Article Index

1877

By late 1877, 103 children were enrolled, (24 in the Infants Class and nearly 80 in the six standards covering the 7 to 13-year-olds). The school, originally built for children from Little Melton and Colney, was accepting pupils from Cringleford, Hethersett and Earlham by 1900. It was already bursting at the seams, and had been almost from opening. The need for expansion was obvious. Mr George Gleadhill, researching for an article he wrote on the early years of the school’s existence, examined the parish registers of Little Melton for the years 1837 to 1875. These showed that, of the 85 couples who were married during that time, 39 men and 28 women were unable to sign their names in the register. Some families however found it impossible to pay the fee that was demanded by the new Board Schools for their children’s education, or were unwilling to do so. The fees had been decided upon by the Board at its meeting on the 3rd September 1875, and were 4d. per week for the eldest child, and then 2d. for all the other children in the family, if the parents were rated at £10 per annum or more. If the parents were rated at less than £10, the charges were 2d. and 1d. respectively. No child under the age of four was admitted to the school. The attendance record was very important in the school’s early years as it was used, together with the results of tests done by all the pupils, (except the under six-year-olds), to assess the level of the Norfolk County Council grant to the school. Failure by any child to pass the annual test in any one of the three basic subjects meant the loss of 2s. 8d. per year from the school’s grant for that child! The maximum grant that could be obtained was 12s. per head per year for the older children and 6s. 6d. per head for the infants.

The curriculum also included geography, scripture, (regarded as very important), and needlework for the girls. Copying and dictation were also highly thought of. The infants wrote on slates that broke if dropped too often. Arithmetic consisted of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, and it was arithmetic that the school inspectors reported as giving most trouble to the children. On the whole, however, the school got good reports in its early years. Learning was very much by rote with one qualified teacher, (sometimes a pupil teacher), and monitors, (older pupils considered bright enough to pass their acquired learning on to the younger children), doing the teaching. As state education established itself, the curriculum broadened, and so-called ‘object lessons’ and natural history were added. ‘Object lessons’ involved looking at everyday things in the home, the countryside and around the world, and included such different subjects as ‘iron foundries’ and ‘monkeys’.

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