Educational Experiments by Head Teachers in Elementary Schools (1918)
The New Ideals in Education conferences were part of a progressive education movement which began at the end of the 19th century. It involved the ideas of, among others, Margaret and Rachel McMillan and Maria Montessori, and was supported by Chief Inspector of Elementary Schools Edmund Holmes (see, for example, his book What Is and What Might Be).
Annual conferences were held between 1914 and 1937. This book, published in 1918, contains papers from those held in 1914 and 1915.
For more on the background, see this section of chapter 7 of my history.
The text of Educational Experiments by Head Teachers in Elementary Schools was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 2 April 2021.
Educational Experiments by Head Teachers in Elementary Schools (1918)
Committee of New Ideals in Education
by Head Teachers
in Elementary Schools
New Ideals in Education Conferences
These pamphlets will be sent by the Secretary, 24, Royal Avenue, Chelsea, on receipt of 3d., post free. By the generosity of Sir William Mather teachers in elementary schools can receive a copy free by sending name and address to the Secretary.
New Ideals in Education Conferences
The Report of the Annual Conference held at Oxford in August, 1916, can be obtained from the Secretary, 24, Royal Avenue, Chelsea, on receipt of 2s., post free.
THESE papers on educational experiments were read before the Conferences arranged by the Committee of New Ideals in Education, by the teachers who made the experiments. There are doubtless many other educational experiments going on today equally interesting and equally valuable, but these have not so far come before the Committee of the New Ideals movement.
In view of the possible reconstruction of the elementary school system after the war, it seemed to the Committee that it was a matter of national importance to make these experiments known far and wide.
The papers are reprinted from the annual reports of the New Ideals Conferences. No responsibility is assumed for any particular statement or opinion expressed in them: they speak for themselves.
It is fully recognised that progressive Inspectors, official circulars and educational journals play a very important part in keeping the teacher in touch with progressive thought, but it is believed that papers such as are contained in this pamphlet will supplement these in a new and perhaps more stimulating and effective way, for they bring him into touch with work done by other teachers - men and women - working perhaps in schools under similar conditions.
It is suggested that the first two papers - that of Mr. Arrowsmith and Miss Price - should be read together, as showing complementary aspects of education. If there does not, in either paper, appear to be a consciousness of the fact that there is another side of education which it might be desirable to consider - if Mr. Arrowsmith has not found a place in his scheme for the more abstract elements of literary and rational
training on which Miss Price lays such stress, and if Miss Price, on the other hand, pays but little attention to the sense and motor training which forms the basis of Mr. Arrowsmith's work, if this be so, those who have read the papers together may try to test for themselves how far it is possible to combine the two objects in one school.
Miss Gold's paper is on a subject which has of late attracted a great deal of attention. That our handwriting is in need of improvement is admitted. The Montessori method of teaching writing has not been generally adopted, notwithstanding its simplicity and effectiveness.
Miss Gold's method seems at first sight to be merely a return to the old plan of teaching first the straight down strokes, then the loops, then the circles and the up strokes, and then expecting the children to be able to combine these elementary forms so as to write a cursive or flowing hand, in which the strokes and even the letters are joined together geometrically. The analysis is all right, but physiologically it is, in my opinion, quite wrong. For the combining of the separate forms, which looks so simple on paper, involves the introduction of an entirely different set of nerve impulses, and thus deranges the co-ordinations so laboriously earned. In the non-cursive method, there is no such difficulty. The strokes, circles, loops, etc., with which the children begin their writings are not only the same geometrical forms they use throughout, but they are used in the same way; no fresh co-ordinations are needed. When we add to this that the difficult upstroke is not required, we see that it must of necessity be easier to learn than the common method. But the question how long it is to be continued is more difficult, and can be decided only by experience. If to some it seems self-evident that the cursive hand must be the faster, it is at least equally evident that those who have persevered for some years with the non-cursive style, will write a more legible hand than
those who have begun with cursive writing. But whatever method be chosen it will be found a decided advantage to begin with Mme. Montessori's plan of giving the child an outline, say oblong in shape, to darken all over by moving the pencil across it in a series of continuous oval curves, large at first, but necessarily becoming smaller as the vacant spaces get filled in. Coloured pencils add to the interest, and a remarkable measure of control over the handling of the pencil is acquired as the child learns to fill up the outline completely, and yet without passing outside it. It is so simple that it ought to be given a trial.
Mr. Taylor's paper requires no introduction. Although read at the Conference held at Stratford-on-Avon in 1915, it has been included with those read at the Oxford Conference, because it deals in such a clear and graphic way with the results obtained in a rural school, where the principles for which the Committee of the New Ideals movement stands, were followed. These principles may be stated as self-development through self-activity in an atmosphere of freedom and in an environment that makes for social progress and co-operative effort.
MR. JOHN ARROWSMITH
THE work at Mixenden School of introducing a system of Physiological Education or Education through all the Senses, primarily through Touch - a system of putting the whole boy and the whole girl to school - was begun six years ago.
The school is in a thinly populated district three and a half miles from the nearest town of Halifax. It is 900 feet above sea level, with surrounding hills 1200 to 1300 feet high, rugged, bare, and of moorland character. The people work in the mills, in the quarries, on the milk farms, on the roads and as cart drivers. Thirteen years is the leaving age and every child who has made the proper number of attendances goes half time to the mill at 12 years old. This custom has almost assumed the character of a religious duty. Half time work is done in shifts alternately. One week the work begins at 6 o'clock in the morning and finishes at 12.30 noon, the child coming to school in the afternoon. The next week the school is attended in the morning and the mill in the afternoon until 5.15 or 5.30.
You may imagine the mental and physical afternoon state of these children - many of whom live more than a mile from their work - after having undergone a monotonous round of morning toil.
Mixenden School is an elementary school of the ordinary type which is being continually adapted by the
children, under the inspiration of the teachers, to meet the demands of an education more and more in accordance with the scientific conclusions of physiologists, neurologists and hygienists. The aim is to develop the mental and physical growth of the individual child by bringing him into contact with Things instead of Books.
It is recognised, in Mixenden School, that reading and writing are excellent and necessary tools for the further development of mind, but it is also recognised that the mind of the race gained its knowledge and its power by and through things handled, seen, heard, tasted and smelt.
Reading loads the memory with Symbols only of things. To produce real power of imagination, things ought to be imaged first on the grey matter of the brain.
To a child the book is, even at its best, only a source of second hand knowledge. It is knowledge absorbed by the straining of the eye - an organ which in its racial evolution has not, even in the adult, become used to the later civilised demands of reading and writing.
It is recognised that the old monkish tradition of the necessity of reading and writing for the young is against all the natural characteristics of healthy children. A child likes his stories hot and quick from mouth to ear. He is ear-minded. He likes to tell his stories. He is tongue-minded. To pick a story from a book is a tedious mental task. To write a story slows down the thought machine and produces - piffle.
Talking, hearing and doing are for a child the natural and therefore the physiological methods of growing to knowledge and of giving expression to developing powers.
At Mixenden School there are two large playgrounds, a playing field, a large garden, a sand-pit, swings, hen-house, chicken coops, rabbit-hutches, all, with the exception of the playgrounds and the playing field, made by the children with the help of the teachers.
From these things, together with our rambles,
nearly all our educational work flows. Give to us earth's raw material and, in reason, we will make all we need.
To attain real citizenship we must not travel on the lines of the old methods of education which lean too much towards the habits of mind of two hundred years ago.
The scholarship and the examination systems are only a species of trade rivalry brought into schools from the commercial world. A scholarship is a sop thrown to the proletariat, and, in order that the morsel may be grabbed, it is put up for competition. The malady has so worked itself into every part of the schools that children do not learn because they like learning, they cram in order to beat their fellows in the race for marks. The processes of agriculture have been in operation long enough to have taught the advantage of eliminating competition. Flowers and vegetables grow because the farmer and the gardener refuse to permit the competitive proximity of weeds. The average child has quite enough competition and selfishness in his nature without receiving encouragement in the schools.
Those who utter the words: "There is no Royal Road to learning" are wrong, stupidly and wickedly wrong. 'Tis true there are no royal roads towards the putting of old heads on young shoulders, but there are many, very many, royal roads to useful learning, and they all lie along the fields of the child's interests.
It was necessary to preamble in this manner in order to breathe around you the spirit - thin, crude and diluted though it be - of Mixenden School.
The Infants under the Halifax Education Authority as a rule, begin school at 5 years of age. At Mixenden their day is filled with stories, dancing, gardening, feeding and attending to their numerous pets, drawing, building and constructing the striking things in their stories, sweeping, dusting, washing, cleaning teeth, playing with dollies, acting out stories,
and generally learning to comport themselves as little Britons do comport themselves in a good home containing a large nursery and properly trained parents.
In order to give some training in mothercraft - a training which many mothers of today sadly lack - each of our eldest girls must spend some portion of the week in visiting this nursery and learning by practice the ways and means that every good mother ought to know in order to manage and educate little children. These mothers, in embryo, thus learn how to sing, to play, to tell stories dramatically, and also to attend to items of personal hygiene until such items become habits.
A spirit of co-operation is fostered by allowing the children of the upper school to make all kinds of things for the use of the babies. Toys, stools, cradles, tables and a large house amongst other things have been made. This house is large enough to hold four children with seats and a table. It does duty for The House that Jack Built, Peter Pan and other characters dear to the hearts of kiddies, and as we, as far as possible, eliminate pretence of every kind, the door of the house has a knocker that will knock, a letter box that will open, a latch that will lift, French windows that will open and curtains that will wash.
