1878 School
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1878 School

The first entry in Lakenheath Infant's Board School, which had recently been completed, was made on 7th.January, 1878 and records that the school was opened by the Mistress, Miss M.B.Liddle, with an attendance of 108The total population of Lakenheath in 1871 was 1880. The average attendance for that first week was 99.6 and to deal with this number of children there was but one mistress who was entirely without any help. Although the children were, on the whole, orderly, work was out of the question - the school had not been provided with any slates, books, pictures or any equipment other than a few reading cards. 

The time was spent in marching and drilling and learning songs. There were several visitors. It was recorded that because of the uneducated state of the pupils the school required a staff of at least three teachers. By the end of the month the Log Book records that "no effort seems to have been made to engage teachers". A small quantity of stationery had been received. During the first week of February severe weather caused attendance to drop to around 95 but some things which had been ordered arrived - including some forms for children to sit on. Two pupil teacher candidates were examined: Melinda Gathercole, aged 12, (who was said to be 'fair') and Julia Rolph, aged 14, who was said to be 'unsatisfactory' - "not having gone beyond the Rule of Simple Addition in Arithmetic and reading and spelling defective - but painstaking and anxious to learn". They were both engaged. After a week the 3rd. and 4th. classes were said to be noisy under Julia Rolph - hardly surprising when a 14 year old girl was expected to look after two classes of children! 

It was said that Melinda might, in time, become a good teacher. Most of the equipment ordered had by now arrived but the pupils were making little real progress due to the lack of competent teachers. The Log Book records no chance of finding a "teacher of any culture in the village and the Board is averse to advertise"! Attendance continued to drop during the second half of February - due to bad weather. This state of affairs continued throughout the month of March. At the end of the first week Melinda was 'managing her class nicely' whilst Julia 'needs improvement in discipline and instruction - by the following week she was said to have 'improved'. Many children were absent due to illness. Regular visitors included Mr.& Mrs.Howard, the Rev.& Mrs.Scrivener, Mrs.Household and Mrs.Robinson. By the end of March the children were 'good and attentive' and the teachers 'careful and industrious'. Julia gave a creditable singing lesson to the lower gallery. 

During the first week of April Melinda gave a 'fair lesson on The Body'. It was the practice at that time to select an object each week and give a lesson on it. Julia by this time was showing some improvement in discipline but none in method of teaching. A child's head was badly cut in the playground - the first accident to be reported. In mid April all the children were examined and some were transferred to higher classes. 36 pupils who had almost mastered their alphabet were formed into a class and placed under the Mistress in conjunction with the 1st.Class. The want of a competent teacher was still being felt. On Monday the school had to be closed owing to the illness of Miss Liddle, the Mistress and on Wednesday - May Day - many children were absent. This week a new Pupil Teacher, Emma Rolph, was transferred into the Infant's School. She was said to be a 'very fair teacher'. The second week of May started with an attendance of 120 but by mid week this had dropped to 64. Classes were now allocated as follows: 1st.Class Emma Rolph (later taken by the mistress), 2nd. the Mistress, 3rd. Melinda Gathercole, 4th. Julia Rolph. By the month's end 'the 3rd. Class were making little progress, Emma had given a poor lesson on 'A Cow' and Julia a 'worse still' on 'A Table'. 

On June 14th. the Log Book records "children dismissed early on Tuesday and today owing to pleasure making in the village". The following week a half holiday was given on the Wednesday in celebration of the Golden Wedding of Captain and Mrs.Murray. The pupils were also examined. At the end of the month the presence of the 'Annual Fair' in the village caused the attendance to drop to an average of 41 for the week and owing to the 'scarcity of attendance' Thursday and Friday were declared holidays. 60 children were transferred to the United School. The first week in July Julia Rolph was absent for two days without permission which resulted in her being severely reprimanded. Later that month the children were said to be 'sleepy and listless' due to the very hot weather. The average attendance was around 72. A boy was severely punished for stealing pencils and the whole school was lectured on the sin of theft. On 1st. August the school closed for six weeks 'Harvest Holiday'.

The school reopened on 20th. September with an attendance of 62 - which later increased to 73. In the week ending 18th.October poor Julia Rolph resigned. Her place was taken by a girl out of the United School. As the winter weather advanced so the average attendance dropped at first to an average of 55 and by mid November to 48. The school was so cold during November the children were often 'allowed to march' instead of having a lesson.

The Report on Lakenheath School for the year 1878 states: "The Infants School has made a fair start. Handwriting and numbers need attention. A Qualified Assistant Teacher is required for the Mixed School and two Transferred Pupil Teachers or one Assistant is required for the Infants School".

R.A.Silverlock. Feb. 2000.
see also School in 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, Illness, Poverty and Postscript



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