Scandalous school events, 1875-1900

In the latest of this occasional series on life in Haslingfield School between 1875 and 1900, I thought I would regale you with some of the scandalous events which merited more than the customary single line in the log book.

Regular readers will remember that school attendance was very important because it dictated part of the school grant for the following year. Successive head teachers complained about local landowners and tenants illegally employing children from the school, and this moaning appears to have come to a head in July 1881. The head at the time, Micaiah Marshall, asked the Chairman of the Governors (who was also the local vicar) to write to the Chairman of the School Attendance Committee to complain about “the perfunctory manner” in which the attendance officers fulfilled their duties. The vicar refused, because he didn’t want to upset the locals (presumably parents as well as landowners). The head was as rude as Victorian protocol for log book entries allowed him, and called the vicar’s reaction BOSH (in capital letters).

Shortly afterwards the HMI visited the school, and took offence at the BOSH, calling it “improper in the very highest degree”. He asked the head to withdraw his remark, threatening to send the logbook “to Whitehall”, which I guess was the nearest he could get to the General Teaching Council. The head wrote a grovelling apology, suggesting somewhat ingenuously that he was referring to the position of the vicar in the village rather than George Clements himself. Micaiah departed the scene shortly afterwards.

Micaiah also complained about his staff occasionally. The cleaning staff, whom Micaiah refers to as “the woman”, had a particularly bad December in 1880. On the 8th she took the dusters home to be washed, and forgot to return them. Mr. Marshall was particularly aggrieved, as she hadn’t touched them during the school holidays. He suggested, possibly showing the same diplomacy as he had to the vicar, that she only take home two at a time to wash. “The woman” obviously didn’t take kindly to this, called for reinforcements in the form of her daughter, and had a stand-up row with the head, whom they accused of suggesting they had stolen the dusters. In the same week she had knocked over and broken a gas lamp. “This”, said Micaiah, with an air of frustration tinged with resignation, “is a decided improvement over her other effort, when she not only broke the chimney but also emptied the contents of the lamp into my desk”.

I wonder if Micaiah ever complained that you can’t get the staff nowadays?

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