School Life

In 1914 Surrey’s schoolchildren were benefitting from great improvements in education and healthcare. Medical inspections in schools began in 1907 and free school meals were made compulsory in 1914. Inspectors visited schools to check pupils’ weight, height, cleanliness and for signs of infectious diseases or nits and lice. School attendance, however, was still sometimes poor, with bad weather and severe coughs regularly cited in school log books.

Children could be excluded from school to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Over two thousand pupils were excluded in 1914 for ‘pediculosis’ – the infestation of lice on the head or body! Sometimes whole schools were closed. In 1914 25 schools closed due to whooping cough, 24 for scarlet fever, 14 for measles, and 12 schools for outbreaks of diphtheria.

Subjects studied included reading, recitation, composition, geography, history, and singing. The boys at St Lawrence School, Chobham attended gardening classes and all pupils were given the day off in July 1914 to attend the Annual District Horticultural Show.

Bad behaviour was dealt with harshly. In 1914 Mr Rackham, headmaster of Merle Common School near Oxted, gave two strokes or smacks for such misdemeanours as constant playing and talking, disgracefully careless work, teasing goats, stone throwing and filthy talk.

After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, an annual school celebration was held to commemorate her birthday. Empire Day was first celebrated on 24th May 1902. Although not officially recognised until 1916, every year schools around Britain hoisted the flag and give special lessons to the children. Street parades were common and children might be given the afternoon or day off for entertainment or sports.

Part of the Last Summer display

Further Reading

The Last Summer: Surrey on the Eve of the Great War
Family Life 1
Family Life 2
In the News
Industry
Landscape
Sport and Leisure
The Outbreak of War
Women’s Suffrage

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