The BWI Archives

1889 ~ The Government Inspection


Ruislip Church of England School

The Government Inspection

- 1889 -  

1862 had seen a change in the way that schools were to be supported by State funds.  The ‘Revised Code’ of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education introduced an annual inspection of schools and testing of pupils (often referred to as ‘payment by results’). The results of these inspections determined the grant that would be payable to the Managers to support the running of the school along with money they could raise through local subscriptions from parishioners and ‘School Pence’ contributed by pupils’ families.  For a number of years the monthly Parish Magazine gave an account of the annual Inspection Report.  

The Vicar, the Rev. T.M. Everett, alerted parents to the forthcoming H.M. Inspection in the June edition of the Parish Magazine.  He was anxious to highlight the parents' role in enabling the school to show a high average attendance level, and that every child should be present to be examined - both these being factors in the size of the grant the school could hope to secure. 

June, 1889

Inspection of Day Schools
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools has given notice that he will make his annual inspection on Friday, June 21st. Every child must be present on the day of inspection, and parents should be careful to see that their children attend very regularly up to that date.

The following month he commented that the inspection had taken place, though the Report was yet to arrive. 

July, 1889

From the Vicar’s monthly letter:
…. Our annual School Inspection is over, but the report of H.M. Inspector has not yet been received. 

Elsewhere in the same month's magazine the Vicar gave the attendance statistics which had been provided to the Inspector (a school day would consist of two session, morning and afternoon, therefore the 426 sessions would equate to 213 days, incidentally, some 23 days more than current regulations!):-

The Schools
J. Armine Willis, Esq., Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools, and his assistant, Mr. Bush, examined our Schools on Friday, June 21st, when ninety-three children in the Mixed School, and thirty-three infants were in attendance.  

The Master has drawn out the usual “Annual Attendance List,” from which it appears that the School has been open 426 times between June, 1888, and June, 1889.  One children only, viz. Arthur Pearce, has attended full time during the past school year.  (This same boy has only missed on half-day during the past three years.)  





















  Twelve children who had to be examined had not attended 250 times during the year.


The September edition carried the Inspector's Report, with a brief introductory comment:-

September, 1889

From the Vicar’s monthly letter
I publish this month the report on our School by Her Majesty’s Inspector. It is sorry reading and one requiring the serious consideration of the manager.

H.M. Inspector’s Report on School

Mixed School – The scholars show some improvement in the Arithmetic.  The lower classes have done fairly well, but the fourth and fifth standards, though not so complete a failure as last year, are but moderate, having done only thirty sums correctly out of a possible ninety-six.  Spelling is somewhat weak in the second standard.  The Class Work is fair.  Mental Arithmetic is not strong in the second and fourth standards.  English and Geography may pass, but the answering was not over intelligent.  I have great doubt about passing the Needlework, even for the lower grant, the lower part of the school having done very badly, and the upper only pretty fairly; Hemming is bad as high as the fifth standard.  Considering the staff, the results should be better.  

Infants’ School – Attainments fairly good in the two upper classes, but more than half the children present were in the babies’ class, for lack of higher capabilities.  Intelligence fair in the first class, but weak in the body of the school.  Needlework is barely fair, and that of the boys is below anything that could be recognized as such.  Twenty-five per cent of the infants were absent, though the weather was perfect.  Form IX. should eb more carefully filled up.  M.M. Taylor and M. Watkins have passed fairly.  J. Martin should be informed that she is now qualified under Article 40, but not under Article 52.

J.A. Willis


The November edition carried a strong response to the Inspector's Report from both the Vicar and the Master, Mr Prosser.  However, the Vicar does not fully support the Master's view Inspector's bias ('whilst I cannot altogether endorse his opinion thereon'), and there is clear evidence that things had not been entirely successful in the school for some years.  As we learn from the Managers' minutes for 1890, Mr Prosser decided to seek employment elsewhere.

