School under Mr Simmonds

Mulbarton School under Walter Simmonds

Walter Joseph Simmonds, was appointed to the school in Sept. 1896 as Head Teacher, with his wife as the Assistant Teacher. He followed what must have been a difficult time for the school, with four Teachers in 4 years from 1893 to 1896. Mr. Simmonds was Head of the school for 26 years. We can learn quite a lot about him from the School Log Book, which he kept meticulously, and from Directory entries.

When he started, there were 90 pupils: 34 Infants; 56 in Mixed School. He found the school far below the standards he expected:

Sept. 4th 1896: I have endeavoured during the past week to ascertain the state of the school. I give below a general report on the subjects taught.
Standards I & II appear to be better than others but I have not been able to go thoroughly into their work. Standard III is weak in every subject, especially Reading & Arithmetic. Standard IV cannot yet do simple and compound multiplication; pence table not even known. Sts. V, VI & VII cannot do fractions properly.
One lesson in History appears to have been given within four months and in Geography children did not even know the oceans and continents and could not tell the position of Norfolk. The girls have done no knitting at all, and no needlework has been commenced. The Infants are extremely backward, hardly any knowing letters, and quite one third of the whole number ought to be (by age) in First Standard.

Over the next few weeks he adds: 
Sept 9th Composition and spelling of 1st class very weak. Drawing fair in upper standards, but very poor below Standard IV. No work in the school appears to have been dated and in many cases it has not been corrected.
Sept 16th Reading of St. III disgraceful - General knowledge of children very poor. 
Sept 18th The Catechism is unknown in lower standards and is very weak in upper ones.
Sept 28th Paperwork of all Standards is very untidy. There is no good writing at present in the school.

Mr Simmonds was innovative - on arrival, he introduced a football club in 1896, then organised school photos and a lending library as early as 1898. He was an enlightened educationist who introduced new ideas and equipment and discouraged physical punishment

Oct. 27th 1896....Started a Boys' Football Club in connection with the school, the boys subscribing towards it at the rate of a halfpenny each.

1897: Jan. 19th has first ever mention of a science lesson -with an experiment 'with glass jar, lighted candle, basin of water, to show necessity of air, also pressure of air upon water - as introductory to lesson on Diving Bell.'
June 28th - By recommendation of the Inspectors, the girls now have sewing in the Classroom with infant girls, while infant boys come into big room for Drawing on squared slates.
Sept. 27th - Repaired Harmonium back and put handles on sides.

Mulbarton School photo, dated 1902 [with names ‘Horace Lofty’ as original pencil mark on back]
Mulbarton School photo, dated 1902 [with names ‘Horace Lofty’ as original pencil mark on back]

1898: Feb. 3rd - Showed children a snake's skin about 3 yards long, lent by a parent who had received it from Australia; children were delighted.
Feb. 23rd - Monitress prepared and gave object lesson on "Common Snake" under my guidance. Faulty methods pointed out to her afterwards.
March 18th - Caught a fine specimen of moth which I allowed children to view under microscope.
May 18th  - Children were photographed in 3 groups at 12 o'clock.
June 17th - Commenced lending books from New School Library this afternoon.
Dec. 19th Caned [Harry D. & Herbert B.] for egging on infant boys to throw stones.  [Only the second mention of caning since Sept. 1896 - unlike earlier head teachers, Mr. Simmonds did not favour physical punishment]

1899: March 8th - Received this morning a new Globe, a Portfolio of Geography Lesson sheets, Map of Norfolk etc, Map of Palestine, Map of the World in Hemispheres, 4 Scripture pictures, a few small pictures of animals etc, new Blackboard & Easel - the above from the Equipment provided by the new special aid grant allowance this year, and exactly cost the amount specified.
June 14th - Warned PH and two smaller boys against being cruel to small birds on the Common.

1900: April 23rd - Reopened school today... During the [Easter] Vacation the master was summoned before the Magistrates by the Attendance Officer to give evidence against a parent for not sending a child to school. This sort of thing is not at all pleasing and is likely to cause great friction between parents and teachers.
June 27th - Game of rounders took place in the afternoon as physical exercise - children taught how to play properly by the teacher.
July 12th - Master took children of 1st & 2nd classes for field lesson on "Snail" this morning - specimens found and habitats learned.
July 13th - Boys taken under a shady tree to sketch the Mill and Telegraph Poles this afternoon. Several away owing to fruit gathering and haytime.

There is a glowing Inspector's Report for 1900-01:
"This School is in a very gratifying state of efficiency. The discipline is very good.... The instruction is thorough and intelligent, and a noticeable feature is that children are trained to work for themselves and not to waste time. The curriculum is well thought out and the subjects have been treated in a liberal manner."

School records show that Miss Fowler was monitress in 1901 and paid £16 p.a.

Later in 1901: Nov. 21st - Started an experimental Class in Cottage Gardening on the suggestion of HMI. Mr. Fisher sent a note objecting to his son Osman learning "Gardening".
Gardening continued, often with parental criticism, throughout Mr. Simmonds time.

School Log Book open at the 1902 Scheme of Work
School Log Book open at the 1902 Scheme of Work

1902 was the year of Balfour's Education Act which meant greater state control and more powers for H.M.Inspectors.

