Before the reforms of the Education Act of 1944, all children were taught in elementary schools up to the age of 14 which was considered to be the only education most needed. In Ivybridge, the all-age elementary school remained until the late 1950s but with the ever increasing numbers of school-age children in the village, together with the need to implement the changes to the education system under the Act, a new secondary school was required. Local Education Authorities had to submit proposals to the new Department of Education for reorganising secondary schooling in their areas and the first meeting of the new school’s governors at Ivybridge was held on 19 June 1957. Construction work on the new secondary school began in the same year.
The Education Act (or Butler Act) of 1944 provided fundamental reform replacing the former distinction between elementary and higher education by a new classification of three progressive stages, primary education, secondary education, and further education. Compulsory education was increased to the age of 15, with a clause to raise it to 16, together with the promise of free secondary education for all within a three-tier secondary state schooling system – the grammar school, modelled on elite public schools; the less intellectually rigorous secondary modern school, and the technical school, whilst church schools were brought into the national system. Children were directed to the appropriate school at the age of 11 by means of selection tests, the 11+ exam, taken on the completion of their primary education. Rab Butler, the President of the Board of Education, (a position now known as the Secretary of State for Education) hoped that this range of schools would cater for all the different academic levels of children.
On 11 July 1958, Ivybridge Secondary Modern School was officially opened by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Sir Edward Boyle, who planted a commemorative tree near the school flagstaff. The school had an initial intake of 488 pupils and was well equipped with an assembly hall, gymnasium, library, 15 classrooms, specialist rooms for science, woodwork and metalwork, art & craft, housecraft, needlecraft, a kitchen for school meals, playing fields, school garden, cloakrooms, offices, staffrooms, store rooms and medical inspection room. The Headmaster was Mr K. A. Baker.