School Log Books: Victoria British/Council School 1911-1915

April 25, 2020

The North East Wales Archives (Ruthin) holds school admission and attendance registers; school punishment books; school photographs and school log books. School log books date from 1862 when the government first required schools in receipt of state grants to maintain a record of activities. They contain the day-to-day record of events, usually written by the head teacher. This may include school inspections, visits, outings, staff appointments, class reorganisations and concerns with low pupil attendance.

Amongst these records are the Victoria British/Council School log books for the Infants school which for the years 1895 to 1924 were written by Miss Anne Harris-Jones, principle teacher.

Her first headship came in 1869 in Bridgend Glamorganshire and she then took the same position at Abermorddu Board school in Flintshire. The North East Wales Archives (Hawarden) holds school records for the Flintshire parishes including a log book for Abermorddu Board School (E/LB/31/5). In 1891 according to this log book the school H.M.I. report recorded, below the heading Infants Class, ‘the new mistress promises well’.

Miss Anne Harris Jones first appears on the teaching staff of the Victoria British/Council school in 1895. According to the managers of the school, during her 29 year career as head of the infants at Victoria school she provided an excellent service. In a school managers meeting on the 30th June 1924 she was recognized as having devoted herself to the education, the well-being and the interests of the children of Victoria school.

ED MB 101 5 Managers Minutes 30 06 1924

The school log books record how devoted Miss Harris Jones was to the role of the kindergartener teacher. On 1st November 1911 she writes about the great advantage gained by children who are admitted to the infants or the ‘babies class’ aged three or four and who consequently spend about three years here before being transferred to a higher class. ‘They rapidly get to the top of the class and maintain that position while they are in school. They are also the children who win the best prizes and later scholarships’.

The value of the kindergarten classroom promoted by Miss Harris Jones was brought in to question in February 1913. In the log book, Ms Harris Jones writes how Dr. Richard Drinkwater, medical officer of health for Wrexham Borough visited the school and observed a lesson in the ‘babies’ classroom. According to Miss Harris Jones the doctor is sceptical of the advantages of such young children attending school and she goes on to write, ‘he thinks it is a waste of ratepayers money to pay a kindergartener to ‘amuse and interest the little ones’ and says ‘it should be done at home’. The log book captures her response to this with the following:

‘It is difficult to do this in the houses of the poor. The mother has so much to do that the child is often neglected. If ratepayers only knew how happy these little mites are in school they would not begrudge their money spent on them’.
The log book entries regarding pupil attendance would suggest that this was an ongoing issue and that maintaining high levels of attendance was difficult. Since 1911, Miss Harris Jones had written about the potentially damaging effect of irregular attendance of infant children on the good work done in the classroom and on term examinations. In July of this year the headmistress writes that there is ‘no excuse’ and that ‘even the weather is perfect with a mild winter and a glorious summer, the health of the children has been much better than during the last three or four years’. Later in the log books it is interesting to note that Miss Harris Jones attributes a degree of blame to the mothers writing that they provide the children with ‘false excuses (written or verbal) and this trains them in untruthfullness’.

In September 1914 the log book records a new approach implemented by Miss Harris Jones to tackle the ongoing issue of poor attendance, it reads, ‘There is a marked improvement in the attendance since the summer vacation. The staff acting on the advice of the Head Mistress (herself) are taking a more personal interest in the matter. They occasionally visit the home of the absentee or send a note of enquiry. This has had a beneficial effect on the attendance.’ Here we see an example of the excellent service and the level of devotion that Miss Harris Jones attributed to the education of the children of Wrexham during this period.

There are lots of written entries describing how Miss Harris Jones tried to keep the children in school, however it should be noted that she also knew the worth of giving children time off. The log books report on regular holidays and special absences including Sunday school treats and the Mayor’s half holiday. On the 3rd July 1912 she writes that the children were given a half holiday to enable them to see the circus and the following day’s entry reads:
‘Today, if it were left to the children, the teachers would have a very easy time, as they would have nothing to do but listen to the various accounts of the wonderful things they saw yesterday’.