All the seats and tables - many of them made in school - are movable and are sufficiently light to be carried out by little children for use when the weather is fit.
The meaning of Liberty which all children at Mixenden are being trained to aim at, is contained in the old French philosopher's motto: "The liberty of one citizen ends where that of another begins." There is a continual training in self-control and in a recognition of the rights of others. As regards the timetable we are heartily in agreement with the child who, coming home after his first attendance at an infants' school, replied, on being asked by his mother how he liked school: "It would be all right if there were not so many interruptions."
The stories, which are plentiful because they focus so many incidents in a child's life, give the starting point of drawing, writing with coloured chalk, learning words as a whole, acting, running, riding, skipping, dancing, singing, building and contriving with large wooden blocks, string, raffia wire, paper, cardboard, laths and twigs. It is a common thing to find our fences, hen house, coops, hutches, gates, railings, bearing such inscriptions as the following written by the teacher: "The potato babies are growing quietly". "I am a gate", "I am black", "Shut me", "Please lift the latch", "This way to the garden," "Billy Shortlegs and Timmie Tiptoes live here", "Mrs. Chickabiddy has six white chicks and one grey chick - six and one are seven", "Here is Chicken Town".
Along such lines as these village children find a stimulus to the learning of reading which town children already have in placards and wall advertisements - a condition of things which seems to have entirely escaped the notice of teachers, parents, and inspectors when setting up a standard of reading for all children.
Every morning the infants go out to feed the school pets. Every evening the pets are made safe for the night, and as food must be gathered, it will be understood that plants, grasses, weeds, as they arrive in their proper seasons, can be made to yield satisfying answers to a child's wonderful capacity for asking questions. The usual nature study lesson given in the usual classroom is a dead and empty thing in comparison. One of our aims is to make it plain to the children that everything they do shall be of real use in their daily life, not something that may be of use on some far-distant day. The child, like the savage, has neither the historical sense nor the sense of futurity. In other words, he cannot see into the middle of next week - he lives for today, in this hour, at this moment. Desiccated, minced and peptonised pieces of adult knowledge, put in by the spoonful and the dose repeated ad nauseam until mental indigestion ensues
and the soured mass is ready to be expelled at the bidding of an examiner, are not encouraged. The child is surrounded with natural things from his immediate neighbourhood - things that can be handled, played with, seen, tasted, smelt, sketched, used because they all come in the day's needs.
As the plastic, formative period for the growth of language comes about 5 or 6 years of age, the children are encouraged to talk, not only to and with the teacher but to and with each other.
After devotional exercises, morning chat and storytelling, the infants may draw with coloured chalks, on wall blackboards, the striking features of these talks and stories, and the older children are encouraged to write their names as well as the names of the objects and actions represented by their drawings.
This method is full of interest for the child and consequently requires none of the artificial stimuli with which so-called education reeks. This method seems to be the only natural and correlative way of reconciling the arbitrary symbolism of written words with the spoken name of the thing or action sketched and known. It should be clearly understood that the forty children are not all expected to draw on the blackboards at the same time; there are other outlets for the expression of youthful energy and of the desire to know, to experiment, to feel, to do, to exercise and to help the growth of neuro-muscular tissue.
Mob classes are an abomination and cannot possibly be defended. No mob ever was intelligent, no mob ever will be intelligent. But it is as mobs that elementary school children are supposed to be educated. Nearly all our Training Colleges are devoted to the vicious principle of training young people in the work of dealing with masses of children, relying on the Herbartian experience of the two-boy class, and wilfully ignoring the fact that, however skilfully the children may be graded, the mental abilities, the tendencies and the acquirements of no two children are alike. The
Training College is the goods train, side-tracked and forgotten: the new type of elementary school is the passenger train which has passed the goods yard at express speed. But the teaching of the mass of the children of the people in mob classes and in prison-like schools has got such a grip on the minds of all classes that it needs a great mental wrench to understand that children in a proper environment are growing mentally, morally and physically even when apparently doing nothing. That sentence may shock but it is true. It is not the truth of the pragmatist. It is the truth absolute.
The natural way, surely, to deal with numbers of children is to allow the imitative and gregarious tendencies to have scope; then the mob will resolve itself into several groups, every member of a group hanging around some immediate interest. We must put away for ever the common view that the child hates learning. We might as well believe that his little stomach abhors food. He does hate the learning that the grown-up thinks he ought to learn, learning which is rightly rejected by the child because it does not minister to the needs of his being, but on the other hand, his senses ache, yes, positively ache, for materials whose stimuli shall make such senses as perfect as may be, and whose images shall form the ground work and the basis of his mind.
At Mixenden School personal hygiene is taught and practised assiduously. Toothbrush drill happens three or four times a day. Nothing is done for the child that he can reasonably be expected to do for himself; and in helping lame dogs over stiles every care is taken that the steps are not too high.
As school is a place where children ought to be allowed to make a mess, our day closes with the children putting their own rooms in order. This will be done in the school of the future under the supervision of a caretaker who will be on the educational staff.
In the Senior School the same programme as that outlined for the Infants is largely carried out with modifications rendered necessary by the advancing age of the children.
Standardisation - an extremely virulent school disease - by the child's ability to do arithmetic, the "Black beast" of the school, is abolished. There are as many sorts of intelligence in the world as there are pairs of hands and pairs of eyes, and it is disastrous to judge intelligence by some children's precocious cleverness in working out abstract processes either by the arbitrary symbolism of figures or by any other way.
When shall we dismiss from the schools the medieval superstition that arithmetic develops the mind of the child under 11 or 12 years of age? The mind grows primarily through the sensations - touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. Mathematics, however elementary, is not the food for babies; we might just as well feed the baby on roast pork, fried potatoes and pickled onions and expect that baby to develop a sound digestion in later life. There is neither physiological nor neurological objection to the teaching of ideas of number when concrete objects are being used in play - adding, taking away, sharing, may be safely done, provided always that the work is not stressed and that it arises as a felt need. But when we come to the written symbols 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. and expect the four operations to be done by and through them, then we are touching for the child mind, profound abstractions and are in danger of arresting the future development of mathematical ability. Such work is only fitted for a brain machine whose growth in weight and size is nearly finished, about 11 or 12 years of age. Mathematics is a function of the brain, not a developer of it. The brain grows by muscle use and nutrition, not by abstractions. Children from 9 to 11 years of age, after a concrete foundation of number, revel in the mental work of adding, multiplying, sharing, subtracting, factorising and squaring numbers up to
100 only, but such work soon exhausts the brain cells of a child and should not be continued for more than ten minutes at a time. The arithmetical bud should not, neither should any other bud, be forced open. Precocity points to degenerative processes.
In the Senior School certain forces compel us to take arithmetic from 9.20 to 10 o'clock, after that the rest of the morning is given up to activities of all kinds - cookery, gardening, sewing, bookbinding, woodwork, metal work, cardboard work, general outdoor work - painting, tarring, and pointing the walls, and when we get a printing machine or a typewriter we shall teach spelling to the children through their fingers. Children under twelve cannot spell properly - they never could in spite of the statements of those wise people who, either never had a childhood, or, have conveniently forgotten that stage of existence which should be the most delightful of all stages.
If childhood clothe with gladness Memory's shrine.Every child at Mixenden school has a bit of garden and there is also a large communal plot.
Handwork in wood, metal and the like may be divided into two distinct types. (1) Toys for self or for the little ones. Toys are the link between the littleness of the child and the realities of grown-up life. (2) Work to be done in the poultry yard, in the school or in the garden. Broken tools and apparatus are always mended in school. Broken floors are repaired, playground walls are pointed with mortar made from agricultural lime and sand washed down from the neighbouring hill. The trowels are converted knives from the cookery room.
Our handwork is mostly done in waste materials: old pails, tins, collars for bookbinding, blinds, boots, old iron, hoops, brushes, cardboard boxes, and the wrappings of parcels.
Cardboard work consists of simple bookbinding,
repair of school books and books from home, making notebooks and portfolios, making scenes for the school stageplays.
The school is open from 8.30 to 4.30 p.m. and during the dinner hour the children may be seen at various occupations. To give an instance of the all-round ability of the boys: The garden was reached at one time by mounting five steps and descending five steps. That method wasted a great deal of time, and as waste of anything at Mixenden school is one of the cardinal sins it was decided to cut a hole in the garden wall. While this was being done three or four of the boys were in the workshop making a gate according to specifications and plans, others were mixing mortar and cement, others were drilling holes into the upright stone post for ragbolt hinges, others were forging those ragbolt hinges and the latch. The whole job occupied some weeks. The lead for the bolts was melted in a cracked saucepan and a touch of red paint finished off a bit of real handwork. The next little job that the boys are anxious to tackle is the scooping out of part of their playing field, diverting water from the hillside, planting shrubs and making dressing boxes for a swimming pool.
Waste pieces of thin stone for lining can be obtained from the local quarries, and some day the boys and girls of Mixenden village will have a swimming bath of their own.
Our afternoons are devoted to literature, art, music, dancing and rambles. After the strenuous though enjoyable work of the morning it only seems the commonest sort of common sense to have more or less restful forms of recreation in the afternoon.
