In 1877 the era of payment-by-results was in its fifteenth year and although the narrowness of the original scheme had been to some extent mitigated by merit grants and other measures, the visit of Her Majesty’s Inspector for the annual examination remained the event around which the whole school year revolved. As the school’s grant for the following year still depended mainly on the number of pupils who attended more than one hundred days and the results of those over six years old in a reading, writing and arithmetic test, the inspector’s visit was always preceded by the checking of registers, chasing of errant pupils and much practice in examination of the 3Rs. His annual reports has to be copied into the log book and several extracts from these are printed below.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the curriculum was broadened and by the time that payment-by-results ended in 1895, it included subjects such as cookery (for which the girls’ school had an excellent reputation at this time), nature study, gardening, history, geography and grammar. Object lessons, in which a topic such as “The Horse” would be studied, were also a common feature.

16 Jan 1877

At the examination held in November by the H.M.I. of Schools, 65 children were presented over seven years of age and 60 under seven. Of the children presented in Standards 42 passes in Reading, 49 in Writing and 52 in Arithmetic. The percentage number of passes was 74. (G)

26 Oct. 1878

The children had their usual weekly examination yesterday. (G)

23 Nov. 1878

Visited by Mrs. Longbottom for the purpose of examining the needlework. (G)

9 Jan. 1880

H.M. Inspectors Report for 1879: “The elementary work if extremely good…The sewing also deserves great praise…The infants are very efficiently taught but they are too far removed from the main room to be under the proper supervision of the Head-Mistress…The offices have the appearance of not being always in a cleanly condition” Total grant for the year: £126.7.0. (G)

30 April 1880

Admitted 3 girls between the ages of 7 and 9 who have not the least idea of the alphabet. I find great difficulty in working up the Infant children, owing to their not attending school until they have reached the age of 6. (G)

14 Jan. 1881

Infants to be transferred to s separate department. (G)

21 Jan. 1881

Owing to the extreme frost the ink has been frozen, therefore the time-table could not be strictly adhered to. (G)

14 Oct. 1881

Pupil-teacher Hannah Ramshaw does not improve any in her work, but still continues to engage in preaching. (G)

21 Oct. 1881

I find the scholars very quick with their arithmetic. Average 93.7% passes. (I)

9 Feb. 1882

The infants read and write very fairly, but are very weak in arithmetic and cannot do the simplest sum without counting their fingers. (I)

3 March 1882

Many girls in Standard II have now got Copy Books for writing in school (instead of slates). (G)

25 Feb. 1883

H.M.I’s report for 1882: “My Lords have ordered the Grant to be reduced by one-tenth for faults of Instruction in Arithmetic of the Infants.” (I)

21 Dec. 1883

As my duties as Head Mistress terminate today after a faithful service for seven years I have endeavoured to leave everything in proper order. During my time of service here I have worked thoroughly and conscientiously and the percentages gained have increased from 93 to 96, and this in a girls’ school in a colliery district. (G)

5 Feb. 1884

H.M.I’s report for 1883: “A Merit Grant on the scale of ‘Good’ is recommended”. (G)

28 Aug. 1885

The usual lessons were not given today between 11 and 12 o’clock the children being instructed by Mr. Evans in the art of Pottery. (G)

6 Nov. 1885

All the first and second class have finished specimens of Paper Plaiting to be shown to the Inspector on Examination Day. (I)

29 Jan, 1886

55 children have been admitted. 25 are on the Infant Class Register. Only three out of that number know their A.B.Cs. None can read. The remainder know next to nothing.
(Br)

15 Jan. 1887

H.M.Is report for 1886: “A district change for the better has taken place in the Elementary work, though there are still several defects. Reading continues to be wanting in expression and none of the Standards showed an intelligent appreciation of what they read. Nor can I report at all favourably on the Handwriting, and Arithmetic remains a very weak point in the upper part of the school…The Girls showed some knowledge of grammar but not sufficient for me to recommend the full payment.” (G)

8 July 1887

I have tried carefully for 4 months to get certain children on with reading, but I regret to say that they have made very little progress. They appear to be sharp at anything but their Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. (Br)

11 Jan. 1888

List of songs for Inspection Day:

Harvest Time
Never Mind the Rest
The Gleaner
The Little Bird
Mother and Child

Poor Tommy
The Clacker
Which way does the wind blow
The Sparrow
God Save the Queen

Recitations:
Standard IV: Lord Ullin’s Daughter – Campbell, Burial of Sir John Moore – Wordsworth
Standard III: Lucy Gray – Wordsworth
Standard II: The Pet Lamb – Wordsworth
Standard I: The Wood Mouse – Mary Hewitt
(Br)

