The Catholic hierarchy was restored in England and Wales in 1850. Because the Church viewed education as so important they decided that the education of the poor was to be their first priority, often building schools before churches.
SS Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Primary School was opened not too long after this, in 1868, making our school over 150 years old!
We are privileged to have the original log books and diaries for the school dating back to 1900. Within them contain a very fascinating and often amusing account of school life, and an insight into life itself during that period.
During 1900, the school had 62 pupils, an increase of 16 from 1899. That was the year that they introduced a new school subject: Geography to their curriculum!
Some things really haven’t changed:
For example a log from 6th April 1900: “A commencement was made with the new work for each standard, special attention being paid to arithmetic and the tables”. That sounds rather familiar with our current curriculum.
A big emphasis was placed on school attendance and this is meticulously logged over the years. My namesake – a Mr Beale was the school attendance officer during 1914.
On August 3rd 1900: A boy in the fifth standard returned to school on Thursday after an absence of many weeks duration. The father had sent him to work as soon as he was 12 years old. The boy was examined by the HM Inspector (that job title hasn’t changed…) and failed in arithmetic. The father was fined.
Now whether he was fined as his child failed arithmetic or because of the absence is anybody’s guess.
On September 21st, 1914, there was no visit from the attendance officer, as Mr Beale was called to rejoin the colours. The comment in the log book states ‘Some parents are taking advantage of this…’.
Some things are just a little different to today…
A note to the teachers: they didn’t hold back when saying exactly what they thought about the teaching and teachers, and the students and their learning within school.
One inspection report from August 29th 2010 states that:
“The teaching is sensible and singing is exceptionally well taught. Unfortunately…there do not appear to be many naturally bright children within the school.”
Well, our Section 48 inspection report states that our children sing beautifully….Music and song are key factors in promoting the outstanding nature of worship. The children sing beautifully and create an atmosphere of awe and wonder as they celebrate their Acts of Worship.
Another entry about teaching on 3rd April 1914 pulled no punches.
“Mrs X is absolutely incompetent to take charge of infants. She has no knowledge whatever of the methods employed in Infant schools.”
I know I can be strict, teachers, but surely I’m not that harsh!
Throughout the logs, though, there are poignant, very real reminders about the lives of the children and families lived, and the hardships that they faced, including living through both World Wars, and experiencing illness and poverty.
Newport was a place where evacuees were sent, as SS Peter and Paul took these children in, and were included on their registers.
11th September 1939
School reopened today – received evacuation notices … Certain time was devoted to fitting of gas masks and to drilling in preparation for Air Raid. Rev Burke has provided adequate and very satisfactory shelter for all the children in the event of an Air Raid. It is to be in the cellars of Salters Hall.
25th June 1940
First air raid warning at about 11.10am… 100% of children attended this morning. Time table suspended and spent 11.15-12.00 in the air raid shelter…
25th February 1941
Two of the military were present when Headmistress arrived at 8.45am. They had slept on premises overnight and changed guard with other 2 military. They were offered hospitality and convenience of premises while off duty.
4th September 19.
Party of 15 children organised and went by bus to Lilleshall with Miss X for fruit picking as suggested by the Board of Education Circular Memorandum No. 27, when facilities for jam making could be carried out in school to make a limited quantity of jam.
However, a letter from the Food Office was received, refusing permit for sugar, and suggesting fruit be sent to Mr Ward, the head.
There are lots of things we take for granted nowadays. We are so lucky to have the wonderful facilities we have now in school, especially with the school building itself being relatively new.
One thing that is clear from reading back through the records is that the Catholicity of the school has always been held in the highest regard.
SS Peter and Paul Catholic Primary currently has the largest number of pupils it has ever had, we have reached around the 200 mark. We are now part of a federation of schools, namely Our Blessed Saints.