During this time, the Head Mistress of the Infant School was Mrs Janet Goodall.
As during the Victorian period, attendance remained a major issue, affected by the weather, illness and life events. She records on many occasions how the children do not attend school, because of inclement weather including deep falls of snow, heavy rain and bitter cold; or they are late, because they have been out playing late at night, unsupervised.
On numerous occasions, the children arrive wet and cold and she has to send them home early as the school is not as warm as it should be. She describes various illnesses such as measles, scarlet fever, mumps and “breakings out on the face and head” which could be lice and impetigo.
Her headship is characterised by a drive to raise standards, not only academic standards but moral and social standards. She frequently describes battling with “feckless” parents about attendance and the state of their children and she gives us an insight into their homes, which make her “sick to the heart”. She constantly battles with epidemics and death amongst her pupils and staff. Staff absence, and in some cases, incompetence, all impacts on her drive to raise standards.
She compares the landscape to where she used to live in the midlands and describes it as devoid of colour and flora. She paints a picture of a hard and difficult life.
In the midst of this, she speaks of vision and a church that is committed to improving the life chances of the children of Westleigh. She is innovative and tries out new curriculum initiatives, making the curriculum more practical and enjoyable for the children. She nurtures them and introduces rewards. She has afternoon tea with the class and encourages them to set a table and serve tea correctly. She shares her family with the school and on several occasions writes about bringing her children’s things into school for pupils to use.
She talks of “sewing a seed of change” and making a difference. She describes coming to school as “a pleasure”.
In addition to this, she is a wife and mother.
I have great respect for Mrs Goodall and feel privileged, through the school log, to have got to know her more deeply. I have found her record an inspiration and it makes me proud to be the Headteacher of the school and part of a long line of hardworking and dedicated headteachers, teachers and Governors.
Mrs Anne Bowyer (Headteacher 2002-)
Last week I was obliged to enforce the practical application of the proverb on “Cleanliness”.
I requested all the children to ask “Mother” to bathe them all over and change their clothing as well. On a close survey, the children’s bodies and especially on visiting their homes, one wonders that there is not much more illness…”
“The scholars smell and look cleaner today and if all are truthful, there are very few who have not had a bath during the weekend”.
On April 4th the HMI visited the infant school. He was not happy with the occupations. He said that the lessons were of no value unless the children drew, cut out and arranged their patterns made from gummed paper themselves. Mrs Goodall noted his advice but because of staffing difficulties felt it to be unmanageable so the boys had to do the drawing and the girls the cutting out. She likened this to industry were different parts of the making process have to be done by different people.
On April 16th she records that attendance is poor on account of the arrival of Wombwells’ Menagerie in the village. She closed the school early so that the children could go and see and the animals.
On 22nd April she observed an object lesson on the “ostrich” and recorded:
“The children were delighted with the great big egg and also the long, natural, uncurled feather. Miss Brown had a pleasant chat with the babies about an egg, and all of them had a taste of egg- either of the boiled one or the raw one beaten up in milk and sugar”
On 15th May, dark green blinds were put up at the windows on the south west side of the school.
On the 17th, she wrote about the children being hot, drowsy and listless on account of the hot weather.
On May 21st, her daughter received a globe of silver and gold fishes from her father. The globe was to be kept in school. The children were very interested in them. She also received a sleeping doll which was also to be kept in school to use in the lesson on “Making a bed” and the doll can be dressed and undressed. This, Mrs Goodall stated, “Is for the benefit and amusement of the babies”.
On June 3rd, she wrote that her child had measles and to prevent the spread of infection she stayed away from home on Dr Hayes’ orders. By the 17th, another of her children contracted measles and she had to take time off to look after them. The school was looked after by Mr Hoyle the junior school Headmaster. She returned on the 24th.
On August 9th after several home visits she wrote: “The homes of some of the children makes me indeed sick at heart”.
On 20th September, Mrs Goodall observed an object lesson in Miss Brown’s class. The focus of the lesson was an apple and she described the lesson as “interesting”. The lesson was followed by a painting lesson when the class painted a copy of the said object. This was a treat she granted the class for paying such good attention during the lesson and it was a change from the ordinary flat-tint laying they usually do.
She continued to use copy painting as a means of developing the youngest pupils’ occupation skills and she believed that this occupation answered the purposes of the Kindergarten principle better than any other occupation she had seen.
