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H.M.I. Report 6th-7th March 1952      

 

The long history of this interesting School dates back to 1805, It was founded as the “Union Charity School of Brighthelmston” and organised on the monitorial system of Joseph Lancaster. It has subsequently been known successively as the Royal Union School, the Middle Street Board School and the Middle Street Provided School. An interesting history of its first hundred years was written at the time of its centenary. During this long period the character of the School has frequently changed. The Staff are giving their close attention not only to the educational needs of the children -but also to their social problems.

As may be expected in this old and closely built-up part of the town, the site is very restricted and the premises are inconvenient. There are two buildings one containing the Lower and Upper Nursery Classes and a large hall, and the other containing the remaining classrooms and a small hall. Two of the classrooms have to be used as thoroughfares to other classrooms. At the present time the paintwork of the interior of the premises is drab and unsightly and some of the W.C.s, because of disrepair, are in a most unhygienic condition. The Lower Nursery is not suitably furnished. The two staff rooms are each very small and the School suffers some unavoidable disturbances from the various businesses that are conducted close to its borders. It is very much to the credit of the H.M. and his Staff that they seek to turn the restricted space to advantage by fostering a friendly and informal atmosphere, and to relieve the drabness of the walls and rooms by displays of various kinds of children’s work, particularly Art. Despite all handicaps, many of the classrooms have thus been made bright and attractive.

The Head Master has held his office for over 20 years. He has studied the problems of the education of young children and he has kept up with modern thought and practice. He has a thorough knowledge of his School and of its problems and he has led his Staff well, maintained good standards, and fostered happy relationships.  His Staff consists of two Masters and seven Mistresses who are qualified teachers, and in addition there is an unqualified assistant in the Lower Nursery Class   The teachers are giving a good deal of thought to their work, some of which is work of distinction, and there is plenty of vitality and originality in what they do. The School is fortunate in having a good Staff.

There is a Nursery class for the three-year-old children and as most of the Children in class 1B are four years of age this is also virtually a second Nursery Class. Classes 1A, 2B and 2A contain the normal age-ranges of Infants and Class 5 contains the more retarded seven-year -olds. As there are only three classes of Juniors, Classes 4, 5 and 6 respectively, the age-spread in these is slightly greater than in the other classes. The curriculum has been carefully and thoughtfully planned and the syllabuses are obviously the fruits of a good deal of thought discussion and reading. It is significant that whereas the curriculum and syllabuses contain so much that is good, little to which exception can be taken, and reflect a Clear educational purpose and policy; the work in the classrooms is in some respects even better than what is envisaged in the schemes.

The children in the Nursery Classes are extremely happy and quietly confident - they are in the care of teachers with excellent qualities for being in charge of small children. There is a tendency to over-organise and to adhere too closely to a programme. A few suggestions were made for improving the equipment in the room, although in the main it is fairly adequate. Good careful records of the children’s development are being kept.

 

Each of the Infants’ classrooms is an extremely interesting room for young children to be in and the illustrative material, the various structures, models and materials are not merely exhibitions but have some purpose in the education of the pupils. There is a broad practical basis for the Number work: there is a premature concentration on symbols in Class 1A -but otherwise the work is wisely planned  and the children reach a good standard of attainment.  Careful attention is given to reading and there is a marked love of this activity;  the older children, in Class 2A are able to read fluently.  A good deal of the children's work is centred around a topic of some interest so that learning proceeds naturally without artificial subject divisions.  In this way some purposeful Art and Craft has been done in the course of making models and illustrations, and the children have written individual work of promising quality.  In all the classes the children have their own illustrated -books - many of them purchased from proceeds of the sale of salvage material. . In Class 2A the children produce a considerable quantity of written work and many of them not only have an extremely good vocabulary but also show a delight in words.  In all classes an interest in nature is fostered.  Some excellent communal efforts are being carried out both in Class 2A and Class 2B, where the children are fortunate to be in the charge of a very capable teacher.

 

The individual written work of Class 3 is exceptionally good in quality.  The experiment of putting a teacher trained for work with Infants with these young Junior-children has been very successful.  The room is, attractive and a number of enterprises have been undertaken to help the children with written and spoken language and with Number.  They do a great deal of practical work in arithmetic and talk about their Number with confidence. They have also made good progress with reading and they are being introduced to poetry. This promising work is hampered by unsuitable furniture.

 

There is plenty of variety in the English of the Junior classes.  The children read well, their vocabularies are good and they are encouraged to write some individual, imaginative work.  The standard which they reach is fairly good; nevertheless given the stimulus of hearing and reading more good literature the pupils would probably reach an even higher standard of written English.  The arithmetic in Class 4 is well graded and the children's work is accurate within the scope of the work set them.  It is less accurate in the other classes despite the fact that there is a great deal of formal work done.  The History, Geography, and Nature Study are well planned except for a little overlapping of the work of these classes and the teachers make use of the locality in these subjects.  The Head Master's effort in his "General Knowledge" period with Class 6 to arouse the interest of his pupils in their own town and to encourage them to be observant, is excellent in conception and successful in execution.  The children in these classes have an 'optional' period.  In Classes 4 and 5 they are engaged upon an interesting range of crafts and on projects- in Class 6 not all of the children were using the time to good purpose.  There is a sensible correlation of work in Class 4:  the children are active and the teacher while encouraging their efforts, supervises carefully and maintains good standards. There is a good deal of interesting work in Class 5 but the young teacher here needs more experience to consolidate the work and to keep up good standards.  The children are given plenty of opportunity to work independently and individually in Class 6 but the work here could well be made more interesting and adventurous.

 

There is a daily assembly; sometimes it is taken by the Head Master and sometimes sectionally by other teachers. Those which were seen during the Inspection were conducted with suitable dignity and reverence. About two hundred children remain for the midday meal which is supplied by a Central Kitchen. There is an active corporate life in the School. A Recorder Club, which was started recently, promises to become an interesting feature of School life; Country Dancing and a Stamp Club are flourishing. The children elect prefects to carry out a number of duties.

 

On the whole the children in this School talk freely and naturally, behave sensibly and have self confidence. They display a considerable interest in their work and in their school. This may in part be attributable its long and interesting history, but it is in large measure due to the fact that education in the School is conceived of as something broader and deeper than attainments in the 3Rs. Nevertheless attainments in written and oral language and in arithmetic are very satisfactory when Judged with reference to the natural ability of the children. This is a good school.

  DB 12688/5/R.227 70 4/52

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