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Inspection Reports for Toddington Council School

The Wesleyan School front elevation in 1855 [AD3865/45]
The Wesleyan School front elevation in 1855 [AD3865/45]

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a scrapbook of cuttings of visits made to most Bedfordshire Schools by School Inspectors for a period from just before the First World War through the inter-war years [E/IN1/1]. The date of the first visit to Toddington Council School was June 1911 when average attendance was 91: "The school is in good order, the tone is good, all the teachers work to the best of their ability and the level of efficiency reached is, on the whole, fairly good. In the classes for older scholars the teaching of Arithmetic, however, is not as thorough as it should be – the first class show marked weakness in this subject – and there is great need for systematic revision of back work in all subjects".

"The infants are taught with kindness and fairly good success, but the method of teaching Number admits of improvement. The Regulations respecting Registration should be fully observed".

In November 1913 average attendance was 103: "The past year has been on of exceptional difficulty: there have been epidemic sickness amongst the children during the early part of the year and changes and sickness amongst the staff later on. In spite of these difficulties a good year's work has been done by the older scholars and good progress made and both order and tone are praiseworthy. In the Infants' Class a fair level of efficiency is reached".

Most unusually the next inspection was on 23rd September 1915, lack of resources during the Great War made inspections rare; average attendance was 108: "Since March last, that is during the illness of one of the teachers, a monitress has been in charge of the third class, and one or other of the older girls has assisted in teaching the younger children of the Infants' class. These girls have been marked as present in the attendance registers and not in accordance with Rule 21 of Schedule IV of the Code. During the absence through illness of the teacher referred to, the school was understaffed".

"While allowance is made for the difficulties under which the school has recently been working, steps should now be taken to insure compliance with Article 11 (f) of the Code, and at the same time to strengthen the teaching in the lower part of the school, which has long been the weaker part".

"Remarks by the Board of Education
The Board request an explanation of the irregularities noted in the first paragraph of this report".

"Remarks by the Managers. The copy of H. M. Inspector's Report on the above School was duly submitted to the Managers at their last meeting, and an explanation obtained from the Headmaster with regard to the irregularities noted in the Report. Mr. Sommerton. The Headmaster, stated that for the greater part of the time owing to epidemic sickness, the numbers in the whole School were very low and the School was not understaffed, even with the absence of Mrs. Sommerton through illness. The Infants' Department for some time has very few scholars and the Monitress (Miss Hobbs) was put in charge of the third class. Only within the last three weeks when only 4 or 5 infants were present, has the girl from the first class been put to look after the Infants, and the Headmaster had not noticed the requirement of the Code referring to a special mark being registered in respect to her attendance". Two days later the Battle of Loos in which 59,247 British soldiers became casualties.

The next visit was in November 1923, average attendance 89: "In this School the discipline and tone are very good. The outstanding feature of the work is the Composition of Standard VI, and this is considerably above average. Other good points are the Arithmetic of Standards IV-VI and the Writing of Standard VI. Points in which improvement is most to be desired are the Arithmetic of Standard III, the figuring of Standards III and IV and the Writing of Standard II. Distinctness of speech also needs still further attention in the Second Class. Both History and Geography (Class I) are at least of average merit, Physical Training is satisfactory, Drawing fairly good. The school songs are really well sung, but it should not be difficult to make somewhat great progress in Note Singing".

"The condition of the Infants' Division, including Standard I, is quite satisfactory, and handwork is very good. It should be stated that the school was closed through sickness for three weeks during June and July last".

On 13th March 1925 average attendance was 98 and the report on Standards II-VII read: "The children are thoroughly well behaved, and they work willingly; but the work has not gone ahead since the last Report was made. Indeed it hardly reaches the level it then reached. The Arithmetic and Composition of Standards V-VII are good on the whole, and these are the best points. In the rest of the work, with the exception of Physical Training, there is not much that merits a higher mark than fairly good and there are several very distinct weaknesses: the Arithmetic of Standards II and IV, the Writing of Standard II and some of that of Standard III, and Spelling, especially in Standard IV. Even above Standard III some of the Writing is not careful enough. Note Singing remains unchanged".

The remarks on Standard I and the Infants were: "These children read and write satisfactorily on the whole but they have little knowledge of the simplest elements of Number. Their Handwork, like that of the older children, is good".

The sixth visit recorded in the scrapbook was made in June 1928 when average attendance was 87: "Some reorganisation of the classes has been rendered necessary since the children of 'eleven plus' have been drafted here from two neighbouring villages [Chalton and Chalgrave]. There are sixteen such children at the present time".

"The Head Master has the largest class consisting of Standards V, VI and VII. Standard IV is now retained in Class 2 with Standards II and III. The Infants and Standard I form the remaining class. The distribution of the scholars is the fairest as far as numbers are concerned, but for the good of the children it should not be rigidly adhered to in all subjects unless the various standards in any one class are given appropriate work. This is done in Arithmetic, but in Class 2 the children of Standard IV ae being taught Geography and History with those who have just come into Standard II and who have done nothing in these subjects previously. It is obvious that one end of the class or the other must suffer in consequence and it is not surprising that response in these subjects was poor. Other work in this class was fair but there is need for broader treatment in Arithmetic and the exercise books showed few efforts in Composition lately".

"In the lowest class, handwork was the best subject and Writing was satisfactory. Better methods of teaching were discussed and it should be remembered that training in the use of the Mother tongue is the first necessity for an infants' class".

"The highest class was given a number of tests in Arithmetic, Composition and Silent Reading. Standard VII did well in the mechanical paper in Arithmetic but the rest of the papers in this subject were poor in Standards V and VI. A few of the Compositions of Standards VI and VII were good, but the test in Silent Reading was not well done. The work in all the tests varied very much and the influx of strangers has tended to pull the average down rather than otherwise. It would not be fair however to put all the blame on the newcomers, for while the best of the work was that of the children brought up in this school, there was some as weak as that of the imported children".

The next visit was in September 1933 when average attendance was 98: "This school, to which the Head Master came over a year ago, is in great measure fulfilling its functions very well. The building is suitably furnished and equipped; and excellent arrangements are made for the large number of children who stay for the mid-day meal".

"The Head Master is a hard-working man who is eager to do all he can to serve the children. His educational outlook is sound and for the most part his general management of the school is highly praiseworthy. From the Staff he receives loyal support; and from the children a standard of industry which is a sure sign of their goodwill towards him".

"The inspection was carried out at the beginning of the school year; and a total of 59 children (of whom 48 were over eleven) had just been admitted. But it was clear from the planning of the courses, the preparation and presentation of the lessons and the records of the terminal examinations, that much solid and stimulating teaching is being given in all classes. Except in the highest group, the oral response was very gratifying".

"In the discussion with the Head Master suggestions for improving the organisation, and the standard of work in certain subjects, were made. The two most important points which were raised concerned the instruction in oral language and the need for adding to the scholars' physical and mental well-being by the development of a healthy interest in field games".

The final report in the scrapbook is from May 1938, when average attendance was 07: "There is not much change to report in the condition of this school since the last report was issued. The children are making due progress; in the top class, Arithmetic and Simple Geometry are well taught, there is work above average in Art, and really good gardening note books are compiled. In the second class, the History teaching is particularly noticeable: in this class and the third a wide range of ability was evident, and speech training needs more emphasis. The work, in the cases of the average children, was quite up to the average level".