When attempting to discover the social background of children, particularly in the nineteenth century, but also in more recent times,family historians often neglect school records. Yet for those who have never been tempted to explore these records they can provide valuable insights into how schools were integrated into the community, especially in rural areas. The main sources, and certainly the most illuminating, are log books. The earliest log books date from 1862 when legislation was introduced requiring headteachers to record the daily life in Government-financed schools. Barbara Dove has been looking through some local school records.
A log book, started in 1863 at Kidmore End Primary School, sets out what is expected from teachers:
‘The Principal Teacher must daily make in the Log Book the briefest entry which will suffice to specify either ordinary progress, or whatever other fact concerning the School or its Teachers, such as the dates of withdrawals, commencements of duty, cautions, illness, &c., may require to be referred to at a future time, or may otherwise deserve to be recorded. No reflections or opinions of a general character are to be entered in the Log Book. No entry once made in the Log Book may be removed nor altered otherwise than by a subsequent entry. The Inspector will call for the Log Book at his annual visit, and will report whether it appears to have been properly kept throughout the year. The summary of the Inspector’s Report, when communicated by the Committee of Council to the Managers, must be copied into the Log Book by the Secretary of the latter, who must also enter the names and description of all teachers to be added to, or withdrawn from, those entered by the Inspector, according to the decision of the Committee of council upon the Inspector’s Report’.
The content varies greatly from school to school and, naturally, accordingly to when and by whom it was written. So here are just a few of the jottings I found in log books at Kidmore End, from the years between 1863 and 1904.
19 May 1863 Attendance very small. (Weather) N.B. In this village, where the homes of most of the children are so distant from the school, wet or very cold weather, lefsens greatly the attendance.
8 October 1868 1st class not well attended. Boys wanted for work in the field and for tending cattle.
14 June 1869 Entry covers over three pages the name, age, when admitted and standard of 68 children present at the school.
3 April 1871 Harry Castell and George Prior punished for playing truant yesterday afternoon. No drill in the afternoon, the weather being damp and showery.
17 May 1872 George Cleater not to come to school while his younger brother is sick from Measles. Jesse Yates sent away for being ragged and dirty.
10 June 1872 The School pence received this morning found deficient of 1/2d, when counted over, suspicion aroused that one of the older children had been guilty of theft.
11 June 1872 The suspicion aroused yesterday found to be correct, the girl (E.H.) confessing her guilt to the Vicar, after perfect evidence had been obtained of it.
1 January 1878 School reopened; fair attendance, with unfavourable weather. Mary E. Jennings 3rd year Pupil Teacher, arrived from Sopley, on Saturday last, and M. Maria Suffolk, from Baxterley, Warwickshire, 1st. year Candidate, on Monday, 31 December. Divine Service at 11.30.
2 April 1878 The School could not be commenced until 9.45, owing to the School room chimney having caught fire. The Scripture Lesson therefore omitted.
25 May 1878 (this entry is edged with a black border and Memorandum written at the side) The Mistress and two teachers started for Henley on Saturday morning about 8 a.m.; after proceeding about a mile, at the corner of the road leading to Peppard, the conveyance, which was proceeding at a rapid rate was overturned, and they were all thrown out. Help having been obtained, they returned to Kidmore, a messenger being despatched by the Vicar to Henley to inform H.M. Inspector of the accident. Mary Jennings escaped with slight contusion of the forehead, the Mistress and Maria Suffolk more seriously injured. Being unable to attend to their duties, School was kept on the following Monday and Tuesday by the Vicar and M. Jennings, assisted by Mifs Sturges and Mrs Henman; and then temporarily closed.
Medical aid was called in on Monday May 27th; Maria Suffolk grew rapidly worse from Friday, 31st. and expired on Sunday eve., June 2nd. her Mother, having been telegraphed for, arrived the eve, previous. Mr Suffolk arrived too late to see his daughter alive. On Tuesday, June 4th, her remains were conveyed to her own home, Baxterley Warwickshire.
School remained closed during this week the Mistress being unable to attend.
Extract from the log book describing the accident
18 June 1878 Two temporary Scholars admitted. Highest attendance ever made (132) both morning and afternoon.
12 December 1881 Two tons of coal brought in. School routine as usual during week.
8 January 1883 Commenced taking Dictation on paper. Spelling very bad.
The Toms family left and gone to Hook End School because their father was summoned and fined for not sending them regularly.
29 October 1883 I, William Colwill, Certificated Master of the Second Class, late Head master of the Westonzoyland Board School, Somerset commenced my duties in this School today.
5 November 1883 This afternoon the village policeman came to the School and complained that a boy had thrown a stone at a duck in the pond opposite the school and had broken its leg. On inquiry I found that several had been throwing but the boy who struck the duck was called Hicks. I cautioned him and announced to the whole school that any boy who throws stones during the dinner hour or at play time will be caned.
Only 70 children present this afternoon. Several gone gathering acorns.
14 December 1883 On Monday the children who stay to school to dinner were given hot coffee with their food.
They seemed to enjoy it very much. This was done on Wednesday and today, and it has certainly been the means of making the children look more cheerful in the afternoon, and has improved the attendance in the afternoon, as some who previously went home to dinner and sometimes did not return to afternoon school now stay in the school for dinner.
28 June 1886 School Year 1885-86
Corporal Punishment has been inflicted in this school during the past year for the following offences: Lying: Petty Thefts: Frequent inattention to lessons: Obstinacy: Stone throwing: Idleness: Copying and Prompting. The three later have been the most frequent.
The punishment mostly consisted of one stroke on the hand sometimes one on each hand.
30 November 1887 Mr Sutton, Dyson’s Wood, came to the School at dismissal this afternoon and handed the master 10 shillings towards the ‘Coffee Fund’. He said he was unable to be present at the Church when the collection was made and therefore wished to give something privately
20 January 1888 Dinners this week provided by Miss Tyrrell. They consisted of Soup on Tuesday and Irish Stew today, about 50 children partook on each occasion.
21 March 1888 Rose Randall buried this afternoon.
12 October 1891 Wet this morning, several children have left today, Fathers gone to other villages for work. The usual Michaelmas changes.
Admitted 2 boys called Godding.
28 July 1892 Boys Cricket Match this afternoon, Peppard and Kidmore.
15 October 1894 The urinal attached to the boys closet was choked up owing to the rain but was soon cleared again. On account of the mornings being very cold fires were commenced on the Tuesday of last week.
19 April 1901 Average for week 127. On books 143 89%. The new classes have settled into their fresh work during the week. The first class consists of 44 children very unequal in attainments, it is rather difficult to keep them at work and also to superintend the other classes.
report of Diocesan Inspector (Copy)
‘The school throughout is making very satisfactory progress, especially the children of the highest division, who answered very intelligently.’
B’p’s Prize Bertrum Lovejoy
Commended Group 3 Beatrice Wise, Arthur Russell, Lily Cook, Edith Callis, Jno Ledbury,* Wm Long,* Frank Beasley. Group2 Sid Ambrose, Archie Old, Wm Cook, Ethel Beesley, Elbena Cox, Lily Middleton. *Won Bp’s Prize in former years. J.W. Nutt Inspector
29 June 1904 Visited the school. The rooms are crowded, and the question of the Enlargment of the school needs serious attention. The walls sh’be coloured, and the doors made to open outwards. The infant room is scarcely adequately lighted. E.F. Davidson H.M.I.