School log (mixed school) 1863 - 1891
The full log book can be accessed here. There is a separate infants log from 1872-1924. Transcription and introduction by Anthony White. The original log book is held by Hathern School. At their request, the children's names have been removed from transcriptions of all school logs.
About the log. The log is a word-for-word transcription from the earliest-known log book for Hathern School , starting in 1863 and ending in 1891. The original log book is 500 pages long and is held, with other logs, at Hathern School. The first page outlines the rules for its completion by the Principal Teacher. Up until March 1871, entries are made for each school working day ; thereafter entries are made for each week-ending. Early entries in the log are much more detailed, showing when each child progresses from one standard to another in reading, writing or arithmetic.
About the school. The school was built as a National (i.e. Church of England) School in 1850 at a cost of £800 on land donated by C.M.Philips Esquire. The aim of such schools was that "the National Religion should be made the foundation of National Education, and should be the first and chief thing taught to the poor, according to the excellent Liturgy and Catechism provided by our church". At ground level the schools were implemented by the local vicar and members of the Church of England, with funds provided from parents, subscriptions and fundraising etc.
The Church of England connection. Throughout the period of the log, the Rector of Hathern was the Reverend E. Smythies and he was also the Assistant manager of the school, with responsibilities for checking the attendance register, reviewing the standard of religious education and entering in the log any changes in staff. Mr Smythies took a hands-on approach, visiting the school, often several times a week, to take religious instruction, and standing in when the master was away. On holy days the children went to church as they did also for the unveiling of the church’s east window in 1871. One one occasion he awarded prizes of 4 tennis balls for the best boys of the week. His wife also visited regularly, for example to see the girls in needlework, once to give presents to the most deserving and hard-working girls.
The move towards universal schooling. The period covered by this log was a momentous period for education. Various types of school, such as National schools, already existed but were not able to provide education in all locations. In 1858 a Royal commission was set up to inquire into the state of public education in England and to report what measures are required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people. By 1870, this led to the introduction of board (i.e.state) schools to provide for the elementary education of all children aged 5 to 13. This strategy would have to be affordable and acceptable to the many sectional religious interests. As such, National schools, such as Hathern, were able to continue alongside the state schools, albeit with a lesser state grant. It was only in 1880 that attendance became compulsory, previously being subject to local Bye Laws. In 1877 this had become a major issue at harvest time when the Attendance Committee of the Loughborough Union applied a local ruling to allow relevant children 4 weeks off school during the harvest. It was only in 1890 that education became totally free of charge..
School funding. The funding of the school was partly by parental contribution. The issue of parent’s subscriptions became an issue in 1877 when "The children received notice that the school pence would be raised to three pence, four pence, and sixpence.....A deal of confusion was caused in consequence of the raising of the school pence...Many parents persisted in sending 2 pence only. Several children have left the school rather than pay the extra money...Many children returned to school, but some left in consequence of the fees being raised". The school played an active role in assisting poorer families to save money by running a penny bank and a clothing club. Some funding came from the Hathern Charity– scholarships of several pounds being awarded each year on the basis of an examination to those children over 11 years old whose attendance record was satisfactory. Other funding came from the state and was dependent on the number of pupils and on the standard of teaching. In 1863, the state had removed the grant (no reason specified) leading to the resignation of teachers Mr and Mrs Barnacle. In 1867, one tenth of grant was deducted due to defects in arithmetic.
Layout of school. The layout of the school is described on the second page of the log. It comprised 2 schoolrooms each with space for about 75 children, and 2 smaller classrooms, each with space for just over 20, in all accommodating a maximum of 192 children. A window to the north looked out over the playground, this once broken by ‘big lads at snowballing’. Nowhere in the log does it describe exactly how these rooms are utilised. Several mentions are made of moving to a classroom for reading with the children. One on occasion it was noted that the classroom space was too confined for using the room in hot weather. The main schoolroom layout was considered unsatisfactory in that "the windows, being all behind the children when seated at their desks, and desks being raised one above the other, make it very difficult for the master to check faults of discipline, copying etc". Each room had a coal fire, the coal being ordered and delivered by the ton, and, it seems, paid for by parents ("master sent out the notices of the coal money being due"). Occasionally the school closed to allow the chimney to be swept or the school washed. The only other mentions of the school building are the playground walls and the garden, both out of bounds to the pupils.
