This precious artefact provides a remarkable insight to education in a bygone age. Handwritten in fountain pen, each inspector noted the date of his visit, his exact time of arrival and departure, and a range of ‘suggestions’ for the principal and staff to consider.
As you will see, the first ‘general inspection’ took place on 15thand 17thJanuary 1935. Some 219 pupils were enrolled – an increase of 58 since the school opened just a few months prior. It was the inspector’s view that some pupils needed ‘reclassified’ (moved up) and proficiency in arithmetic needed some attention. Of one group he remarks that, ‘the teacher does quite too much for the class.’ Meanwhile, in Physical Education, he wishes to see the introduction of ‘rhythmic training.’
By May of 1935, the inspector seemed pleased with the teaching of algebra and geometry, and in June he returns to give some advice on improving Horticulture. Horticulture was to become an ever-more important part of school life, as the war years began and rationing was introduced.
In February 1940, the inspector visited an infant class and remarked that it was rather too large a class for an inexperienced teacher. This is hardly surprising, as there were 67 pupils in the room! It would appear that all writing practice for pupils of seven years and under was done with chalk, for which the inspector insisted ‘freearm’ is the necessary approach.
Belfast in the 1930’s..
(Click on images to enlarge)
(Above) The shipyard and the linen industry were huge employers in the city, although wages for many were extremely low, and for women, lower still. Working conditions were harsh and very unsafe by today’s standards.
It is worth bearing in mind that in 1935 the years of depression were just waning and the war clouds were gathering as Germany began to rearm. George V was King, and less than a quarter of the population owned their own houses.
The BBC began television broadcasting in 1936 and the very first colour movies were being made for cinema.
Most importantly for schoolchildren: Kit Kat bars were introduced in 1935, with Smarties and Rolos coming along in 1937.
In 1935 in Belfast, the Strand Cinema opened, as did the Jubilee Maternity Hospital. There were also serious riots and civil unrest in the city over the summer period.
Click on images below to enlarge. Included are some old receipts and papers discovered within the ledger, along with a performance review for Mr Gillespie! As you will see, by 1948, the school population has once again outgrown the building. Classes of 45+ were not uncommon, and the staffroom and cookery room had become classrooms.