The history of the New Road School in Wootton Bridge on the Isle of Wight.

If you attended this school or taught there we would be pleased to hear from you.


Chapter One

Some Educational Background

Prior to the 18th Century there was little educational provision in England for any but the more prosperous classes, who could afford to pay for their children to be educated. For the poor the cheapest alternative might be classes run by the local priest or schools run by unqualified and undereducated lay people. The "dame schools" were of this type 1. They frequently provided no more than day care, rather than education.

The Sunday School movement, which was founded by Robert Raikes in the 18th Century was an attempt to address this problem 2. For children of the labouring classes, who would have been employed on weekdays, Sunday was the only day they could be free for schooling. Sunday Schools often provided the only form of education which children might receive. Their aim was as much educational as religious.

During this period, various charitable societies were founded to provide education for the poor. The National Society, founded in 1817 was the most famous of these, hence the term, "National School".3 The school in Wootton was known as the Wootton Bridge National School until it was taken over by the council in 1903. Various charitable funds existed, though the sums available were fairly small. Mann's charity, which made a number of grants to the Arreton schools, was a Trust set up in 1688, to disburse the rental of £46pa accruing from property in Yorkshire, left in his will by John Mann for the "maintenance, education and setting up in the world of poor children.4"

There is evidence that there were some schools in the area prior to the building of the New Road School in Wootton. A Charity School was founded in Arreton in 17725. It was intended for the instruction of "poor children", whose parents could not pay for schooling, and who were not to be above the degree of day labourer or poor tradesman. The curriculum was fairly basic. The boys were to be taught reading writing and arithmetic. Girls were instructed in reading, sewing and knitting only. Both sexes were to be taught their Catechism and be brought to church on Sundays. The Schoolmaster received a salary of £15pa, plus money for books. The staff appointed do not seem to have been very satisfactory. The Schoolmaster and Mistress appointed in 1780 were summarily dismissed the following year and the Vestry Minutes contain a clause to the effect that it should be lawful to turn out the Schoolmaster if he proved negligent, remiss or otherwise misbehaved himself Whether any children from as far away as Wootton came to this school is not recorded.6

The report of the Select Committee for the Education of the Poor (1818) recorded the existence of an unsatisfactory Day School at Arreton, with 20 pupils of each sex. Whether this was the Charity School it does not say. The master was said to be aged and infirm and discipline poor. There was a much larger Sunday School, but in a Parish whose population was then 1481, education was obviously not universal. There was no school listed for Wootton, though it must be remembered that the parish was very small at that period. The population figures for Arreton would include most of the present day village. However there does seem to have been a school on Kite Hill in the early part of the 19th Century, kept by a Mr. Atwood. William Brading had unhappy memories of it, for he was beaten unjustly for talking in class and left thereafter7. His earliest school in Shide, where he recalled being pinned to the mistress's apron, seems to have been more of a child minding establishment.

In the St. Edmund's baptismal register for 18228 we first find mention of a James Andrews, occupation listed as "schoolmaster", though what kind of school he had and where his pupils came from, is not recorded. He seems, in succeeding years to have combined his occupation with farming. By 1840 his occupation is listed as "gentleman". Apparently he was no longer a schoolmaster. He also appears in the 1841 census as a "farmer". The same census also records a Christiana Furmadge as a "schoolmistress".

White's 1859 Directory, lists an Elizabeth Sibley, Schoolmistress. The 1861 census records numbers of children throughout the Wootton area as "scholars" and distinguishes between day and Sunday school only. Rebecca Kemp and a Miriam Williams are both recorded as "Schoolmistress". This last is possibly the same person referred to in a directory for 18579 as Marian Williams, Head Teacher of a day school in Wootton. The 1871 census also records an Alice Brown, schoolmistress, and a Mary Brown, her mother, as assistant schoolmistress. Mary Brown was a widow and she and her daughter lived with Louisa Cole, her mother, who was a seamstress. Probably the school was a small private one, at their home. There is also a Sarah Jackman, assistant schoolteacher. None of them were employed at Wootton School, (see Chapter 3.) Their school may still have existed later in the 1870s, since it is referred to in the Arreton Parish Papers of the period10. The School Managers apparently felt it was a useful backup to the then smaller Wootton School.

By this time the local population had considerably increased and as a result of social changes nationally there was a much greater demand for education. Views varied, however, as to what should be the purpose of education. One prevailing opinion during the earlier 19th Century was that universal education was undesirable as it would cause discontent among the lower orders, and that teaching should be directed towards awareness of one's place and duty in society. Another theory saw education in pragmatic terms, as a means of bettering the condition of the poorer classes or of civilising the children who when not employed, "ran wild"11. Judging by the stipulations in the Trust deeds for Wootton School, (see Chapter 2) the aim seems to have been for the betterment of the poor, with the self-improvement of adults catered for by evening classes. Much of the demand for schools came from the upper classes.