9 April 1888

Mr Barnes sent to say that the Cookery Class would start on Saturday morning and that 24 holland aprons had to be made by that time. (G)

5 March 1890

H.M.I’s report for 1889: “…There is much scope for the development of intelligence…The appearance of the room should be bright and cheerful and the introduction of Musical Drill into the daily routine would have a beneficial effect…”. (G)

17 Oct. 1980

All the babies that have been here since July know the Alphabet, several fives have come lately and they are working with the babies generally. (I)

27 Feb. 1891

Instead of singing by ear, I have taken singing by note (sol-fa). It is very difficult to teach the sol-fa in a little school like this, first owing to the small number of voices and secondly, owing to the migratory nature of the population, the children of ten leaving just when they have begun to pick the sol-fa up. (Br)

25 Aug. 1891

At a Meeting of the School Board it was resolved that these schools should be Free Schools but that the children should continue to pay for the copy books. (G)

30 Oct. 1891

Only two girls have asked to be examined for “labour certificates”. (G)

20 Nov. 1891

Rules for Examination by H.M. Inspector

  1. Each scholar should be provided with paper (or slate), Reading Books and Copy Books used during the year, in readiness for the Exam.
  2. Examination papers should show distinctly on each side: – (a) Name of school (b) Name of scholar (c) Standard in which presented (d) Schedule No. in red ink. N.B It is desirable that each scholar should wear a small ticket bearing her schedule number.
  3. Before the arrival of the Inspector a red line should be drawn on the Examination schedule, through the names of all absentees, and a numbered list prepared stating the reason of each scholars absence duly certified. In complying with rules 4 and 5 on Exam Schedule the asterisk and P should be entered in Red Ink.

12 Jan. 1892

H.M.I’s report for 1891: “…Increased efforts should be directed to the development of the mental faculties of the girls, and they should be trained to think for themselves…”. (G)

12 Jan. 1893

H.M.I’s report for 1892: “…nor can I yet report favourably on the teaching of English and I would strongly recommend the introduction of drill…”. (G)

7 Feb. 1894

The annual report from London state: “…H.M. Inspector reports this school inefficient. I am therefore directed to give the Board formal warning under Article 86 of the code that the grant may be withheld under that article at the next annual inspection if he again reports the school to be inefficient.” Total grant £44.7.0. (Br)

21 May 1894

For a few weeks we shall not follow the Time-table so that more time can be given to Arithmetic and Dictation. (Br)

15 June 1894

The new head teacher, Wm. Henry Ridley writes:
Every subject is in a very backward state. Not half of the Arithmetic course has been covered in any Standard. The Reading is chiefly composed of stammering and blundering with no attempt at expression. (Br)

6 July 1894

Short division has been commenced with Standard II, Subtraction of Money in III, Reduction of Money in IV and Simple Proportion in V. (Br)

17 May 1895

A new Time Table has been drawn up which provides for varied occupations and object lessons in Standards I, II and III. (G)

15 June 1896

Received some new models of animals for use in infant school also “dumb-bells” and “musical-bells” for drill. (Br)

3 Sept. 1897

A blind man visited the school this morning and exhibited his skill in reading. A small sum of money was collected for him. (G)

27 Sept. 1897

Extract from list of object lessons:

Standard I

  • Water
  • Ear of wheat
  • Buttercup
  • Nuts
  • Feathers
  • A lead pencil
  • Paper

Standard II

  • Adhesive substances
  • Soluble substances
  • Silver
  • Cotton plant
  • Spider
  • Sending a telegram
  • Cork

Standard III

  • Plan of school
  • Mariners’ compass
  • Rain
  • Polygons
  • Solid figures
  • Condiments
  • Beverages      (G)

19 Dec. 1898

Since four classes are taught in one room, the H.M.I. recommend the erection of a moveable glass partition. (G)

24 Feb. 1899

…The spelling and composition must improve. The children now learn 12 spellings every night in the upper standards and four in the lower. As a reward for neat papers the Head Teacher gave them a grammar lesson. (Br)

28 June 1901

Received 3 pictures and a case of specimens from Norwich. (G)

8 Nov. 1901

The Board decided that pupils will for the future be supplied with books free of charge. (G)

17 Jan, 1902

H.M.I’s report for 1901: “An excellent spirit prevails and the school is conscientiously and efficiently taught. Considering the migratory population of the neighbourhood and the condition of the children who attend the school, very creditable results are achieved.” (Br)

5 Dec. 1902

H.M.I’s report for 1902: “The teachers work well and generally satisfactory results are produced. It would be conduce to the greater efficiency if the large gallery in the main room were removed and suitable desks placed on the floor.” (I)