By literature is understood all forms of speaking, writing, reading, poetry and dramatic representation. The beginnings of speech, of the alphabet, early methods of conveying thought by gesture, by picture writing and by hieroglyph, are studied with interest. The minds of the older children are fed on the romance of the
development of the operations which go towards the making of the life of mankind. Our children want to know why some roses are red, why the sun shines in the daytime, why some people cannot see, what a hen thinks about, why we speak, how a shell grows on an egg, what is wind, what is coal, and the like? Their curiosity is never arrested. They are budding scientists. In some future time, when we know better how to deal with the growing child, the cynic's remark, that the two strongest forces in human nature are lust and superstition, will have lost its meaning.
Music and dancing are recognised as the language of the emotions with the consequent neglect of the technique and of the intellectual side. The children learn many songs and the singing takes place in the open air - the only place where children should sing. Art includes clay modelling to further the sensitiveness of the neuro-muscular pulp in the finger tips. As the school lies on a bed of clay twelve feet thick clay is plentiful.
Pottery - Ancient British, Roman, Egyptian - is made, and the talks on these early peoples are many, especially when taken in conjunction with their literature, beginning with the Norse men from whom we came.
Our rambles supply us with stores of knowledge from the vegetable world, the rock, clay and sand world, the hypæthral world, the world of industry, and the animal world. Our own made sketching blocks are taken and any old doorway, window, gate or tree is drawn.
The vexed question of Sex Hygiene is receiving experimental attention at Mixenden school. I am convinced that the cleanest, healthiest and most natural approach to sex knowledge is not through and by means of plants but through and by means of pets. The fertilisation of plants leaves children cold, but the pets are like the children themselves - alive. A pet that runs about or flies, that needs feeding, that will
answer to the touch or to the voice, that will "cuddle up", that will squeal - a living moving thing which becomes part of a child's being - that is a far different thing from a plant.
There is no nest robbing now at Mixenden School, but there is a great deal of observation and a rapidly growing tenderness on the part of those heterogeneous bits of humanity towards weaker things.
Our endeavour is to synthesise the subjects of the curriculum, to make the life of the school fit more closely with the great cosmic rhythms of the seasons, of day and night, of sunrise and sunset, of vigorous morning and restful afternoon, to make school life, home life and village life one complete and rational whole; to prove to parents and to children, that every person is dependent on other persons, that no one can stand alone, that mutual help, mutual service and mutual forbearance are the highest ideals of real citizens, that "Our duly to our Neighbour" must be lived every waking moment - must be lived, not talked about in a lesson on Citizenship once a week to the top class. Surely this work is worth all the trouble and all the energy that live men and women can take and give.
Education must begin with a knowledge of the laws of child growth, must be in harmony with the development of the race.
THE system I have been asked to describe is less the result of deliberate experiment than the gradual development of an idea which was not my own.
During 1913, on one of his short but stimulating visits to my school, His Majesty's Inspector remarked that the work of the top class might well consist of a deepening and application of their knowledge by means of independent study. He went into no details but stated the principle and left me to think. Some time afterwards I learned that the aim of Dr. Arnold was to teach the boys in his sixth form to "read". The two ideas were practically identical, but a third factor came in to show me how they must be adapted to fit my own case.
I am going to assume that my audience knows nothing of the inner working and organisation of a public Elementary School. These naturally vary with the locality, the Education Authority, the building and size of the School, the type of child and the capacity of the teacher; but there are some difficulties which are common to all.
Every teacher has been confronted by the problem of the backward child - not the mentally defective, but the child of a seemingly immobile and unresponsive temperament, whose mind, rarely illuminated by a flash, absorbs ideas slowly and laboriously. In the large classes of an elementary school these children form an element which the faithful teacher dare not ignore. The brilliant child will make headway of herself, the average child, if educated on the right lines, will fill one of the places for which so many average people are required. It is the dull child who must be
made to realise herself, to gain confidence and grip that she may do a useful work in the world.
How to help forward the backward child without impeding the progress of the average and brilliant is one of the most difficult problems of a teacher.
Inequality of attainment in a class is unavoidable, in spite of the official recognition that "Promotion should depend on fitness and not on age".
This should give considerable freedom to the Head Teacher, but too often classification depends on the size of the various class rooms, the rate at which children leave (thereby making gaps in the Upper school) the number of Annual Promotions from the Infants' Department, and the grades of the various teachers.
My school may have an average attendance of 170 girls. The neighbourhood is rapidly growing and the demands for admission are so numerous that it is exceedingly difficult to regulate the attendance. There are normally two promotions a year from the Infants' Department and children are admitted at the age of 6½ years. There are five classes in the school; of these Class I (the top class) is subdivided, and this year Class III has two divisions. A brilliant child may enter the top class in four years, an average child in five years, while a backward child would take longer. It is obvious that in the event of her not gaining a Scholarship and not leaving before the age of 14, a brilliant child may be in the top class for three years; a new set of children will be promoted every six months. How is the class to be taught in order to avoid the boredom of continual repetition of lessons for the older members, to make a continuous system of education for the new comers, and to give a chance to the backward child? The only solution I found to be a training in Independent Study, by which the bright child would gradually become capable of using a standard text book, and so be in less danger of "marking time".
Now in oral teaching, which forms the bulk of the instruction in many elementary schools, the most difficult mental processes are performed by the teacher; she selects and arranges the facts, emphasising those which are important and rapidly passing over details that are of little consequence; she makes as it were, the light and shade. The reasoning is often carried out in the arrangement of her questions, and not in the children's answers, and she frequently overcomes difficulties of language by narrowing her vocabulary. Independent study does not come naturally to a child who has relied so largely on the teacher, and it is all too easy for the expression to become a euphemism for "Waste of time". To have mastered the technical difficulties of reading is not synonymous with being able to read, and investigation will often reveal that a child knows very little of a chapter she professes to have read thoroughly. Her answers are vague and indefinite, she has very little sense of proportion and is satisfied with partial explanations, while reference to a Dictionary or Atlas has been much too rare. It becomes obvious that a careful gradation of exercise is necessary, and that a particular attitude of mind has to be cultivated - a mind able to discern the relative importance of facts, to clutch at the main idea and ignore what is irrelevant, to be able to distinguish, as it were, the outstanding features of the landscape from the lesser details that go to make the picture.
The class with which I first experimented consisted of thirty-three girls. Perhaps an account of the occupations of their parents will enable my audience to realise the type of child. Seven fathers were railway servants - these comprised, one engine driver, two platelayers, one labourer, one guard, one fitter and one signalman, thirteen were employed in engineering works, these consisted of five labourers, one toolmaker, two turners, one moulder, one draughtsman, one machinist, one borer and one electrician. Five fathers were clerks. There were a coalman, a baker, a shop
assistant and a shoemaker. Four children were without fathers. The girls were generally well nourished and well cared for, so I was not hindered by difficulties arising from malnutrition.
We first experimented in the History lesson, using the books I had already in School, in an order of progressive difficulty. We began by definite lessons in summarising and making notes from a concise History Reader. A chapter was read in class, the main point of each paragraph found and expressed concisely, and the whole chapter was summarised, by way of example, on the blackboard under suitable headings. When the children became apt in their suggestions they were allowed to apply the method to independent study. A series of questions was written on the blackboard and the class told to answer them in note form from the book. The answers were corrected by the teacher and returned to the class; a special correction lesson was then given in which the selection, expression and arrangement of facts were criticised. At the beginning it was sometimes necessary for the class, guided by the teacher, to do the whole exercise again and children compared their first efforts with the final results. A higher stage was reached when the class was able to read through a chapter, find the main headings and summarise. This was the first step in "learning to read" in Dr. Arnold's full sense.
We then passed on to another History Reader which presented fresh characteristics. The author had a wider outlook and was more descriptive but he was given to making digressions for two or three paragraphs and subsequently returning to his subject. The reader had to collect and classify the facts. The same variety and gradation of exercise was given as had been used with the previous book, but in so much as a finer power of selection was required, the exercises were much harder. At first the children were told the numbers of the page and paragraph in which they could find the answers to questions set, but gradually this
plan was abandoned and the process of selection left entirely to the child. Again the success of the plan depended upon most careful correction and criticism. These two books in conjunction with a very good biographical reader were the chief books used for private study in Class Ib.
The Senior girls were gradually becoming capable of studying from a standard History Text-book, such as is used in the higher forms of a Secondary school; and I experimented with Oliphant (3/6) of which we had several copies.
At first much help was required, and children were allowed to combine into small co-operative groups for discussion, asking help of one another when their interpretation was doubtful, or of me when there was a problem that baffled all. They were trained in the habit of reading, with the Dictionary and Atlas beside them, and were shown how to make use of the Index to books. Notes were made on the chapters studied and written tests were given. The results began to show a grasp of the subject matter and a power of discrimination which many critics deny to be possible for the elementary school child. Alongside this book they read Finnemore's Social Life in England in order to get the atmosphere of the times, and The Oxford Supplementary Histories which give lengthy extracts from contemporary sources.
Such is the outline of my general plan, but it was subject to variation. Sometimes the children were given two or three books and told to read an account of the same events from each and combine the facts. The testing varied with the subject, and Geography was connected with History whenever possible. The children made illustrations of the dress, arms, sports, punishments and architecture of the times, and their combined efforts have produced quite creditable History charts.
The Oral lesson still existed, but it had a function different from the traditional one in Elementary
Schools. It was used to pave the way for a new movement, to widen the horizon, to disentangle difficulties and to connect events thereby building up a conception of History as a whole. It was incidental rather than formal.
