The Historic Development
of St. Stephen’s
On March 1st
1880 St. Stephen's Infants School was opened in
Springfield Road, Wolverhampton (it is interesting to
find that although the opening sentence in the log book
gives the school the name of St. Stephen's, it is also
referred to as St. Mary's). Rev. W. J. Frere and Rev. E.
M. Edwards, Parish Clergy, were both present at the
opening service at 9.15 a.m. with Rev. Edwards reading
building consisted of 5 major rooms, the dimensions of
which are given in the log book as follows:
School Room 56' x 27'
Class Room 17' x 14'
Standard II Room 24' x 18'
Standard I Room 24' x 21'
Babies Room 21' x 21'
information it can be discerned that the children were
divided into three classes, entitled Standards I and II,
and Babies. There were 72 children on the roll by the
end of the 1st week aged between 5 and 8 years, but the
average attendance was only 65 children with the comment
in the log book "the children came very late and
compulsory by 1880 with the creation of School
Attendance Officers to enforce this law, but the parents
had some choice in the actual school their children
attended. The choice was between the Board School and
the Voluntary School, the former originally created to
supplement the latter. St. Stephen's, Springfields was
opened as a Church School or Voluntary School.
N.B. The actual
date upon which the change of name took place is not
officially recorded, but probably would coincide with
the building of the daughter church in Hilton Street.
The old St. Stephen’s
Church schoolroom on Grimstone Street.
were supported financially by rate-aid. At the time of
the opening of St. Stephen's, Springfields, church
schools were not. This meant that children attending
church or voluntary schools were required to pay "school
pence” for their education, whereas the children in the
Board schools were not. There is mention in the log book
of a child being sent home for her school pence and also
of one child leaving St. Stephen's for the Board School
on account of her parents not being required to pay for
education at the latter Institution.
In 1888 the
Cross Commission was instructed to look into the
problems arising from the disparity between the two
systems of education which were originally intended to
complement rather than compete with each other. The
church schools were finding it very difficult to
maintain parity with the Board schools because they did
not have rate-aid to fall back on only voluntary
Commission’s report suggested that all schools,
including voluntary schools should be rate-aided, but in
fact rate-aid to voluntary schools only came in with the
1902 Education Act. The report also suggested that
the curriculum should be liberalised by the addition of
subjects such as art, science and technical instruction.
This suggestion coupled with that for modification of
payment by results led to the abolition of payment by
results in 1890 for the three R's but the retention of
payment by results, at an increased rate, for other
subjects: the aim was to encourage a wider curriculum.
original system of payment by results, the results of
the national exam were obviously important to the
school. In 1888 St. Stephen's obtained an "excellent
merit Grant of 17/- per head" on top of the ordinary
grant payable, for attaining good marks in the national
exam, and this fact is underlined several times in the
recommended by the Cross Commission of modification of
payment by results, can be seen to be beginning in St.
Stephen' s School in 1899, when it is recorded that the
school received 1s.9d extra grant for each boy taking
During the late
19th century great interest was being taken in
curriculum and methods of teaching, particularly in the
Infant School system. It was agreed in the late 1870s
that ''The English Infant School system is one of our
chief educational advantages".
Froebel and the kindergarten introduced a new element of
activity into infant education in England from the 1850s
onwards. He derived a series of "toys" or "gifts" and
"occupations" all intended to promote "the harmonious
growth of the intellectual, moral and physical powers of
The principles of Kindergarten began
to permeate teaching in the 1880s and great use is made
of it in the early days of St. Stephen's School as the
log book records:
1883 "gave a lesson on Kindergarten Gift II to Classes I
and II" and in the annual report for 1890 "the infant's
Kindergarten performance is satisfactory."
form an important part of the timetable with an annual
list of "objects" being taught.
The following is
a list of those taught in l885:
|| The Reindeer
||The Lobster and Spider
||A Bird’s Nest
||The Oak Tree
||The Tea Plant
||The Coffee Plant
||The Sugar Cane
The curriculum in St. Stephen’s School seems to have
been varied with mention of an examination in the “Tonic
Sol’fa” method of teaching music and the re-arranging of
the usual timetable in order that the younger children
may have “Pea work”.
There is also
mention of a timetable alteration in June 1884 so that
“Class I take technical drawing alternately with poetry
and geography on Tuesday afternoons.”
information it appears that a broader curriculum was
being introduced in St. Stephen’s School, Springfields,
even before encouragement through payment for such
Stephen’s Schoo1 opened in 1880 the staff is recorded
Pupil Teacher - 4th Year
Pupil Teacher – 2nd Year
There was just one teacher in charge of the 72 children
on roll. This is because church schools employed the
system of pupil teachers. The pupil teachers were taught
by the Mistress before school began, and they then
taught the children in school time, with the Mistress
acting in a supervisory capacity. At St. Stephen’s
School pupil teachers were taught by the Mistress from
8a.m. to 9a.m. On one occasion this was impossible and
it is recorded that "the teachers had lessons at dinner
time instead of from 8 - 9." There are references in the
log books to the pupil teachers coming with their
"lessons unprepared" and the Mistress found cause to
"criticise a lesson" given by the pupil teachers, on
more than one occasion.
