Kirby Cane School

Early Days

Kirby Cane School

Here is a little peep, so to speak, through the windows of Kirby Cane School in its first year.

Miss Gates the Head teacher, the only teacher, at Kirby Cane School opens the school log book as follows:   May 1st 1876 I commenced my duties in this church school in and under Government Inspection … the united parishes of Kirby Cane and Stockton.

It was the Education Act of 1870 that had seen the introduction of schools across the country. (See the referenced work below for a full explanation.)

A few early entries here:


May 2nd A few children attended school.

May 3rd Col. Greene and Rev. Upcher visited morning school.

May 4th A long cold morning a little fire required.

May 5th Col. Greene and Mrs Greene visited morning school – Mrs Upcher in the afternoon.

May 8th Admitted a great number of children – 56

May 10th A great number of children are unable to read or write not having attended any school. A fine day.

May 11th Sees another visit by Col. Greene and Rev Upcher.

May 12th During the past week children have attended very regularly but are quite ignorant of school rules and regulations.

May 22nd School children have purchased slates and seem pleased with their home lessons.

May 24th Her Majesty’s birthday – no holiday allowed.

These few early entries in the school log book begin to give a flavour of what it must have been like for any teacher starting a new school from scratch with children of mixed ages who had not had any formal education up to that time. There was no formal curriculum the emphasis being on the 3 R’s reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. It seems that there was also another agenda less clearly defined, that of social-disciplinary objectives, acceptance of the teacher's authority, the need for punctuality, obedience, conformity etc. We can see these clearly in Miss Gates comments of May 10th and 12th. There doesn’t seem to have been any attempt to have monitors during this early chapter of the school so one can only wonder how on earth this poor lady would have managed up to 56 children of all ages, from five and possibly up to fourteen, all in one small room. (Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief

At the end of the year we have a copy of the Inspectors Report:

1877 May 10th This may be regarded as an extremely new school. At present little has been done as regards either discipline or instructions. Few of the children have any notion of working formally and dictation and arithmetic are very weak. The supply of books is insufficient. Tiled floors are very objectionable. The singing didn’t include secular songs to satisfy Article 19, Ch. 2. My Lords request to order a deduction of one tenth for defective instruction under Article 32 (b). Great improvement will be expected next year in all subjects. The names of G Harvey, F Harvey, A Harvey and E (name indecipherable) have been struck off the examination schedule under Article 19 (f). (We might ask; why were these children struck off? Was it something to do with conflict between the chapel and the church?)

It is little wonder that, having such an enormous task with so little support and a deduction of one tenth of her salary, we find that Miss Gates left the school at the end of her first year.