Sunday, 6 September 2015

Back to School

As children across the country return to school after the long summer break, coincidentally this week I found myself examining an edited transcript of the events at a nearby village school. Records began in 1872, sadly the first two lines record the deaths of two pupils - the first of which, a boy of six years of age, said to have died "from a softening of the brain."

Perhaps some of the other notes would never make it into modern diaries, although they do give an insight into what staff considered important in times gone by.

January 1873 - Mrs Arblaster visited and brought the children a packet of sweets. (One hopes it was a large packet as there were at least 80 children in attendance at this time.)

June 1875 - the school is now very full, the children rather noisy.

October 1886 - Five children had to be sent home this week suffering from a scurvy complaint.

June 1899 - Attendance not so good owing to Rugeley pleasure fair.

December 1907 - A visit from His Majesty's Inspector who reported: "A new timetable must be drawn up for the infants. Their lessons at present are far too long. The main room is very narrow, badly lighted and ill ventilated and is wedged between the Teachers House on one side and some farm buildings on the other. I understand that at times there is a most offensive smell from some neighbouring premises."

January 1912 - Mrs Orgill visited the school on Monday and gave each child the present of an orange.

May 1915 - Impromptu census of parents' occupations reveals: 54% farm workers; 17% pit workers; 30% various trades (yes this does add up to 101%)

February 1917 - Timetable will be varied during the next few months in order that many additional gardening lessons may be taken for the purpose of cultivating waste land.

July 1917 - Mr J. Price, a bee expert, called to examine the school hive.

August 1918 - Headmaster absent through examination by the Army Medical Board.

August 1918 - Commencing today children will be frequently engaged in blackberry picking (apparently this was part of a national scheme)

March 1927 - Gardening class will be allowed to attend the pruning competition in the orchard belonging to Mr Jones opposite the school at 2pm.

May 1939 - Emergency Supplies S arrived today and have been duly stored unopened (it seems they knew what these were, although I wish they had bothered to note what "Emergency Supplies S" actually contained.

September 1939 - Outbreak of war meant the school remained closed in the morning to allow the headmaster to attend a meeting in Lichfield (this would have been to discuss taking evacuees).

June 1940 - Ten evancuated children from Westgate-on-Sea arrived at the school.

September 1940 - Air raid siren at 3:15pm saw the children head for the shelters until the all clear sounded at 4pm. (Until the end of this year the siren sounded out a further eight times)

September 1941 - two groups of children were out picking blackberries which were later delivered to the Drink Preservation Centre. Later that month other parties collected elderberries and rose-hips.

November 1947 - children had a day's holiday to mark the wedding of a certain Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

June 1953 - 64 children and three teachers had a half-day's holiday and attended Rugeley Plaza to see a film entitled The Queen is Crowned.

October 1953 - another day's holiday, this time to allow the children to travel to see Queen Elizabeth, th e Queen Mother open Blithfield Reservoir.

January 1964 - During the holidays the school had had toilets installed and connected to the main sewer, the old privy buildings were demolished.

February 1965 - Granada Television delivered the school's first ever television.

April 1969 - overnight the school rabbits were stolen.

December 1970 - industrial action by power station workers resulted in children being sent home with a letter warning parents they may find the children sent home at any time when the temperature in the school dropped too low.

July 1990 - (and my personal favourite) saw the evening report by the school governors attended by a single parent. This was July 4th 1990 which, as any football supporter will be well-aware, was the evening of the World Cup Semi-Final at Italia 90 between West Germany and England. The match went to extra time and then penalties - although I just can't recall who won the penalty shoot-out.

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