7 Dec. 1903

H.M.I’s report for 1902: “The tone and discipline are good, the teaching is careful and competent…The use of the class room as a cookery kitchen is very undesirable both for the cookery teaching and for the general organisation of the school.” (G)

11 Nov. 1904

A new scholar admitted this week, 8 years of age, can only read words of two letters. (Br)

15 Jan. 1906

Grant received for year ending 31 October 1905 (average attendance 146): £240.8.0 (G)

15 June 1906

Went into the wood for a lesson on wild flowers. The children gathered different kinds about which we talked and, returning with a bunch each, which, when put together into a bowl of water, formed a subject for composition. (Br)

23 Dec. 1908

H.M.I’s report for 1908: “It is understood that a permanent Head Teacher has been appointed. She should take up her duties on the earliest possible date.” (G)

16 July 1909

Minnie Hudspeth has gained scholarship for girls under 13 at the Johnston Technical School. (G)

16 Aug. 1909

Lucy Hudspeth has gained a Crewe Exhibition for two years at the Johnston Technical School. (G)

10 Feb. 1910

Have received 35 new library books bought with the Girls’ share of proceeds from children’s concert given on 20th December 1909. (G)

5 April 1910

Received a piano from the Sacriston Infants School. All cookery utensils have been sent from this school to Sacriston. (G)

29 Sept. 1911

About fifty students from St. Hild’s Training College visited the school. The Time Table was adhered to in the Senior Room but the Unqualified Assistant Teacher in the Infants’ Room allowed the Infants to sing a song at the request of one of the students without asking permission from the Head Teacher. The Mistress of Method was charmed with our Basket Making and Lacing and they are going to be adopted in the Practising School. (Br)

19 March 1913

Mr. Brackenbury gave a lecture on Temperance and Hygiene this morning. Children who entered for the Bulb Competition held their show this afternoon in the Boys’ School. Prizes were awarded. (G)

18 June 1913

H.M.I’s report, May 1913: “The tone of the school remains good but it is clear that difficulty is presented by natural limitations of vocabulary from which these children suffer. It is possible that the present “word-building” lessons are too formal and detached for their intended purpose. (G)

15 July 1913

Retuned library books – sent twelve books belonging to Sacriston R.C. School to Sacriston Girls’ School. (G)

17 July 1913

Isabel Nesbitt re-entered owing to Johnston Girls’ School not being ready until October 20. (G)

18 Feb. 1914

Received a Single Sewing Machine. (G)

24 Sept. 1914

The positions of Geography and Plasticine Modelling on the timetable on Tuesdays and Thursdays are to be exchanged. (G)

6 Nov. 1914

The following letter was received from the Education Department, Shire Hall, Durham, today:

Dear Madam,
The Committee have had under consideration the last report of the Council’s Inspectors on your school, and have directed me to convey to you personally and to ask you to make known to the members of your staff, their appreciation of the success which has attended your efforts in the conduct of the school.
Yours faithfully,
A.J. Dawson
(G)

26 Nov. 1915

Miss E. Plumley of Blackhall Council Mixed School visited the school, on the recommendation of Mr. Bryett H.M.I., for the purpose of observing the system of Practical Domestic Training as carried out by us. (G)

2 May 1916

Have just despatched copy of Domestic Science scheme to the Head Teacher of Thornley Girls’ School who applied to me for a copy. (G)

4 May 1916

Have received 9.5lbs of wool, bought with the proceeds of the sale. (G)

28 March 1917

School visited by two Lady Inspectresses who inspected the needlework and domestic science. (G)

4 April 1917

On the advice of Mr. Steele H.M.I. a number of boys are being organised for the purpose of clearing the newly acquired school garden of turf during the holidays in order to facilitate work when the Gardening Course starts next term. (B)

24 April 1917

With a view to economy in the use of paper the Thursday morning Drawing lesson will for the present be abandoned and reading substituted. (B)

27 Sept. 1918

Paid £4.4.0. to District Clerk, being the proceeds from the sale of garden produce. (B)

3 Nov. 1919

Mr. Wilson Minns commended duty as Head Teacher. (B)

7 Nov. 1919

Had short conference with heads of Girls’ and Infants’ Departments. Decided to celebrate Tuesday 11th in a combined way. (B)
After close of afternoon session, my staff remained until 4 p.m. The following were discussed:
(a) Programme for Tuesday afternoon.
(b) Plans for improvement in tone of boys.
(c) The English Scheme.
(B)

21 Nov. 1919

First practice of the football club. Previous to formation boys had no organised recreation connected with school. (B)

6 Jan. 1920

Timetable altered for the purpose of strengthening English and Maths before the end of March. (B)

20 March 1920

School football team won the Shafto Cup. (B)

