Category Archives: Education

Spotlight on Tunstall – Betty Wedgwood’s Dame School

Dame School

A DAME SCHOOL

In his autobiography “When I was a Child” published in 1903, Charles Shaw gives a graphic and horrifying description of working-class life in Tunstall during the 1830s and 40s.

One of Enoch Shaw and his wife Mary’s eight children, Charles was born in 1832. The Shaw family lived in a small terraced house in Piccadilly Street and from 1835/6 to 1839 Charles attended a local dame school until he started work in the pottery industry when he was seven years old.

In this edited extract from “When I was a Child”, he tells us about his school days at Betty Wedgwood’s dame school.

BETTY WEDGWOOD’S DAME SCHOOL

“My education was like that of thousands of other working-class children.

“I went to old Betty Wedgwood’s dame school, and as I had ‘finished my education’ when I was seven years old, I must have attended her school for three or four years.

“The school was housed in the only room on the ground floor of her little cottage. It was about four yards square, with a winding, narrow staircase leading to the cottage’s one bedroom above. The furniture was very scant, consisting of a small table, two chairs, and two or three little forms about eight inches high for the children to sit on. There were a few pictures on the walls of the usual garish sort, blazing with colour, and all the figures upon them were in strikingly dramatic attitudes.

“One small picture was reserved for special distinction, as it was supposed to be the portrait of old Betty’s deceased husband. He had been a soldier and must have attained the rank of colour-sergeant, his stripes and sword being well to the front. The children were duly impressed with the greatness of the personage represented by the little picture. To us, he was a greater warrior than either Wellington or Napoleon. He was more real than either of them because we had before us a visible hero, whose exploits were described by old Betty in tones of awe and in words of admiration. The children listened with wonder to the never-failing recitals of his courage and valour and deeds, and so it has come about that my first vivid impression of a soldier, and what soldiers did, was got by old Betty’s devotion to her husband’s memory, and by the aid of her husband’s portrait.

“The course of education given by the old lady was very simple and graded with almost scientific precision. There was an alphabet, with pictures, for beginners. There must have been something intensely vivid about these letters in the alphabet, for to this day when I see the letters Q and S as single capitals, I see them rather as when I first saw them in old Betty’s alphabet. I have often wondered whether other people carry the same weird impression of the capitals of their first alphabet. I have an impression, too, that the distinctness of that old alphabet had something to do with the success of old Betty’s teachings, for though she never taught writing, her scholars were generally noted for their ability to read while very young. I know I could read my Bible with remarkable ease when I left her school, when seven years old.

“Betty’s next grade, after the alphabet, was the reading-made-easy book, with black letters making words containing two, three and four letters.

“The next stage was spelling and reading the Bible. For those successful in these higher stages old Betty had peculiar honours. They were allowed to take the ashes from under the fire-grate to the ash-heap outside the house. This ash-heap was a common meeting-place, as everybody used it, and on its elevation, many doughty battles were fought. Whoever among the youngsters could get on the top of it and ‘hold the fort’ against all comers, was considered a Victor. Going to the ash-heap, then, meant a bit of sport, and possibly a victory to be talked of in the little school world.

“Another honour of old Betty’s was to allow a successful scholar to sit on the highest visible stair in the winding staircase leading to her bedroom. It was a rare joy to see and be seen by four fellow scholars from this vantage-point of honour. There was yet another distinction the old lady had to bestow. She taught both boys and girls who were successful in reading how to knit stockings. She was a remarkable knitter herself and could carry on this occupation with the regularity almost of a machine, while her eyes were everywhere in her school.

“Old Betty had another resource for pleasing all her scholars. On fine days the little forms were taken outside her cottage and placed under the windows. The children had their books or their knitting, and the old lady, knitting herself incessantly, marched backwards and forwards, hearing lessons and watching work. The joy of the children was that they could see the passers-by, and their mothers, for old Betty’s cottage was at ‘The Bottom’, a favourite resort for the dwellers in the neighbouring cottages.

“These were occasions when the old schoolmistress lapsed into continual smiles, and when her usual rigour, in the matter of lessons, disappeared.