Having met with encouraging results in the teaching of History, I applied the principle to other branches of work. The method naturally varied with the subject and it soon became evident that the amount of independent study compatible with real growth and activity of mind varied too; for growth of mind means more than an increased accumulation of facts. Geography offered much scope. A child furnished with a knowledge of certain fundamental principles and acquainted with map signs can do a good deal of independent work. An introductory series of lessons on lines of latitude and longitude, Climatic Zones, the systems of winds with the areas over which they blow, and factors determining climate, prepared the child for an intelligent perception of a map. The next step was oral map reading in class, in which the child noted the position of the country, the build and slope of the land, the chief water partings, the course of the chief rivers, the position of ports and so on. Their reasoning powers were called into play whenever opportunity offered; they were led to compare and contrast and they were encouraged to conjecture the climate, productions, occupations of the people, and exports and imports from their knowledge of what determined these. The map reading was very simple, a sixpenny Atlas being the basis for most of it.
To get colour and interest a descriptive Geography reader was studied with the Atlas. The method of guiding and testing varied. Sometimes a series of questions on map-reading was set: sometimes a chapter was studied from a text book and the facts illustrated by a rough sketch map or recorded by notes. Sometimes a general statement was written on the blackboard, and the children had to verify it by a reference
to an Atlas. Such a statement as, "Austria-Hungary is a land of lofty mountains and broad tablelands, of wide plains and fertile lowlands, with mountain ranges forming natural boundaries and walling in large provinces", will illustrate what I mean. In this case the children recorded the particular mountains and tablelands and plains, etc., which justified the statement. In the oral lesson the teacher criticised the work, corrected misconceptions and gave new knowledge that the child had no means of finding out. She frequently read extracts describing the countries studied. The human side of Geography seems to make a great appeal to girls and such books as the "Peeps in many lands" series are among the most eagerly sought in our reference library.
We now come to the teaching of English, a subject which arouses the greatest enthusiasm among my children. Under this heading I include the learning of recitation, the reading and studying of English poetry and prose and the writing of composition. In reading and recitation, the child is allowed great freedom of choice. Most of the reading is done silently as one would read a book at home, each child keeping a list of the books she has read and occasionally being required to write a brief summary or make a programme of characters. This forms an interesting contrast to the early days of my training when all children were supplied with a copy of the same book and had to follow while the class read aloud. It was considered a crime to lose one's place, and it was significant that the most intelligent children were always the worst offenders.
We have an excellent library for the top class consisting of historical novels, books of travel, biographies and miscellaneous literature.
Books are mainly chosen because of their bearing on school work. Thus for my top class whose history syllabus extends from the "Bill of Right" to the present day, we get With Marlborough to Malplaquet,
The Red Cap of Liberty, The Red Cap of Lyons, Face to Face with Napoleon, In the Year of Waterloo, Through Europe and Egypt with Napoleon, and so on. The children go naturally to the library to enlarge their ideas. Side by side with this wide reading for pleasure, at least one lesson a week is devoted to the reading aloud and studying of a standard work. This year we have studied Sydney Carton's Sacrifice, an abridgement of A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. In this lesson the object is not only to become acquainted with the narrative, but to observe and analyse the verbal descriptions, choice of words, and outstanding figures of speech, thereby indirectly raising the standard of composition and improving the vocabulary.
Each child selects her own pieces for recitation, and a record of the number of lines learned by her bangs on the school room wall. Thus the cumulative knowledge of the class is greatly increased. For members become acquainted with poetry by hearing their school fellows recite it: the boredom of continual recitation of one piece of literature is avoided, and children who are particularly keen have unlimited possibilities of learning.
When a Shakespearian play is being studied various scenes are acted. On the Shakespearian Tercentenary we performed the scene before Duke Theseus from "The Midsummer Night's Dream", part of Queen Katherine's Trial and The Fall of Wolsey from "Henry VIII" and scenes from "The Merchant of Venice". The girls selected the scene and characters, and I helped them with the interpretation.
In the reading of English poetry the great difficulty is to make a selection from the mass of material at our disposal, and I have found the most educative method to be to teach it largely, though by no means solely, in conjunction with history, for each subject illuminates the other. Thus my top class has read "The Massacre of Glencoe", "After Blenheim", "Johnny Cope", "The Ballad of the Boston tea party", "The Burial of Sir John Moore", "The Battle of the
Baltic", "The Eve of Waterloo", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "The Pipes of Lucknow", "Florence Nightingale" and so on. In addition I have tried to introduce the most famous poets and writers, while we are studying the age in which they lived. In this way the writer becomes fixed in the chain of history and is not merely a name without any associations. In connection with the eighteenth century we read "The Retired Cat" and "John Gilpin", by Cowper, "Ode to St. Cecilia's Day", by Dryden. "The Ancient Mariner", and extracts from The Vicar of Wakefield. We devote one and a half hours a week to this kind of work and by the time the children leave school they have become acquainted with a good deal of English literature.
Now I do not make a fetish of independent study. The Oral lesson has still a valuable place, and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the studying of English poetry. In the Upper classes children begin to have a real appreciation for turns of expression, choice of words, rhythm and all the music of sound, and these beauties must be laid before them. They select the part of a poem that makes the strongest appeal and some of them can say what it is they appreciate. I remember one child beating out the metre of "How they brought the good news" and flushed with excitement telling me it was the same as "Lochinvar", and "galloped". She had no idea of the technical name, but she felt it and could recognise it. But although the children are taught to realise the beauty and meaning of poetry, each child has still to make an individual effort. She may have to write a summary of a poem in note form, to enumerate the expressions that are particularly apt, to write a direct prose narrative of a poem like "Rosabelle" or " The Forsaken Merman", or to describe with a definite historical setting the incidents of "The Massacre of Glencoe" or "After Blenheim".
When the Shakespearean Play is studied, it is read
aloud in parts and all explanations necessary to an intelligent following of the Play are arrived at: then the children summarise the scenes, or outline the character of a particular person. The latter is an excellent exercise; they generally tabulate their faults and virtues, and in a parallel column, give the Act, scene and lines which verify the statement; this makes for careful reading and accurate analysis and prevents generalisation without sufficient proof. It is our introduction to scientific method - our lesson in the meaning of evidence.
The effect of the system on the writing of composition is most marked. The headings are clear and logically arranged and the paragraphs correspond; the child's vocabulary is enriched, and familiarity with books causes a decrease in the number of spelling errors. There is greater variety in the subject matter and one is no longer doomed to mark a series of reproductions of one's own thoughts and phases [phrases?].
Time will not permit of my describing every subject in detail. Nature study proves a fruitful field for individual work in the lower classes, the children bringing and examining their own specimens, and recording observations under the guidance of the teacher.
In every sphere of school life individuality is encouraged. Sometimes the girls make picture reproductions of literary scenes that particularly appeal to them, and they search diligently through books and magazines for illustrations that will assist their efforts.
The system of teaching in the lower classes is being modified to fit in with the scheme, for I believe that so far as possible the whole school should pave the way for the final class, that the gradations between classes should be almost imperceptible and that there should be unity of purpose throughout. Every class has a large assortment of books for private reading and everywhere the good ones help the weaker. Each child is allowed to choose her own pieces for recitation, and from class III upwards children are trained to
select the salient point of a paragraph and express it concisely. This gives an entirely new meaning to the reading lessons.
Definite lessons in note taking now begin in class II. I have yet to determine the age at which it is advisable to withdraw the personality of the teacher and send the child to books I for one cannot deny the charm "A story told" has for the young child.
I have so far mentioned the training in independence and resourcefulness on the intellectual side. Its counterpart in discipline is the Prefect System, which is a special characteristic of Elementary schools in Warwickshire. We have eight prefects whose responsibility it is to set and maintain the tone of the school outside the Class rooms. They are elected from the top class, and character is the only basis of choice. Each prefect wears a badge, and monthly meetings are held, at which the head prefect takes the chair. Minutes are kept and reports made to the Head Teacher. If by any chance the teachers are called away, the prefects assume control. Such an instance occurred on June 2nd of this year, when a Needlework Inspectress visited and wished to show my staff a new Needlework scheme. We all retired to the Teachers' room at 11 o'clock and the children, having been given plenty of work to do, were left in charge of the prefects. We heard no sound until that of grace being sung at 12 o'clock. The Head Prefect had rung the bell for closing school, books had been collected, screens had been removed, and when we entered the room grace was being sung as reverently as if the entire staff had been there. I quote this to show the esteem in which the Prefects are held, and the extraordinary influence they have in maintaining tone.
I do not pretend to have foreseen all the possibilities of Independent Study when I began it. What was adopted as an expedient is being developed as a creed, and the whole character of my school is being changed in the process. The teacher is no
longer regarded as the last authority on every subject in the school curriculum; she is revealed as a learner as well as a teacher. She has often to say "I don't know" or to go to the Reference library, as the children have, and she does it frankly and without embarrassment. There is a realisation that we are all on the road of progress. The teacher goes ahead, holding the torch and helping her pupils over the rough ways that she trod but a little while before. And just as the teacher is in the army of learners, each child, when she has surmounted a difficulty is a prospective teacher to a fellow traveller climbing the hill. Within limits I allow free discussion of school work and the privilege is hardly ever abused.
Free use is made of the knowledge of individuals. Thus when we were studying "The Industrial Revolution" and came to the establishment of the Factory system, I allowed a child who had visited a Cotton Mill and obtained specimens of the cotton in its various stages of manufacture to address the class; I explained that I had never visited a Mill but Lily had and would instruct us all.
