The City Grammar School Sheffield
Nature and Scope
This, the Sheffield Education Committee's only maintained, co-educational grammar school, was inspected in October, 1936. There were then 205 boys and 436 girls in the school, of whom only 19 boys and 23 girls were over the age of sixteen. The corresponding figures in 1954 are 363 boys and 357 girls, of whom 58 boys and 41 girls are over the age of sixteen.
About 64 boys and 64 girls enter the school each year as a result of the Authority's examination for the transfer of pupils to secondary schools at the age of eleven. It is interesting to note that, every year, a few pupils, who have successfully taken papers at ordinary level in the examination for the general certificate of education while in attendance at other Sheffield secondary schools, are admitted to the sixth form to pursue advanced courses of study. Twelve such pupils were in the school at the time of the inspection. A few places may be allocated each year to pupils residing on the Parson Cross estate, which is in the area of the West Riding Education Authority. Including those who have moved outside the City of Sheffield boundary since entering the school, there were, at the time of the inspection, 42 such pupils in the school.
Table 1 in the appendix shows how the length of school life has varied over the past three years. It is pleasing to note that the number of pupils who leave before the age of sixteen has fallen considerably since 1951. During the same period, the number of pupils leaving between the ages of sixteen and seventeen has greatly increased. The school gets a reasonable cross-section of intellectual ability in its entrants, but the parents of many of the ablest pupils tend to favour their leaving school at the age of sixteen. In fact, a fair proportion of the present sixth form pupils have come up through the school in the lower sets of groups. When it is viewed against this background, the achievement of the school (which is assessed in later sections of the report) is all the more creditable. The skilful way in which the curriculum has been framed, so that any boy or girl may enjoy the advantages of a continuous and developing course lasting seven or eight years, encourages the hope that the head master and staff may succeed in persuading many more parents to give their sons and daughters the opportunities for the fuller education they deserve.
During the period under review, 26 boys and 8 girls have gone on to universities. Four open awards at Sheffield University and one at London University, two open scholarships for instrumental music, one tenable at the Royal College of Music, and the other at the London College of Music, three State scholarships and twenty-six Sheffield Education Committee's university colleges. No fewer than 113 girls (about three-quarters of the girl leavers) and 42 boys (over one-fifth of the boy leavers) have entered occupations mainly clerical in character. The remaining careers adopted by the boys and girls are varied and interesting. Good and increasing use is being made of the Youth Employment Service.
A new instrument of government
for county secondary schools in Sheffield was made on 1 July 1953, and
provides that a body of governors shall act jointly for this and other
secondary schools. The governing body consists of seven members of
the Sheffield Education Committee and four co-opted members. The
chairman of the Education Committee and the chairman of the Secondary Education
Sub-Committee are ex officio members. The governing body meets at
regular intervals throughout the year. Articles of government were
approved on 28 August 1953.
Buildings and Equipment
In general, the premises remain as they were described in the 1936 report when the recommendation was made that "the only satisfactory solution is the provision of new premises, which should be taken in hand at the earliest opportunity."
Following upon this recommendation plans for a new school were prepared; but the scheme had to be abandoned when war broke out in 1939. The Sheffield Education Committee's post-war development plan for primary and secondary schools contains the following reference to this school: "This county grammar school stands on a most congested site of approximately one and a quarter acres near the centre of the city. Both the site and the existing buildings are ill-adapted to modern educational requirements, and it is essential that this school shall be transferred to a much larger site in another part of the city."
In these circumstances a full description of the inadequacies of the premises is unnecessary, but some of the major disadvantages and the more pressing difficulties which the buildings impose upon the school are listed below.
1. The building is used on five nights a week for evening classes. The usefulness of many of the rooms both for teaching and for out-of-school activities tends thereby to be restricted, since the school has to be cleaned before the evening sessions begin. It must be added, however, that, in these circumstances, the cleanliness of the buildings reflects considerable credit on the caretaker and his assistants.
2. Many classes have to be taught in semi-basement rooms, and it is necessary to use artificial light for much of the year. Ventilation is poor.
3. There are no gymnasia in the building. Boys use the gymnasium of the Y.M.C.A. And girls that of the Y.W.C.A. The facilities for physical education are commented upon in a later section of this report; but the time taken in going to the gymnasia, across busy streets, shortens lessons in many subjects and adds to the problems of organisation.
4. Playground space is extremely small. The narrow strip, used by the girls, is a car park for the Education Office. During the lunch-hour many boys and girls take short walks through the city streets.
5. Cloakrooms are scattered about the building. There are enough pegs for all pupils, but they are very close together and there is little room for movement in the cloakrooms. There are no shoe racks nor anywhere for pupils to sit to change shoes. The girls' shoes are left on the floors of the cloakrooms.
6. Washing facilities are extremely limited. There are thirteen basins for boys and eleven for girls; all, except five of the boys' basins, are supplied with hot water. The four basins for the girls in the cloakroom on the lower corridor are in poor condition. Girls in the sixth form use seven basins in the basement; the only means of entrance and exit are either through a dining room or through an outside basement.
7. The sanitary offices are adequate in number but very poor in quality. They are situated across the playground and there is easy access to the girls' offices from the street; in fact, there is evidence that they are used by adult strangers.
8. There is no medical room. Boys and girls who are taken ill rest in cramped conditions in the room of the senior mistress.