“She was deeply respected by both children and parents. It would be too much to say she was beloved, for there was an air of stateliness and solitariness about her which precluded warm attachment. Whether her stateliness came through her military associations in past years, or whether it was a natural habit, I cannot now say. But for her, being a schoolmistress, it suited well. It impressed the children with a feeling of reverence, and it kept parents from intruding mischievously in the little world she ruled.

“Poor old Betty! She was, perhaps, above the average of her class who taught the children of England in those days for a mere pittance, when our rulers were squandering the resources of the nation in less useful ways and were blind to the wisdom of educating the children of the country.

“She and her class did two things – they made night schools possible for those who wanted to go further, say, to learn writing and arithmetic, and they made it possible for Sunday school teachers to have less elementary drudgery.”

STOKE-ON-TRENT-ART SCHOOL, 1919: "AN ATMOSPHERE OF DEPRESSION, FAILURE AND DISAPPOINTMENT"

HAND EYE FOOT BRAIN

Differences between teachers and school inspectors are not new.  The Stoke-on-Trent art schools got a pasting from government inspectors at the end of the First World War, but the principal, Stanley Thorogood, was proud of their achievements in difficult circumstances and was fizzing with ideas for the future.

Hanley, one of the six towns of the North Staffordshire Potteries, first opened its art school in 1847. Burslem opened in 1853. Smaller schools in the other towns amalgamated with Hanley and Burslem in 1910. They were part of the national system of art education, providing artisans with basic drawing and modelling skills. Only the most persistent student could follow its syllabus through its 22 levels; most went through only two or three. Originality and creativity were actively discouraged. At the pinnacle of this system was the National Art Training School in South Kensington, later the Royal College of Art (RCA)

Remarkably…

View original post 1,166 more words

Trentham Hall could have been Staffordshire’s first University

Trentham Hall

TRENTHAM HALL

Not many students and staff who attend Staffordshire University’s award ceremonies on the Trentham Estate know that Trentham Hall could have been home to a leading Russell Group university like Manchester or Birmingham.

On February 12th, 1890, Francis Elliot Kitchener, the headmaster of Newcastle High School, attended the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner at the North Stafford Hotel.

While proposing the toast to “the staple trades of Staffordshire”, he suggested establishing a University College in Hanley which specialised in chemistry and engineering. Both the Sentinel and Thomas Turner (Staffordshire County Council’s director of technical education) supported the idea.

However, nothing was done until 1900 when a Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire was set up to help finance Oxford University’s Extension Courses in the district.

Taking up Kitchener’s idea, the council launched a public appeal to build a North Staffordshire College in The Potteries.

The proposed college, which would have had University status, was going to run full and part-time degree courses, train teachers and provide vocational training for men and women working in industry and commerce.

Although the estimated cost of the college was £20,000, there was widespread support for the project.

By the end of 1904 pottery manufacturers, colliery owners, professional bodies and local town councils had promised to give between £10,000 and £11,000 towards the cost.

Staffordshire County Council offered to give £12,500 if matching funding could be raised. The Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire made plans to launch a final appeal. Before it could be launched, the Duke of Sutherland stepped in and offered to give Trentham Hall to the county council if it agreed to establish the college there.

Believing it had achieved its objective, the Council for the Extension of Higher Education disbanded, and the county council made plans to transform the hall into a regional college.

While these plans were being made, a campaign to reform local government in The Potteries by replacing its six local authorities with a county borough council was gaining momentum.

Realising change was inevitable and that responsibility for education would be taken from it and given to the new county borough, Staffordshire County Council withdrew its support for the North Staffordshire College.

Hanley, which was already a county borough, refused to take over the project and the county council erected temporary buildings to house a mining school and a pottery school on land near Stoke Station.

At the end of the First World War, another attempt to give North Staffordshire a University College failed.

The mining school and the pottery school became the Central School of Science and Technology, one of the technical schools in The Potteries from which Staffordshire University can trace its descent.

Tunstall Schools – Can You help Spotlight?


victorian schoolroomSpotlight on Stoke is researching the history of education in Tunstall.