When a discussion arose as to the care of the wounded in the field, three girls were sent to the Public Reference library to obtain particulars of the organisation of the R.A.M.C. They made notes on their reading and one gave an account to the class, details which she had omitted being supplied by the other two. This is a phase of the work which has many possibilities still to be developed.
It will be clear that "private study" in this sense is no system of leisurely reading. It makes increasing demands on the skill and resource of the teacher, but I believe the advantages accruing to be proportionately great. It helps to simplify the problem of a so-called "multiplicity of subjects" (which is often the result of artificial organisation and lack of natural connection between the various school exercises) by breaking down artificial barriers. But I believe the most valuable
effects of the method to be in the training of character. It not only develops qualities of accuracy, thoughtfulness and concentration, but it increases the self-reliance and resourcefulness of the child. The spirit of enquiry is alive within her, and she knows how to answer its demands. She is beginning to exercise the higher and rarer quality of judgment which will help her to distinguish the momentous from the trivial, and evil from good.
In conclusion I should like to express my thanks to an Inspectorate which makes possible such experimental work, to the Warwickshire Education Committee for its generosity in supplying books, and to my school staff who have so enthusiastically helped me in all my efforts.
THIS method of writing is really not new at all, it is very, very, old and dates back to the time when writing was considered an art, and when the work produced was something really beautiful to look at.
The experiment which we have made concerns the development of a clear individual handwriting which follows in a simple way the beautiful manuscript writing of bygone years. The foundation of both the Capital and small letters is extremely simple consisting only of straight lines and simple curves. The difficult muscular effort which the looped letters always presented to the young children is entirely done away with by this system and the little ones can thus learn to write at a much earlier age without any undue effort.
It is therefore much more suitable for the young children whose control over the finer muscles of the hand is not sufficiently developed to enable them to make the more difficult letters of which the ordinary written alphabets consist.
We had several reasons for wishing to adopt a hew style of handwriting. First, we were never satisfied with the writing of our children especially that of the elder girls.
It always seemed to me that the patient labours of the Teachers and the persevering efforts of the children should have led the girls as they grew older to acquire a good style of their own, but this did not prove to be the case. On the contrary, when they reached the Upper Standards and had more writing to do, they seemed to grow careless and to develop in many cases a very poor hand indeed, which almost always grew worse when school-days were over.
Secondly, many adverse comments were heard on
all sides about the writing in general of the children who leave our schools, for when they go out into the world their writing and spelling come in for more criticism than anything else.
For instance, I wrote to the Head of a large business Firm in the West End of London, asking him if he would pass his opinion upon the style of Writing we were adopting. He replied that he would be pleased to do so and added: "I am one of those who for years past, have regretted that so little attention has been paid to writing in our schools, not in any particular class of school, but in all schools, and especially in Public schools the writing is very bad."
I was glad to know that he did not think the Elementary schools the only or the chief offenders.
It is not I think that our children are not taught to write, but it is that from what they are taught, they develop a slip-shod style of their own instead of a good legible hand.
Thirdly. At the Conference of Teachers held in London in 1913, Mr. Johnston read a paper on the General Principles of Handwriting or the Teaching of writing as Penmanship. This paper made a great impression on me. It seemed there were endless possibilities in Mr. Johnston's suggestions and from this time I had at the back of my mind the idea of working out a scheme something on the lines he suggested. After various consultations with the members of my staff and a talk with Mr. Cherrill, H.M.I., our Government Inspector, from whom we received the greatest encouragement, we worked out our scheme and threw over the old system, and began in real earnest to teach the new early in November, 1914.
The small letters in the Alphabet we adopted consist of two elements only, the Stroke and the Circle.
The Stroke forms three bases:
1. Long stroke above the line giving I.
Adding a curve to the tops of these same forms gives f and r. An intermediate length gives t.
The O circle forms three letters o, c, e.
Parts of two circles gives s.
The circle in combination with the three stroke forms gives:
1. d, o, q, g, by placing it to the left of stroke,Hooked forms in combination with strokes gives h, n, m. n inverted u.
Letters made from purely stroke forms are: k, v, w, y, x, z.
Of course these letters are capable of modifications to suit individual tastes. The Capital letters follow as nearly as possible the same simple rules.
From the time we started, the new style was adopted all through the Infants' school and up to and including Standard IV. in the Girls' school. I have charge of both the Infants' and Girls' schools in carrying out experiments, this is a great advantage.
In the Infants' school we have found the new method much easier to teach. This kind of writing seems to come almost natural to the little children. It was the loops and joins of the other style, which bothered the little ones, and spoilt their letters even when they had learnt to make them properly, then too, some of the letters were most difficult for them.
The youngest children in the Infants' school draw their letters in sand. The children from 4 to 6 first make their letters very large on Mill boards and then with chalk on brown paper. The children from 6 to 7 first write with lead pencils on white paper and then proceed to use pen and ink and they write only on a single line.
The foundations of the letters are practised at the beginning of each lesson.
Both in the Infants' and Girls' schools the Capital and small letters are taught in groups and continually
practised. The teachers of the Infants find this system much easier to teach and the teachers in the Girls' school much prefer it to any other, as they find much better results can be obtained. Two of them have adopted the style themselves and one says: "I have had over fifteen years' experience as a teacher and never before have I been able to obtain such good results in so short a time." In introducing the new system the common faults we found in the earlier stages were:
1. Making the letters too narrow or too wide.But the advantages are many for:
1. The progress in writing is much more rapid.One objection raised to this style of writing is that children will never get speed with it. I cannot quite understand why so much stress is laid upon speed. Surely our first duty is to teach the children to write and not to get speed. May I quote from Mr. Johnston's paper on Writing in answer to this accusation? He says: "Rapidity is a matter of practice and necessity but to teach a child to write well should be our immediate aim. Good writing will develop into a rapid hand." But as a matter of fact we find that our children write just as rapidly as they did in the old style.
After the scheme had been working a year we gave a speed test with the following results.
Children of 7 wrote 31 letters per minute.Another test was given six months later and then we found that:
Children of 7 wrote 33 as against 31It is as yet impossible to compare the speed of the two styles throughout as no children have yet reached the upper classes who have been taught this style only, but Dr. Kimmins has carried out some tests which prove a great deal.
The result of these experiments show that up to the age of 9 those who have used the manuscript writing from the beginning are in advance of the average boys and girls who use the ordinary script.
So that it looks as though the manuscript writing will hold its own with regard to speed, contrary to what many people expect.
In comparing speed tests there is one thing which I think ought to be borne in mind, that it is not fair to try to compare the speed of writing of different qualities. Good writing ought not to be compared with scribble.
Of course our experiment is not yet complete and I have always been a little sorry that our efforts became known so soon. We are now teaching various alphabets of ornamental letters in the upper standards and the girls will be free to choose which of these they like to adopt. They will be also free to develop from what they have learned, each an individual style of her own. We are also ambitious enough to hope that the elder girls may be able to do a little illuminating before they
leave school. After we had made some headway with our new style of writing, I thought it would be interesting and useful to get various opinions upon it. First I got the opinion of the children and their parents, by giving the girls a composition to write on, "What I think of my new writing and what my friends think of it".
The children all say that they like it and think it pretty, also they are very surprised that anybody should think that they cannot do it quickly.
May I give you a few quotations from the children's papers? One little girl says: "I think my new writing is very pretty when it is done properly. Whenever people see our writing they say that it is very nice writing, but it takes a long time, but I like it because I can do it quickly."
Another says: "I think the new writing is very nice indeed. It is so nice when pains has been taken with it, that even the Inspectors like it." Another said: "I am showing my mother how to do it and sometimes when she writes a letter she does it in the writing which I taught her."
The late Headmaster of a large public school has been kind enough to criticise the writing in detail for us. It would take too long to read the whole of his criticism, but I should like to give you a few extracts from it. He says:
The system of instruction is very interesting and likely in my opinion to prove very successful. A model as clear and simple as possible is adopted for the formation of each letter. The pupil is not constrained by the use of such devices as double lines to practise writing of a particular style. Hands and eyes are free to choose lettering of a size prompted by natural characteristics. The pupils seem to have mastered the simple lettering very readily and they certainly reproduce it in a pleasing style. The method continues when words are formed to insist on attention to separate letters. ... One cause of the obscurity of many handwritings is the junction of letters by senseless and unauthorised strokes and curves, which
often disturb the proper and complete formations of the letters themselves.This system when strictly observed, will entirely obviate the confusion so often noticed, where such letters as m, n, v, w, succeed each other and get mixed together. But even if such details are open to argument, or even admitting that sooner or later, necessity and haste that cannot be avoided may influence the style of handwriting, nevertheless rapidity should be no feature of elementary instruction. As pupils grow older, and the calls upon them become more pressing, the maxim should still be inculcated as a rule of life, that writers must never save their time, at the expense of the time of those who may have to decipher their writing.
The next opinion that I obtained was that of an experienced Elementary Teacher who knew nothing of the work of our own school. She says: "I think your system of writing produces excellent results. The progress in so short a time seems wonderful. The improvement especially in the writing of the children between 8 and 9 is most marked. The beauty of the writing to my mind lies in its extreme simplicity and while strictly following the system the children do not as one might suppose lose their individuality." I then got the opinion of one of our Managers, a lady who has spent some time in Australia and knows something of education there, She says: "I am watching weekly the new and interesting handwriting. It is so beautifully clear, from a child of 5 or 6 up to the elder girls' and it is excellent for business letters or for filling up forms. Also the children's character still comes out in the writing, it is not a bit forced. It was done twenty years ago in the Australian schools, with the result
that nearly every Australian writes a good clear hand."
