This is a digest of the Norton in Hales village school diary which starts on September 1, 1939 and runs to April 1943. Many of the entries are quite mundane and it would have been rather boring to reproduce it all. Events caused by the war and points to illustrate how life has changed since those days have been included. Thanks go to Edward Gill for providing the source document.
55 evacuated children from Shakespeare Street municipal infant school in Manchester arrived on this date under the charge of the head teacher and her assistant. They arrived at 5:30 PM and were followed the following afternoon at about 4 o’clock by 16 mothers and their babies also being evacuated from Manchester, accompanied by an assistant of the Shakespeare Street School. The next few days were spent deciding how the schools would be organised. They were going to be run separately rather than the Norton school absorbing the additional children. A room at the rectory was made available for use as an extra classroom. School hours were to be from 9 o’clock in the morning until 12 noon and 1 o’clock until 3.30. Discussions also took place on what the arrangements would be in the event of an air raid whilst children were both in school and travelling to school. Schools open.
The schools opened for the autumn term on the 11th of September and it was noted that 58 Norton children were on the school role but only 47 attended, six children being absent because they had whooping cough. The initial accommodation arrangements were to be what was known as a ‘double shift system’ using both the school and the rectory for both schools alternatively, but this proved to be unsatisfactory and it was then decided that the two schools should use the Norton school building with occasional use of the rectory. It was noted that the room at the rectory could be used for the film projector which the rector was willing for the school to use. A few days later the room at the rectory became an extra school room and the children split accordingly, with the more senior evacuee children in the rectory. By October the arguments or discussions over the accommodation seem to have been sorted out. Most of the problems in Norton School during the autumn arose because of the absence of one of the teachers. It is interesting gardening was on the curriculum for class one and on October 20tha lady from the agricultural department came to school to examine one of the villager’s garden which the older children were cultivating. Health checks.
The health of the children was evidently of continuing concern as there were several visits of the nurse to check the children’s heads for nits and the doctor also came to check the health of the children. A school dentist also visited to check on the children’s’ teeth.
A meeting of parents was held in the school on the 21st of November when the mothers decided to help staff to give a small party to the children on Saturday, December 16. School closed for the winter holidays on the 21st of December and on the same day six bags of firewood were received from Messrs Hawkesfords, who were a Market Drayton builders’ merchant.
Spring term. School reopened on the 8th of January and the following day tools for the garden which the children were working on were brought to the school from the county horticultural department. In January discussions took place between mothers and friends of the school to consider the provision of a hot midday meal for the school children, this to be prepared with voluntary help. Suggestions were made for the use of the small classroom as a kitchen, with payment of one shilling per week for each child having dinner. ‘Gifts of fruit and vegetables were got when possible.’ The headmistress was to ask the county if it would be possible to have a paid cook and it transpired that the county would in fact be prepared to pay for a one; but the headmistress also wrote to the Secretary for Education to ask him to give details of the hot midday meal scheme to the school managers, as two of them thought the scheme unnecessary! The weather in late January 1940 was evidently not good because the school closed at 3 pm on the 25th of January as there was a heavy fall of the snow and the headmistress was anxious that the long-distance children should get home safely. It turned out that the school was closed for the rest of that week as snowdrifts blocked all the roads.
Bad weather The weather was poor for quite some time as the school did not reopen until February 5 and then with only 14 children out of the 61 registered to attend school. In the meantime a letter had been received from the secretary for education to say that all evacuated children were to be accommodated in the rectory for their schooling and the small room at the school was then left free. On the 7th of February it was noted that 18 children were present at school and also that the thaw had flooded some of the lanes and made the fields too wet for the children to walk across them. Statistics were obviously important even in those days as notice was received that when attendance falls below 50% on account of inclement weather attendances should be ignored when making out the quarterly and annual returns. Freeing up the small room enabled a decision to be made by the local education authority that it could be used as a kitchen. This was followed up by receipt of oil stove for cooking, 6 tea cloths and three dish cloths at the end of March and the following day by crockery and kitchen utensils. Notice was received that the school had been recognised as a catering establishment, registered number 113 by the Market Drayton Food Control Committee. Cooking commenced on the fifth of April. The head teacher of the evacuees came to the school at noon on the eighth with seven evacuees to have the hot meal.
During the spring five children sat for the Special Place Examination at Market Drayton grammar school. Practical subjects were being taught, in addition to gardening, as requisitions for needlework materials and weaving were received. The head teacher herself attended a gardening class at market Drayton senior school. The school clock was playing up because Mr Wetherby took the clock from the infants’ classroom in order to mend it. Suppliers of fuel were noted quite frequently and in particular on the 23rd of May one ton of Madeley Deep coal plus twelve bags of wood from Hawkesfords. Childhood infectious diseases were in evidence. Whooping cough has been mentioned and on the 11th of June a letter was received from a doctor stating that two of the evacuees could return to school 14 days after leaving hospital where they had been suffering from diphtheria.