9. The washing and sanitary provision for the women staff is inadequate.
10. The room used as a library is too small for its purposes.
11. The kitchen and dining rooms are in the basement; access and adequate ventilation are difficult. The kitchen is small and crowded with equipment, most of which is modern, but a supply of hot water is needed to the washing-up sinks. Working conditions are poor, but good organisation enables about 500 meals each day, some 420 of which are served to the pupils in two sittings in each of the two dining rooms, to be prepared and served promptly and efficiently. The boys use one dining room for two well-organised but very crowded sittings. The girls and staff dine in a room nearer the kitchen; this is less crowded than the room used by the boys, but movement is impeded by the pillars in the centre of the room. In both rooms an efficient monitor system of service is used. Both dining rooms are clean but, also, they are dark and bare. It is suggested that the use of table cloths would not only bring some light and colour into the dining rooms but would add grace and dignity to the occasion.
The Kitchen staff, by hard work and good organisation, have reduced difficulties to a minimum. Working conditions in the kitchen may not be easy to improve; no other space suitable for extensions appears to be available.
Present economic conditions may delay the implementation of the authority's development plan proposals for this school, and it is possible that the building will have to house the school for a few more years. It is difficult to see how some of the conditions mentioned above may be improved, but, as an interim measure, others are capable of improvement. Some improvements have already been made. For instance, in 1952, one of the classrooms was adapted as a common room for masters, the inadequate little room previously used being converted into a much-needed masters' cloakroom. It remains to add that most of the classrooms are large, that the upper and lower corridors have been attractively re-decorated and that both heating systems appear to be very efficient. The arrangements in case of fire are satisfactory.
In general, the school is reasonably well equipped. Some of the classroom furniture is of an obsolete type, but the Authority is carrying out a gradual replacement of unsuitable furniture in all its schools, and improvement in this respect is a matter of time. Minor needs are referred to in the section of this report dealing with the subjects of teaching. The major needs are a new wireless set and record player, some improvement in the housecraft room and of the facilities for craft work in the art room.
The library contains nearly 4,000 volumes, mainly works of reference, kept either in the library room or in a large number of other rooms in the building. The fiction library, housed in three classrooms, is supplemented by over 600 books lent by the City library and changed each term.
The great pressure on accommodation in this building does not make adequate use of a central library, containing all the books, as easy as could be desired. The library room has to serve the sixth form for private study; pupils below the fourth year cannot easily use it; and only during the midday break is it available for pupils below the sixth form. It is a pleasant room but has not enough shelving for more than part of the collection: the tables are inconveniently large, making movement difficult; and the platform below the librarian's desk adds to this difficulty.
The annual grant is £120. There is no specific allocation to each subject; it is a matter of the senior subject-teachers' initiative whether sections are added to or not.
Access to the collection as a whole is by no means easy when it is so dispersed. It might be advantageous to provide a more representative collection of the best books in the library room than exists at present. There is a marked shortage of books likely to interest pupils below the sixth form. Pupils carry out their library duties satisfactorily under the librarian's guidance.
The late head master, whose first-rate teaching ability, kindliness and tact were commended in the last report, retired in 1950 - after 15 years in office. His successor has high academic qualifications of the University of London. As teacher, leader and organiser he has already displayed qualities of a high order, and it can be said without reservation that the future of the school is in good hands.
The assistant staff consists of 21 masters and 14 mistresses. This gives the school an all-over staffing ratio of one teacher to twenty pupils. The need for an additional teacher with qualifications in Latin is already being felt. Most members of the staff are well qualified for the work they have to do. The general level of teaching ability is high: several teachers bring quality and distinction to their work. The age-distribution is even, with a pleasing blend of experience and youthful enthusiasm in most of the teaching departments. Out of school many of the masters and mistresses encourage and support a wide range of club or society activities.
Thirteen masters and five mistresses hold special responsibility allowances ranging from £45 to £165.
This section cannot end without reference to the senior mistress, who acts as deputy to the head master, and who has spent thirty-five years of her teaching life in the service of this school. Unfortunately, through illness, she was absent during the period of the inspection.
Organisation and Curriculum
The most interesting feature of the organisation is the way in which sets rather than forms tend to be the teaching units after the first year.
Forms 1A and 1B contain pupils selected on merit on the information available from the results of the Authority's secondary selection tests. The remaining boys and girls of the four-form entry are divided alphabetically into two forms, 1C and 1D. All four forms have the usual common curriculum.
At the end of the first year, pupils are regraded, according to the aptitudes they have shown during the year, into two sections. The lower section is divided again alphabetically, into two forms 2C and 2D, except that those pupils who choose to do music are placed in 2D. The upper section is divided into two forms, and also, for each of the subjects English, French, history, geography, mathematics, science, Latin (which has now entered the curriculum) and art into two sets, 2A and 2B. All pupils in this upper section have the option of taking Latin or woodwork or housecraft. Any pupil in the whole year may also elect to take music instead of geography. This arrangement, after some adjustments in the grading of pupils, is continued in the third year; and, in general, the same set has the same teacher for any particular subject for both years.
On entering the fourth year, in 4A and 4B, in addition to the choice of geography or music, pupils have the option of continuing to study history or art, and also of choosing one of the following alternatives:
(a) general science with Latin or housecraft or woodwork,
(b) physics with Latin or housecraft or woodwork,
(c) physics and chemistry with or without Latin.