On the 10th December 1915 she records that the numbers are down due to the weather and that melting snow had left ‘slushy’ conditions on the roads which were in her opinion ‘unfit for the little ones to walk on’.

ED LB 101 5 snowfall

The entry records the snow falling and reads, ‘Snowing! The children are filled with glee as they watch the dancing snowflakes. To some little children who were born in Cairo and who are spending their first winter in this country, the frost and snow are a wonderful revelation’.

In an entry written on the 19th November 1915 Miss Harris Jones offers some insight into her preferred methods of teaching and lists the following pedagogues as her influences, ‘Rousseau, Pestalozzie, Frobel and Edgar Dales method of teaching’.

ED LB 101 5 page 269 teaching methods

By the December of 1915 her teaching methods are being well recognised by the school inspectors as good and modernist.

As well as her teaching work the role of department head also required Miss Harris Jones to manage the building and other school staff. There is sufficient evidence in the school log books to support that she was an effective manager during her time at Victoria British/Council School and a good example of this occurred in the winter of 1914 when Miss Harris Jones writes about the caretakers, ‘the temperature of the school is frequently below normal, especially on Monday mornings. No fires are lit unless the caretaker is sent for to do it’ she goes on to say ‘even then it takes such a long time to find him that the teachers light their own fires rather than wait’. Here is another reference made regarding insufficient caretaking duties found in the log book, ‘it is difficult to believe that any dusting is being done at all some days. Teachers have frequently to dust down their own rooms and arrange the desks and furniture’. Four months later at the start of July she records that, ‘Two fresh caretakers have been appointed and they commenced duties today’.

Conversely, the log book shows the researcher that as a manager, Miss Harris Jones could demonstrate compassion when dealing with her colleagues. In November 1915 she writes, ‘Owing to the serious illness of her father, Miss F. K. Jones frequently has to sit up with him during the night. The Head Mistress (herself) takes her class sometimes so that Miss Jones might have a little rest and sleep.’

For further information regarding school records see the North East Wales Archives (Ruthin) subject page/Education

Lowri Jones – Archives Assistant

My Life During Lockdown

April 14, 2020

The North East Wales Archives wants to record the experiences of people in Flintshire and Denbighshire during this unprecedented period in history.

My life during lockdown

The purpose of keeping archives is to preserve historical records to aid future understanding of events, people and places in history. We hope to create an Archive of information and images for future generations to help them understand how much the Coronavirus Crisis is affecting the local community and impacting on the lives of everyone involved.
Are you in lockdown at home, or going out to work in a changed and uncertain environment? How is it affecting your daily life? We would like to hear about the positive aspects as well as the unsettling and challenging ones! If you are keeping a daily journal or would like to contribute a poem, drawing, painting or a photograph depicting how life during lockdown looks to you, we would love to hear from you! Photographs could include images of shops closed down; deserted streets; usually crowded areas looking incongruously empty; wildlife returning to unexpected places.

E-mail your writing/images, with your name and address, to us at: archives@flintshire.gov.uk for Flintshire residents, and archives@denbighshire.gov.uk for Denbighshire residents.

The best contributions will be selected to form part of an historic collection of memories and in the future will help people to understand what the current crisis meant to people living in North East Wales.

A letter to future children

NEWA is also running a competition for the best ‘Letter to Future Children’ written by school-age pupils living in Denbighshire and Flintshire. Write a letter, to be read by children in 100 years’ time, to tell them how your life has changed since you were sent home from school.

  • What are you doing every day?
  • What is it like being at home all the time without seeing your friends and extended family?
  • Are you having to go to school, and, if so, is it strangely quiet?
  • How are your family coping with working at home or going out to do essential work?
  • Above all, tell the future children what you are missing most and enjoying most!
    Please include a drawing, showing how life looks to you at this strange time in history!

All letters will be included in the ‘Letter to Future Children’ Archive and preserved for future generations to read. The winner will receive a prize of a £20 Amazon Voucher and have their letter shared online.

Again, e-mail your letters, with your name and address, to:

archives@flintshire.gov.uk for Flintshire residents, and archives@denbighshire.gov.uk for Denbighshire residents. The closing date for entries is 31st May 2020.