We are hoping to write short posts about all the schools in the town including:

  • St. Mary’s
  • The Catholic School in Oldcourt Street
  • Summerbank Road Schools
  • Tunstall High School for Girls
  • Brownhills High School
  • High Street Schools
  • Forster Street Schools

Except for Forster Street, all the schools built in Tunstall during the 19th century have been demolished. Very few photographs of them survive. If you attended any of these schools and would like to share memories of your school days with us, please email spotlightstoke@talktalk.net

Outraged teachers threatened to resign

brownhills-high-school-1950s

BROWNHILLS HIGH – ONE OF THE CITY’S FOUR GRAMMAR SCHOOLS

Stoke-on-Trent teachers were shocked when they learned that Henry Dibden, the director of education, wanted to abolish the city’s grammar schools.

When Henry became director of education in 1951, the Potteries was a deprived area. It had only four grammar schools, and most children left school at 15 without any qualifications. Less than 10% took O’ Levels and plans to build nine new grammar schools were abandoned when the city ran out of money.

The education committee estimated that between 25% and 30% of the school population could obtain five or more O’ Levels but only one secondary modern school (Goldenhill Secondary Modern) was entering pupils for these examinations. Realising the city needed a new education policy, the education committee told Henry to draw up plans to go comprehensive and as an interim measure introduced selected entry O’ Level streams into six secondary moderns.

Henry’s scheme for secondary school reorganisation was published on January 20th, 1959. He proposed replacing the grammar schools and the secondary moderns with 24 neighbourhood comprehensives and a sixth form college for A’ Level students. Accepted by the Labour Party controlled city council, the plan was attacked by the Conservative Party, the Workers Educational Association and Keele University. Outraged teachers held public meetings and threatened to resign unless the scheme was withdrawn. When the council refused to back down, some teachers sold their homes in the city and went to live in South Cheshire to ensure that their children received a grammar school education.

Wanting to go comprehensive in the early 1960s, the education committee renamed the six secondary moderns that had selected entry 0’ Level streams junior high schools. An experimental sixth form college was opened at Longton High School, but the Conservative government refused to allow the committee to turn its grammar and secondary modern schools into comprehensives.

In 1964, the Labour Party won the general election, and Stoke-on-Trent hoped the new government would accept its proposals. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, who had been educated at Wirral Grammar School, opposed the scheme saying that grammar schools would be abolished over his dead body. The city council responded by threatening to go comprehensive without government approval and a bitter row developed within the Labour Party.

To prevent the dispute being made public the city council and the government reached a compromise, which involved reorganising both primary and secondary education. Stoke-on-Trent agreed to make its infants’ schools first schools taking pupils aged five to eight and establish middle schools for children from eight to twelve. In return, the government allowed the city to replace grammar and secondary modern schools with comprehensives and build a new sixth form college.

Erected at Fenton Manor, the college cost £500,000. It was opened by Harold Wilson on April 10th, 1970 and had accommodation for 750 A’ Level students aged 16 to 19.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust, September 2010

Did you go to school in Tunstall?

tunstall-town-hallSpotlight on Stoke is researching the history of education in Tunstall for its new series Focus on Tunstall, and we shall be writing posts about all the schools in the town including:

  • St. Mary’s Schools
  • The Catholic School in Oldcourt Street
  • Summerbank Road Schools
  • Tunstall High School for Girls
  • Brownhills High School
  • High Street Schools
  • Forster Street Schools

Most of the schools that were built in Tunstall during the 19th century have been demolished.

If you were educated in Tunstall and have any photographs of the school you attended or would like to share memories of your school days with Spotlight email spotlightstoke@talktalk.net

A’ levels return to Stoke-on-Trent College

sot-college-logo

Spotlight on Stoke is delighted to learn that Stoke-on-Trent College will be running A’ level courses again after a gap of 18 years.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Elms and Stoke-on-Trent College of Commerce (two of the colleges that were amalgamated to create Cauldon College which later became Stoke-on-Trent College) started to run full and part-time GCE O’ and A’ level courses. These courses were successful and attracted students from Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire.

Students who took A’ levels at colleges of further education in The Potteries continued their studies at Britain’s leading universities and became accountants, barristers, psychologists, solicitors, teachers and university lecturers.

We are sure that students following the new A’ level courses at Stoke-on-Trent College will be just as successful. Everyone at Spotlight wishes them well and will be following their progress with interest.