On October 4th she recorded that there was a good deal of sickness amongst the children and one pupil, Norman Dainty, had died of inflammation of the lungs. The weather was changeable and it was necessary to keep the pipes heated and then school was made clean and comfortable.
On December 16th she recorded seeing her son off to Manchester for the Cambridge Local Junior Exam, thus the classes would be grouped together for singing.
At the start of the New Year she recorded improvements in the children’s ability to express their ideas in correct sentences, though “perfection is not attained”. She wrote that the children speak better and are much more civilized than formerly. Parents were taking more interest in the appearance of their children and there were not so many dirty children in school.
On April 11th, she described the week as being “rather heavy work, as usual, after the unlimited freedom which the class of children in this neighbourhood enjoy during a holiday”.
In June, the school has an extra week’s holiday in honour of King Edward VII’s coronation. She recorded that enforced postponement of the coronation had cast a gloom amongst the children but they were still to receive a medal from the Mayor and the procession and tea party would go ahead as planned on the 26th June.
On the 15th August, she wrote that a “troublesome” child had left the school for the Church School as her mother had taken offence at Mrs Goodall insisting on her child’s attendance.
On September 12th, Mrs Goodall stated that she was having difficulty getting the children to come to school, the reason being that St Paul’s School was closed and the children seem to think that they can play as well.
In February she wrote about a very young child who had died in his sleep. She stated that he was only 2 ¾ years old and was everyone’s “pet”. He had attended school for a long time which suggests that children started school ate a very young age. She described him as “intelligent and bright”.
In March there was an epidemic of measles and scarlet fever reducing attendance to a quarter of what it should have been. By April, the Medical Officer insisted that the school was closed for three weeks. On return, the attendance was affected by an outbreak of whopping cough.
In June, Mrs Goodall wrote about feeling discouraged about the attendance. She cited the case of a parent bribing a child to tell lies about her friend’s absence. She wrote of being afraid that parents were fostering in them “all that is low and coarse and untrue”. In fact the HMI had written, “Nature does not lend you much aid in your work”.
During the summer break the school was well cleaned, the walls had been colour washed and the woodwork painted.
By March she noted that the New Authority has imposed stricter regulations on attendance and this was having an impact.
After fighting for an additional teacher for the Babies, on April 11th , Miss Katie Hutchinson, from Hambledon School, Godalming, commenced her duties at the school.
In August Mrs Goodall wrote about her approach to the teaching of reading which she called “The Do-it-Myself” building system. The child worked on a slate following the teacher from the blackboard, printing the vowel sound or the root, then prefixing the “branches” or consonants, going over the words the second time sounding from the left to the right.
On August 26th, she mentioned the removal of the galleries which disturbed the class work because of the noise and dust. She had to extend playtime and the teachers supervised the children in the yard.
By September 5th, both galleries had been removed which was a great improvement. They were also awaiting delivery of the new desks for the Babies.
On October 3rd she noted that the Education Committee had granted a day’s holiday on account of the visit of “Buffalo Bill” to Leigh.
In November, she described a typical dark day in Winter, so dark, they needed to have the gas lights on all day.
During December she made detailed accounts about individual pupils and their attendance. This gives a very clear insight into their lives and the barriers to learning. (Pages 353- 357)
On February 14th she organised a nature walk for the children which they enjoyed and were keen to share what they had found. These walks led to a definite course of Nature Study.
At the start of the new school year, she drew up a scheme of work for each class and the log, for the first time, detailed some very clear objectives and not just a record of what was to be covered.
Pages 380 and 381 detail what is to be taught in each class for the school year.
On April 7th she recorded admitting two scholars from Taylor Square. She described them as being very, very dirty and requested their mother to wash them and their clothes.
Throughout the year, she recorded problems with attendance.
As the school re-opened on January 6th she wrote that the school was cold, the temperature was recorded as 48°F. The caretaker was waiting for a fresh supply of fuel.
On December 4th is the first mention of her daughter, Joyce Goodall, helping out in school although she wrote that she had been helping in school for a few weeks.
In January, Mrs Goodall was absent with appendicitis and the school was managed by Miss Kerfoot and her daughter, Joyce.
On her return to school on February 1st, she had to dismiss the school as the boiler had burst and was being fixed. The school re-opened on February 8th but was still cold as the joints of the boiler were not set.