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The Story of Education in Sheffield


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There is no place in the world where clever boys or girls, however poor they may be, can more certainly and cheaply, indeed freely, receive a thoroughly sound education, including a university course, than in Sheffield. Means of education of every kind are provided, and any scholar of proved ability is helped, if need be, out of public funds. Only the ability must be proved.

This is in accordance with Sheffield traditions from a very early date. One of the entries in the books of the Church Burgesses, in 1573, runs - Gyven to Willm Lee, a poorc schollcr in Shcaffeld, towards the settinge him to the Univeisytie of Chambrydge, and buyinge him bookes and other furnyture XIIIS. IIIId.

There are earlier entries in the Burgesses' books showing that they were helping education on the financial side. Thus, in both 1564 and 1568, 10s. was paid to Mr. Yonge "for the obteyninge of a lycens to kepe the scole"; and there are several entries of 13s. 4d. "to the sayde Scole Mr." for "makinge uppe his wages." The Burgesses, too, had on their lands a "schole howse," with a croft and garden occupying three-fourths of an acre.

In 1604, Thomas Smith, of Crowland, Lincolnshire, but a native of Sheffield, left 30 a year for the endowment of a Free Grammar School. This benevolent design was permitted by King James I, who, because he gave the permission by letters patent, claimed to have founded the school himself, and bestowed on it his royal name.

In 1648 a new school was built on what is now the cleared land near Townhead Street, and remained in use till 1825, when the Grammar School in St. George's Square, which is now part of the Technical Department of the University, was built. The Free Writing School, founded in 1721, was close by the Old Grammar School, on the Crofts area, now cleared, and the master of the humbler school taught penmanship and arithmetic in its classical neighbour. This was the scene to which a description applies as quoted in Hunter's Hallamshire from "The Borough," a poem by Dr. Inchbald.

Where sooty tops of clacking tilts arise,
Which heave their smoky volumes to the skies;
Where the red furnace boils with hollow roar
And melts to fiery wave the massy ore;
Where cheerful labour whistles o'er the wheel,
Which smooths to keenest edge the stubborn steel;
'Twas in that mart of ancient honest fame
(How ancient, Fox, let Chaucer's verse proclaim),
'Twas there, to form aright our tender youth,
Instruction mild poured forth the light of truth.
Pleased, I remember, and for ever must,
Till memory's powers lie slumbering in the dust,
The wall-encircled court that day withstood,
Low sunk, in which our noisy prison stood;
The low-arched porch of ancient Gothic date,
The modest portal of our prison gate;
The gloomy entrance, with its double door,
The scooped threshold, and the deep-worn floor,
The row-ranged forms to glossy smoothness wore,
With many a name all hacked and mangled o'er;
The high raised wall that half shut out the day,
And fixed attention while it bounded play.

Dr. Inchbald, who himself kept a school at Doncaster after graduating at Cambridge, was a son of Mrs. Inchbald, a popular actress and novelist and a friend of Vicar Wilkinson of Sheffield, who placed her boy at the gloomy grammar school which he afterwards described so cheerfully.

The Collegiate School, built on the Broom Hall estate in Collegiate Crescent in 1836, was an attempt to start a secondary school in connection with the Church of England. The school was combined with the Royal Grammar School in 1884. A further combination with Wesley College in 1906, under the Sheffield Education Committee, has united three secondary school traditions in the highly successful King Edward VII School, which occupies the enlarged Wesley College buildings.

Wesley College had been started in 1838 to provide education of a university type, and it was affiliated as a University College with London University; but the freeing of the older universities from religious tests lessened the need for such a college, and at the time of its combination with the Royal Grammar School it was chiefly a day secondary school. The Principal of Wesley College became the Principal of the Teachers' Training College, which moved into the buildings left by the Royal Grammar School as the school moved out into the reconstructed Wesley College buildings.

We have traced forward to a union in the King Edward VII School some of the lines of secondary education, and must now follow the growth of elementary education in the city, a movement of great importance in building up the present general scheme of Sheffield education.