The other two forms assume a bias in their studies either, in 4S, towards science and mathematics with less time devoted to history and French, or, in 4H, towards history an French and devoting less time to mathematics and science. In at least one set there are non-examination courses in these subjects. Again, in general, the same set or group has the same teacher throughout the year. In 5S and 5H, science, art, woodwork or housecraft may be taken in various combinations of these subjects.
In the sixth form, first-year pupils with no ordinary level commitments are asked to study four principal subjects, selecting one or none from music, history, mathematics, mathematics and theoretical mechanics; two or three either from physics, chemistry and biology, or from English, Latin and French; and one or none from geography and art. Normally, they are required to participate in classes for religious instruction, physical education, singing, science for non-scientists or English for science students preparing for the new general paper in the external examination, and the broadcast talks for sixth forms. They are given the option of spending two periods a week at French or German or art or woodwork. Opportunities are also given for beginners' classes in Latin and French (mainly for pupils transferred from other secondary schools), and for woodwork and housecraft courses.
Second year sixth form pupils continue the study of three of their four principal subjects with the same teacher as in the lower sixth and prepare to take the papers in these three subjects at advanced level in the external examination. In 1954, about fourteen of these pupils, mainly drawn from the science side, will also take a new general paper. For third year pupils four periods a week for each of two subjects to be taken at scholarship level are provided.
In general, all classes are mixed throughout the whole school course, and gradings are made according to ability and irrespective of sex. The only exceptions are classes in housecraft, woodwork, physical education, and in the third year, when the boys' voices are breaking, singing.
This scheme of organisation gives a favourable impression of working smoothly. It has many merits. It is based on sound educational principles; it is flexible and, at the same time, well regulated; it fosters special interests within the framework of a good general education, and it secures opportunities for some work at all levels in art, music, handicraft and housecraft, without sacrificing the essentials of a grammar school education. If, as has been mentioned in an earlier section of the report, it has not yet secured enough recruits for the sixth form from the most able pupils, that is not the fault of the organisation. Facilities are provided for such courses as that adopted by a group at present in the third year sixth who, in 1951, were moved from set 4A to the lower sixth for advanced work in English, French and history, but continuing with ordinary level work in three other subjects including Latin and mathematics. In 1952, they were able to take any papers they desired at ordinary level. In the following year, they studied English, French, history and Latin, taking the papers in the first three subjects at advanced level. It has not since proved possible to repeat the experiment. Nevertheless, the organisation is sufficiently flexible to permit some pupils to by-pass papers at ordinary level, even if it may be difficult for an entire set so to do. In the last two years, all pupils have taken from four to eight subject papers at ordinary level in the external examination at the end of their fifth year at the school. The head master and staff are well aware that the pace and breadth of the work done in all sets needs to be adjusted to the capabilities of the pupils, without regard to any time limit for completing the examination course. The problems which the school is facing, in trying to take the fullest possible advantage of the new examination system, were discussed with the head master during the inspection.
Detailed comments on the standards which are being attained in the different subjects are made in the following pages of the report.
Subjects of Teaching
Each form in the school has one period a week of religious instruction, which is taught according to an agreed syllabus. From this, selections have been made to form the school's scheme of work, which covers Old Testament history from the division of the kingdom, the synoptic gospels, portions of the Acts of the Apostles, some epistles and the book of Revelation. One sixty-form group is following the series of broadcast talks entitles "Religion and Philosophy".
Of the four teachers, none of whom has a specialist qualification, one mistress with long experience is responsible for most of the work; the remaining three teach single forms. The quiet sincerity and devotion of the teaching is transmitted to the pupils whose careful attention and close interest in the lessons reveal the importance of the subject to them. Constant reference is made to the Bible, passages are regularly read aloud and suitable verses are learned by heart to illustrate or emphasize specific points in the lessons. The keynote of the teaching is the application of what is learnt to modern Christian behaviour. Although there is little time for following up the broadcast talks for sixth forms, some lively discussion, stimulated by the master responsible for the course, takes place amongst the boys and girls. There are occasions when individual members prepare and give brief talks, which are followed by questions and by an exchange of ideas. The group is a keen one and is well-directed.
A strong branch of the Student Christian Movement exists in the school; and, in addition to its own study groups, it regularly takes part in the inter-school meetings, which a number of the staff attend together with the pupils.
There is a small but useful collection of library books suitable for the staff and the senior pupils.
English is shared between six members of staff, all but one, who takes forms in the first two years only, being university honours graduates in English; two of them teach in the sixth forms. Below the sixth forms, all pupils have between five and seven periods of English, and in the sixth those preparing for the external examination at advanced level have from six to eight periods, with an additional four for pupils working at scholarship level; two periods are allotted in both sixth forms to those not taking English but preparing for the general knowledge paper. A few sixth form pupils have no English periods. The time allowed for English throughout the school makes possible and desirable more private study during this time than appears to be done at present. Though all fifth form pupils prepare for the examination at ordinary level in literature, some do not take it and the proposal to provide for these a separate course not based on the examination syllabus has much to commend it. It might be helpful to include in the school syllabus a planned course for those pupils who do not take Latin and thus have extra English periods.
The boys and girls as a whole are pleasantly unselfconscious in classroom conversation, but members of staff realise that several need training in distinct speech. As part of this training, the practice of reading aloud passages of literature might well be added to the informal acting of Shakespearean and other plays in class and to the delivery of prepared talks.
The need for accuracy in the use of English is recognised, but this end might be better achieved through more frequent practice in written composition of various kinds, directed towards a purpose which would attract the pupils' desires and efforts to write well, than by the grammar and language exercises seen in some forms. Much of the grammatical study might profitably be delayed until a later stage in the course.
