Treasures from Worcestershire’s Past: ~22~ School log books

  • 28th April 2014

This week’s Treasure is brought to you by Dr Lisa Snook, User Services Manager. Lisa has chosen school log books and here she tells us more about the wealth of information that can be found within these volumes:

School log books appear to be very unassuming, but upon reading a wealth of information can be discovered about life in the past. They reveal information about school life, the condition of the schools and equipment, the health of the pupils and teachers and even the weather!

Each week the Head Teacher was obliged to write a report on the school, which included any appointments, absence levels and visitors to the school.   Some Heads stuck religiously to this list, but others were more prolific in their entries and so much information can be gained.

What clearly leaps out was the level of absence by the pupils, and the reasons given are both fascinating to read and reveal much about local circumstances and wellbeing at the time.    These range from sickness to other events/activities taking place that are preferable or more important than school.

Illnesses regularly noted in the log books include generic colds, ‘sickness’ and fever, to more specific scarlet fever, scabies, mumps, bronchitis and, on one occasion, ringworm.  The Headteacher at Guarlford reported in December 1910 that only 37 of the 110 pupils were present owing to an outbreak of measles.  Later that week the school was closed by order of the Medical Officer of Health.

The weather conditions were also commonly noted as affecting the attendance of the school, ranging from excessive heat, to rain, to ‘wet’ conditions, stormy weather and heavy snow. In January 1887 the Headteacher at Bayton recorded low attendance as the roads were impassable due to snow.  He had to dig a path through 2 feet of snow to get to the school. A great effort, particularly as the school was closed shortly after.   On the other extreme ‘Drill’ lessons in Guarlford were cancelled in July 1911 because the temperature had reached 80? in the school, and 112? in the playground.  Temperatures seem a particular interest of this Head, who regularly noted the temperature in the porch and the classroom.

But it was not just illness and weather that kept the children from school, at particular times of the year they were needed for other activities, including hay making, apple and hop picking or simply helping at home. In January 1911 the headteacher suspected that over half the pupils in Class I and II were working as ‘beaters’ on the local estate rather than attending school.  Finally, there were more enjoyable activities that affected school attendance, with Sunday School treats and outings, a show at Madresfield, a Coronation Tea and a circus at Redditch all being mentioned in local log books.

Upon reading the books, you start to wonder when conditions were right for pupils to attend, and just how much schooling some of the children received!  But they do provide a fascinating insight into day to day life in the school, the trials and tribulations of the pupils and teachers and a taste of a very different type of schooling to the one children receive today.

If you’re interested in researching these books you can find out what school records we hold by searching our Schools Database online. Please note that log books are closed for 100 years to protect any sensitive information that may be contained within them.  If you would like to view books that are less than 100 years old please contact us at and we can advise further on how you may be able to access them.

One response to “Treasures from Worcestershire’s Past: ~22~ School log books”

  1. Roger Leake says:

    Yes, the log books are a fascinating insight into a world long gone. In many log books I have found detailed lists of the curriculum for each individual term and year-group of the pupils. Also, even more revealing are Her Majesty's Inspector's reports on how well (or not) the pupils are learning (often by rote), including punishments meted out to named individuals for misbehaviour, how well (or not) the teachers are doing their job, including pupil teachers training, and the condition of the building.

    Lots of fascinating details to discover!

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