St. David’s R.C. School vs the L.E.A.

St. David’s School had many disputes over the years with the local authority school boards, renamed the Local Education Authority (LEA) in 1902. The disputes began after the passing of the 1870 Education Act. The primary debates were related to salaries and funding. The school was deprived of the annual grant because it did not always achieve the qualification requirements, one of which was the level of attendance of its pupils. The frequent absenteeism was the result of many factors; children could be absent due to illness, the need to work to support their families, or in one particular occasion due the circus visiting Swansea. A large amount of the absenteeism was experienced on Fridays due to the casual employment of children because parents could not afford to give up the income earned by their children. An account by one of the head teachers in 1916 stated that ‘some severe measures will have to be taken with those parents who consistently keep their children home for no earthly reason’.[1]  

Another dispute between the school and the LEA lies in discrepancies in salaries. There are several letters which relate these disputes in the collection. The teachers at St. David’s School were on a lower salary than their counterparts in Anglican schools. In 1911 the head mistress of St. David’s School earned £80 a year, whereas it should have been £115 a year.[2] These inequalities simply added to the level of hostility between the school and the LEA.

Teachers also had to fight for their right to sick pay and the LEA showed very little sympathy to teachers if they were suffering from a long-term illness. The LEA would not pay salaries beyond a month’s absence on account of illness, except in very exceptional circumstances’.[3] Teacher’s suffering from a long-term illness had to present a medical certificate once a month during their absence and prove that they were not engaged in any form of work at home or elsewhere ‘that in anyway prevents her from attending school or her duties at school’.[4] Father Gwydir had to intervene several times with the managers and the LEA to ensure that the teachers were looked after and received what was owed to them.

LAC/99/J40, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Architectural plans and tracings for a new school-room, by Henry A. Ellis of Swansea, Architect, Item Reference: LAC/99/J40, Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

LAC/99/J40, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Architectural plans and tracings for a new school-room, by Henry A. Ellis of Swansea, Architect, Item Reference: LAC/99/J40, Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the LEA became more involved with the running and maintenance of St. David’s School they introduced a number of proposals to improve and modernise the school building, an example of this can be seen in the introduction of the ‘Rules for Planning and Fitting up Public Elementary Schools’ in 1903. The LEA was responsible for maintaining Catholic Elementary schools in the area and as a result the collection contains a variety of architectural plans for the development of the school. There were proposals to build an extra class room for the teaching of science, improve the staircases and expand the playground. The LEA also assessed the school to ensure that the building conditions were suitable for the health and safety of the children. Inspectors would assess all areas of the school for example, the floors, the warmth and dryness of the building, the ventilation of the school rooms and if these conditions were to be found unsatisfactory or unfavourable the grants offered to the school were re-evaluated.[5] This was another factor that created tension between the school and the LEA. The school was left with the increasing cost of structural alterations and repairs in order to keep pace with the increasing demands of the government, and the LEA standards of new modern schools and their interpretation of improvements in most cases meant pulling down and building afresh, which of course proved difficult due to the poverty of the school.

 

 

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

[2] LAC/99/J48, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[3] LAC/99/J35, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[4] LAC/99/J35, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

[5] LAC/99/J23, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

 

 

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