Religion As Norton was a church school religious instruction featured quite extensively and a copy of the religious instruction inspection of July 18th 1940 said that ‘the children in this school are very carefully and conscientiously taught. They show the liveliest interest in the subject. The standard of work is excellent.’ That was signed by the inspector and countersigned by the Rector who is frequently noted as having taught lessons in the school.
The registers were completed for the June quarter and there were 6829 actual attendances, 301 lost by illness, 226 by other causes, all out of a total possible attendance of 7356.
School reopened on August 26th for the autumn term in 1940. It would appear that the war was causing shortages of school fuel and supplies are always very carefully noted. Firewood has already been mentioned but also in August 1 ton 16cwt of coke was received and on the 20 September 2 tonnes 3cwt of coal. There were of course 20 hundredweights (cwt) in a ton. Childhood diseases have already been noted but skin diseases evidently were also a problem with ring worm and impetigo resulting in children being excluded from school. The nurse attended regularly for head inspection of the children for nits. In October the Manchester Headmaster visited the headmistress and asked her if the two schools could be united and all children taught together. The Director of Education in Manchester had asked him to make the enquiries. On October 7 36 yards of material for covering classroom windows was received from the county architects department. This was to prevent glass flying in the event of a blast and the existing tape was removed. The school closed on October 25 for one weeks holiday and shortly afterwards there is the sad report that the much loved Rector had been had passed away in Ramsgate .A memorial service was held in his memory on the afternoon of November 20. Merger of the two schools.
On the 5th of November Mr Quine, Mr Lester Smith and Mr Cole visited the school in order to consider the transfer of the Manchester evacuees to the village school. Mr Smith was director of education for Manchester and Mr Cole was so on the Manchester education staff. On the same day there was a meeting of the parents in the school at 4 o’clock to make arrangements for the school Christmas party which was to be held on Saturday, December 28th at the Brand Hall by kind invitation of Lady Iddesleigh. There appears to have been an exchange of library books once a term and this took place on December 19th. On December 28tha letter was received from the local education authority giving instructions that the evacuee children were to be merged with the Norton children as from sixth of January. It also stated that the room at the rectory would no longer be needed and that a teacher would return to Manchester. By this time there were just 15 evacuee schoolchildren to be transferred to Norton School.
In January 1941, on the 6th, 16 evacuees from the Manchester Shakespeare Street council infant school who had been taught in Norton under their own head teacher were merged with the Norton children. There were detailed instructions on how the attendances should be shown in school register. On the ninth Mr Walks from the Ministry of information came to school at dinner to make arrangements about a film show for the children on March 11th at 2:30 PM.
Weather problems. On January 20th it is reported that there had been a heavy fall of snow during the weekend and roads were blocked. Only 15 children attended school. A teacher phoned from Market Drayton to say that she could not get to the school and, likewise, presumably a Manchester teacher who had been home for the weekend phoned from Crewe. By the 22nd, however, a thaw had set in and many roads were flooded; there were only 15 children still at school. The diary records that heavy snow and wintry weather conditions up to the 24th had caused attendances to be very low, 19% for Norton children and 48% for evacuees. The Market Drayton teacher did not come back to the school until the 30th. She had walked and said she had tried to cycle on the Wednesday but had been unable to complete the journey. The attendances for the week ending the 31st of January were still very low being 37% for Norton children and 74% for evacuees.
The main events during February and March seem to relate to staff problems. Buses were missed from Market Drayton and there seems to have been a bit of illness affecting. At the beginning of April one of the teachers sent word she was not well and would not be in school. The next day she was still absent and it is noted that she left Norton to go to her home in Oxford and that she left no message about continuing to work at school!
Accident and illness.
One of the girls fell from the iron railings and fractured her left arm when returning from school one night. Presumably this was before the iron railings were removed as part of the war effort. Later, in September, a Mr Wainright visited the school to make notes about the railings. The nurse was a frequent visitor and she shortened the sling of the girl who had broken her arm and checked the heads of the children for nits. In early May there was an outbreak of measles. In the middle of May the percentage of children attending for the week was 77 for Shropshire children and 67 for official evacuees and 50 for private evacuees. It was said that many children were away with colds or measles. On the 13th of May there was a visit to the school to test the gas masks of all the children present and damaged ones were repaired. By the end of the month the absences were much greater as only 36% of the Shropshire children had attended but the figures were lower for the evacuees and the reason for the absences was put down to colds and measles. Religion
With Norton being a church school religious instruction featured quite highly and the school was inspected on June 13, 1941 in this respect and it was noted that although there had been constant changes in the staff, the quality of religious instruction had not been unduly affected and the summary was that the children showed a very good knowledge of the Bible stories and of the catechism and that they were receiving an excellent religious education. On the 10th of June there were 92 children on the school registers for whom full time instruction was provided and the average attendance for the previous week was 84 and the school then closed for half term. The children have been taking examinations for special places in secondary education and in July the register records that ‘two of the pupils have been successful in gaining a special place from Market Drayton Grammar School and another girl satisfied the examiners she should be admitted as a full fee paying pupil’.