He got new stoves installed in 1903, a drinking water supply (buckets and ladels) installed in 1906, and joined the school to the RSPB's Bird & Tree Scheme in 1908-9.

1904: May 16th Started a Savings Bank on the Stamp Slip System. 17 children made deposits this morning.

1904: Dec. 5th Mrs Simmonds completed her engagement as Infants Mistress on Nov. 30th - she resigned on account of illhealth. The Infants were thoroughly well taught and knew their work well when she left.

This must have meant a drastic drop in income, and for several years Walter Simmonds struggled with an understaffed and overcrowded school.

There were occasional discipline problems to deal with:
1908: Nov. 3rd K.H. being incorrigible I have been obliged to send her home for her mother to deal with as she defies all authority, and moral suasion has entirely failed with her. She can return on promise of obedience. The above girl came again in the afternoon and promised to obey.
Nov.23rd Gave the following boys a good reprimanding on account of ill treatment of girls when going home, one girl was brought back on Friday in a fainting condition through being hit with stick by these boys: [6 names listed]
Dec. 8th K.H. very disobedient and insolent to Master. Told her to apologise or go home. She refused to speak, consequently I sent for rector who in turn referred me to Sir E. Wingfield. Lady Wingfield visited and got her to apologise before the whole school. Her temper is diabolical.

In 1910, Cookery became a school subject for the older girls in the summer term:
April 22nd Bks. 69 & 33... Arrangements have now been completed for Cookery Course from May to July, on Fridays in the Parish Hall.
[The boys seem to do drawing instead - but they do have gardening!]

1912: April 17th Solar eclipse visible today - took children out for three observations with prepared glasses.

Children helped the war effort: Certificate for Empire Day 1915 – sent to Arthur ‘Tongate’ (should be Tungate)
Children helped the war effort: Certificate for Empire Day 1915 – sent to Arthur ‘Tongate’ (should be Tungate)

1915: July 13th R.A. this afternoon showed open defiance, upsetting the school, kicking the Master, and breaking his watch-chain, simply because he could not have his own way. 

1916: With labour shortages increasing, pupils were allowed to apply to leave school early if they could work on farms, or look after children so their mothers could work:
Jan. 31st - Russell A. granted absence (during war's duration) for Agricultural Employment under CCs scheme. [His name was officially removed from registers on July 27th 1917]
1916. Aug. 7th - received Labour certificate (War Duration) for Gerald P.
1916 Oct. 20th - Violet S.s name removed - Cert. for Labour granted.
1918 May 28th - Loftice P. - Cert of Exemption (temporary) for agricultural work under Mr. Hill.
1918 May 30th - SR and GP took the places of gardening boys who have left for good and for agricultural work.

There is no other mention of the War in the School Log Book - the War began during a Measles epidemic and ended with the school closed for a few weeks for an influenza epidemic. Armistice Day was marked annually in school after the War.

1921: March 4th Singing Lesson taken 2nd lesson instead of last lesson as children seem to get tired for this subject at end of pm.
March 18th Managers met last evening and decided on a curtain for dividing classes, also Scheme B of Holidays by which the long holidays will be Easter, Harvest and Christmas only.
April 8th Children taken out in sections at intervals during morning for watching Annular Eclipse thro' smoked glass. On books 72.

The School House

Walter Simmonds and his wife tendered their resignation in 1899 because of the lack of suitable accommodation. They were renting in Swardeston and 'commuting' from there. The Managers' response was to appove a new house to be built adjacent to the school. Mr & Mrs Simmonds were the first to move into the new school house which was completed in 1901 with the help of a generous gift from Mrs. Wingfield:

1900: March 26th - The foundations of the new school house in process of formation by workmen.

School house far left - this postcard sent 3rd March 1908
School house far left - this postcard sent 3rd March 1908

1901: March 28th - 29th - Two days holiday for the purposes of allowing Master & Mistress to remove household goods from Swardeston, where they have resided during the past year. They will now inhabit the new house built by the kindness of Mrs. Wingfield and family. The House is in trust [not properly a school house] but a private residence for the Master for such period as this school remains a Church School. In the event of a Board, the house becomes Church Property. The Rector is the sole trustee and can use it in several ways as the deeds direct him.

Their joint salary was £120 p.a. and their rent was £10 p.a. But Mrs. Simmonds had to resign through ill-health:

Besides being Head teacher, Mr. Simmonds supplemented his income by teaching music and was Parish Clerk with a small honorarium from 1903-20. He took an active part in village life apparently founding a Drum & Fife Band, of which he was bandmaster, and also played with the cricket club.

The End of an Era

Walter J Simmonds resigned in 1922 after running the school for 26 years, without recording any thanks or comments:

1922 Oct. 31st Small number present today - average 36 only for today. Classroom disinfected by teacher, ready for scrubbing later. J.W.J.Simmonds ACP give up charge at the end of today as Head Master after 26 1/6 years service in this school. A supply teacher will be in charge until Nov.30th. Stockbook completed and signed by Correspondent yesterday.

All we know is that the school had just received a bad report from the Inspector (not entered in the Log Book until after Mr Simmonds had left), so although he was only 57, perhaps he realised it was time to go....