I next got the opinion of the late Governor of Fiji, whose duty it was to inspect the schools there. He says: "When I visited the Girls' School of St. George the Martyr, amongst other things, I saw the writing of the Girls, I had just made the remark that the natives of Fiji, learning in schools to write, for the most part lying on their mats, produce better writing than I have seen in many European schools. This will not apply to the writing I saw in the school which I visited. This I consider to be excellent and the style useful, business-like and legible."
The next opinions I obtained were from the Heads of large business firms, as I thought it well to find out whether this style of writing would be accepted in the business world. The first said: "We think that for business purposes the samples you have submitted to us possess a very high order of merit. They are excellent specimens of Commercial penmanship."
The second said: "The writing being so extremely legible must develop into a most useful Commercial hand."
The third said: "The papers are all so well written that they deserve the highest commendation. I am quite content to accept your style as a good one for business purposes; it is clear and distinct, I feel you are building on a good foundation and your scholars are bound to do you credit. Best wishes for your continued success."
Another said: "The examples of handwriting are certainly excellent and worthy of much praise. I have submitted them to our counting house for their judgment and their conclusion is that this style of writing is one which they applaud and consider a very desirable one to adopt. Furthermore they tell me, if several applicants for posts were to send in letters all written in various ways, those written with the excellence, neatness, and character of your pupils would have
preference." The experiments have awakened very wide interest among the parents and received much encouragement from prominent educationalists, under whose notice it has come. It was brought before a large meeting of the Child Study Association in April last - since then I have received many visits and requests for specimens from Teachers of varying types of schools. From this I gather that there is a growing demand at the present time for some means of improving the Handwriting of our children.
In conclusion may I once more quote Mr. Johnston's words, which I think will justify the amount of time and trouble we may take to improve the Writing of our children. He says: "As the old-fashioned notion that a legible hand is a mark of bad-breeding dies out, it may be that our current handwriting will take on legibility and beauty. And even the strict utilitarian could not fail to value the benefits which might some day come to men, if children learnt to appreciate beauty of form in their letters and in their Writing the beauty of carefulness."
MR. W. TAYLOR, Headmaster of North Somercotes School
NORTH SOMERCOTES is a village of about 1000 inhabitants - chiefly farmers, cottagers and labourers - situated on the coast of Lincolnshire, 5½ miles from a railway station, 11 miles from a small market town, and 20 miles from a town of any appreciable size or importance. Its school, previous to 1906, might be described as "just the ordinary rural school," with an average attendance of a little over 120.
In the early months of that year the School Managers - a progressive body - tried to devise a scheme whereby the school could be improved. There was in existence a Trust Fund which had been devoted to the relief of local ratepayers. This money, however, really benefited only a very small number of the wealthiest residents; and the School Managers thought that if it could be used for improving the education given at the School, the inhabitants as a whole, and particularly those with large families, would secure advantages for their young ones hitherto denied them. The existing Schoolmaster was about to retire under the Teachers' Superannuation Act, and everything seemed to favour the adoption of the new scheme. As soon as the sanction of the Local Education Authority and the Board of Education had been obtained, the School Managers advertised for a new Head Teacher, who would be in sympathy with their aims, and who would endeavour to form an Upper Section in the School for older scholars of North Somercotes and neighbouring parishes.
I was appointed to this post in the summer of 1906, after 14 years experience of teaching in town
schools, including 4 years connected with an Upper Section such as the Managers desired to see established at North Somercotes.
The work of this special class during the first year was entirely academic, and consequently more or less a failure because it was divorced from the children's surroundings, and because there was no local demand for educational proficiency of this nature. Any keen observer, and particularly one coming fresh to the place, could see that the work of the locality was carried on with little enthusiasm or interest because of its monotony. Indeed it was obvious that many of the older inhabitants merely spent their time in "working, eating, and sleeping". Hence I determined to reconstruct the school's schemes of work in order to destroy this monotony for the rising generation, and to create interest in rural pursuits, by making the school training as practical as possible, and closely associated with the children's environment.
The first step was to organise the work of infants so that it should consist as largely as possible of "play" - but play that should bring about educative results without any apparent effort on the part of these young pupils. This policy of not forcing the mental development of the scholars before the age of 7 had proved, by its results, to be a wise one. The next step was to realise that what was so beneficial to these little ones was good also, with modifications, for older scholars. Hence practical work was gradually introduced throughout the whole of the standards, the handwork exercises being more and more closely associated with formal work as the children's mental faculties developed. These schemes of practical work included manipulation of clay or plasticine, paper in various forms, cardboard, wood, etc. Three afternoons a week were set apart for this work, for which the scholars seemed to show a natural keenness. The children were happy, "busy", and interested, and many of the difficulties associated with school discipline
were solved by thus providing an outlet for the scholars' natural activities. All this time the class-teachers would be doing nothing but supervise, which was as it should be; as a rule teachers did too much for their scholars and thus secured only apparent, instead of real progress.
Just as the work of the infants introduced them to the world of learning, and that of the older scholars sought to create and sustain interest, so it was felt that the tasks of the oldest boys and girls should directly fit them for life's battle. Since the great majority of the pupils would never leave the country, this final school-training ought to be closely associated with rural matters. A beginning was made about 7 years ago by allowing the oldest boys to have a garden, in which they could cultivate vegetable crops to take home. The land used for this purpose was part of a waste field adjacent to the school. The boys had before them a formidable task in tackling this waste ground, but they rose to the occasion and soon made an alteration in its aspect. One eighth of an acre was thus brought into cultivation and divided into 14 plots, one for each member of the gardening class, together with a general plot and a nursery plot for seedlings. During the next year the portion of the field brought into use was increased to one fifth of an acre, thus providing another garden in which the older girls could cultivate herbs, salad crops and flowers. In these early days it was discovered that the boys worked better on their own individual plots than on the "general plots", whereas girls would work equally well on either. Hence the individual plots for girls were dispensed with in favour of the general plot system.
During these two years spent in gardening it was found necessary to make many articles of wood, such as corner-stakes for plots, labels and supporting stakes for plants, garden frames, arches, etc. This led to the formation of a Rural Carpentry Class for boys. At first this work was done in the school, but later a
special Manual Instruction Room, made of wood, was erected by the School Managers at the cost of about £50. This room was found to be exceedingly useful for a variety of purposes in addition to carpentry.
As a branch of Nature-Study capable of being dealt with both practically and theoretically. Beekeeping was added to the list of subjects for older scholars. This was followed by Poultry-keeping, and led incidentally to the formation of a School Shareholders' Scheme, older scholars investing in shilling shares and thus providing capital for the purchase of a stock of bees - the boys themselves making the hive, etc. - a pen of fowls and a couple of rabbits. The dividend paid at the end of the first three months was 50 per cent, and in consequence of this the selling-price of shares promptly rose from 1s. to 1s. 8d. The next quarter's dividend was 25 per cent, and that of the third quarter 12½ per cent. This gradual decrease was explained by the fact that the shareholders' scheme came into operation on April 1st, and hence the first quarter included the most profitable time for poultry-keeping.
All this time the average attendance of the school had been steadily increasing, chiefly through greater regularity, until it reached 165. Many of the scholars remained at school longer than had been the custom before these practical schemes had been introduced.
This was what all the members of the staff desired, for they realised how exceedingly important were the last two or three years of the child's school-life; but a powerful enemy was opposing itself to the aims and desires of those concerned with the training of the scholars, in the shape of a bye-law which allowed boys to become exempt from school attendance at the age of 13 if they were to be "beneficially employed on the land". It was found that many parents would make no sacrifice in order to secure a good education for their offspring, and so this bye-law resulted in the loss of many scholars. The worst feature of this exemption
bye-law was that no one was appointed to see that such children were beneficially employed. I give as an instance the case of one boy, who at 13 years of age weighed considerably less than 5 stone, and this child's "beneficial employment" consisted of walking 4½ miles to a large farm, spending the whole of the day in mechanical work such as planting potatoes, and walking 4½ miles back home at night.
At first it seemed hopeless to fight against this state of things, as there were so many parents who would take their children from school at the first possible moment allowed by the law. On January 1st 1914, however, a new scheme was devised in the hope of providing a counter-attraction. The main outlines of this scheme were:
1. A Rural Handicraft Class should be formed consisting of all scholars who were eligible for leaving school.This scheme received the approval of the School Managers and the County Education Authority, and an attempt was made to carry it out. The approval of the School Managers carried with it a promise to provide capital to commence the new scheme, while the sanction of the local Education Authority included provision of an additional male assistant teacher, for
previous to this I had been the only male member of the staff.
Under the new scheme the School Garden was increased to two-thirds of an acre, and cropped as a market-garden, so as to use the land to the best advantage in the way of inter-cropping and successional cropping. Herbaceous flower borders were planted all round the portion used for vegetable culture, and it was in connection with these that the girls chiefly carried out their gardening operations. Flowers and vegetables were marketed whenever possible, the remainder being either given to scholars to take home or used in the feeding of stock. Two extra pens of good fowls were purchased, additional poultry-houses and runs being made by the scholars, together with scratching shelters, coops, sitting boxes, etc. Purchases included also an incubator and foster-mother for use in connection with the poultry-keeping scheme. During 1914 over 200 chicks were reared and many sittings of eggs were disposed of to local poultry-keepers. Extra breeding rabbits were obtained, the construction of the necessary hutches, troughs, etc., providing additional work for the Rural Carpentry Class. During the twelve months over a hundred rabbits were reared. Many of these were subsequently purchased by scholars, who took up rabbit-keeping as a hobby at home. Surplus rabbits were fattened for table purposes, their skins afterwards being cured by the scholars and disposed of to various buyers.
