The School at Hayscastle was a focal point for the community for almost a century and a half. Unfortunately, and to the great sadness of all who had been connected to the school in some way or other, it became a casualty of decisions made by the Local Authority Education Department and shut its doors in 2010.
The first school was a day school held at the original Noddfa Newton Chapel, Newton in 1862. The Lord Shaftesbury Factory Act prohibiting child labour enabled more children to have time to attend school, although it was not compulsory. It was in 1876 that a new law stated that children must attend school until they were 12 or 13. Parents had to pay a penny or two a week. This led to schools opening in neighbouring villages of Tancredston, Hendre Cross and Brawdy. The last of these to close was Brawdy.
In 1875, after debating four sites it was agreed by members of the school board that a new school be built at Pont-yr-Hafod. Work began in 1876 and took a year, with the school opening on the 12th of December 1877. A tea party was organised to celebrate the event and to encourage children to attend. Over the years there have been numerous tea parties to celebrate various occasions. A big party in 1997 to commemorate 120 years and in 2000 a reunion of past pupils of all the schools which saw generations of the same families present.
Along with the school building, a schoolhouse was built for the headmaster. This was demolished in 1996 as it was condemned as a hazard to pupils’ health and safety.
The rise in the number of pupils saw two new classrooms added in the new block and a playing field for the school; this opened in 1952. The school canteen was the Aelwyd hut belonging to Aelwyd Castellhaidd, which in its heyday was renowned throughout Wales for its successes in Urdd Eisteddfodau. It was used as the dining room with a small kitchen attached. During the 1970s, 117 children had lunch in this building every day. A new extension was added and by 1992 the Aelwyd hut was transformed into a spacious modern kitchen and the old kitchenette which had served the school so well since 1943 was demoted to a storeroom.
In the early years, gardening was part of the school timetable and vegetables grown by the pupils were used by the cooks for school dinners. In 1990, with a lot of hard work by pupils and parents, the garden became a conservation area for the pupils and won the Prince of Wales Award in 1994.
In 2005, a mural was painted on the back wall of the school building. This was designed and painted by the pupils under the direction of local artist Jean Thomas and depicts the history of the community of Hayscastle from the 11th Century to present day.
Over the years school numbers grew until a peak of about 130 on the register during the seventies. Decline in rural population, especially of young families, saw numbers drop dramatically before the 21st Century, falling to 28 when it closed in 2010.
In 2005, Mr Alan Davies, the school Deputy Head and teacher at the school for 24 years wrote a book called ‘A Community’s Way of Life’; a history of the school from the beginning and an insight of life in the community. The information was collected from the school logbooks and memories of the past pupils, staff and residents.