The evidences of word study in the pupils' vocabulary note books are interesting, and may open up opportunities for further development. Among the most useful compositions seen were those in which the information gained from a novel, play or poem was reproduced with an imaginative view. Stories prepared for the oral period or written for a form or inter-form magazine do not generally reach a high enough standard of taste to deserve inclusion in the English course. The book reviews written in many forms are valuable both as exercises in expression and as stimulants to reading. The writing of poetry and the compiling of collections of chosen poems might receive more encouragement. The practice of note taking seemed excessive in some fifth forms.
To encourage boys and girls to read, at least one book is set each term for home reading: use is also made of the fiction library, which consists both of the school's own books and of books provided by the City Library. It might help to foster individual tastes in reading if the one home reading book were supplanted by a list of recommended books for each form, from which a selected minimum number were to be read by each pupil. The literature taken by one master was especially lively and enjoyable, but some of the literature lessons, in which staff comment took up more time than the reading of the text, were lacking in vitality.
The English section in the senior library contains some suitable books, but needs to be developed. The encouragement to sixth form reading, given at present incidentally by individual recommendation, might perhaps be treated more systematically. Sixth form students work well and their essays on literary topics show careful attention to form and to the choice of words. Practice in other kinds of writing, independent of the examination syllabus, might foster talents of which the original contributions in the school magazine already give sign. Through such experiments as this, some distinction might enlighten the steady work which, while it has no very marked weakness, has yet no outstandingly good quality.
The senior history master is assisted in the teaching of the subject by two other masters and three mistresses. Of these members of staff, three hold honours degrees in history, one an honours degree in geography, Latin and history, one has a pass degree, and the mistress, who undertakes the teaching of all the first year forms, was two-year trained. Above the first forms, the senior master and one other are responsible for most of the teaching, the remaining master taking two forms, and the two mistresses one each. The syllabus is straightforward, starting in the first year with a study of ancient civilisations and continuing with a chronological treatment of British and European history. The preparation of the syllabus for the external examination at ordinary level is in effect started in the fourth year and completed in the fifth. At the beginning of the fourth year, the two upper streams, 4A and 4B, choose between the further study of history or art; of the two lower streams, form 4H contains those pupils continuing history as an examination subject; the other form, 4S, has one period a week. Similar arrangements continue in the fifth year, except that form 5S has two periods of history. For the two forms 4S and 5S a useful syllabus of general interest, linking up with current affairs, has been evolved.
The history in the school is given a good start in the first form by the mistress responsible. Her experience and natural gifts as a teacher combine to make her lessons most effective. The importance of stimulating interest at this stage is fully appreciated and this is achieved by portraying the reality of the ancient civilisation concerned in a vivid and realistic way. The pupils' notebooks afford a well ordered record of work and include instances of their own imaginative writing.
The work from the second to the fifth years inclusive shows certain general characteristics. It is at this stage that many people are concerned with the teaching. For the most part the oral lessons are good.
The senior master himself employs successfully his gifts of exposition and his wide interests to present the material to his forms attractively and in terms which they can appreciate. Several other lively, well ordered lessons were heard during the inspection. On the whole, the pupils work well and in such written work as they do, clearly expend considerable effort and often write at great length. None the less, the quality of their work, whether in their oral response or in their written exposition remains only moderate. The reason for this, it is suggested, lies in the nature of the work they are called upon to do. Most of it consists of recapitulative essays; with one master in the younger forms the written work consists only of copied notes. In consequence a premium is put on memorising, rather than reasoning, and the very thoroughness with which the pupils work adds to the complexity of detail with which they are faced. The senior master has attempted with some forms to teach them to make their own notes - this, however, cannot be done successfully except by progressive stages through the school, and it calls for a more uniform policy in the department. A more varied record of work, embodying the pupils' own written or diagrammatic exercises as well as their notes, dictated and self-composed, could do much to help them to distinguish the important from the trivial and to attain a surer grasp of the major movements of history - in its turn giving a fuller reward to the good oral work done by the staff.
In the sixth form the work attains a good sound level. The boys and girls continue to work with notable thoroughness and they are encouraged to read widely. Their essays, however, while marked by comprehensiveness and often very great length, less often show any originality of thought. Further training in how to use their reading and in the selection of material to sustain an argument could lead to greater distinction.
The senior geography master has a very good honours degree and had experience in other schools before being appointed to his present post in 1950. He is assisted by one colleague who gives all his time to geography and two who also teach other subjects. All these three are honours graduates; one is in her first year of teaching.
The syllabus begins with a treatment of some general aspects of geography followed by a brief study of the locality and of the British Isles. In the next four years the regional geography of the continents forms the basis of the work and a variety of topics, including map work, arises out of it. In the sixth form, though regional work continues, map projections, oceanography, physical and economic geography are studied in their own right. Visits to places of geographical importance in the neighbourhood and further afield are arranged but not with sufficient frequency to have an adequate influence on the work of most of the pupils. Some compensation for this has been provided in lectures given to the school geographical society though these cannot be ranked as equivalent to direct investigation in the field.