Work in other branches of the rural scheme was carried on in a similar way, always being associated with theory lessons and the keeping of accounts. The results of the first years work could be tabulated as follows:
1. Of the seventeen scholars in this special class, all of whom were eligible for leaving school at the beginning of the year if they chose to claim exemption, fourteen completed the year's course.
receive a maximum amount of 15s. each and girls 10s. each at the end of the year.*Many mistakes were made during the first year, of course, and many difficulties and disappointments had to be faced. Successful marketing of garden produce had proved to be one of the chief difficulties. There was little local demand for vegetables, etc., and consequently produce had to be disposed of "wholesale", and under these circumstances it was found that "middle-men" secured too large a proportion of profit. For example, broad beans taken from the School Garden at the rate of 3d. per peck were subsequently retailed in a neighbouring town at 8d. per peck, while marrows, which produced 9d. or 1s. per dozen for the grower, were sold retail at prices varying from 2d. to 4d. each. In spite of mistakes and disappointments, however, it was felt that the first year's work had been well worth taking; even if only for the experiences gained by the scholars in the keeping of accounts.
Local parents naturally wondered what was happening in the school, for "there had been nothing of the kind in their school-days". In order that they might better understand the new educational movements it was decided to print a School Magazine dealing with the new subjects forming a part of the school curriculum. In this way an attempt was made to create understanding of and pride in the school and scholars, and helpful sympathy towards the new experiment. The printing of this magazine took a great deal of time, but the results were considered to justify fully the magnitude of the task. The magazine was issued quarterly at one penny a copy, and the little profit ensuing was devoted to the purchase of pictures for the school.
*This difference is due to the boys having done far more of the work than the girls.
But just when things seemed to be flourishing the present war began to show its effects. It proved almost impossible to carry on such pursuits as poultry-keeping and rabbit-keeping profitably, on account of the abnormal price of oats, wheat, etc. Agricultural needs took away most of the older boys; and the male assistant, appointed on account of the new scheme, went away on military service. These were difficulties that could not be overcome, and consequently during the last few months things had been more or less at a standstill. Things will be "just kept going" until after the war, when no doubt great developments will take place. In the meantime it was felt that something should be done towards improving the village in the same way that the school had been improved. For example a properly organised Society ought to be called together for the purpose of beautifying the village by encouraging flower-gardening, etc., helping to foster local industries, introducing a scheme of co-operation in buying food-stuffs and selling rural produce, organising lectures and classes for scholars after leaving school. The aim of such a society, put briefly, would be to "make the village fit for the next generation, and the next generation fit for the village".
I have been requested to say something about the Rural Pupil Teacher Scheme in operation at my school. My present ideas concerning the training of pupil-teachers are the outcome of my own experience. On the first day of my appointment as a Pupil Teacher, I was given a piece of chalk, put in charge of a class of thirty-six scholars and informed that "the first lesson was Arithmetic". Thus I was expected to be a teacher before I had been instructed how to teach. It was just the same with my own studies; I was expected to find out things for myself, to learn without guidance. Fortunately during the last two years of my apprenticeship there was a change of Head Teacher, and this undoubtedly made a great deal of difference. But bad as the old system was, it had one merit - it
weeded out the inefficient ones ruthlessly. Late in life I was on the staff of the Model School attached to a Training College, just at a time when the students consisted partly of those who had "gone through the mill" as I had done, and partly of the "spoon-fed" ones from the Pupil Teacher Centres; I could distinguish between the two, when they stood before a class, in less than ten minutes; the scholars themselves seemed to find out in less than five minutes. My own belief is that the best system of training Pupil Teachers is to be found somewhere between these two extremes. I feel that academic training and professional training should go hand in hand; and I had vowed to myself that if I ever had the opportunity of training pupil-teachers they should have a better chance than had been mine. I should devote my energies to making them efficient both as teachers and as students. This opportunity came at North Somercotes; for during a period of about five years I have discovered three of my girl scholars with a desire to join the teaching profession. As it was impossible for them to attend a Pupil Teacher Centre, I obtained the permission of the Local Education Authority to undertake their complete training. Th examination successes gained by these three girls were: 1. The first passed the Board of Education Preliminary Certificate Examination with distinction in English Language and. Literature, and also the Oxford Senior Local Examination.
2. The second passed the Board of Education Preliminary Certificate Examination and the Cambridge Senior Local Examination.
3. The third secured a three-fold qualification, viz. (a) The Board of Education Preliminary Certificate Examination, (b) the Oxford Senior Local Examination, (c) the Cambridge Senior Local Examination.
The point which I specially wish to impress upon
those present is that the professional training of these young teachers had not been neglected, for in my estimation their efficiency as teachers was greater than their capability as students. It will be easily understood, then, that I am ready to welcome the Lindsey Education Authority's Rural Pupil Teacher Scheme, which has as its aim both academic and professional training. Stated briefly, the scheme is as follows. Certain schools are selected as centres - six in all - and at each centre three pupil-teachers are appointed each year to complete a four years' course of training. The whole of their instruction is under the control of the Head Teacher, who can utilise the services of any other member of the staff who is capable of rendering assistance. The whole of the first year is to be devoted to academic training, four-fifths of the second year - four days out of five each week - and one-half the time during the third and fourth years. The remaining time is to be spent in the various branches of professional work. It is perhaps too soon yet to say exactly how the scheme will work, but things seem to have progressed favourably since its inauguration on January 1st 1914. My school is unfortunately situated, for being so close to the sea the neighbourhood from which candidates can be drawn is somewhat curtailed. Also there is only one school, within reasonable distance of my own, in charge of a male Head Teacher; the other schools do not seem to retain their scholars until the regulation age for commencing the pupil-teachership, viz. 14. Other centres, however, do not suffer from these disadvantages - indeed some of them have so many candidates each year that an examination can be held in order to select the best three. Taking a more extensive view, therefore, I feel very hopeful that the scheme will prove to be a great success.
Miss Blackburn's paper will be of special interest to Infant Teachers in general, and in particular to those who have charge of the large Infant Schools in which our English towns abound.
In such schools the problem of classification is one of extreme difficulty. The method usually adopted is that of dividing the school horizontally - as it were - into a number of graded classes, each of which is preparatory to the one above it. Infant Teachers habitually speak of the "Babies", the "fours", the "fives", the "sixes", as if age were the sole basis of classification. Other factors have, however, to be considered; for some of the children enter school at a comparatively advanced age, while others are delicate and attend irregularly, and others are naturally slow and backward. But whatever may be the basis of classification, the broad fact remains that all the children in each class are supposed to be in approximately the same stage of mental development, and that they are all doing the same work or receiving the same instruction at the same time.
This is probably the worst method of classifying Infants that could be devised. In the life of a young child, periods of activity ought to alternate with periods of rest. In the Infant class-room, during many of the lessons, including those which are regarded as most important, there is neither activity nor rest. For example: a writing lesson is being given to forty children. Much time is spent in giving out copy books at the beginning of the lesson and collecting them at the end. The teacher writes a letter or a word on the blackboard, and talks to the children about it. The children copy it. The teacher goes round and looks at the exercise-books and comments on what the children have done. This occupies some minutes, during which the children sit still. Then the teacher writes another
letter or word, and the same performance is repeated. And so on. It is the same, mutatis mutandis, when Reading or Arithmetic is being taught, or when the Scripture lesson or the Object lesson is being given. During the greater part of the time which is allotted to these important lessons, the children sit still and do nothing. But forced inactivity is not rest. To sit still for twenty minutes or so on a hard bench is no more rest to the child's body than is compulsory attention to what the teacher is saying or doing rest to the child's mind.
Another objection to the existing method of classifying Infants is that the lessons are at once too long and too short. Twenty or twenty-five minutes of forced inactivity and compulsory attention are too much for a young child. Yet the lesson is too short to allow the child to persevere in what he is doing. In the writing lesson which I have described, the order to close copybooks is given long before the children have really got into their stride. One can sympathise with the little boy who, at the end of his first morning in a kindergarten class, told his parents that his time in school "had been all interruptions".
Another and even more serious objection is that when the teacher is the only centre of initiative and activity, when all eyes are fixed on her or on the blackboard, when intercourse between child and child is strictly forbidden, it is impossible for a social life to evolve itself in the class.
Miss Blackburn's method of classifying her pupils is the exact opposite of that which usually prevails. Instead of being horizontal and graded, the classes in her school, below the Preparatory Division, may be described as vertical and parallel. Each class is a vertical section of the school, embracing children of all ages between 3 and 6 or 7, and is therefore parallel to the other classes, in the sense of being neither higher nor lower than any of them.
This means, in the first place, that class teaching
has been largely, if not wholly, abandoned. The children are working under supervision, not under direction, either singly or in groups. Each child is doing the work which is most suited to his stage of mental development, and most congenial to him at that particular time. And each child is working by and for himself. In other words he is really working, energising, giving his mind to what he is doing. When he is not working he is resting - really resting, not merely sitting still. The alternation of periods of activity with periods of rest, which is impossible in the ordinary Infant School, is provided for in Miss Blackburn's.
