speedily be obliterated, but there is also much gratifying evidence of progress auguring well for the future. Sewing is very fairly done, though it is a new subject to many of the children. The neatness and respectful bearing of the girls do their teachers credit. More attention must be paid to the instruction of pupil teachers and their candidates in Geography and Mapdrawing.'

The Infant school was large and at the time of the 1881 Inspection, there were 444 children in the school. This would have created very large classes for the six staff, three of whom were pupil-teachers.

One outstanding feature of the Girls school around this time was its high moral tone and good behaviour of the pupils; in 1884 the Inspectors praised 'the respectful and refined demeanour of the girls and their perfect discipline'.

The curriculum included 'moral lessons' which covered the themes of 'Honour', 'Love of Home', 'Peace', 'Government of Temper', 'Forgiveness and Forbearance' and 'Punctuality'. Discipline was strict and it was forbidden to talk to the boys at all.

The Boys school also achieved good standards and had specialist woodwork and metalwork departments.

Extracts from the Log Books

The Log Books are excellent sources for finding out about the past. We found out lots of information about important events in history and how they affected life at Clifton School.

1901 - Death of Queen Victoria (Girls' School Log Book)

Feb 1: School closed out of respect to the memory of Queen Victoria who is to be buried on Saturday Feb 2.

1902 - Coronation of Edward VII (Girls' School Log Book)

June 26: School closed Thursday and Friday to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII (which did not take place owing to his illness).

1902 - (Infant School Log Book)

June 25: Thursday and Friday of this week are holidays to commemorate the Coronation, which should have taken place but for the illness of the King. Medals were distributed by... in the Boys' playground.

1911 - Coronation of George V (Girls' School Log Book)

June 21: The medals given by the Lord Mayor to commemorate the coronation of King George V were, this morning, presented to the scholars... The school is closed from noon today until the morning of Monday 26th for festivities in connection with the Coronation.

1916 - During World War I (Girls' School Log Book)

Dec 1: Constant absences from school by children whose fathers have returned from the front are pulling down the attendance.

1918 - During World War I (Girls' School Log Book)

Sep 6: Attendance very poor... there is a tendency to keep children away from school the whole ten days the father is at home from the front. These constant long absences from school are bad for the children...

1918 - Armistice (Girls' School Log Book)

Nov 11: School closed this afternoon to reopen Wednesday a.m. on account of signing of armistice.


1978 - Junior School

We found this very exciting entry in the log book in 1978. It is the year that Mr Tatton became the 'Acting Head' - he recently retired after 29 years of being our Headteacher. It is the year that a young Miss Barnwell started - she is now Mrs Brown, our Deputy Head!

Extracts from the Punishment Books

Teachers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were very strict. No talking was allowed in class and children were often punished for being late for school. Children who were naughty were 'caned' by the teachers on their hands and their names were written in punishment books. Here is an extract from the Girls' School from 1909:

The Punishment Book

Special Events - Empire Day 1917

We have lots of evidence of many special events that have taken place over the years. One event that took place in May each year was 'Empire Day'.

On this day, the children dressed up as people from other countries around the world which were part of the British Empire. They often sang songs or performed plays and invited the parents in to watch. They sometimes collected money for a good cause.

Empire Day 1917

World War II

We have found some interesting evidence about Clifton's role in World War II.

Below, on the left, is a letter to a member of staff that has been called up for military service. It states that the 'Education Committee undertake to re-instate you on their teaching staff, but I am afraid that the exigencies of the service would not permit the Committee to give you a definite assurance that you should return to the position you occupy on the staff of the Clifton Road School'.

We also found letters asking teachers to help with the evacuation of children. Below right is an example of a letter asking for help from the Council.

Letter to staff member called up for military service.
Letter from Birmingham Council.

More Recent History

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary in 1978 the separate Infant and Junior schools came together for a special celebration.

The Infants moved to Brunswick Road in 1979. Roy Hattersley officially opened the site in 1980. In the same year, Prince Charles also visited Balsall Heath.

Roy Hattersley MP opening the new Infant school building in 1980.
Prince Charles also visited Balsall Heath in 1980.

In 2000 the Junior School also moved to a new site on St Paul's Road. Here are some pictures of our Key Stage 2 building being built.