The methods of classroom teaching employed include the use of pictures, maps, graphs and similar material much of which has been prepared by the teachers themselves. The pupils are trained to work and think without relying exclusively on their teachers or their text books; and in some of the lessons during the inspection their powers of interpretation were stimulated with marked success. Factual knowledge is very considerable and the amount of geographical knowledge amassed and understood by the time the sixth form is reached is greater than is useful. Nevertheless the pupils' power of interpreting their knowledge is not commensurate with the amount of the knowledge itself. Essay work is too frequently designed to train the pupils' powers of reason and imagination or to help them to select their material in such a way as to present an individual point of view. Such a high level of training is not beyond the capabilities of the geography teachers or the pupils of this school. Nor is it outside the teachers' wishes as is evident from what is already being done in the school. That more of this training is not given is to be explained largely by the natural fear that any disturbance might reduce the very high proportion of examination successes. If this high level is to be reached the present syllabus will probably have to be cut down or focused in some way so that fuller treatment can be given to a smaller number of items. Time may be required, too, for more field work since direct experience is generally an incentive to individual thought.
The main geography room is rather dark but a second room has also been equipped so that the bulk of the teaching can take place in suitable surroundings. The head of department has collected an excellent range of apparatus which suits his and his colleagues' needs extremely well. The shortage of atlases and, in the lowest forms, of text books, is gradually being reduced. The subject library provides very well for sixth form pupils but contains little beyond magazines to meet the needs of those lower down the school.
Five members of the staff teach French. Three of them have maintained a tradition of thorough language training here for more than twenty years and pupils owe much to their experience and competence. The master and mistress who joined the staff three years ago collaborate willingly in using similar teaching methods.
The head master has given careful attention to providing good conditions for language-teaching; setting after the first year, and courses that reduce the range of ability within the sets after the third year, are most commendable; there is a suitable allowance of time, well distributed during the week; and the planning of homework is carefully done.
Below the sixth form the most able pupils make excellent progress. Their written work is well-prepared and well presented. Grammar and syntax are thoroughly taught and revised. There is some use of continuous French from the outset, leading to composition; and translation from English is introduced only when pupils are using simple French with some confidence. The work of the slower pupils during the first three years would perhaps benefit from reconsideration; that for the less able pupils of the second and third years, in particular, might develop even more confidence in them if it covered slightly less ground but gave more time for ensuring accurate oral and written work on that ground.
The senior French mistress was absent through illness during the inspection and as she devotes her teaching time to the whole of the sixth form work it was not possible to assess the value of her contribution as fully as it deserves. There can be no doubt that its value is considerable. The pupils' books showed great industry and meticulous training in the use of the language; there was rather less evidence of a systematic development of their critical powers through essays that demanded individual reading.
In French the school can justly claim a healthy tradition of thorough work, with great industry at all levels. Some of the slower pupils might benefit from a modified course in the earlier stages, but the best achieve a very good standard. In the sixth form greater distinction is apparent in language-study than in literature. Throughout the course there is specially commendable attention to the preparation of homework during the lessons so that it serves to consolidate the form-room teaching.
The senior master on the French staff is responsible for a small German course in the sixth form. In this he offers those pupils who desire it an opportunity to understand selected scientific texts or to take up the study of elementary oral and written German for pleasure. The pupils clearly enjoy the opportunities offered to them in the limited time available and work well.
The master who is in charge of Latin was absent from school until the last morning of the inspection, so that any report on the subject must inevitably be made in general terms. Moreover the course is being slowly built up and more pupils are being encouraged to start and to continue with Latin up the school, so that the present position is one of an expanding subject, receiving increased attention.
Of about 60 pupils who are given the opportunity of beginning Latin in the second year, some 40 choose to do so and these are taught in two sets for two years. Until now only one set has continued for the two remaining years up to ordinary level of the external examination, but it is hoped that in the future this position will be improved by the continuation of a second set. Numbers studying for the advanced level in the sixth form tend to be small; there are six pupils in the upper sixth this year and two in the lower.
The school is fortunate in its Latin master, who has good qualifications of the University of Oxford and considerable experience. From the work seen in his absence and from the lessons given on the last morning of the inspection it is evident that the teaching is clear, thorough and enlightened. The course-book in use is well adapted to the time-allowance and the teaching methods; accuracy and good habits of learning are inculcated and there is variety and interest in the lessons. Particularly encouraging is the story-writing in Latin authors, both prose and verse, are introduced into the third year of the course and by the fourth year the pupils are beginning to gain some facility with the language.
The mistress teaching the alternate sets in the first two years follows closely the teaching pattern of the master, with creditable results in the first year. At present her own knowledge of the language would appear insufficient to enable her satisfactorily to carry on beyond this stage.
The sixth form course is a broad and interesting one. In addition to continuous prose composition, unseen and set-book translation, each pupil works on an outline of Roman history and literature and has, associated with it, an assignment lasting several weeks for the study of two authors of the same period, one prose and one verse. This includes not only a biographical account of the writer but the reading of selected portions from his works. The standard of all the aspects of this sixth form work is good; and particularly commendable is the development in continuous pros composition, where accuracy, concise expression and a growing feeling for style are evident.
The library contains a number of general reference books suitable for the sixth form. The collection might well be expanded by the addition of some books with a wider appeal.
The school is fortunate in having a strong team for this subject. The head master is exceptionally well qualified in mathematics, and finds time to share in the teaching of the first year and of the sixth form. The senior master has been a member of staff for nearly 30 years, and his long experience has given him much insight into the kind of difficulty that pupils commonly find at various stages of the subject. Two other masters are experienced and competent teachers with suitable qualifications. The work is so organised that each of these three takes forms of varying degrees of ability, and at all stages of the course. Each, that is to say, has a fair share of the more difficult and the more rewarding work. The team is completed by two younger members who were appointed at the beginning of the present school year - a master who divides his time between mathematics and geography, and a young mistress who takes four forms in the range from the first year to the fifth. Both have made a good start.