Commission of 1888 decided that the pupil teacher system
was unsatisfactory since girls could begin training as
early as the age of 13, teaching children not much
younger then themselves. The report recommended that 15
be the minimum age for pupil teachers, but the system
continued as before until about 1910.
In the late 19th
century illness and death were commonplace. The log book
records numerous incidents were the school had to be
closed due to illness on epidemic proportions.
Apri1 12th, 1889
week there are 60 children away from
December 22nd, 1891
||"School closed this
morning owing to the number away with
January 21st, 1892
||"Order to close the
school for one month from Sanitary
Authority due to epidemic of measles."
The health of
the children was not at this time, being regularly
examined, with the Local Education Authority assuming
responsibility for periodical inspections as late as
In 1891 a
milestone was reached in the history of education, with
the abolition of fee-paying. The event passes off very
quietly in the log book of St. Stephen's School, with
the simple entry "September 1st 'Free education begins'"
but nevertheless the Free Schooling Act gave parents the
right to demand free elementary education for their
children, irrespective of income. The Government gave a
grant of not more than 10/- for each non-paying pupil in
school, which meant that although children were no
longer paying school pence, attendance was still
important since the Government grant for the school
depended upon the average attendance.
good attendance, St. Stephen's School adopted a new
method of reward. From February 19th, 1886, red marks
were given to those children arriving on time with "two
tickets for 10 red marks."
The rear of the old St. Stephen’s Church
schoolroom, now the Springfield Community
of registers and a signature and certificate to that
effect now started to appear quite regularly in the log
book. For example, on March 25th, 1884, a
manager “examined registers this afternoon, found them
attendance in the early days at Springfield Road was the
holiday of a different school. On several occasions
attendance is recorded as low because St. Mary’s School
had a holiday and the children of St. Stephen’s stayed
away from the school also, a rumour having spread that
both schools were on holiday. This worried the Head
teacher to a great extent, and the note of disapproval
comes through the entry.
compulsory attendance, many children were sent to work.
The minimum leaving age was raised in 1893 to the age of
11, but in 1896 there were 2,100 prosecutions in
Wolverhampton alone, for refusal to send children to
school. It is recorded in St. Stephen’s log book that
pupil teacher Clara was "sent after about 30 absentees,
most of whom promised to come on Monday" (January 15th,
In the mid
1890's Sir John Gorst, Conservative Vice-President of
the Council, told Parliament that a quarter of a century
after the 1870 Act, there were nearly ¾ of a million
children whose names ought to appear on the books of
some elementary school and who do not appear at all. Of
those who are on the books of the elementary schools,
nearly one fifth are continually absent." In 1897 the
national average attendance was 81.5%.
At St. Stephen's
School the numbers on roll can be seen to increase
dramatically after free education was introduced. This
must in part be explained by the growth of Wolverhampton
generally, but the importance of free education must not
be underestimated. The average attendance at St.
Stephen's in the couple of months preceding free
education was approximately 170 and the first recorded
figure after the introduction of free education, is an
average of 227 children. This increased attendance
brought its own problems. The school on Springfield Road
became over-crowded and the report of the H.M.I. in
July, 1897, highlights the problems.
Inspection under Act 846. The school is very crowded and
the ventilation bad. In the small classroom 34 children
were being taught some of whom were asleep, and in the
chancel, which is stated to be recognised for 37, there
were 54. With such a state of things, there is
necessarily a considerable degree of difficulty in
properly conducting the school. The children are cooped
up and have little or no room to move. Games are
impossible, and the younger children are apt to become
either drowsy with the bad air or restless and fidgety,
owing to a sense of discomfort. The accommodation is so
unsatisfactory with the numbers at present in
attendance, that no further grant can be recommended
under present conditions, after the current year."
Another view of the old school.
mentions 54 children being taught in the chancel; the
chancel of St. Stephen's Church. Because of the
over-crowded conditions in the Springfield Road
building, the children were moved into the Church, into
an area originally designed for a Sunday school. These
arrangements Here to be made permanent the following
year, after alterations to the church had been
completed. From the end of the 19th century education
began to reflect new social and political ideals. In
1899 the Board of Education Act brought the various
educational bodies under a single central authority and
Balfour's Education Act of 1902 carried this further.
councils, county boroughs and boroughs with populations
of more than 10,000, and urban districts with
populations of more than 20,000 became L.E.A's taking
over the work previously carried out by the School
Boards. Education Committees were set up which had to
include women. In Wolverhampton the committee had 23
members, 15 were elected and 8 were appointed. All were
council members and 2 were women.
were to oversee the schools of which there were now two
categories - "Provided" and "Non-Provided". The L.E.A.
met all expenses of the Provided Schools, but only the
maintenance costs of the Non-Provided. The Managers of
the latter school were to provide capital costs and
School was a Non-Provided school, illustrated by the
fact that the L.E.A. did not pay for the alterations
necessary to keep the school open. In the H.M.I.'s
report for 1897, the Managers are reminded of their duty
to see that "the necessary improvements are carried out
during the coming year."
the building took place in 1898 and it is reported in
the log book that the school had to be closed for a time
in October to allow them to take place. The organisation
within school was also altered, and from October 14th,
1898 "Standards I and II commenced work as a separate
school". The infants remained in the Springfield Road
building, and Standards I and II moved into St.