The pressure of public opinion led eventually to the Elementary Education Act of 1870,12 which provided for the election of School Boards, hence the term "Board Schools". School Boards were given the power to levy rates to pay for education and were also entitled to government grants. Local Managers felt however, that it would be preferable to retain their status as an independent authority and declined to form a school Board. It was only gradually that State interference in education became acceptable, when it was finally acknowledged that a national education system could not be supported by voluntary funding, which, however worthy the aims, could still only have a limited impact.13

Since children in many communities were set to work at a very early age, compulsory education, introduced by 1880, was often very unpopular, involving as it did a loss of income. In addition there was as the added expense of a charge for schooling, which would be hardest for larger and poorer families to meet. This type of poverty was most acute in cities. The charge might vary from ld per week for each child to 6d for better off families.14 The majority of payments, for children of an agricultural labourer, were 1d or 2d, with a smaller percentage at 3d where the father might be a tradesman or craftsman such as a blacksmith15. The fees might be repaid when a child held an honour certificate, for examination success. The one available breakdown of payments, dated 1891, for Wootton School,16, (the last time these fees were paid), reveals that 80 pupils paid the maximum amount of 3d per week, 35, paid 2d per week, and 22 paid ld per week. Only 9 out of a total of 145 on the roll were actually unable to pay a basic charge in that year, and for the two preceding years no-one had been unable to pay. It would seem that the problems of poverty were not so acute locally. The total of £52 raised in this way represented rather less that'/4 of income from other sources, including voluntary subscriptions and donations raised locally, a grant of £24 from Mann's Charity and a Government Grant of £103. The Free Education Act of 1891 abolished the charge for most schools in the country, and provided for it to be replaced by a government grant.

Difficulties re payment would often lead to considerable absenteeism. Another national phenomen was that of older children being kept off school to care for younger siblings. The earliest available school log book, begun in 1891, refers mainly to absences caused by weather and sickness, though entries in 1892 record that older boys were unavailable for examination as they had left for work, which was presumably not authorised.

The simple passing of a law did not, of course, mean that an infrastructure existed to support it. Funding was still provided by various voluntary societies and teacher training was minimal.17 Training colleges were rare and most teachers were trained under the Pupil Teacher system set up in 1846, whereby young people from the age of 13 were apprenticed for 3 years. At the end of this time they would sit an examination the passing of which entitled them to entry to a training college, or to employment as uncertificated assistant teachers. The Head Teacher had the duty of providing training in these cases, which in practice meant long hours and training (according to the willingness of the Head) at unsociable times. In 1891, for instance the Head Teacher recorded that he was now providing Pupil Teacher instruction from 7-8am for the first time, instead of in the evening.

As a result many teachers had neither experience nor qualifications. This certainly caused problems at Wootton School, with poor results attributed to teacher's inexperience. Even in the 1940s some staff seem to have lacked formal qualifications. This system was supported, in Wootton, as elsewhere, by the monitorial system. Monitors were simply older and presumably the brighter pupils chosen from the ranks to take charge of a class. It was a recognised educational method devised by Joseph Lancaster and Andrew Bell and was meant in the first instance to provide an inexpensive method of education when there were not enough trained teachers. Lessons would be mechanically produced, with monitors simply passing on what they had just learned.18 This meant, in practice, severe limitations on the scope and standard of the teaching, when proportions of the staff were barely more educated than their pupils. Presumably it would also make discipline more difficult. The monitorial system persisted for many years. The style of funding also put pressure on the curriculum. The system known as "payment by results" was in force in Wootton as elsewhere. A basic grant of 4s per child was paid for general merit and regular attendance and 8s per child related to performance in the yearly examinations19. The range of subjects for which grants were payable was limited to the 3 Rs. This meant that time was spent drilling children in these subjects, to the detriment of breadth in education. In some years drawing was removed from the curriculum of Wootton School for this reason.

Teacher salaries were dependent on grants. Teacher status was still low and basic salaries reflected this. In 1875, for instance the Head Teacher received £76.80, while £27.18.0 was allotted for the assistants and £10 for the Pupil Teachers20. A set of comparable statistics for the 1860s reveals that at that time a junior civil servant might receive £125-£300 per annum21. A list of payments to the junior staff (1884-1888) shows salaries more comparable with those of domestic servants. Mary Andrews, who in 1891 was the Infant Teacher, received for these years the princely sum of £28 per annum. Nellie Burgess, who appears in the Log Book entries for 1891 as a 3rd Year Pupil Teacher, would, in 1885, have been a Candidate. She received in that year 1 shilling per week. In 1888 when she passed her examinations and became a Pupil teacher this was raised to 2 shillings a week 22. This was undoubtedly poverty wages. Even a pauper slavey, the lowest class of domestic servant, might earn 2s.7d. If this is typical of national trends there is no wonder grants were so vital. It should be pointed out, however that pupil teachers, as apprentices would not have been well paid. In fact, in some professions it was actually the custom for apprentices to pay for their training.

Grants were not easily obtained. One log book entry, dated June 22nd 1894 and written in red ink comments, "Notwithstanding above (favourable reports), for successive years and highly complimentary speech relative to discipline by the HMI, the lowest possible grant has been awarded in each year". The grants system was abolished at the end of the 19th Century and it is noticeable that the curriculum of Wootton School then began to broaden.

  • 1 The Victorian and Edwardian School Child
  • 2 Oxford Companion
  • 3 Oxford Companion
  • 4 Victoria County History
  • 5 Minutes of Vestry Meetings, Arreton
  • 6 Since most of present day Wootton was then in Arreton Parish, children from the area would presumably have been eligible, if they met the other qualifications
  • 7 Memoirs of William Brading
  • 8 Baptism Register, Wootton 1813-1903
  • 9 White, IOW Directory
  • 10 Managers Minute Book
  • 11 Victorian Town Child
  • 12 Curtis and Boltwood
  • 13 Curtis and Boltwood
  • 14 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 15 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 16 Managers Minute Book 1856-1891
  • 17 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 18 Curtis and Boltwood
  • 19 Curtis and Boltwood
  • 20 Manager's Minute Book
  • 21 Best, Mid Victorian Britain
  • 22 Accounts, wages to Junior Staff

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