Where so much experience is available it is not surprising that very sound work is done in the elementary stages, and that there is a substantial body of sixth form work. During the past three years 31 pupils have been successful in the external examination at the advanced level. Thirteen of them have gone on to a university. Most pupils who take mathematics in the sixth form also take physics. At the present time only one is taking theoretical mechanics, but it is hoped that more will do so in future.
Three of the four fifth forms take mathematics at the ordinary level; last year there were 91 candidates, of whom 65 passed. The remaining stream gives less time to the subject in the fourth and fifth years, but includes some simple geometry and trigonometry in the work done.
All the teaching seen was careful and thorough. An adequate amount of time is given to helping pupils over their individual difficulties, with the result that for the most part they make steady progress.
Where such a solid body of work exists it might well prove useful to attempt to strengthen the links with other subjects. Geography and physics have a mathematical side. Much history is contained in the derivation of mathematical words. There are illuminating analogies between the grammar of ordinary language and the grammar of mathematics. Almost any point can be made more striking by an apt quotation; there was an admirable example of this in a mathematical lesson where the head master used, and the sixth form recognised, a line from Julius Caesar. A web of many coloured strands may be no only more interesting than a patchwork quilt. It may also be stronger and more enduring.
Science is taught by a group of four masters and two mistresses. Two masters hold second class honours degrees, one mistress has third class honours and the remaining three teachers have pass or general degrees. Between them they have qualifications in physics, in chemistry and in the biological sciences. Their teaching experience varies from more than forty years to less than two years. All but one master share the advanced work and all but one mistress the elementary work. The senior science master, who teaches chemistry, and the senior physics master are very good teachers and they are well supported by the second chemistry master and the senior biology mistress, each of whom has taught in this school for thirty-three years. Of the two younger teachers, the master shows considerable promise; the mistress a competent teacher of biology, was appointed temporarily for one year.
During each of the first three years all pupils have two periods a week with each of three teachers who take biology, chemistry and physics respectively. From the second year onwards all the work is done in sets, the pace and content of the work in each set being carefully regulated according to the capabilities of the pupils. The second term of the first year is devoted to human biology instead of to chemistry. In the fourth and fifth years two sets continue with all three sciences in preparation for the ordinary level paper in general science, another set is preparing to take the ordinary level papers in physics and chemistry while a fourth set is following a non-examination course fo "cultural science". This last course consists of topics dealing with human anatomy, bacteria and viruses, disease and its conquest, animal associations, general topics in the news, and the historic development of science.
In the sixth form there
are fifteen pupils in the first year, twelve in the second and five in
the third who are preparing to take the advanced and scholarship papers
in various combinations of science subjects.
They also participate in the broadcast talks for sixth forms and have two lessons a week in English in preparation for the new general education paper in the external examination. The non-scientists in the sixth form spend two periods a week on "cultural science". This course is an extension of that followed in the fourth and fifth forms.
Although it could be argued that the work in the first three years of the science course might be better if the teaching of any one set were concentrated in fewer hands, and if the subject were taught more as a coherent whole than as separate sections, it is doubtful if much would be gained by effecting a redistribution of the present teaching power. As it is, the work in the different branches is carefully correlated and the head of the department not only teaches in some of the first and third year forms but keeps well in touch with all the teaching.
The standard of work generally throughout the school is satisfactory. In the sixth form, although many of the pupils have come from the lower sets of the middle forms, progress is solid and steady and, particularly in physics and chemistry, a good standard is reached both in practical and written work. Biological field studies are limited to voluntary work undertaken at week-ends and in school holidays.
The laboratories and the lecture rooms remain as they were at the time of the last inspection; the accommodation is ample, although some of the rooms are awkwardly shaped, with old-fashioned fittings. Facilities for preparation and storage are satisfactory. There is no low voltage electric supply in the biology laboratory but, in general, the laboratories are adequately equipped. The department enjoys the services of two efficient laboratory stewards.
The work done in the department is supplemented by the activities of a flourishing science society and visits to places of interest. The school library contains a collection of suitable reference books; more books of general scientific interest for the younger pupils are desirable.
Two teachers share the work in art and craft throughout the school.
In the first three years all pupils have two periods a week of art and craft, and in the fourth and fifth years those who are preparing to take the paper at ordinary level in the external examination have four periods a week. In the sixth form any pupil may elect to take the subject and to offer it for examination at advanced level; at the time of the inspection one pupil in the first year, two in the second year and one in the third year were taking art.
Two rooms are used for the work; one is a room set aside for the purpose and the other is a small class room with no facilities for art and craft work and very crowded with desks. The large room is dark and the artificial lighting is inadequate. Much floor space is taken up by a platform, the removal of which would give added space for much-needed craft apparatus. Benching down one side of the room with storage underneath would also give some working space for crafts and supplement the inadequate storage provision. If the partition wall were covered with wall boarding, and some shelves were added, this end of the room could give a desirable display unit.
