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18 September 2014
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Victorian Classroom Life: School Reports as Source Material

By Professor Eric Evans
Inspector's report: extracts

Report from HMI Seymour Tremenheere, on schools in the Kendal district (Parliamentary Papers, 1884, vol. xxiv, pp415-19, House of Lords Library).

'Compared with the whole of England and Wales these figures [of attendance] in Cumberland and Westmorland are extremely good ... However, it is impossible to rest content with the condition of affairs... In particular, the action, if such a term can be used, of the school attendance committees for the union of Whitehaven is open to grave criticism. In their district only 16.4 per cent of the population is enrolled on the books, and of these only 65.6 in every hundred are daily at school. They ought to have 1,000 more names on the registers, and 1,600 more scholars in average attendance ...'
'I found that for the town population of 20,000 only part of one man's time was engaged for attendance work; that their country officer had not once entered some of the schools under his charge during the proceeding 12 months; that from neither officer did his employers require any account of either his time or his results; and that no school census had been taken since the committee commenced ... their functions.'
'Moreover, I ascertained that it was an established rule of the authority that no parent should he prosecuted unless he had received a warning during the proceeding month; thus enabling a parent, provided he sent his child to school with fair regularity every alternate month, to escape with no severer penalty than six warnings per annum ...'
'One of the chief causes of absenteeism appears to me to be either apathy or want of method on the part of the local authorities ... To meet this I would strongly urge (a) that each local authority throughout the Kingdom be required to report annually to the Education Department ...; (b) that every local authority be required to appoint one or more attendance officers at the discretion of the Department; (c) that every attendance officer report periodically, say once a quarter ... for the expenditure of his time and showing the results of his efforts; (d) that teachers be bound to send in ... lists of irregular children; (c) that a census of schoolable children he taken by each local authority at least every three years.'

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