Pupil Teachers

The introduction of pupil teachers proved to be vital to the efficient and successful running of St. David’s Roman Catholic School. They provided essential support to the class teachers, especially when the school population was at its highest. A head teacher was entitled to one pupil teacher per 25 pupils on the school register. The role of pupil teachers was extremely important to the school especially when funding was limited. When the school was struggling financiallyand could not afford to pay for a full time class teacher they employed the pupil teachers instead.[1]

The position of pupil teachers was introduced in 1846 by Dr. J. Phillips Kay in a poor law school in Norwood. The scheme was offered to carefully selected Elementary School pupils across Britain, where they could earn a wage as well as receive vocational training. Pupil teachers could begin at the age of 13 and be apprenticed to head teachers for five years in preparation for attending a training collage.[2] In the beginning pupil teacher education and training took place at the schools and under the supervision of the head teachers; however after the passing of the 1870 Elementary Education Act separate establishments were introduced called pupil teacher collages for the academic training of students and teaching practice was undertaken in the public elementary schools. The 1902 Education Act saw the tightening of the regulations of pupil teacher training and encouraged pupil teachers to achieve a secondary education wherever possible. By 1907 potential teachers would attend school until the age of 18 and either proceed to a teacher training college or become a student teacher at a public elementary school.[3]

The archival collection contains a vast number of pupil teacher contacts. The collection of agreements between the managers of the school and the pupil teachers include information regarding wages, dates of employment and the examinations pupil teachers had to take. The contracts were legally binding documents and had to be signed by the pupil’s parent or guardian, both of the school managers and the pupil teacher themselves.  Pupil teachers would work a maximum of six hours a day and for a total of 30 hours a week. Sunday was expressly excluded from their working week so that they may attend to their spiritual education. The rules which pupil teachers had to abide by were very strict for example; they would be liable for dismissal without notice for idleness, disobedience or immoral conduct.[4] In conjunction with providing pupil teachers with a beginning to their careers as teacher, they were also fully catered for in regard to food and accommodation. The managers, the executors and the administrators of the school agreed to clothe, feed, lodge and watch over their pupil teachers during the period of their contracts with the school.

Between 1871 and 1879 Mary Weir, Kate Weir, Elizabeth O’Neil and Catherine Winter all studied as pupil teachers at St. David’s School. In January 1905 Miss. Elizabeth O’Neil had attended a teacher training collage and was appointed as a certified teacher at St. David’s School.[5] An example of one the contracts can be seen below. This contract is an agreement between the managers of St. David’s Roman Catholic School and Thomas Weir, for the engagement of his daughter Mary Weir as a pupil teacher. She was engaged to serve under a certificated teacher during the usual school working hours, and in keeping with the ethos and teaching of the school. Her contract began on the 1st June 1871, and terminated on the 31st May 1876.[6] Mary Weir’s salary began at two shillings a week during her first year of employment and was then increased by one shilling a week each year after successful completion of the first year of the engagement.

Mary Weir’s Pupil Teacher Agreement, Item Reference: LAC/99/J45, Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University



[1] LAC/99/J7, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[2] Institute of Historical Research, http://www.history.ac.uk/search/google/teacher%20training%20up%20to%20the%201960s?query=teacher%20training%20up%20to%20the%201960s&cx=017490547326111195941%3Adbcvauptgbs&cof=FORID%3A11&sitesearch=&gl=uk (Accessed, 20/04/2014)

[3] The National Archives, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/teachers.htm (Accessed, 04/05/2014)

[4] LAC/99/J25, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[5] LAC/99/J7, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[6] LAC/99/J45, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University


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