2 June 1920

First Summer Excursion. Route though city, on to Kepier Woods. Observations mainly of wild flowers and fauna. (B)

2 July 1920

Visit to Royal Agricultural Show at Darlington. (B)

7 July 1920

Open Day from 2.30. Exhibition if
(a) Work of different kinds
(b) Wild flower bouquet and buttonhole show (B)

14 July 1920

Impossible to take terminal exam in school due to pressing need of further teacher to liberate me. Efficiency of school being seriously impaired by this. (B)

1 Sept. 1920

School Garden Vegetable Show. (B)

6 Sept. 1920

Teacher swop classes because classes 5 and 6 are so bad. (B)

5 Nov. 1920

Rehearsals for Xmas musical evening during the afternoons. (Br)

21 March 1921

Open Day. Needlework exhibition. From 3 to 4 a small program of songs and recitations was arranged. (G)

2 June 1921

H.M.I’s repost, May 1921: “….While industrious work is done in more formal arithmetic, the subject could be made more real and practical….” (G)

15 June 1921

H.M.I’s report, May 1921: “For future development it will be essential, first of all, to overcome the extreme reticence of the children, and this should be commenced in the Infants’ class, where freer and more interesting methods are desirable and where more appliances are needed to train the children early to work for themselves. In the senior sections… a series of practical lessons in the school room might well be compiled.” (Br)

31 Oct. 1921

Part of school garden has been sold for a building site; we are without a school garden from today.

20 Dec. 1921

Tea was served to the four upper classes at 4p.m. after which the children played games until 8.30 (G)

21 Dec. 1921

The juniors were treated to a similar party. (G)

6 Feb. 1922

Arrival of 64 new library books.

19 June 1922

Received 28 Junior library books, purchased from School Fund. (B)

17 July 1922

H.M.I’s report, May 1922: “…The teachers are taking steps to make themselves acquainted with the more modern methods of teaching Infants…”. (I)

16 Dec. 1922

Received wool from Shire Hall to make six pairs of bed socks for Dinsdale Park School. (G)

27 Feb. 1922

Held Staff Conference in Board Room, 6.15 to 10.30 p.m. (B)

3 Nov. 1924

H.M.I’s report for 1924: “…On the whole, the Head Teacher and her Staff are to be congratulated on the very satisfactory state of the school.” (G)

15 Dec. 1924

Copy of letter received from the Education Committee:

Dear Madam
I am to convey to you the congratulations of the Education Committee and an expression of their appreciation of the obviously good work which you are carrying out in this school.

I am to ask you to show this letter to your staff in order that they know that the high quality of their teaching service is noted with much appreciation.
Yours faithfully,
A.J. Dawson
(G)

19 Feb. 1925

Geography lesson was given today by Rev. J. Hewison, Curate of this parish. The subject was “The Indian Boy” and as the lecturer has just completed 25 years’ work in India, the lecture was of absorbing interest. (B)

28 March 1927

This afternoon was spent in celebrating Beethoven’s Centenary. Mr. Potts gave a full and interesting lecture on his life, from boyhood days, and gramophone records were played to illustrate his works. (B)

29 June 1927

A party of 35 boys and the whole of the staff made a journey to Wolviston at 4.30 a.m. to view the Solar Eclipse. Breakfast followed and cricket was played until the party left for home at 9.30 a.m. (B)

23 May 1929

The nature lessons on this and the following days were spent in the ground of the Church tidying it generally as it had got into a very neglected state. (Br)

17 Sept. 1929

It has been decided to spend the period from Midsummer to the Autumn Vacation on revision and a general attempt to attain the usual standard for the beginning of the school year. (G)

26 Sept 1930

I held a short meeting of parents of boys between the ages of 11 and 12 next year. The purpose was to make clear the prospects of the boys and their opportunities for promotion to the secondary school. I also explained the educational ladder to the University as made possible by the Durham County Education Committee. (B)

27 Feb. 1931

H.M.I’s report for 1930: “…Very good progress has been made in Reading, Composition and Number. The children sing sweetly and they recite suitable poems clearly and with expression. The Story Lessons might well be further developed so as to provide training in simple dramatisation…”. (I)

23 June 1931

Top class left school this morning at 10 a.m. with the headmaster to do two districts in connection with the Land Utilisation Survey of Britain. (B)

23 Jan. 1933

Owing to the low temperatures of the rooms (30 degrees and 31 degrees at 9 a.m., 40 degrees and 41 degrees at 11 a.m.) it is impossible to conduct work normally. (Br)

12 Oct. 1933

Today we are holding a School Harvest Festival and during the afternoon session the school is open for the Visit of Parents. (B)