Issue 10

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School Days

Three families feature in a single article this month, linked together by their common experiences in the same village school.

Our own village school is the oldest National School in Devon, having been founded in 1810. It grew over the years by the addition of temporary classrooms in what was once the playground until it all but disappeared. This Easter, six new brick-built classrooms were added after an enterprising 6-year old personally made and sent a video of the lurid details of the dilapidated site to the Prime Minister. The original buildings are still in use, after almost 200 years, and will probably not be replaced this century - a lasting monument to the Nation School system without which none of our ancestors would have received a glimmer of education.

Some forty years ago, Devon Education Committee had the foresight to recall and archive all the material relating to the history of its schools that it could find - items such as Class Registers, Inspection Reports, Punishment Books and so on. These documents are now available to the public in the Devon Record Office and in this Issue we begin exploring some more of the history of our ancestors through the Ugborough School Log Books.

130 years ago, teachers trained on the job, gaining certificates for ability in different areas of the curriculum as they went along. The first step was to become a Monitor, usually at the age of 11. For a tiny annual salary, a Monitor would be expected to take sole charge of the Infant class. There was no minimum age for starting school so a mother working in the fields all day would try to get children as young as 3 accepted. The next step was promotion to Pupil Teacher with a salary of 8 a year - this happened at around 12 or 13. In addition, Pupil Teachers received about 8 hours instruction a week out of school hours so they could begin to acquire the certificates they needed to become an Apprentice Teacher at the age of 16 or 17. A school with 80 - 100 pupils would be staffed by a Monitor, 2 Pupil Teachers and a School master or mistress, usually all together in one room.

Having been assessed and graded annually by an Inspector, at this point they were considered competent to take charge in a school of their own, teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Singing. The Catechism and Scriptures were taught by the local Vicar and either his wife or the schoolmaster's wife (if he was married) taught Needlework to the girls. At Ermington, the Infants were allowed to march around while they sang - considered a very daring educational experiment at the time!

Keep in touch.

Richard and Muriel 


Link to Office of National Statistics for information on how to obtain copies of Birth, Marriage and Death certificates.

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School Days


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