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Wymeswold school log books
Log books exist for the Wymeswold Schools from 1875 to about 1954. They were used to record matters that seemed of significance in the daily running of the Infant and Junior Schools, the latter originally being called the National or Mixed School and run separately until 1903.
We may assume that subjects like scripture (these were Church Schools) and the three R's were taught as standard but specially noted in the log books were other topics like the 'Object Lessons', for example, lessons on the 'Crocodile' and 'Apple' were given in September 1885. Knitting and needlework for both girls and boys were felt to be worthy of note, but Her Majesty's Inspectors, who were fairly regular visitors to the schools, criticised the teachers for making the children use needles and thread that were too fine!
Marching and drill were entered in the log books for a variety of reasons. In the winter months they took place more frequently, often instead of scripture when the school was very cold in the morning. In December 1879, when the weather was severe, it was noted that some of the infants were crying because they were so cold. A visiting Inspector of Physical Education thought 'the boys should have more marching to get them out of their country gait'. In 1905 Amos Clark, an old boy of the school who was in the Coldstream Guards, came to school and drilled the boys. As he was later commended as 'the smartest sergeant-major at Caterham Barracks'? the boys may have had a lively time!
Music was also commented on. One inspector found that the girls could sing their scales quite well but only one boy could manage them. In 1914 a school garden was started, presumably as part of the war effort. This was worked by the boys and in June 1915 the first produce – early potatoes – was recorded. Thirty-six pounds were sold to the parents at 11/2d a pound. Peas and beans were also produced and sold that year. In 1917 blackberries were picked from the hedgerows and sold. A more unusual item was noted when seven bags containing 70lbs of horse chestnuts were gathered and sent to the Midland Station. (I wonder what they were used for?)
Another item appearing fairly regularly in the log books is the number of children attending school. The registers were checked most weeks by the vicar or one of the other school managers. The importance of this is obvious; the method of calculating the headmaster's salary is stated in the Managers'? minutes of 1883:
A fixed amount from the Church £40
All the 'school pence' as paid by the parents c.£45
1/2 the grant from Board of Education £43
House grant £5
By 1893, when education became free, it was calculated thus:
A fixed amount paid from the Church £42
4/5 of new Fees Grant from the Board
at 8/- per child £37 – £40 1/2 variable grant from the Board of Education about £50
1/2 Drawing Grant also from the Board. £2 /5/-
House grant from the Church £5 TOTAL about £140
The grant from the Board of Education was made up of the fixed sum of nine shillings per child; a variable sum (from two shillings to six shillings per child) depending on how well the Inspectors assessed the standard of the school; plus one shilling for needlework and sixpence for music. In 1894 when there were 56 children on the register who attended, the grant from the Department was 14s.6d times 56, i.e. £40.13s.4d. In addition the headmaster was paid for the evening classes in horticulture according to the numbers attending. Classes in dressmaking were taught by one of his assistants.
The amount of the 'school pence' paid by the parents is not indicated but it was regarded as important and on occasion a child was sent home for this money. The case of a boy being punished because he spent his fee money and told untruths is reported. What a pity there is no more detail! Attendance at school was compulsory until the age of 13 and this had to be checked as it was a new concept. The amount paid to the school and headmaster depended on the numbers of children attending, so the headmaster's salary fluctuated according to the average attendance shown in the register.
The ritual of marking of the registers was important. In the mornings they were closed at 9.15am and any child coming later than this was sent home. On one occasion in 1895 the following report by the vicar appears:
I was sent for to School this morning about 10.00am and found [Police] Sergeant Harris there. I was informed that George Morris son of Thomas Morris had been sent home because he only arrived at 9.30am, after the register was closed. The father came back with the boy and enquired the reason, but instead of listening, fell to abusing Mr Bailey and calling him foul and brutal names in the presence of the children and while Sgt Harris was present. The lesson which was going on was entirely upset. One remark of the father was that he would remain in school to see that the boy was not sent back; but this he did not adhere to. R C Green
Attendance was disrupted by bad weather such as deep snow and floods. It fell as low as 30 out of 62. Special note was sometimes made about children from outlying farms being unable to walk to school on account of deep snow.
The importance of agriculture to Wymeswold is evident. Children were kept away from School to help with the harvest (potato picking) and haymaking (as well as potato planting and coltsfoot picking).
Epidemics of measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and mumps all occurred from time to time. On several occasions the school was closed on medical advice. In 1889 the closure lasted two months on account of measles and in 1903, Dr Hicks, the village doctor, closed the school for an outbreak of scarlatina and measles in the village when only 23 out of 61 children were able to attend school. Presumably allowance had to be made in calculating the grant at times like this. Various local events also were likely to cause absenteeism and most years the school was given a holiday so that children and teachers could attend such happenings as the Methodist trip to Charnwood, the Baptist tea-party, the Church Sunday School outing, the Choir outing to Belvoir. Loughborough Fair, which children often attended, usually lasted two days in November and eventually became the Autumn Half-term Holiday. In 1910 the school was given a day's holiday as there was a meeting in Wymeswold of bell ringers from eight north Leicestershire villages who presumably were keen to show off their skills on St Mary's bells just over the road from the school. From about 1900 the school began to organise its own day trips and in 1907 a hundred children and a similar number of adults went to Skegness for the day by train from the Great Central Station.
To check the development of the school a number of different bodies sent visitors to the school to inspect progress. Probably the most frequent visitor was the vicar, who was the Chairman of the Managers. He checked the register most weeks and sometimes stayed to listen to lessons, usually in scripture and singing. When a teacher was ill he would take a lesson or try to help a child with his reading. Some of the other managers would pay a visit and look at class work like needlework and drawing. Towards the end of the century they started to give prizes and these were presented by the vicar and other managers, like Miss Beasley of Wymeswold Hall, Mr Powell of Hill House and the vicar's wife. At Christmas 1897 one of the managers, Mr Burrows from the Stockwell, sent the Infant School a basket of oranges, and on another occasion the vicar's daughter gave them sweets and nuts. Was this to encourage the children to attend more regularly?
By 1903 the County Council who had become responsible for the school's running expenses, was allowing about £2 a year for prizes, especially for attendance. As a Church school the Diocese had an interest in the school's progress and they held annual inspections when the scripture knowledge of the various classes was tested. They then issued a report each year. After the Government established a Board of Education that paid grants to each school, inspectors would visit every year to assess the variable grant to be paid and to issue a report on the teaching and the atmosphere of the school. Generally this reported favourably on the Wymeswold schools, but on one occasion the report included the comment 'Ambition in the boys is lacking except in the desire to become 13 [school leaving age!]'. Other visitors included the Attendance Officer who presumably saw parents of absentees. One parent was fined five shillings by the magistrates for the irregular attendance of his son. The School Nurse also came regularly to inspect the children and talk to them about cleanliness. One boy was sent home to be washed!
The problems of establishing a school in a society where education for all children was a new concept are illustrated by these log books. Many of the matters reported are things we take for granted in the smooth running of our present day schools.
Originally published in the WHO Newsletter 2001.
Copyright the author.