Monthly Archives: June 2012

At School No.16: Children’s Parents

Tinkers Farm Road School orchestra. BAH: Tinkers Farm Road School Album p.18.

The involvement of parents in school life was clearly important for getting the parents to send their children in the first place. Parents’ days were organised, and occasionally concerts and performances were put on and the parents invited. Floodgate Street’s Head Teacher records the particular success of one of these:

“This afternoon the mothers of the children were invited to come to the school to hear the singing + to see the Dancing of Upper Class Girls. Over 100 attended, and their evident enjoyment was most gratifying.” [S68/3/1 27.4.1921]

Children in Costume. BAH: Floodgate Street Board School Album p.8.

However, sometimes the parents caused trouble for the school. Those truanting and sleeping out often had a reason for avoiding home, such as drunken parents. [S68/2/1 14.10.1898] One drunken father even attacked the head Teacher at Floodgate Street School when he was refused permission to remove his daughter from school. [S68/3/1 25.8.1937] He received a month in prison for the assault and two weeks for being drunk and disorderly.

Another family sent their boy to Tinkers Farm School in “drain-pipe” jeans, and then involved solicitors and the papers when the Head Teacher suspended him:

“The Father wrote a letter containing false accusations and threatening to see his solicitor and write to the press.” [S200/1 30.9.58 ]

Eventually the school won the battle, but not before involving the school board:

“9.00 am “B’ham Mail telephoned re Woodward story.

9.30 Mr Jarratt SE Branch rang up for my version of the case. Suggested that an officer from Bye-laws should resit with Mr Woodward + reason with his and get the boy to school – if necessary unconditionally. Mr Woodward agreed to send his boy to school in ‘drain-pipes’ on Friday 3/10/58, and put him in normal clothing on Monday.” [S200/1 2.10.58]

The theoretical involvement of parents was therefore important, but sometimes their actual involvement left children away from classes they should have been benefiting from.

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At School No.15: Teacher’s Lives

The logbook entries often tell us as much about the lives of the teachers as they do the children. As with the children’s’ stories, these tend to be exceptional cases. For instance, Edward VII’s coronation was listened to by the teachers, and a teachers’ strike was recorded in 1961 at Tinkers Farm. [S68/1/1 25.1.01, S200/1 20.9.61] Some of these voice the concern of the Head Teacher on the ability of other teachers to do their jobs well. One teacher was recorded as “not a good disciplinarian”, another as “not successful with the class in any way” and the Head Teacher records that one teacher “will I fear prove too weak to manage the boys.” [S68/2/1 13.7.1894, 4.10.1905]

The teachers themselves, it seems, were as familiar with misbehaving as the children were. One teacher at Floodgate Street School was repeatedly warned to follow the school timetable rather than his own [S68/3/1 8.9.33, 16.10.33]. Two teachers were also caught smoking during the break time. One should have been supervising the children, and smoking in school was strictly prohibited. [S68/3/1 26.5.37] No mention of their punishment was recorded, although the tone of the logbook suggests that it was a stern talking to.

One of the more intriguing stories involves the Routledge family, particularly as the absence of these two teachers would have been noticeable to the children waiting to be taught:

“Oct 24: Mr. Routledge absent in afternoon, his sister said he was not well but she did not know what was the matter with him. He appeared quite well in morning + did not complain of feeling bad when he walked homewards with Mr. Smith. …A boy was told by Mr Routledge “ If Mr. Cooper asks you what is the matter with me say I have a sick head-ache.”

Oct 25: …Mr. Routledge + his sister were both away. I left school at 11.10 + called at their home – They were both out.

Oct 26: Mr. Routledge resumed duty this morning. He was compelled to be absent on Thursday morning to attend to private business, which, on account of its peculiarly delicate nature, he did not like to mention. Had he asked for permission to be absent for Thursday morning I should have granted it. On Thursday afternoon Mr R. was at home, he says he was too upset to attend. [Miss Routledge still absent]

Oct 30: Miss routledge returned today. She has forwarded a Med. Cert. to Offices re her absence.

Nov 5: …attending meeting of S.M. Committee. Mr + Miss Routledge were also absent owing to their attending same meeting. As they were both suspended for a month, neither has since been to school, nor will they return, as at the end of the month they will be placed on reserve list.” [S68/2/1]

Just what the two teachers were doing is never stated, but it would have been difficult for the children to miss these events, particularly as one of the children was a witness to their absence. It would appear that gossip and rumours at the expense of teachers were always a part of the school day.

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