New Key Stage 2 Building   New Key Stage 2 Building
New Key Stage 2 Building   New Key Stage 2 Building

The old Junior School building remains on Clifton Road and is used by many community groups. One of the rooms has been developed into a Victorian classroom by the Balsall Heath Local History Society. This means that pupils from Clifton Primary and other local schools can get a taste of what school was like in the past

Amalgamation - 2005

In September 2005, 127 years after opening, the Junior and Infant Schools finally amalgamated to become Clifton Primary School, with Mr Tatton as the Headteacher.

He retired in July 2007 after 40 years of teaching at Clifton School. Mrs Mitchell became our Headteacher in September 2007.

If you would like to find out more about the history of Clifton School or of Balsall Heath, you can contact the Balsall Heath Local History Society on 0121 464 1888. Alternatively their website is www.balsallheathhistory.co.uk

More Recent History

Our New Key Stage 1 Building

In 2011, we waved goodbye to our old temporary classrooms in Year 2 as they made way for our lovely new KS1 building. The building work moved on so quickly; we really enjoyed watching it take shape.

The diggers move in. Ggoodbye Year 2 classrooms!
This area is now the lovely grass area between KS1 and KS2.

The building is starting to take shape.
Our beautiful new classrooms!

The Opening of Key Stage 1

Before too long, the building was ready for us to move into in February 2012. Sylvia Fry, our Chair of Governors opened the building with Mick Gaffney from Waites, the builders. We set off hundreds of balloons to mark the occasion; one even got as far as France!

Our new building.
Officially opened by Sylvia Fry and Mick Gaffney from Waites.

Setting off our balloons.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Official Open Ceremony

On 1st June 2012, our school had a special fun day to celebrate the official opening of our lovely new building and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We decorated the school with bunting and an enormous Union flag and invited lots of guests to come and help us enjoy our day. Mr Nick Owen, a well known television presenter came to unveil the plaque and to make a speech. After that the Key Stage 2 school choir sang the Jubilee song and the Key Stage 1 choir sang too.

There were lots of activities for everyone to do during the rest of the day – face painting, a magician who made balloon hats for everyone and the reptile man who bought his lovely pets to show us. All our children had a go at orienteering and there was a special storyteller in the story tent.

Making our huge Union Jack flag.
Midlands Today presenter Nick Owen joins us for the ceremony.

Nick Owen officially opens the building.
Our special story teller, Mrs Ahmed!

Early Years Refurbishment

Over the summer of 2013, more building work was started on the old infant school. The building work includes the refurbishment of the existing building with an additional hall and new main entrance area of the school.


Diggers starting work in the KS1 playground. This is where our new hall will be.

School Building Work 2013/14

2013 was an exciting year for Clifton as it saw the start of the refurbishment of our old Key Stage 1 building to provide a purpose built EYFS centre for Nursery and Reception children.

The builders arrived in August and during the first week in September, the hoarding around the old Key Stage 1 building was up and the diggers were in! Work finished around March 2014, by which time we had fantastic learning areas for our youngest children in school, as well as a Sports England Sized Sports Hall for the whole school and several new offices.

EYFS Building Completed September 2014

We opened our new EYFS building in May 2015 and had an opening ceremony attended by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Birmingham.

We now have a wonderful new Nursery and Reception.

We named our buildings:

  • Woodland – Nursery and Reception
  • Rainforest – Years 1, 2 and 3
  • Ocean – Years 4, 5 and 6

Universe 2015/16

In May 2015 we knocked down our old Nursery building and started building our new Year 6 block. This building was named Universe when we opened it in January 2016.

Fire at the Old Clifton Building 2024

'We were very saddened to see the old school building on fire on Monday 22 April 2024.

It is truly the end of an era and makes all our memories and stories from the old Clifton even more important to us.

The old Clifton building on fire.
Mrs Hemming and Dr Allen share their memories of the old Clifton school on BBC Radio WM.

Mrs Penny, Mr Bhachu and Ms Rahmen share their memories of being pupils at the old Clifton school on BBC Radio WM.
Mrs Hemming and Dr Allen on Midlands Today sharing their memories of starting their teaching career at the old school.