Records show that the school was built in 1854, by Canon Dayman, on land leased by Lord Rivers. Lord Rivers approved of the school and arranged that they later obtained 'Squatter's Title'. He also contributed money as did the Shillingstone Rectors' friends and relations.
Records from 1862 show the mistress as Maria Bacon, who kept a log book. The building would have been one classroom only (the present hall), with a gallery. Only a small minority of village children regularly attended, the highest number recorded at that time being 76. This is mainly due to the rural community, needing their children to help at home, or potato planting in March, field and garden work in April, haymaking in July, the harvest in early autumn and later picking apples and potatoes.
In 1877 the infants classroom was added, giving us the Reception classroom still used today for the newest members of the school. The school suffered many poor reports until in 1927 Miss Harvey was appointed as Headmistress. She was a practical woman and, in modern parlance, 'turned the school around'. In 1942 a new head, Miss Meadway, was appointed.
Non-academic activities ranged from swimming lessons in the Stour, and, during World War II, blackberry-picking expeditions. The school also received apparatus for football, tennis and rounders; and school life was transformed by the installation of electricity and the a sphalting of the playground. The first recorded Christmas party was also given in 1942, with 'buns and cakes' and with each child receiving a 1s. savings stamp on a card.
After the war things changed, with the demise of gardening classes. The school allotments on the opposite side of the road (the war memorial stands on the corner of the plot) was sold for housing development. Mrs Meadway initiated the schools Parent-Teacher Association in 1951 and, with well-to-do benefactors a thing of the past, started fundraising for the school. She also revived the tradition of maypole dancing.
During the second half of the 20th Century Shillingstone School continued to grow in stature and educational achievement. After some worrying times in the 1970s and early 80s when the roll was low, it is still thriving.
Prior to 1966, in accordance with the 1944 Education Act, plans were drawn up for a new 'area school' to serve the Three Okefords. This scheme was abandoned after taking into account the views from the three villages. However in 1966 the County Education Authority looked at it again - and considered three sites, all in Shillingstone. Then Child Okeford entered the bidding with a potential site for the new 'area school' in that village.
Over the next three years the Shillingstone School managers pursued vigorously their case for the new school, culminating in a meeting in July 1969 attended by representatives from all parties. A number of people felt each village should keep its own school and so it was eventually resolved: 'that by every effort and by all means a school should be built in Shillingstone for Shillingstone children and all who wish to come to it'. To pursue this aim, an Action Committee was formed, but to no avail, and the village's hopes faded away.
The issue of an area school returned with a vengeance in the late 1970s and early 1980s, heralded by Dorset County Council's first Structure Plan. To counter this new threat another Action Committee was formed, on the initiative of and with the backing of the then headteacher, Mrs Kate Ashcroft. This time the governors met the threat head-on with plans to add an extra classroom. This was initially opposed by the Diocesan and County education officers - warning that any new building would immediately belong to the Diocese or County, while the school governors would have to bear the full cost of cleaning and maintaining it. Fundraising nevertheless went ahead and the classroom was dedicated in September 1984 by the Bishop of Sherborne. In 1990 it needed to be doubled in size and the following year the authorities agreed to take responsibility for what they had derisorily called 'the governors' hut'.
In 1996 there was a major change when headteacher Brian South and governors' chairman the Rev Michael Turner, with the governors' unanimous support, led the switch to Grant Maintained status while remaining a Church of England school. This new status gave the school almost total independence and considerable extra funding, making possible the replacement of both the 'governors' hut' and the other much older temporary classroom. It also included the building of a new kitchen. Grant Maintained status was short-lived however. Labour won the 1997 election and set about returning such schools to the maintained sector, with Shillingstone becoming once again a Voluntary Aided Church of England school.
In 2004 the school celebrated its 150th anniversary. The beautiful sculpture of the Kestrel that sits at the entrance to the school was designed by Des Alner, a local artist, and paid for by a bequest from Nellie Beaumont who lived near the school. In 2009 we received confirmation that our long hoped for new building would go ahead. We moved into our stunning new building in November 2010 and look forward to a great future for Shillingstone Primary School and all who work and learn there.