Early School Memories

Education has been an important feature of the Whanganui region since its earliest beginnings. For Māori most learning was done within the whanau, but there were also schools of special learning. With the arrival of Christian missionaries English-style schools were set up. Because of the importance the local community placed on learning, Whanganui became the education centre of the central North Island.

The school logbook was used by the head teacher to record the activities of each day. Attendance records, punishments, problems and the weather were constantly commented on. The quotes used here come from the Brunswick School and Kai Iwi School logbooks, dated between 1880 and 1915.

The School

Yesterday the School was used for election purposes and when I opened the school in the morning I found things had been left upside down generally. I insisted upon the Returning Officer, who came along at the time, putting things as they were found. I really think, when the school is used for any purpose outside school work it should be left as found especially as I am responsible for the care taken of the school and its furniture. The Returning Officer seemed to think that it was the teacher’s place to put things straight.

 Found on opening the school that the seat of a long desk had been broken during last night’s church service: reported matter.

Throughout today the ponies in school grounds having been quarrelling and squealing at 3.20 pm one of them kicked the school porch breaking one of the boards.

Gonville School Staff in about 1915. Back row: Miss D Martin, Mr W Williams, Miss K McCormick, Miss S T Andrews, Miss M S Tuffin, Mr C H Bowater, Miss M Curham. Front row: Mr H Wood, Mr S H Gould

Gonville School Staff in about 1915. Back row: Miss D Martin, Mr W Williams, Miss K McCormick, Miss S T Andrews, Miss M S Tuffin, Mr C H Bowater, Miss M Curham. Front row: Mr H Wood, Mr S H Gould

Attendance

Attendance was often irregular for a variety of reasons.

Robert absent for week. Doctor suspects scarlet fever symptoms.

Weather wet. Attendance very bad only 2 girls present.

Attendance this week has been very poor owing to harvesting in the district.

Fine weather this week.  Elder boys kept at home to assist with ploughing and planting.

Race day: only 19 scholars in attendance.

Harvest Festival put together by Central Infants School pupils, who colloquially referred to themselves as the Sinful Infants, 1921

Harvest Festival put together by Central Infants School pupils, who colloquially referred to themselves as the Sinful Infants, 1921

Lessons

Monthly exam. P2 Work needing most attention Arithmetic, Geography & Drawing.

Have adopted a new plan for the drawing lessons and am trying figures of birds and animals to be copied from B.B. These at any rate, are more interesting to the children than the conventional figures they are so tired of. Took a pig and a rooster this week and, for first attempts, got some very good work.

Arithmetic in Standard V is rather weak. In St II it seems to be very fair; but very foolish mistakes are sometimes made. Recitation throughout the school is now very good. There sometimes seems to be some of the old carelessness left even yet, but it does not often crop up.

Queens Park School newly built in 1920

Queens Park School newly built in 1920

Gardening

Planting and maintaining a good school garden was considered useful training and had special resonance in rural areas.

Garden Tools: 5 Spades, 5 Digging forks, 5 Dutch hoes, 5 Garden rakes, 6 Hand forks

The following seeds were planted today: 1 pkt cabbage (Enfields Market.2oz S. Ammonia), 1 Row onions (Giant Rocca 1oz Super Phos), 1 Row onions, (Giant Rocca 1oz Sul. Ammonia), 1 Row Potatoes (British Green ½lb Nitrate Soda), 1 British Green (½lb Blood), 1 Row Beet, (¼lb S. Ammonia), 3 Rows Purple Top. (3oz Blood), 3 Rows Purple Top (3oz Superphosphate).

The weather continues fine and favours the gardening.

Observed Arbour Day when 50 hedge-plants were planted along the road-side.

St Johns Infant School, Primer III class, 1915

St Johns Infant School, Primer III class, 1915

The Teacher

Taking lessons seemed to be only a small part of the teacher’s job.

Received note from Mr. B objecting to his son remaining after school to take part with others in sweeping the school. Answered that school cleaning was in the hands of the Committee … It was decided that the Committee cannot force a child to take part in sweeping if its parents object.

Lunches have been missed from school porch this week. Boys suspected one of the Primers as the culprit. Have been informed that the thefts were committed by a certain stray dog which took bag, lunch etc.

Pupils and staff of Raumai School, 1920.

Pupils and staff of Raumai School, 1920.

Discipline

Children were physically punished for many different reasons.

Five boys stayed at dinner-hour in paddock (to which they are allowed to go to play cricket) 15 minutes after time. Caned them according to age and size. Lost time to be made up at Playtime tomorrow.

I have found it necessary to cane all pupils in 2nd Standard for not learning the Spelling lesson with meanings.

Caned John for carelessness in Arithmetic … after caning him I observed that he managed to get the whole perfectly correct without being shown a single sum.

Caned David (6) for stealing an apple from the school porch.

Brunswick School, 1922

Brunswick School, 1922

Health

Without modern medicines children were often absent, sometimes for quite long periods.

Found on one child tiny white nits adhering to the hair: reported matter to the Chairman suggesting that notices to parents should be sent direct from Committee as such a notice coming from a teacher would entail endless disputes with parents.

Four pupils are at home with Influenza, while a new epidemic is now visiting us in the shape of sore throats accompanied by troublesome swellings. Am seriously contemplating interviewing the Chairman re closing the school for a week.

Kaitoke School pupils with teacher and school dog, 1902

Kaitoke School pupils with teacher and school dog, 1902

Holidays

Important occasions were often celebrated with a holiday.

Tomorrow is a general holiday for all schools on account of Election Day.

School closed Nov. 18th Wanganui Agricultural & Pastoral Show – People’s Day.

The Committee at its monthly meeting last evening decided to forego the usual annual picnic and ask the pupils to make the proceeds as a present to the Belgium Relief Fund …

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