The standard of work on the whole is satisfactory but is limited in its scope. On the craft side this is partly due to lack of apparatus to take subjects such as fabric printing to a higher level. This craft could develop very well if facilities were provided and it would offer a good link with pattern design of all types. Some of the girls taking embroidery need to be introduced to some contemporary work in order to revitalize their ideas on design. The work of the younger pupils is very much hampered by the conditions under which it is done. It chiefly consists of pictorial work which includes pattern designing, imaginative composition, lettering and object drawing, all conceived on rather narrow lines; but it must be emphasized that the facilities are totally unsuitable for a broader syllabus such as younger pupils would enjoy.
Housecraft and Needlework
The specialist mistress was appointed in September 1951, after varied experience elsewhere. She is responsible for most of the work and is a first-class teacher. A mistress who has City and Guilds of London Institute qualifications takes needlework above the third forms.
Housecraft is taught in a large semi-basement room which, although it has some new equipment, would need re-modelling to bring it up to modern standards. One gas stove is very old and needs to be replaced. It is understood that an additional stove has been ordered. There is no store room and cupboard space is inadequate.
Apart from those who in their second year elect to take Latin, all girls spend two periods a week at the work. Six months is given to housecraft and six months to needlework. It is suggested that an attempt might be made in order to find a more successful division of the time. In the fourth and fifth years, two periods a week are given to each subject; a minimum time of three periods a week is desirable for practical cookery. The subject may be taken in the sixth form and it is pleasing to note that some girls go on to specialist training colleges.
The main emphasis is necessarily on cookery. In spite of the short lessons the standard of work is high; the subject is obviously enjoyed by the girls, who work nearly and independently and achieve good results. Unfortunately there is not much time for critical discussion of the work and both the girls and the mistress are affected by the inevitable race against time.
The room used for needlework is small and dark. Artificial light is necessary at all times but does not always appear to be adequate. The standard of needlework seen was, on the whole, pleasing, the work in the first year being outstandingly careful and successful; in fact, all the girls seem to be interested and anxious to achieve a good standard. The making of a winder range of garments might be attempted at some stages. More use might also be made of the available text-books, so that much of the time-wasting routine of copied or dictated notes might be eliminated.
The girls are preparing for the external examination papers in both housecraft and needlework.
Apart from those who in their second year elect to take Latin, the subject is taken by all boys through to the end of the third year. They spend two periods each week at the work. The scheme of alternative courses of study which operates from the fourth year onwards provides boys with the opportunity to take handicraft and many elect to do so. Forty pupils offered the subject for external examination in 1953; this constituted a record for the school. The subject is occasionally taken by pupils in the sixth form and some have gone on to specialist training colleges. A possible extension of the sixth form work for certain of the pupils was discussed at the time of the inspection.
Whilst the existing facilities are adequate for present requirements, the single workshop is in full use and there is some indication that further expansion of the subject may be hampered by lack of accommodation. Unfortunately, the work-shop is a semi-basement room and full artificial lighting has to be used the whole of the time. It is equipped mainly for woodwork although there are also certain limited facilities for metalwork. These, however, are only infrequently used.
The master with general responsibility for the work has been at the school since 1947. He has suitable qualifications and is an experienced teacher. Some teaching is also done by a young master with a general degree in mathematics and physics. Although at present without a formal qualification in handicraft, he has some experience of the work which he is anxious to extend.
The workshop is well organised and the teaching throughout is painstaking and thorough. Pupils are interested and industrious and, considering the limited amount of time which can be devoted to the subject, make very satisfactory progress. Some achieve most acceptable standards of craftsmanship. Although the scheme of work for the early stages is satisfactory and, in general, provides a sound basis for the subsequent development of the work, there might be some reconsideration of much that comes later. On the whole, that which is attempted is soundly constructed but is somewhat restricted in scope, so that there is a certain monotony in the results. Considerable benefit might accrue from a much more adventurous planning of this work and a determined effort to broaden the range of ideas. Some variety is provided by the wood-turning that most boys attempt, but often the shapes produced are not very satisfying. Closer co-operation between art and handicraft is desirable.
The craft club which meets weekly out of school hours provides opportunity for those who have to drop handicraft from their normal time-table to continue with their craftwork. This is an opportunity that is greatly appreciated, but the workshop is equipped for a much fuller range of work than is attempted. The attractiveness of the club would be greatly increased and its value enhanced if the opportunities were to be more fully exploited.
Forms in the first year have one singing period a week and a lesson devoted to music reading and aural training once a fortnight. All other forms in the school have one weekly singing period; those boys and girls who select music as an alternative subject, and who are prepared for the music papers of the external examination at both the ordinary and advanced levels, have three periods a week throughout the course. The singing classes, in which two forms are combined, are held in the science lecture theatre in which there is a piano. Other lessons take place in a classroom which is equipped with a piano and a cupboard well stocked with miniature scores, records and song books; but more sets of sheet music are required. In the school library there is a good selection fo reference books. The music department would benefit if it could have the exclusive use of a new electric record player instead of having to share one with other subjects.
The music master; the holder of a diploma of one of the Royal Schools of Music, has been a member of the staff since 1925, though only in a full-time capacity in recent years. He is a capable and hardworking teacher who has done a great deal for the music of the school. A young master, who teaches other subjects, also teaches music in a few forms and acts as accompanist for the combined singing lessons.
Music reading and aural training receive serious attention in the first year. It would be an advantage to continue this course, together with opportunities for music making and listening, in the second year "examination group" and to delay the academic work until the third year. In the singing classes the songs are carefully chosen, and reference must be made to the refreshing singing of songs arranged for three voices including basses in the fourth forms. The singing tone is quite good, but more attention should be paid to the enunciation, the meaning and the colour of the words. The boys and girls who are preparing for the external examination are being well grounded in the rudiments of music and in the elements of harmony. The sixth form group might be encouraged to cultivate a more individual style of writing and to develop a greater critical faculty.