Use of building. The school building was occasionally used for other events such as tea parties, concerts, flower shows, a panorama by Mr J Booth and a meeting of the Bible Society (in which Mr Smythies was a leading light). Overcrowding was a problem. In 1879 it was reported that the unusually regular attendance was filling the room almost to overflowing making good organisation impracticable. By 1882, the hard-working master was "overweighted by the increasing numbers" and, when the proposed classroom is built, it will be well to insert a fair sized window in one of the Gables or else to put a skylight on the Northern slope of the roof". In 1884 the crowded rooms and insufficient desk accommodation continued to impair the results. By 1887, it was stated that "the school Grant will be endangered if the accommodation is not increased". The main room was enlarged in 1879 though no mention is made of this in the log. The average number of pupils over most of the period covered by the log is 50-100, though daily variations were large. However in 1889/90 the average attendance rose to above 180, presumably as a result of the combination of compulsion and free schooling.
The school day. Typically, the Principal Teacher would start the day with prayers and bible lessons to the whole school. The register would be taken in the morning and afternoon. Apart from religious instruction, lessons concentrated on teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, although subjects such as history and geography were also studied. Girls were also taught needlework. The children were expected to learn things by rote – i.e. repeating things over and over until they were remembered. The teacher would write lessons on the board and the children would practice their writing on slates. Very little work was done on paper until the children were much older.
Pupil Teachers. Since the mid C19th, schools mainly operated by a system in which the Principal Teacher was supported by several Pupil Teachers (PT’s in log book) ; thus minimising costs. Children aged 13 and over who had attained the highest standard stayed on at the elementary school to assist in the teaching. They were subjected to examination at local centres, in this case Leicester or Derby, and apprenticed to certificated teachers until they were 18 years old. During this time they received tuition from the master in order to improve their own knowledge e.g algebra lessons before school. They then taught the younger children each day to gain practice in teaching, for example whilst girls were in sewing class. At the end of their apprenticeship they were eligible for an exam which could lead to a scholarship to finance their training at one of the new colleges. For example in the log, we can follow one boy his early days at school, doing well in letter writing and geography tests and proceeding to the highest standard. After 4 years as Pupil Teacher he passed the examination to go to Cheltenham College.
The Principal teacher. At the start of the log, there was quite a high turnover of staff. Mr and Mrs Barnacle incumbent in 1863, were followed by Mr James Stansfield, Thomas Hickling (a Pupil teacher) and Mr James Hefford. In 1866 James Lammas took over what, by all accounts was an ailing school, in debt and underperforming, and was still there at the end of the log in 1891. He arrived from the Highbury training college as a certificated teacher and immediately began to change the school around. He was supported throughout by Pupil Teachers, and Assistant or Infant Class teachers, including his wife Elizabeth. His style of teaching can only be guessed at, but it was stated in a school report that "Mr Lammas would secure more attention and so more intelligence by habitually addressing the children in a less loud tone of voice".
The teaching. The key measurement of progress was the standard achieved by each child. In Victorian times, promotion was on merit and many children did not complete all the grades. Girls progressed through the standards in the same way as the boys, often to become Pupil Teachers or in one case an Assistant Mistress. Sewing was usually for girls only but one report states that ‘the boys should sew rather better". Below are the national standards laid down in 1872 for the 3R’s.
Standard I. Read one of the narratives that comes after monosyllables in an elementary reading book handwriting a line of print, and write from dictation a few common words. Do simple addition and subtraction of numbers of not more than four figures, and the multiplication table to multiplication by six.
Standard II. Read a short paragraph from an elementary reading book. From the same book, slowly read once, and then dictated in single words. Do the multiplication table, and any simple rule as far as short division.
Standard III. Read a short paragraph from a more advanced reading book. Write a sentence slowly dictated once by a few words at a time, from the same book. Do long division and compound rules (money).
Standard IV. Read a few lines of poetry or prose, at the choice of the inspector. Write a sentence slowly dictated once, by a few words at a time, from a reading book, such as is used in the first class of the school. Do compound rules (common weights and measures).
Standard V. Read a short ordinary paragraph in a newspaper, or other modern narrative. Write another short ordinary paragraph in a newspaper, or other modern narrative, slowly dictated once by a few words at a time. Practice and bills of parcels.
Standard VI. Read with fluency and expression. Write a short theme or letter, or an easy paraphrase. Do proportion and fractions (vulgar and decimal).
Being a church of England school and probably because of lack of other school books, reading and dictation was mainly based on chapters of the old and new Testament. On occasion the rector provided extra reading books to the school. A lot of the exercises were also built around reading and, learning poetry. These were usually about the natural world (" Butterflies are pretty things", "The ant and the glowworm") or religious or moral topics ("Pray without ceasing", ". Don’t kill the birds", "Each morn at rising wash your skin", "I must not tease my mother"). Other material included "The Sunday stories" and "The British workman", and the newspapers. Great effort was put into the formation of letters in writing and the sounding of letters, and once the master observed and corrected several village peculiarities in pronouncing ‘a’ as ‘e’, also the error of a broad sound which is given to the vowel ‘o’. The use of slate pencils less than 3 inches long was roundly condemned by an inspector’s report as "it gives bad writing". This practise together with the lack of light from above and the uneven surfaces of the old desks are "evils that should be remedied when funds permit". Occasionally the teacher would offer a prize – for example a ha’penny to all who did an arithmetic puzzle right, or wrote the best letters, or prizes for best collections of wildflowers. Regular homework was given ("home lessons") – for example practicing letters on slate, learning the countries of Europe and their capitals. There was also continual checking of "back rules" (presumably tables etc. already learnt).
