School Log Books

The St. David’s School collection contains three fascinating school log books which date from 1873 – 1977. These wonderful sources provide an insight into the day to day running of the school, summaries of inspector reports, exam results, and the types of subjects and the lessons taught.

But what is a log book?

After the 1870 Education Act all schools receiving grants had to keep a note of the schools activities in the schools log book. The head teacher had to write in the log book each day recording absence, sickness, and any other important incidents.[1] The log books had to be accurate and up-to-date because they were inspected by the LEA inspectors and played a role in the entitlement of grants. The most repetitive account in the log books is the record of the daily pupil attendance. This figure was one of the requirements for a grant. Attendance at St. David’s School was inconsistent and this had a direct impact on the schools financial situation. In order to help limit the damage of the varying levels of attendance the school would occasionally take measures to avoid recording this information. An example of this can be seen on the account on the 18th August 1905. Due to the heavy rain experienced in Swansea on this date only 46 children attended the school,  as a result of this appalling level of attendance it was concluded that the register was not to be taken and the children were sent home on a half day holiday.[2]

 How can we use them?

They can tell us about the day to day running of the school and what classes and subjects were taught, who visited the school and any unusual events that happened in Swansea, for example when the circus visited the town. They can also be used to understand the conditions and lives of those mentioned in them. There is an account of children arriving at the school with clothes that were soaking wet due to the heavy rain, ‘it was impossible to keep the children in their wet clothes so they were sent home’ so that they would not catch a chill.[3] The children did not have effective wet weather coats to protect them from the weather, which could demonstrate the significant level of poverty experienced in the Catholic community.

 Object Lessons

‘The primary purpose of lessons on common objects and natural phenomena is to cultivate the senses, to train habits of attention, intelligent observation, and accurate comparison, and so to lead up to the higher processes of the mind – reason and judgement.’

Object Lessons and How to Give Them by George Ricks, 1896.[4]

Alongside the compulsory subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic pupils at St. David’s School also had to study songs, poetry, needlework (for the girls) and object lessons. Pupils were taught how to identify and describe these objects and would then use them as a basis for other lessons, the most prominent being art.  Art lessons held a central place in the boy’s education. It was a compulsory subject to all boys, however was not considered essential for the girls education. The aim was to encourage independent effort and inventiveness alongside providing a relief from their other studies. It was also believed that the cutting out coloured paper and cardboard promoted accuracy and good taste in colour and design, alongside a sense of harmony and proportion, and the monotonous manipulation of materials would lead to an increase in the knowledge of a variety of objects. This subject was considered important as it ‘imparts knowledge of form, colour, and the properties of materials and fosters mental dexterity’.[5]

Below are two extracts from one of the log books, take a look and consider the following questions:

1)      What do you notice about the handwriting?

2)      What do you think of the Object Lessons?

3)      Why do you think attendance was so low?

4)     What did the Reverend Manager bring the children?

LAC/99/J20, School Log Book, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

                                                                    School Log Book, Item Reference: LAC/99/J20                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

For a closer look at these extracts click here.

LAC/99/J20, School Log Book, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

                                                                          School Log Book, Item Reference: LAC/99/J20                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[1] My Learning,  http://www.mylearning.org/victorian-school-teachers-life-log-books-and-the-1901-census/p-3492/ (Accessed, 02/04/2014)

[2] LAC/99/J20, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[3] LAC/99/J20, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[4] My Learning,  http://www.mylearning.org/victorian-school-teachers-life-log-books-and-the-1901-census/p-3492/ (Accessed, 02/04/2014)

[5] LAC/99/J28, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

 

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