The only schools of an elementary kind that remain to the present day from the eighteenth century are the Boys' and Girls' Charity schools. Education that boldly took the name of charity was common in the eighteenth century throughout England, and by a boastful display of good motives finally helped to bring reproach on a noble word. Nothing is more beautiful than charity in the true sense; nothing meaner than the charity which cringes at the feet of patronage. It is to the honour of the Sheffield schools which carry this name that they have always had careers of usefulness and good repute.

The Boys' Charity School was established in 1706 for the clothing, maintenance, and educating of fifty-four poor boys from the age of eight till they could be placed out as apprentices at thirteen; and six more boys were provided for under the will of Thomas Hanby, of which the Cutlers' Company are trustees. The school has now been removed to the suburbs, and educates a hundred boys. The Girls' Charity School, which has also been removed from the middle of the city, was erected in 1786 to educate, maintain, clothe, and train sixty girls, in preparation for domestic service. The school is now a home for eighty girls, varying between the ages of eight and sixteen.

Early in the nineteenth century, the Quaker Joseph Lancaster visited Sheffield in the cause of popular education unconnected with any religious party, and, in consequence, in 1809, a school of a thousand boys was formed on the Lancasterian plan on West Bar Green. In 1815 a Lancasterian school for girls was added. A few years afterwards, the National Society started Church of England Schools on Bell's system, the first being situated in Carver Street.

The Free Writing School for the teaching of writing and arithmetic had been in existence since 1721, when it was established under the will of William Birley.

As the nineteenth century advanced, the Wesleyan Methodists established several schools, and the Church of England and the Roman Catholics others, with the result that, when the Education Act of 1870 was passed, accommodation, voluntarily provided, existed for 28,000. But that left 12,000 children unprovided for. These children were either uneducated, or had attended Dame Schools or similar private schools held in dwelling-houses. Middle-class boys who did not go to the Grammar or Collegiate Schools were accommodated in private "Academies." It was clear, however, that in 1870 there was a great deficiency in schools of an elementary character.

From that time Sheffield has been in the forefront of educational advance. It commenced, at Newhall, the first school to be built in England under the Education Act of 1870. Later it commenced the first so-called "Higher Grade" school. And it established and built one of the first Municipal Training Colleges for Teachers. There is now no branch of education promoted by the Board of Education that has not been established and energetically worked in the city by its Education Committee. This spirit of enterprise was displayed equally by the School Board between 1870 and 1902, and by the Education Committee that continued the work of the Board.

In this connection reference should be made to the first chairman of the School Board, Sir John Brown (whose work for the industries of the city is referred to elsewhere), and to John F. Moss, who, as clerk, served the School Board and the Education Committee for thirty-six years. Mr. Moss gained a wide experience of the administration of education, and his excellent judgment was of great value in keeping local education on sound lines. He came into the work from journalism, having been chief reporter of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.

When education became a public work in 1870, the activity of the churches and private educational zeal had provided 28,000 school-places for a population of 235,000. Now, that population is more than doubled, and the school-places in buildings that do not belong to the Education Authority number about 21,000, while 68,000 other school-places are provided. These are not all new, as there have been transfers of the Wesleyan and Lancasterian schools to the Education Authority.

The endowments of the old Lancasterian schools and the Writing School have been admirably used for a supply of scholarships to the clever children in the elementary schools who can best take advantage of attendance at a secondary school.

When the Education Act of 1902 was passed, making the public Education Authority responsible for the maintenance of all elementary schools, whoever might be the owners of the buildings in which they assembled, there was a wise disposition in Sheffield to manage the schools together, publicly, as far as possible, for the good of education, and the owners and managers of the Church of England and Catholic schools (in which about one-fourth of the school children are now educated) co-operated in the most friendly spirit with the new Education Committee.

