Times change. Issues don’t.

Times change. Issues don’t

One of the great fascinations of reading  the log books is the way that you can suddenly be surprised at how contemporary  some of the issues appear to be.  The  same issues appear to have been facing schools for over a century.  Look at some of the examples I have unearthed  from the period before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Attendance is a big issue right from the start. It is recorded  daily and reflects the considerable influence of the weather. Wet children were  a big issue. How do you get them dry? When children had few clothes to wear,  families would keep children at home when it rained. How could you dry them if  the fires weren’t properly maintained by the authority or if there was a  shortage of coal? Often the children who did turn up were entertained with  stories and singing until the rain stopped and they could go home.
Concerns over the effect of social deprivation were common even then.  Some children were held back a year “owing  to their backward condition, the result of early neglect” Sadly many of us  are saying the same things today. On 23 March 1892 they admitted Samuel Allen  aged 7 years and 6 months, who had never attended school before. Evan Evans was  admitted from Morriston in 1894 and was “found  unable to anything.” No change there then.
Wrestling with new technology – 4 March 1902 received instruction to discontinue  the use of slates in school. A vain hope actually.
The well-being agenda was already firmly in place. Childhood illnesses feature throughout the  record. The school would be closed because of epidemics of measles or  diphtheria. In May 1887 there was less than a third in school. Doctors were  always turning up to measure the children or to inspect teeth and hair.
There was great concerns over the condition of school buildings. The  fireplaces fell into disrepair causing much correspondence. The rain came  through the roof. The School Board wrote a ratty letter to the council in 1908  in response to an inspector’ report. “I  am to point out that the need of an urinal was brought to your authority’s  notice in 1905 and again in 1906.”
A vocational  curriculum was already pushing to be included. There was some criticism  that “marching is not included in the  physical exercises. Thimble drill should be taught. Perhaps that was the  reason why the inspectors felt the need to say “Hemming stitches should be larger and more distinct on the right side  of the hem.” I know, it is hard to believe that such slackness had a home!  Shameful!
Intruders? In September 1979 the head was “very much annoyed by boys from the works.” The feeling then as now  was that you must deal with such issues on your own.
Teachers’  attendance? One teacher was away with toothache  which became a “gathered face” (probably an abscess). The head had to go into  the classroom to cover.
The Curriculum?  It has always been a big issue. Children had to learn songs like Tiny Little Snowflakes and prepare recitations  such as The Little girl who would not say  please and I love little pussy, about which I must maintain a dignified silence.
Bilingualism? Lots of the children struggled though because most of them came  from Welsh-speaking homes and lessons were almost entirely in English, apart  from half an hour a week right up until 1913.
As far as Collective worship is concerned, the log book shows that  inspectors insisted that The portion of  scripture read must be recorded every day
What about resourcesThere are but three desks in the school so  that these children have to write on copy books in relays. Just think. A  real opportunity for Working with Others was missed there.
The school in April 2010

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