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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Continued from the previous page:


So what did the children get for their parents' money?


Let's start with the Kindergarten. The very use of the word shows that this school was committed to a system of education devised by Friedrich Froebel who lived from 1782 and 1852. For a man of this period, he had some very modern-sounding views even if he expressed them in archaic language. He believed that play was at the centre of all early education and  he divided  play into two zones which he called OCCUPATION and GIFTS. "Occupation" involved playing with natural materials such as sand, mud, water and so on and was said to develop manual skills and creativity; "Gifts" were expressed through shapes - a series of coloured wooden blocks in the shape of cubes, cylinders and so on which were used to develop spatial awareness and an understanding of structure. He wanted children to be encouraged to find out for themselves about the natural world around them and saw these two play zones as preparation for the occupations of the adult world they would soon enter. 


Dr Sadler judged the Kindergarten, which had boys and girls in fairly equal numbers, to be good, and although its accommodation was not suitable, judged its teacher as a very capable woman who both understood and loved her work.


For all pupils, Religious Knowledge was a core subject with 3½ hours of instruction per week. The day began with the girls gathering with their form teacher to learn by heart what were known as "Scripture Verses"; these were passages from the New Testament, extracts from Psalms, or the Collect for the day; each morning there was something new to commit to memory which, at the end of the day had to be repeated to the teacher before going  home. This ritual was followed  by a religious morning assembly conducted by Miss Headridge who often used the occasion to correct individual girls whose behaviour had displeased her.


From Dr Sadler's Report:

"The time-table is well arranged, the severer studies being assigned almost entirely  to the morning hours and the afternoons being devoted to drawing, needlework, singing and reading."


Second only to Religious Education, the subjects on which most stress is laid on the time-table are English and Mathematics, the former of which gets, weekly, from six hours in the first form to 3 hours and 20 minutes in the sixth; while to the latter are assigned four  hours in most forms, and from five to six hours and forty minutes in the others. French gets two  hours and forty minutes throughout the school, and History and Geography, one hour and twenty minutes. No Latin is attempted, nor any natural science, except a little Botany and Physiography (a very generalised introduction to the study of the natural world enlightening the girls on such subjects as the nature of snow or the characteristics of a valley).


A part-time Music teacher visited the school to teach class singing using John Curwen's Tonic Sol-fa system (doh, ray me etc). Another part timer visited to teach Drill but Gymnastics was not taught. The teaching of Needlework was, like that of Music and Drill, described as "Very well done" and this was considered to  be a most important skill for the girls to acquire as many went on to become dressmakers or milliners.

The classroom of 1904 was a very different place to the classroom of today. The girls spent much of their time being taught by rote and learning by heart. They frequently stood beside their desks to recite poems and to read aloud in chorus and Dr Sadler's opinion was that "this positively weakened the power of utterance". The Mathematics taught in the school was little more than the study of basic arithmetic with great emphasis on learning tables (taught by rote and rhythmically chanted while standing) and considerable practice of fairly low-level mental arithmetic. This was not a subject which was well-taught but that reflected more on the staff than on the pupils. 


And that brings us to another very real problem with the school at the time it was visited by Dr Sadler - a lack of external financial support which led to a distinct lack of educationally competent staff.





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