Fuel Fuel to heat the school was always a problem but the situation seem to be better by October 6 when it was noted that a letter had been received from the local education authority saying that they had now received, from the mines department, a general license for public elementary and secondary schools in the county of Shropshire. The permitted quantity was roughly speaking two thirds of the normal annual consumption quantity and which therefore could be acquired immediately for the above named school, which was six tons, and requested that, if it had not already been done, they would be glad if it could kindly be arranged with the coal merchant accordingly. Mr Chadwick visited the school on November 1 and there was a timetable alteration. School opened at 9:30 and closed at 4 PM and actual teaching finished at 12:30 PM and 4 PM or 12 noon and 3:30 PM - but on the recommendation of Mr Chadwick this was altered to 12.25 and 3.55 and 11.55 and 3.25 in order to allow for children putting away of their books etc.. All tightly regulated! In December Lady Iddesleigh from Brand Hall visited the school at 12:45 and kindly helped in the serving of the school dinners. She said that she would like to come when it was possible for her to do so. During the autumn term the frequent visits by the nurse and doctor to give immunisation continued as were visits by the school dentist to check the children’s teeth. Skin diseases in particular still seemed quite prevalent.
Moving into 1942, on the 19th of January attendance at the school was very poor owing to an outbreak of coughs and cold and the long-distance children were sent home at 3:30 because of snow beginning to fall. The following day there was very heavy snowfall and roads were blocked. Only four children came by 10 AM and the Rector, who was Chairman and correspondent of the Managers, visited school and thought it best to close school for the day but to open again the following morning. On the 21st 15 children attended school and it was kept open. 10 of the children were evacuees and five were Shropshire children and all of the teachers were present. Then on the 22nd 15 children attended school in the morning and 18 in the afternoon but the children were dismissed at 3 PM as there was a blizzard blowing and snow falling heavily. By the 23rd 13 children attended school and as rain began to fall, which would make the roads in a worse condition: after consultation with the Rector it was decided to close school until the following Monday. It is noted that the children were given hot soup before being sent home at 11 o’clock. The weather that winter continued to be poor as on the 2nd of February some of the children could not get to school because of the snow and the following day it was recorded that there had been another fall of snow and the roads were difficult for walking. In February it says that ‘this last week has been warship week for national savings for Market Drayton area and the school group’s total for the week was £1551 1 shilling and 5d. (This sounds a huge amount of money, so perhaps it was the whole of the Market Drayton area.)
The 12th of March saw Mr Crab who was an assistant to His Majesty’s Inspectors visit the school at 11 AM and he stayed there until 3 PM.
For the next few weeks there appeared to be quite an outbreak of mumps amongst the children. This was still going on in June when the Cook was absent for months. In June we learned that one of the evacuees from Manchester had passed for the Manchester Central high school in Whitworth Street, Manchester. The spring and summer of 1942 appeared to go by with no outstanding events to record him. In September one of the teachers was absent and given leave for seven days because her husband has embarkation leave.
Sad accident and more health problems. There was a very sad note on September 20th 1942 when one of the pupils at the school was killed whilst riding on a tractor. Medical staff seemed frequently to be at the school, but this of course was before the National Health Service. In September one of the girl pupils had diphtheria which could be fatal and was quite a serious disease. This is perhaps a little surprising because the doctor had been immunising pupils at the school earlier in the year. Three other children who presumably were whose siblings were excluded from school as a result. This would have been in case they were incubating disease. Over the next few weeks there were cases of German measles impetigo and scabies. In October the National Savings Committee met in the school and the diary records that since September 1939 to September 30th 1940, £2206 9s and 0d had been collected through the school savings group. On December 17 parents managers and others interested in education were invited to school to see the work done by the children. Recipe recitations playlets and carols were given by the children. Keen interest was shown by all visitors. The school closed for the Christmas holiday the next day and on the 19th Christmas party was given to all the schoolchildren in the school.
1943 Into 1943, and on the fourth and fifth of February two of the Manchester evacuees sat for the Manchester special place examination in the school under the supervision of the head teacher.
There were no records of bad weather affecting school attendance that winter and not many events were recorded, but it is noted that one of the teachers had been using the bus to come to school and had been 5 to 10 minutes late. She had done that as her daughter was not well and she had more time at home in the morning than if she came on the train.
The school had another inspection from His Majesty’s Inspectors and the doctor gave diphtheria immunisation to15 school children and one infant.
The part of the diary from which these notes have been prepared comes to an end in April 1943 when it’s noted that double summer time had been introduced -so the clocks were altered twice - and gas masks had been repaired and returned to the children. Life in war time continued…..