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THE BASEDEN CASE (1892)

In 1889 when Mr W.H.Baseden had been head master for 28 years, a new Inspector - the Rev. C.F. Johnstone ("a precisian of the most pronounced type") took charge of the Brighton district.


W.H.Baseden

The evils attendant on the the system  of payment by the results of individual examination were still in existence, but had become accentuated by the introduction a few years before of what was known as the 'Merit Grant' under which schools were graded as 'Excellent', 'Good' or 'Fair and extra payments of 3s., 2s. or 1s. per head on the average attendance made accordingly....

Middle Street School had always, from the time when it first came under Government inspection, in 1869, until now, received flattering reports, and under the Merit Grant been rated as excellent...

Then with the advent of the new Inspector, came a change. "The school is re-examined after an interval of only eight months. The general progress in the three departments is sufficient to justify a report in very similar terms to that of last year, but in the boys' department some attention appears to be necessary to the neatness of the work and to the shaping of the writing and figures."

In 1891 - "There is not the precision of discipline here that is seen in some schools, but there is a good tone among the boys and the work is generally good, without reaching the highest level. There is some weakness, however, in the grammar, the algebra and the singing-by-note." The Merit Grant awarded was 'Good'...

An objectionable word and a resignation

In 1892, the report began: "This year the balance of work, on the whole, shows improvement." Then it proceeded to criticise in detail - giving qualified praise in most cases - the elementary, class and specific subjects, and finally closed with a remark about an objectionable word having been found written in the offices - this latter, repulsive enough certainly, as much to the Master as to the Inspector, but surely unnecessarily inserted in an official report.
Again the merit grant was assessed as 'Good'.

On receipt of this report, Mr. Baseden took the ill-advised step of sending in his resignation, which at a meeting of the Board held on the 26th of April, 1892, was accepted. 

Popular indignation

Then arose an exhibition of popular indignation such as is seldom witnessed in Brighton. The newspapers were filled with scathing denunciations of the Board and the Inspector, from the pens of angry correspondents. Mr. Baseden wrote on May 24th asking that his resignation might be withdrawn. Crowded public meetings were held, at which resolutions were passed calling on the Board to permit this to be done. Strong comments were made by indignant speakers on the treatment meted out to an old an faithful servant. Enemies of the Board and of popular education fanned the flames with their angry denunciations. Many of the Managers of the School who were in sympathy with Mr. Baseden threatened to resign. People were very angry indeed, but the Board members stiffened their backs and refused to be coerced. At their meeting on June 21st, by 13 votes to 1, they passed the resolution, "That Mr. Baseden's letter of the 24th ult. asking the Board to re-consider the matter of his resignation, be acknowledged, and that he be informed that the Board see no grounds for reversing their previous decision on his case."

Mr. Baseden ceased his headmastership at the end of September, 1892...

Chairman of the Board

The 'Baseden Case', however, hastened the end (of the Merit Grant system). A few years saw the supercession of 'payment by results' by the more rational system which now obtains in our primary schools, under which one can hardly imagine the possibility of the recurrence of such a 'case'.

Mr. Baseden, as may be supposed, did not quit his old School without receiving a very tangible token of the estimation in which he was held by past and present scholars and their parents.

The Middle Street School, Brighton, 1805-1905 by Geo. Haffenden   p. 115-119

When a new Board was elected Mr Baseden became Chairman. He resigned from this position due to ill-health during his second term, but continued to visit the school, particularly liking to be present at the Christmas prize-givings.

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