The children. The average age of the children ranged from about five years in the infants class to about 12 to 13 years in the top class. In one entry " a child 2 ½ years old, was sent by his mother today on trial. She wished his name not to be put down until she knew whether he would stay without crying". At the other end of the scale two boys returned to school aged 14 and 16 after being "out service". The level of poverty of the villagers is hinted in the school report – class instruction being at a low ebb, "probably owing to the influx of neglected children".
Discipline. As in all Victorian schools, discipline was strictly enforced, though most often this was by cautioning the children or keeping children in during playtime or midday, sending the child home or making them learn verses from the Bible. Such misdemeanours would include the following : making faces or not singing well at morning prayers ; being noisy entering school or having an untidy cloakroom ; taking birds nests ; swearing ; pulling horsehair out of horses’ tails ; swinging on school gate ; climbing on school wall ; trespassing in garden ; slamming seats in the closets ; snowballing ; books dirty ; careless writing on slate ; having a dirty face. More serious misdemeanours resulted in corporal punishment, in front of the class as an example. These included : long truancy – "example made of him" ; girl stole and ate boys dinner –"punished" ; boys fighting in lane after school – "taken into school and received a good thrashing" ; boy takes pencils from desks - "example to school and lectured about sin of stealing and lying" ; boy molesting the girls on way home. Occasionally, severe punishment was administered purely because the child could not or would not do their work satisfactorily. One boy was punished for obstinacy and his mother complained "he must not be beat". Another boy was severely caned for disobedience - he would not spell six words he had wrong in a piece of dictation, he was punished till he did. A girl received a stripe on the hand for not getting a simple addition sum right after 3 goes ; for this her mother came and found fault. The most severe case was of a boy who was punished by the mistress, and then waylaid her after school and hit her with a stick. For this he was summoned and, according to the local newspaper report was fined 10 shillings. He did not return to the school.
Attendance. Throughout the period of the log, attendance is a major issue. Because attendance was not enforcable, there were many occasions where children are absent from school to help their families or "to work for a gentleman in the village". Every year in late summer, children stayed away from school to help their parents with haymaking e.g. carrying food to the hayfields and then with gleaning (where women and children collected whatever was left over in the fields). Other agricultural activities included gathering of potatoes and mangolds, stone-gathering, attending to sheep, bean dropping, gathering cowslips, apple picking and bird scaring (where child learned a few pence a day using a wooden clapper). If, as often happened, the local staple trade of stocking making was depressed this resulted in a lower school attendance, presumably due to lack of money to pay school fees. Children stayed away from school, sometimes with permission, to help with winding and seaming and also to help with family activities like errands and nursing the baby. Heavy rain or snow or intense cold also led to reduced attendance particularly for the infants.Towards the end of the log, a regular visitor to the school was the attendance officer. The master reported regular absentees to this officer. On one occasion, three parents were summoned to appear before the magistrate for the irregularity of their children". Normally, though the frustration of the master was obvious – the children of this person "are repeatedly absent from school. It is useless reporting them to the attendance officer". Another cause of non attendance was illness. Fortunately there was only one mention each of smallpox and slow fever (typhoid) but the other common diseases of Victorian times, whooping cough, measles diphtheria and scarlatina (scarlet fever) took their toll, in both latter cases causing the school to be closed for several weeks on doctors advice. Indeed the masters children were affected by scarlatina and one sadly later died, though it is not specified how. Other causes of absence. In addition to normal holidays, time was given off for special occasions like the Temperance meeting at Garendon Park or cricket matches at the same location ; the laying of the foundation stone at the new Chapel (later the village hall) ; the Prince and Princess of Wales visit to Nottingham ; and the choirs festival at Loughborough. Also the children with impunity took time off to enjoy the Loughborough Fair and Nottingham Fair and the various wakes in neighbouring villages, and other regular events in Loughborough such as the flower show or steeple chase. Various special events were cause for absence, including a menagerie passing through the village, a diorama at Loughborough, and Myers circus at Loughborough.
Final entries in log were 1891. Jan 29 : Tested the Registers this day. Present in both schools 181, absent 54, total 235 – nearly one fifth of the population. E.Smythies. Jan 30 : Continued in late Infant School Log Book. Jan 30th 1891. James H Lammas.
Sources. Log book provided by Hathern School. Transcription and summary by Anthony White 2013.