England School Records Log Books, Photographs, and Reports (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

School Log Books[edit | edit source]

Thousands of these survive from as far back as the early 19th century for the British (nonconformist) and National (Church of England) Schools. The regulations for grant-aided schools from 1862 state that a log book should be kept in which the principal teacher should make a brief daily entry on the progress and other relevant facts which might require to be referred to or may deserve to be recorded. In 1871 this requirement changed to a minimum weekly entry. School log books can offer fascinating details of day-to-day school life, although sometimes they frustratingly offer only all going well or no remarks.

Log Books contain:

  • Causes of absence, showing what life was like for these children. Maybe they were required to help in the fields—haymaking, harvesting, blackberrying, digging potatoes or following the hunt—or at home with younger children. Even children in the city would go to help their parents with harvesting, a well-known example being the hop-pickers from East London. Another cause was inadequate clothing—perhaps they had no boots to wear to school; my mother related tales of a family of four children in West Ham who only had two pairs of boots so they took it in turns to go to school.
  • Visits by medical personnel such as the nit nurse who checked for head-lice.
  • Appointment of new staff, whether teachers, clerical, canteen or janitorial, and goodbye events for leavers or retirees.
  • Absences of staff for family emergencies, examinations or interviews.
  • Problems with facilities.
  • Staff problems.
  • Discipline problems, sometimes with parents as well as children.
  • Holidays and celebrations for national events.
  • Local events and customs.
  • Prizes given for best examination results or highest number of attendances.
  • Epidemics, sometimes causing school closure.
  • Closure of school due to severe weather.
  • Visits of clergy, school inspectors and local dignitaries.
  • Names of monitors and pupil-teachers appear frequently.
  • Subjects of school lessons such as songs learned, poetry recited or the object lessons delivered.
  • Text books used.
  • Deaths of children.
  • Difficulties in collecting the school pence (fees) before they were abolished in 1891.

Entries from an actual school log book taken from film 1472619 are shown below.

Chart: Extracts from Log Book of Church Street School, Woking, Surrey 1877-1895

Jun 14 Punished Georgina Sexton for stealing geraniums and bringing them to school.
Jun 22 Mrs Saunders complained that John Legrier had stolen her gooseberries. When accused he denied it; but afterwards confessed that he climbed over the garden rails and took them.
Jun 26 Mistress unable to attend school through severe cold. Mr and Miss Wainwright took the school.
Jun 29 Mistress took the school but did not keep to the time table in the afternoon she was unable to take singing [after effects of the severe cold!]
Jul 5 Revd Canon Titcomb visited the school.
Copy of HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspector) Report on Church Street School
This school has been open only since the 1st of January. The children
are backward for their age. The school is at present in very moderate
condition in respect of instruction; the arithmetic in particular being
very imperfect.
Miss Howick’s certificate is deferred for the present.
Average attendance 33
Number presented 20
Passed in reading 15
Passed in writing 12
Passed in Arithmetic 5
Feb 12 Flora Snook away all day to mind the baby. School routine the same usual.
Feb 13 Taught the children the words of a new song last half-hour this morning.
Feb 14 The Attendance Officer visited this afternoon, and informed me that the attendance of the children at this school was better on an average than any under the Board. Average attendance for week 59.9.
Feb 21 Snow very deep this morning therefore only 40 children present. attendance a little better this afternoon 50 children present.
Feb 25 Rev Maber came this afternoon when the children were writing in Copy Books.
Mar 3 Kate Russell returned to school this morning. Admitted Rosina, Ada, Amy and Lucy Lawrence.
Mar 4 Samuel Sherlock returned to school this morning, not having been to school since before Christmas, being in the hospital with a bad foot.
Mar 20 Gertrude and Rose Ham are away from school in consequence of their younger sister and mother having whooping cough.
Oct 27 Owing to the incessant rain and high floods many children are away from school.
Oct 29 Fanny, Ellen and James Till have left school parents are leaving the neighbourhood.
Nov 2 Rev F.J. Oliphant and Rev Tucker visited this morning and gave away the prizes for the Religious Inspection.
Jul 1 several children were going to a treat at Send, the registers were closed at 9.25 to allow them to leave school at 11.50.
Jul 3 A half holiday was given in the afternoon.
Jul 8 Mrs Pullen called this morning to say that Ada’s health is suffering from the Standard work being too hard and to k that she should be allowed to do less.
Jul 14 The Foresters Club being today a holiday was given in the afternoon.
Aug 16 Sophie Stevens was severely punished by the mistress for impertinence and disobedience.
Jul 31 The harvest Holiday commences today.
Aug 31 The school re-opened after the holiday with an attendance of 54. Several of the older children are absent gleaning.
Sep 21 Eight children are absent from school sick. Two have scarletina, the others complain of sickness and sore throats.