That Committee consists of twenty-four members of the City Council, with nineteen members, not of the City Council, but chosen by the Committee itself from the citizens who have had experience of various forms of education. The Committee has worked with perfect smoothness and unity of spirit, without religious or party feeling, making the educational welfare of the children the first aim. It had the advantage of a harmonious start under the wise and courtly chairmanship of Sir Henry Stephenson, and the spirit of that start has been continuously maintained, in no small degree through the cordial co-operation of the Chairman, Sir William Clegg, who succeeded Sir Henry, and the Vice-Chairman, Colonel Herbert Hughes, C.B., C.M.G., Chairman of the Higher Education Sub-Committee.

Now let us look at the system which has developed oat of the excellent work of the School Board, and trace its various branchings and developments.

The 83,000 children in the schools of Sheffield were taught in 1915 in 273 school departments by 1,812 head and assistant teachers. Apprenticed to the schools were also 151 pupil teachers, and there were 149 holders of bursaries preparing to be pupil teachers. The total number of persons employed by the Committee was 2,514. The elementary education of the city costs yearly 285,000, and of this sum about 150,000 comes out of the rates. Of the teachers, 87 per cent, are fully certificated.

Centres for teaching practical science were established, in 1914, at ten schools; and higher elementary instruction was given to grouped upper standards at twenty-seven centres. A science staff of nineteen teachers was engaged in giving lessons, with experiments. Instruction was given to the girls of eighty-five schools at cookery centres; and in laundry work to 2,160 girls at thirteen laundry centres; while housewifery was taught at three centres. There were nineteen centres for handicraft instruction for boys. Swimming was taught to over 6,000 from ninety-three departments, and 1,349 scholars were awarded certificates by the Baths Sub-Committee of the City Council for swimming various distances from 50 to 880 yards.

Open-air recovery schools are carried on at two centres, namely, Whiteley Wood and Northfield Road, Crookes. Physically defective children are taught at four centres in special schools, and mentally defective children at three special schools. A curative hospital for crippled children, with arrangements for teaching, has been built in the Rivelin Valley, as a memorial to King Edward VII; and deaf children are being taught at the Northfield Road centre instead of being sent out of the city.

The Medical Inspection of the children is carried on by five doctors permanently engaged, with seven part-time assistants, two eyesight specialists, a surgeon for throat and ear treatment, a skin specialist, and two whole-time dentists. There are also fourteen school nurses. The school medical department is carried on at an annual cost of nearly ^5,000. The Education Committee also makes provision for supplying free breakfasts to necessitous children, and mid-day meals when they are required. An Industrial School for truants has long been carried on with excellent results at Hollow Meadows.

Classes are held in the evening at the Central Secondary Schools, attended by over 1,500 students. The subjects taught in 1915 included Accountancy, Applied Mechanics, Banking, Book-keeping, Botany, Business Methods, Commercial Geography and Arithmetic, Cookery, Dressmaking, Elocution, English History, Language and Literature, Esperanto, French, German, Greek, Hygiene, Inorganic Chemistry, Latin, Machine Construction and Drawing, Magnetism and Electricity, Metal Work, Pharmacy, Mathematics, Music, Organic Chemistry, Physiology, Practical Mathematics, Plane and Solid Geometry, Shorthand, and Spanish. In the classes of district evening schools, nearly 10,000 students obtained instruction in many of the subjects mentioned in connection with the Central Secondary School classes. The teachers numbered 555.

The object of the district evening schools is to prepare students for attendance at the more advanced Central Secondary School evening classes, and at the Applied Science Department of the University.

The Central Secondary Day School was founded in 1880 as a Higher Grade School, and, later, the upper part of it became an organized Science School. In 1900, owing to Departmental regulations, it had to be classed as a "Higher Elementary" School; but in 1904 it was recognised as a Secondary School for Boys, and also as a Secondary School for Girls. In 1906 it annexed the old Firth College buildings.

As secondary schools, both the Boys' and the Girls' Departments have attained a remarkable degree of success. The number of scholars reaches 450 boys with twenty-six teachers; and 480 girls with twenty-three teachers. The number of bursaries and scholarships admitting into the school free and providing maintenance grants is large, and they have been used to fine advantage, the school being one of the principal avenues to the University.

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