It's amazing what you find when you're not looking. Several things have surfaced during lockdown at the Museum, including the Log Book covering two schools in Chard. We can thank two outstanding headmasters for leaving us with the early history of Holyrood School; Mr Harry Bennett and Mr Ernest Ashman.
The front page of the Log is a list of instructions by the Board of Education, on the keeping of a School Log Book; entries were to be made at the end of each week by the principal teacher and include changes in routine, unusual closures and attendance figures. Our Log Book starts in July 1904 at Southend Boys School. This was a mixed age school with ages ranging from infants to thirteen (school-leaving age). The school broke up for the summer holidays on July 29th and resumed again on August 29th, so just four weeks break; they had two weeks at Easter and two days at Whitsuntide, as well as a half day for Shrove Tuesday.
Attendance was down to 88.8% in early September because of the wet weather; this or snow is a continuing reason throughout the book for low attendance because the boys had to walk to school from the surrounding villages until the school bus service began. There were 162 pupils in 1904 rising to 180 in 1907, with four certificated teachers, one pupil teacher and two monitors.
In 1907 Edmund Batstone was taken on as a Pupil Teacher at 2 shillings a week (ten pence today). Mr Bennett occasionally gets a little tetchy about changes to his routine and ranted for almost a page when the Pupil Teacher had to be absent to attend instruction in Taunton, leaving him short-staffed! There appears to have been several other holidays during term-time, some official and some unofficial. A whole day off was given for the November and May Chard Fairs and a half-holiday every four weeks for good attendance.
The report week ending September 15th 1905 states "The attendance has again been very creditable reading 95%. Only two boys have been absent all the week but there have been a good number of odd half days due to blackberry picking."
The lure of the Hounds Meeting in the town, the circus visiting and Chard Horse Show all added to the truancy numbers. In July, Mr Bennett was plagued with whole holidays for Sunday School Treats. As there were numerous churches in the town and none of them had their 'treats' on the same day it wreaked havoc on the attendance figures!
Reports of illness are entered throughout the Log Book, but between 1904 and 1910 the school was disrupted by scarlet fever, measles, glandular fever, mumps and whooping cough. There were occasional doctors and dentist inspections and the Nit Nurse visited whenever there was an outbreak. The School Inspector seems to turn up every week, sometimes just for a few minutes and sometimes for more serious reasons. In October 1905 Mr Bennett noted that he came "...to inquire about any mentally deficient children in attendance. Only one boy F....W.... of Forton was so classed."
There was, at this time, an Attendance Officer in the town whose job it was to chase up any truants and he must have hand his hands full because in 1910 Mr Bennett noted that "the Attendance Officer had not attended the school this week or last and he had not any reason to give for his absence". He didn't the following week either. Mr Bennett was not amused! Empire Day was celebrated each year with lessons given on the subject before everyone trooping out to the field to listen to speeches by the Mayor and the Vicar, followed by songs, dialogues and the National Anthem and a half-day holiday.
The Registers were taken morning and afternoon because some of the boys were also working. In 1907 Mr Bennett received the following reply to a query of this, "Dear Sir, In reply to your letter of the 18th instant, as the child referred to is under the age of thirteen it must while working half time in the factory, attend school the other half, notwithstanding the fact that the child has obtained total exemption from school under the Bye Laws."In consequence, the headmaster re-admitted Absalom Seaward and Frank Knight who were both working part-time in the factories.
The Academic education was high at the school. Each year the Inspector had to write his report in the Log Book and all were unfailingly glowing about the standards of Arithmetic, Composition and Reading and the boys' broad general knowledge. Throughout these years the Pupil Teachers passed their Certificates and the Certificated teachers went on Courses for more qualifications.
Sergeant Pilton drilled the boys every week and they were given a half holiday each year for the Chard Sports, so physical education is taught as well. In 1907, six boys took the Labour Certificate Examination and five passed, the other one failed his arithmetic. The Log records "This is scarcely to be wondered at, as he is always absent mornings".
In 1910, Edward Phillips took the Scholarship Exam for a free place at Ilminster Grammer School; he was the youngest to pass and just the first of many who were celebrated in the Log Book.
There were some quirky methods of imparting education though. In January 1908 the headmaster took Standards VI and VII for a march along the Tatworth Road to show them the difference between a mile and a kilometre. Let's hope it wasn't raining! He, also, invited Mr G. Avery Roff to come to the school in 1909 to give the boys (all under thirteen) a cautionary lecture on "Intoxicating Drinks".
Between 1908 and 1910 Mr Bennett showed concern about the size of the school, noting that 27 boys were transferred (from the junior school) but he only had desk accommodation for 24. As early as 1908 he had visited the site of the 'new' school, but this is the last we hear until early 1910, when he again visited the site. However, on May 27th that year the masters and pupils assembled on the new school premises when it was opened by the Right Honorable Henry Hobhouse. "the large central hall was full of parents and friends and after an instructive and interesting ceremony, tea was partaken of in the cookery room and playground adjoining." It was still known as Southend School until September 2nd when Mr Bennett recorded that "Information has been received that the new school is to be known as Holyrood School and its number 70a".
and so the new era began.