Object Lessons 1894-1895

Natural History Cow, Frog, Camel, Mole, Wolf, Snake, Earthworm, Hedgehog, Fishes, Reindeer
Animal Physiology Head, Ear, Limbs
Plants Cotton, Rice
Natural Phenomena Sea, Mountains and Hills, Day and Night
Occupations Dairyman, Cleaning a room
Minerals Silver, Iron
Miscellaneous Corn, Sponge, A plank, Ink, Soap, Lamp, Solids and Liquids

Repetition 1894-1895

Standard Title Lines
The hole in the dyke
Queen of the May
III The newsboy’s debt
“Only me”
12 Total 66
II Sunshine and shower 60
I Grandpapa’s spectacles 24
Signed by H. Wadburgh H.M. Inspector. Nov 12/94

Copy of HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspector) Report on
Church Street School 24 Jan 1895
Mixed School
The work as a whole is fairly good and is sound and even, though the attainments compared with the ages are not high. Boys’ History good. Girls’ Needlework fairly good, but not up to good. Tone and discipline are good on the whole.
Infants’ Class The discipline is satisfactory and the Infants are nicely taught. Elizth Emily Hodges, Certificated Mistress
Elsie Frances Gwyther, Assistant Mistress
Signed Gilbert H. White, Clerk to the Board


One feels for teachers and children who suffered through such daily events as occurred at Canterbury Road Infants School, Deptford, London:

  • Ÿ “Aug 25. 88 new scholars admitted. Most of the morning taken up putting them into their new classes. Only six children had ever been to school before.”
  • Ÿ“Aug 28. This is the first day that the children have been able to pay much attention to their work on account of the crying of the new children.”

Teynham School, Kent was situated in a poor, low-lying area by the River Swale and the log is replete with absences due to ague, marsh fever, and many infectious diseases. Several children suffered from near-starvation, and in winter the children cried in the schoolroom because of the cold, but there were happier times, and pictures of plays and school treats are given as well by Sattin.

Log books may have been deposited in county record offices but many remain with the school, parish or local education authority and have to be hunted down. The local county record office or archives will usually know where those in their area are located if they don’t have them in their holdings list. Look-ups may be available from fellow-members of the local FHS, so keep in touch with them. Some finding aids to log books have been written for example Webb’s index of school records of (Greater) London, and Horn has some worthwhile comments. There is a 30 to 50-year closure period from the date of the last entry.

School Photographs[edit | edit source]

Photographs of school classes, teams, events or a panorama of the whole school can be found from the last quarter of the 19th century for every kind of school, college or university. They may be in family collections, or with a local archives; the school itself probably retains some and may have name identification lists. The individual photograph is a more recent innovation in the last 30 years.

Testimonials and Reports[edit | edit source]

Annual or term school reports are most likely to be found amongst family papers of-course, as they were sent home with the student. An example is shown below. Testimonials for individual students were given as they left school, usually to go to work, but also to get further education. They also will be found amongst family papers. Reports of progress for the whole school can be found from early times, an early one is transcribed below.

Inspector’ Reports[edit | edit source]

Some schools commenced very poorly, for example Brook School, Kent opened in 1877 and the inspectors wrote these comments:

  • 1878 - Older girls do not attend regularly as they are employed in hop tying and hop clearing.
  • 1879 - The floor of the schoolroom should be washed oftener than once a year.
  • 1880 - Spelling and arithmetic being very weak, both classes’ grants have been forfeited.
  • 1883 - The school has done badly in almost all respects. One tenth grant deducted.

Term Report from Day Continuation Institute 1931 - West Ham Education Committee, Grace Thom

Pupil was 16 at this time. This was one of the first schools to offer woodwork for girls!

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)


Testimonial from a National School - Boys National School, Crayford-Herbert Leonard Gardner
Pupil was aged 12 in 1926 and seeking employment whilst waiting for an apprenticeship vacancy to arise in his father’s trade.


(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)

Chart: Report on Village Scholars at Meppershall, Bedfordshire

An Account of the Scholars and Their Learning
Taken December 22, 1698
Taught by Dame Gurny:

Elizabeth Deer can read well and hath knit 3 pairs of stockings.
Emma Tomson can read pretty well, and hath knit 2 pair of stockings, one for herself and another for her father.
Ann Blane reads pretty well, has knit a pair of stockings and made some linnen.

Taught by Dame Soal

Thomas Roff reads pretty well in his Testament.
Ann Leonard begins to read in her Testament, and spins a pound of hemp tare in a week.
Thomas Cherry knows his letters and begins to spell.
Hannah Tomson knows her letters and spells; And spins two pounds of tare in a week.
Ann Endersby is learning her letters, and can spin two pound of hemp tare in a week; she makes a good thred.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.