We hope the college will expand the range of A’ level subjects offered when the courses are established giving more local students the opportunity to go to university or to enter higher education.

Teacher training in the 19th century

Until school boards were established by the Education Act 1870, the state did not make any provision for the education of working-class children.

What little education they received had to be paid for by their parents, although there were a few free places reserved for them in the grammar schools at Leek, Newchapel, Stafford, Stone and Uttoxeter.

By the end of the 17th century, Newcastle-under-Lyme had a grammar school, where 39 boys were educated free of charge. There was also a dame school, which was financed by the town council. The school had free places for up to 20 girls.

Joseph_Lancaster_by_John_Hazlitt

Joseph Lancaster

In 1808, nonconformist educationalist Joseph Lancaster founded the British and Foreign Schools Society to give financial help to free churches who were building day schools at home and missionary schools overseas.

Fearing that the British Schools would monopolise elementary education in the new industrial towns, the Church of England set up the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales.

During 1814, the National Society opened its first school in North Staffordshire at Chesterton.

The first British School in The Potteries was erected in Burslem by the Wesleyans. The parish church, St. John’s, opened a National School in 1817 and by 1822 the Roman Catholic Church had built a school at Cobridge.

Many teachers were not well educated or well trained. Pupils who wanted to become teachers stayed at school until their early teens and became apprentice teachers. Called monitors, the apprentices were supervised by the headteacher and allowed to teach younger pupils. After a few years, monitors who had successfully completed their training and could maintain discipline were employed as assistant teachers.

During 1846, the government made regulations governing teacher training. Under these rules, boys and girls who had stayed at school until they were 13 could be appointed pupil teachers.

Pupil teachers were apprenticed to the headteacher for five years. At the end of each year, they were examined by the school inspectors. When their apprenticeship ended, pupil teachers took the Queen’s Scholarship examination.

Those who passed with the highest marks were given a grant which enabled them to go to a teacher training college and become fully qualified certificated teachers. Other pupil teachers who passed the examination were offered employment as uncertificated assistant teachers. Only certificated teachers could obtain headships. Uncertificated teachers remained assistant teachers throughout their careers. Many secured positions at the school where they had been educated and taught there until they retired.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

PH/BC

Education in The Potteries during the 1920s

Newcastle High School

During the early 1920s, the type of school a child attended depended on its parents’ social status.

Middle-class children, whose parents could afford to pay school fees, were sent to secondary schools like Newcastle High School, the Orme Girls’ School and Hanley High School where they received an academic education.

Except for a few scholarship boys and girls attending secondary schools, working-class children went to elementary schools and left to start work at 14.

When the First World War ended in 1918, the Labour Party demanded educational reform and called on the government to give all children a secondary education.

In 1926, the Hadow Report recommended replacing elementary schools with primary schools and selected entry secondary schools – grammar and secondary modern. The report was accepted by the government and local education authorities in North Staffordshire made plans to reorganise their schools.

Stoke-on-Trent’s three secondary schools, Hanley High School, Longton High School and Tunstall High School for Girls became grammar schools. Parents whose children attended these schools still had to pay school fees although a few free places were given to working-class children who had passed the eleven plus.

Reorganisation started in Tunstall during 1929. Tunstall High School for Girls left the Jubilee Building and moved into purpose-built premises at Brownhills. Existing school buildings in Forster Street, High Street and Summerbank Road were modernised or enlarged. Three secondary modern schools were created and Forster Street, where new classrooms and a hall were constructed, became a primary school.

By 1932 all the local authority’s schools in The Potteries had been reorganised. Influenced by the public schools, the grammar schools and the secondary modern schools organised their pupils into houses. House points were awarded for pupils’ academic and sporting achievements. School societies were encouraged and senior pupils who were made prefects helped to maintain discipline.

Although class teaching, where a teacher had a class for a year and taught every subject, was retained in primary schools, it was replaced in secondary modern schools by subject teaching. New teachers had to specialise in one or two subjects, and those who had taught in the elementary schools were given in-service training to help them adapt to the change.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

Photograph Copyright The Phoenix Trust 2012

PH/BC