Stephen’s Church schoolroom on Grimstone Street. The
school could now provide places for "264 infants and 90
In 1906 the log
book formally records that places would be provided for
90 mixed juniors and 226 infants, the classes being
divided as follows:
|Mixed Classroom (next St.)
|Mixed Classroom (next St.)
juniors are now firmly established as a separate
department in the "next St" in the schoolroom of St.
Stephen’s Church. This arrangement was unsatisfactory
and once a new church had been built at the turn of the
century, plans were passed to enlarge the previous
church building, in which the mixed juniors were taught,
into a school large enough for all the pupils on the
roll. Thus in 1913 the old church was extended and
altered into a school. The report in the log book is as
holidays, the large room has been divided by a glazed
partition, the old chancel has been added and separated
from the main room by a partition. The windows have been
lowered and fitted with proper pains. Additions have
also been made to the offices. Standard I room has been
altered so that it is not now a passage room."
The new rooms
were formally opened by the bishop on Saturday 10th
October, 1914, and the entire school was now based in a
single building. Although it was a church school along
with the other schools in the town, St. Stephen’s was
"taken over by the Educational Committee" on July 1st,
1903 and from this time onwards, decisions of the
committee proceeded to play an effective role in school
administration. The prizes for 1904 were given by the
education committee and the chairman of the committee
made regular visits to the school.
teaching appointment made by the committee in connection
with St. Stephen’s was in October 1907, and the teacher
concerned was sent from another school. This illustrates
the advantage of a central body in charge of education,
which was the aim when the education committee was
organised. Indeed, education generally was becoming more
and more a public service governed by a public policy.
By 1910 the three R’s were ceasing to dominate the
curriculum. The object lesson was in decline and there
is no mention of it as a lesson in the log book of St.
Stephen’s after the turn of the century.
games began to be taught and the first mention of a
sports day at St. Stephen’s is in July 1912 when the
entire school had a half day holiday for the event.
School outings became more a part of school life. Visits
by school parties to "Institutions of Educational Value"
were counted as attendance at school, from 1896 onwards.
However, school parties from St. Stephen’s only began to
travel round the town in the 1920s. The first recorded
visit is by a group going to Bushbury Hill for a nature
study in 1921, and another group visiting the art
gallery in Wolverhampton in the same year.
The number of
pupil teachers began to fall quite dramatically at the
turn of the century. Local authorities were urged to
give secondary school scholarships to intending teachers
and a new system introduced in 1907 enabled them to stay
at school until the age of 17 or 18. From over 11,000
new pupil teachers in 1906-7, the number fell to 1,500,
in 1912-13. Training facilities increased as local
authorities opened training colleges.
The decline in
pupil teachers can be seen at St. Stephen’s as early as
1900, a female teacher joined the school staff, having
not been a pupil teacher but being trained and
certificated at Cheltenham College. By 1916 supply
teachers rather than pupil teachers were being
substituted for members of staff absent through illness.
beginning of the 20th century more interest began to be
taken in the general health of the children. From 1907
onwards, the L.E.A. was made responsible for periodical
medical inspections of all elementary school children.
The log books of St. Stephen's record that visits became
frequent after the first in February, 1909. Dental
inspections were also carried out. Yet still illness
remained and the school was again closed several times
through epidemics. In 1913 the Chief Medical Officer of
the Board of Education had estimated that of the six
million children in public elementary schools in England
from a serious defect of vision
from defective hearing
from suppurating ears
adenoids or enlarged tonsils
from injurious decay of their teeth
unseemliness of the body
outbreak of war, shortages, both of teachers and of
buildings, became a problem. The growing demand for
longer and better education for working-class children,
led to the Education Act of 1918. In promoting his Act
of 1918, H. A. L. Fisher said one way of "compensating
for the tragic loss which our nation is enduring - is by
the creation of a system of education throughout the
country which will increase the value of every human
unit in the whole of society."
abolished half-time education from July, 1922; (about
70,000 children were taking part-time education at that
time, mostly employed in agriculture) and established 14
as the uniform compulsory leaving age. This Education
Act of 1918 realised the need to cater for the majority
of children who left school at the statutory leaving
age, but plans for the suggested "continuation school"
were abolished due to post-war economic astringency.
The Great War
apparently affected education at St. Stephen's School,
very little, indeed there are only 2 mentions of the war
at all. The first is on July 5th-l0th, 1918,
when school had to be closed in order for the staff to
"assist with ration cards" and the second comes at the
end of the war, when the children had a week' s holiday
"in accordance with the King's wish" to celebrate peace.
Of note and interest however – the admission register
for the period showed an increasing number of father's
occupation to be "soldier" as the war ground on.
for the poor
St. Stephen's 2