The earliest record of a School in Upton St Leonards appears in the churchwarden’s accounts of 1752. It is likely that the School had been established at some earlier date under the auspices of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge founded in 1698 and would have taught reading, writing and arithmetic as well as fulfilling its principal aim of teaching religion. As such, Upton could fairly claim to have as long a history of educational provision as any community predating Sunday Schools (first established by Robert Raikes in Gloucester in 1780) and the introduction of compulsory elementary education in 1880.
The School has been in several locations including “the old Kings Head” and in the grounds of Bowden Hall. It was in the latter location that the School’s main benefactress first took an interest when Louisa Maria the Dowager Lady Downe, then living at Bowden Hall, paid to have the school buildings at Bowden Hall enlarged and improved. Lady Downe’s greater and longer lasting contribution came later in 1849 when she acquired the land in front of the Church and in 1850 when she commissioned the construction of the fine Cotswold Stone school building that was to be the home of Upton School until 1995 and which continues today as the home of the “Chipmunks” Nursery School.
In the 19th Century, the boundaries of Upton St Leonards extended towards Gloucester as far as the Chequers Bridge. As a result, the School could boast as many as 146 pupils as long ago as 1891. For them, though, there was a long journey to and from school and only the Head, one qualified assistant and up to four other staff - variously described as “ex pupil/teacher” or “candidate on probation” - to give lessons.
Over time, the parish boundaries drew back towards the village and the local population grew, with numbers moving towards the 220 pupils of the one form entry school which continued until 1994, with the Juniors in the original Lady Downe built school building and the Infants in buildings on Bondend Road. These Infant buildings were intended originally to be the nucleus of an all new modern (1960’s) school on one site.
The School had only seven head teachers between 1853 and 2000 suggesting that it has been as popular to them as it has proved to be to successive generations of pupils and their parents. In modern times, the School has always been oversubscribed and its record of achievement and popularity were factors in the decision in 1993 to enlarge the School to two form entry and to bring the whole school together at Bondend Road in all new buildings.