November, 1889

From the Vicar’s monthly letter
I have received a long letter from Mr. Prosser on the subject of the School Report for the past year, and whilst I cannot altogether endorse his opinion thereon, I feel it only fair to publish his letter.  All have at heart the interest of the School must feel disappointed that it only earned the “Fair” Merit Grant instead of being designated “Good”, as in former years; for this is a downward step and means a loss to the School Funds of one shilling a child in the Mixed School and two shillings a child in the Infant department, representing a sum of about six guineas.  The responsibility of recommending the Merit Grant rests entirely on the Inspector, who is to be “mainly guided by the quality of the elementary work, and not by any rule based upon a fixed percentage of passes.”  I fear, therefore, that H.M. Inspector must have considered the School deficient in respect of (1) “organisation and discipline” (2) “the intelligence employed in instruction,” and (3) “the general quality of work,” on which three qualifications the Merit Grant is based, and the School classed as “Excellent,” “Good,” or “Fair.”  Mr Prosser has dealt so fully in his letter with the percentage of passes that I need only call your attention to it.  I do not think the School deserving of such a damaging Report, and I have told the Inspector so.  I have laid before the School Managers my letter to him together with his reply, and whilst they are of opinion that he has dealt harshly with the School, they cannot see any grounds for upsetting his Report.  We must let “bygones be bygones,” and now we must all make an effort to work up the School to a better condition, so that a higher grant may be earned next year.  Four new School Managers have been appointed, viz. Mr. A. Helsham-Jones, Mr. Ingham Baker, Mr. R.M. Jackson, and Mr. H. Taylor.

Mr Prosser’s letter to the Vicar / Managers, follows on directly from the Vicar’s letter

Dear Sir,

I feel I cannot allow the publication of H.M. Inspector’s Report to the Managers to pass unnoticed; especially as such a Report was in itself an unexpected blow to my just expectations. It is unjust alike to teachers and scholars, and most uncalled for.  That the Standard of Examination set up by our particular Inspector is not only a high one but fantastic is, I believe, generally known and felt by teachers through his district. But in order to show your readers that Ruislip School is not the fearful, “Know-nothing” place that would almost appear from the so-called Report, I will, with your permission, give a few particular which I extract from the latest Government “Blue Book” on matters education, and compare them with actual results obtained by our own School children at their recent examination without any “Keeping-in” beyond the ordinary Time Table hours, and allowing for only two children claimed as “Exceptions.”  These are the results:-  

Passes in Reading throughout England and Wales, 93 per cent.: Ruislip 92
           ″ Writing (which includes Spelling), England and Wales, 86 per cent.; Ruislip 88.
             Arithmetic for England and Wales 84 per cent.; Ruislip, 82.

[In the lower Standards our passes in the three “R’s” taken together were 93 per cent., the “general” passes being just 96 per cent., and this is what H.M. Inspector calls doing “fairly well” – mark the “fairly” – I am tempted to ask what he would call doing “very well”!  As this is a “fair” sample of his general marking, I think your readers will better appreciate the worth of the Report as a whole.]  

So far, then, as regards Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, I find that taking them together the passes for the whole country were 88.14, and ours were exactly 87.14, or only one per cent. (i.e. one child out of every hundred) behindhand; and this is a School which H.M.I. himself has reported as a “difficult one to work.”  Now as a set-off against this one per cent., I turn to the other subjects taught, viz., English Grammar, Geography, and Music by note. Here, perhaps, more than before, the injustice done to the School by the Report will be manifest to all your readers.  

Our children take both Geography and Grammar, and in so doing have worked harder than nearly one-half the Schools throughout the country; for the “Blue Book” states that in only 11,733 out of a total of 22,334 departments for older children have two class subjects been attempted.  Then with regard to Music by note, the comparison is more favourable still to our School, for I find that only 9,186 departments out of the 22,334 above mentioned earned the shilling per head we did – the remaining 13,000 (odd) earning only sixpence per head.  Lastly, the remarks on the School needlework are absolutely false.  The fact of the children and junior Pupil Teachers winning so many prizes for needlework at the local shows would in itself contradict the report, if no stronger evidence were forthcoming.  But there is the evidence of H.M Inspector’s previous reports on this subject.  Two years ago he said “Needlework is well taught,” and last year he actually stopped the girls when at work, saying he would take for granted they had done as well as on the year before.  I ask, therefore, is it reasonable to suppose that, with the same teachers and same set of Scholars, the report on this year’s work can be true and just?  I leave it to your readers to supply the answer.  

Thanking you for your courtesy in allowing me to encroach upon so much of your space in this Magazine,

I am, yours faithfully,

Thomas Alfred Prosser
(1st Class Certificated Master)

To the Vicar of Ruislip



First uploaded: 17 April 2018
Last revised: 28 April 2018