The outstanding feature of the music, for which the music master must be congratulated, is the singing of the voluntary choral society of 130 members. This flourishing body of singers is well balanced and sings music ranging from the 16th century to modern times. In the last few years this choir has produced operas as well as singing at the annual carol service and speech day.
There are no facilities at the school for physical education; it continues to rely on hired premises. A new county secondary school is being built on a portion of the original playing field. Boys of the school are using good, new playing fields on the outskirts of the city; their use has to be curtailed whilst awaiting changing, washing and lavatory accommodation. The situation is much as it was at the time of the last report when provision for physical education was described as the worst deficiency of that day. In view of recent developments in physical education the position is much more acute than it was seventeen years ago. Time is still lost in going out across busy streets to gymnasia and in covering the three miles to the field, although an improvement has been effected by the provision of special transport to the latter. At the original field there is no provision for showers in the girls' changing pavilion and no hot water, nor is it easy to make tea and entertain visiting teams. The lavatories are very dark and need better lighting. The field slopes, but snow and fog prevented proper inspection of the playing areas; one of the hockey pitches is very small. At the school, playground-space is negligible: two small strips are available, but that for the girls is used as the Education Office car park. The presence of cars, a dividing wall between the two strips, and the pupils' sanitary offices make it impossible to attempt either basket ball or netball. The Y.W.C.A. Gymnasium, which is hired for the girls' use, is pleasant though small, but the changing rooms are inadequate and the showers are not suited to class use. The Y.M.C.A. Gymnasium which is still used by the boys is gloomy and badly ventilated; it is now possible to have a wash and rub down after a period of exercise, and many of the boys take advantage of this. Adequate time is given to the subject on the time-table but in practice the pupils lose much of it in getting to the premises.
The mistress in charge of the girls' work spent three years at a specialist college of physical education and she is now in her sixth year of teaching, but she has only recently come to this school. Nevertheless her personal influence is already making a marked impression and there is promise for the future. She is assisted by three colleagues whose main duties are connected with other subjects; two of them have had good experience in games at university level and their support is valuable. A pianist visits for dance lessons. The scheme of work includes gymnastics, games (hockey, netball, tennis, rounders), athletics and dance (educational and social) and voluntary swimming. The mistress has been quick to work out a temporary plan of work, but it will probably need modification as she gains greater experience of the needs of the pupils. Inelastic and inadequate facilities, however, will limit the development of the subject and prevent sufficient choice of activity by the older girls. It has previously been difficult to attract a well qualified physical education mistress to this school; now, after a somewhat unsettled period, it will be necessary to progress slowly if a good foundation is to be laid. The girls are too willing to wait to be instructed; they have yet to learn to apply themselves to the task in hand and to develop an observant eye that will appreciate good movement.
An experienced master who has attended a supplementary course has responsibility for most of the boys' programme. He is a very good teacher. Although the facilities for indoor work are poor he contrives to offer all boys a satisfying period of instruction in which the needs of the individual boy are not neglected. Class and group organisation will always present difficulties in existing circumstances, but the problems have been mitigated in some respects by careful planning. The restrictions imposed by lack of space are a more serious handicap and the choice of activities must remain very limited. The boys respond very well indeed through their enthusiastic and energetic application. Although games were not seen it is understood that the organisation of the lessons is sound and, here again, there is a regard for the boys' interest and ability in association and rugby football and in athletics. In the voluntary swimming periods, when most of the time is devoted to preparing pupils for the examinations of the Royal Life Saving Society, very creditable results have been obtained.
Good hygienic standards of kit are demanded and obtained, and there is a satisfactory liaison with the school medical officer.
It is quite certain that physical activity is making some contribution to the general education of the boys but, with improved facilities and conditions, the contribution could be so much greater.
The morning assembly, conducted by the head master, is dignified and reverent. Prayers are said, a hymn and the Lord's Prayer are sung and a passage of scripture is read by one of the prefects.
The prefect system is sensible and well planned. Boys and girls alike carry out their duties in an unobtrusive and responsible way.
Medical and dental examinations are carried out periodically by the Authority's officers.
There are many active school societies to some of which reference has already been made elsewhere in this report; they include the interests of drama, music, craft, geography, history, science, French, Latin, photography, chess and swimming. There is also a group of the Student Christian Movement. A branch of the National Savings Movement has a membership of 120 and the total sum invested during the last three years is over £860. Visits, some of which have been arranged by school societies, are made to places of interest at home and abroad.
From all this it will be seen that the school provides its pupils with a varied and active community life which makes an invaluable contribution to their training and development. The effect is to be seen in the friendly and courteous way in which the boys and girls receive visitors to the school and in the way they use and move about premises which offer very few facilities for social training or for recreation.
There is a well-established association of former pupils. Its activities include a dramatic society, a football club and social functions.
The preceding sections
have made it clear that this is a well-established, competently-run school
in which good standards of work are general in most of the teaching departments.
It has gone a long way towards developing a balanced and flexible curriculum,
which takes account of the ranges of ability and interest of the pupils;
and this has been achieved in spite of difficulties caused by inadequate
and unsuitable accommodation. It is hoped that the school may be
able to attract a higher proportion of its really able pupils to remain
for advanced work in the sixth form.