The school log book is a very variable form of historical document. Its purpose was to record events of varied nature – at an early stage it contained, verbatim, inspectors reports. In its pages we can glimpse at the working of a school, gain some knowledge of the condition of the buildings and have a school eye view of national and local events.
It is variable in another sense; it is a record compiled by the Head Teacher of a deputy. As personnel changes so does the emphasis on particular areas of school life; some head teachers are more detailed than others.
Over a hundred year the log book has not retained its importance as a record of the school’s life. In the past two decades the log book seems to have become a skeleton of its former self. So much more happens in a large school that a head teacher could not really reflect events in a log book and still do all that has to be done.
The prevalence of school centenaries in the past few years is accounted for by the passage of the so-called Forster Education Act in 1870 which made possible the formation of School Boards to supplement the existing patchy and inadequate school system of the mid Victorian era.
The Framwellgate School Board formed in 1875, is typical of many throughout the country and the centenary of the school then opened in 1877 is thus in no way remarkable. More remarkable is the transformation that has taken place and this education boom is really a post war phenomenon. The original school buildings now look down on a sprawling complex, comprising infant, junior and secondary schools. The secondary school alone has almost three times the population of the original Board School and the staffing ratio (number of teachers per child) bears no comparison at all.
In preparing these log books for publication we have been concerned to illustrate several themes. Obviously the ordinary working of the school is a firm concern – what we learn about this kind of work covered and methods of teaching. Allied to this is an interest in the buildings themselves – ‘working conditions’ and how they change. We were also interested to see what the log books tell us about the children – their behaviours, their attendance record, their attitude to work and progress; on a wider level we wanted to discover something about the health and welfare of the times. Wider still the log books reflect both local and national events. The Great War, for example, has a variety of implications for the school – turnover of staff, bereavement, a worsening diet and the need to collect fruit to help overcome the effects of the German blockade. We see acts of charity and kindness by both pupils and adults – indeed it is tempting to suggest that all of life is there. It is difficult to convey the richness of the information recorded without stealing the thunder of the entries themselves.
As an editorial team we have made five arbitrary divisions and present the entries under these headings. We have tried to present a balanced picture, including the obviously exceptional and a selection of the routine in an effort to retain the balance of the originals. Clearly the major problem has been in selecting entries and inevitably some entries have not easily matched out chosen categories and have been relatively neglected. Where entries record an annual occurrence, we have selected the first mention of it to show its origin.
Our selection ends in 1935. This is a deliberate decision and not due to any gap in the records; In 1935 the schools were reorganised and Brasside was closed. We also felt that to go beyond 1935 would begin to infringe the 30 year rule that applies to public records. More recent entries could for example cause embarrassment for some old pupils and staff still living locally. The quality and quantity of pre 1935 entries have provided ample suitable material themselves and so, for reasons such as these we have decided to confine ourselves to the first sixty years of the Schools history – the most distant in time, the slightest in personal memory and the most marked in contrast to modern conditions in and out of school.
Certain themes and aspects of school life can be traced across our categories. One such example is the number and frequency of holidays. The Schools soon established a regular pattern of holidays – a month in summer, a week at Christmas, at Easter and at Whitsuntide. The October holiday is a later addition – the higher absentee rate during potato picking shows that this holiday is simple accepting a fact of life. Other ‘holidays’ are given in the form of occasional days or half days for a variety of reasons – good attendance was rewarded by a half day holiday per month (a scheme that might well be revived). The democratic processes involve closures, as do major national events, such as royal weddings, funerals and coronations, while the end of the war in 1918 gave the pupils an extra holiday. Another category of ‘holiday’ shows up in the section on health and welfare – epidemics of measles or influenza might lead to a closure which could last up to five weeks.
There follows a brief account of the origins of the school, after which each section of log book extracts is preceded by a short introduction. Each entry is followed by an abbreviation for the school to which it refers.
B. – Boys School
G. – Girls School
I. – Infants School
Br. – Brasside School