In the second place there are none of the "interruptions" of which the little boy whom I have mentioned justly complained. Each child is free to go on with what he has taken in hand until he feels the need either of a change or of rest. The child's instinctive desire to overcome difficulties, as far as possible unaided, is thus duly gratified, and perseverance and thoroughness are duly encouraged.
In the third place, in Miss Blackburn's classes, it is possible for a social life, based on diversity and inequality, to evolve itself naturally and spontaneously. The older children mother the little ones. Those who have been long in school welcome and befriend the newcomers, And the more advanced children help the more backward. In this way a spirit of goodwill and goodfellowship springs up in the class, and does not need to be fostered by the teacher.
There are other features of Miss Blackburn's system which deserve careful attention. On these I need not dwell. But I must point out before I close that the classification which Miss Blackburn has adopted is not practicable except where a large measure of freedom is given to the children. Whether such a measure of freedom can be given to young children under any system but the Montessori remains to be seen.
MISS MARY BLACKBURN
THE question of classification in Infant Schools has not yet received the attention which it deserves. But until it has been carefully studied and a serious attempt made to solve the problems that bear upon it, it will not be possible to place our national system of education on a really sound basis.
Among these problems are the following:
(1) The various ages at which children begin their school life,Let us consider these points in detail:
(1) The age at which children begin their school life varies in the different educational areas, and even in the different schools in the same area; in some schools children are admitted at 3, in others at 4, in others at 5. At the end of the school year 1913-14, there were 315,000 children in the elementary schools of England between the ages of 3 and 5, of whom rather more than a fifth were under the age of 4, and about 1,300,000 between the ages of 5 and 7. There are also many children who, on account of delicate health, do not enter school till they are 6 or nearly 6, while there are others who, for the same reason or on account of distance from school, attend regularly during the warmer weather but stay away from school during the greater part of the winter. All this makes classification in an Infant School a matter of extreme difficulty.
(2) The age at which children are moved up from Infant Schools to Senior departments varies from area to area and even from school to school. Some education authorities insist on the Infants being sent up at the
average age of 6. With this end in view the children have to be moved from class to class every 6 or 8 months, the result being that they are crammed and forced in each class in order to enable them to acquire the attainments necessary for the next stage. No one deplores this state of things more than the teachers who have to work under the system. They realise that they are forcing the children and not allowing them to develop naturally, and they feel the strain of having to work merely for results. I need not dwell on the injustice done to the children, both physically and mentally, at a time of rapid growth, not only by crushing their individuality but also by depriving them of the freedom and joy of childhood. A few weeks ago a teacher in a Girls' School, in charge of Standard I, told me that she had two girls in her class who at the end of the school year had only just reached the age of 6. This meant that they had spent the greater part of their 6th year in Standard I - in an atmosphere which was quite unsuitable for them. They were, of course, unable to cope with the work of the class, and were in consequence very unhappy; but the teacher had no choice but to try to force them to reach the same standard as the older children. It is sad to think of what they had missed and of what they might have achieved later if they had been given a proper chance and allowed to develop in the right environment. Such cases are, unhappily, far from rare. The premature acquisition of knowledge is an end to which health, intelligence, and - above all - individuality and natural development are too often sacrificed.
(3) The different rates at which children develop.
In every school there are children whose minds develop quickly, and who could without difficulty take up the work of Standard I at the age of 6. But is it wise to remove such children from the atmosphere of the Infant School? Some Education Authorities are beginning to realise that the break in the child's life ought to come at the age of 9 rather than of 6 or 7,
and are therefore making provision for Standard I and even for Standard II to be united with the Infant section. That the child who develops slowly should stay on in the Infant School beyond the age of 7 will, I think, be generally admitted. One frequently meets with children who scarcely show any sign of mental progress till they are about 7, and then suddenly wake up and begin to go ahead. It is obviously desirable that such children should remain in the environment which is most suitable to them and with which they are familiar, and under the care of the teacher who knows and understands them, and whose methods are best adapted for their stage of development. The backward child, if moved up prematurely into the Senior School, or even into a higher class in the Infant School, would be made nervous and over-anxious by the desire to keep up with others and by the fear of failure and reproof, and would consequently lose all interest and pleasure in his work. Apart from such cases, it is clear that the varying rate at which children develop makes classification by age in an Infant School undesirable, if not actually impracticable.
(4) The effect of epidemic diseases and other maladies on the development of children is not always sufficiently considered. Between the ages of 3 and 6 children are susceptible to certain familiar maladies such as measles and chickenpox; and sometimes serious complications arise, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which weaken children so much, that when they return to school they need special care and attention and have to be kept at home on wet days and in wintry weather. There are also many cases of adenoids and enlarged tonsils, which need surgical treatment if the youthful patients are to have a fair start in life. Other infantile maladies are ringworm and whooping cough, which necessitate exclusion from school for long periods. These retarding influences make it impossible for children of the same age to reach the same level at the same time, and, like the other causes
which have been considered, make classification by age both difficult and undesirable.
Nevertheless, in most Infant Schools age is still the accepted basis of classification. Teachers talk of the "threes", the "fours", the "fives", and so on. It is true that children of more advanced ages are to be found in each class, fives in the class of fours, sixes in the class of fives, and so on. But these are regarded as exceptional cases, and an attempt is made to bring most, if not all, of the children of the same age to the same level of attainments. Even when age is tacitly ignored, the classes are still carefully graded. Each class has its own curriculum and its own standard of attainment, and is regarded as preparatory to the class above it. Closely connected with this is the fact that all the children in the class are doing the same work at the same time; and the further fact that the teacher is the chief centre of activity, that the children are for the most part passive and receptive, and that little or no thought is given to the cultivation of individuality or to the natural development of body and mind.
In my own School the normal method of classification prevailed, until my experiments with the Montessori system convinced me that a radical change was desirable. I found, for one thing, that under the existing classification, there were difficulties with regard to the amount of apparatus required for the various stages; and, for another thing, that it was necessary to give the teachers better facilities for superintending and directing the children, who were doing the more advanced exercises. After much thought, I concluded that the only way to solve the problem was to mix the ages. This was done with two classes as an experiment. The results were so satisfactory that, at the end of the school year, when the classes were re-organised, the School was divided into two sections - the lower, composed of parallel classes of all ages from 3 to between 5 and 6, and the upper, containing children between 6 and 7 who were preparing for Standard I in
the Senior School, there being no provision for the retention of that Standard in my own School.
This classification has worked with great success for two years. Free and independent work has been done throughout the whole School, each child working at its own stage, by itself and on its own initiative. The progress made in the "three R's" has been marvellous, and it has been a revelation to see the keen interest and joy which the children take in their work, and also how they are able to concentrate on what they are doing, amidst many distractions, of which they are apparently quite unconscious.
At the end of each register quarter, the children who have made good progress in the four Montessori classes - which, be it remembered, are parallel, not graded - and who have got the beginnings of reading, writing, and numbers, are transferred to Class V, the first Transition Class, there to continue the same method, with apparatus more suitable for their stage of development. At the beginning of the school year the numbers in the three Transition Classes are kept small in order to allow children to be moved up into them, when ready. This arrangement makes room for the new admissions throughout the year, and these are distributed equally among the four Montessori classes. In this way the numbers in all classes are kept fairly balanced, and no teacher has the burden and responsibility of an unduly large class.
I am going to make a further experiment during the coming school year, which begins after the Midsummer Vacation. Instead of dividing the children in the Transition Classes according to attainments, that is, putting the most forward in the highest class and the most backward in the lowest, I propose to mix them, putting an equal number of each grade in each class, so that there will now be three Transition Classes of the same type. When the different grades are worked separately, the heaviest burden falls on the teacher whose class is composed of slow and backward
children. By mixing the ages and the grades, the difficulties and responsibilities are more equally divided, so that no teacher has to put out more effort or work at greater strain than the rest.
The children being allowed to work individually and independently according to their own stages, those who develop quickly will be able to go on working by themselves after having once been shown a new step; and this will enable the teacher to devote more time to the slower ones. Consequently, the teaching will, more or less, resolve itself into group work. Some people may say: "Well, why not put the corresponding groups together and let them be taught as a separate class?" But this would involve a reversion to classification by age and grade, with all its attendant evils. Practical teachers know what a strain it is to work day after day with a class of slow and backward children, and how discouraging to see little or no result of one's efforts. But if there is a fair admixture of bright and intelligent children, they will leaven the whole class and so make the work lighter and more interesting for all concerned. The children will learn much from one another. The brighter members of the class will be able to help and stimulate the slower; and the latter will find themselves in an atmosphere which will encourage them and enable them to realise the joy of work, and will also be able to see what can be done with the various items of the apparatus when once they have learnt how to use them.
I will now state what I consider to be the chief advantages of mixing the ages in the Montessori classes:
(1) No teacher has an undue proportion of very young children, who of course require special care and attention, or of children who are slow and backward. In dealing with the very young children the teacher will sometimes be helped by the older children, to whom such work will be valuable both as a means of training character and as a preparation for social service in after life.
(2) There is a great saving in the quantity of apparatus required, as different items are suitable for different ages, and there is no likelihood of any one item being in undue demand.
(3) Children learn much from seeing their neighbours perform exercises which they themselves have not yet attempted. Their imitative instinct is appealed to, and their desire to extend their experience and master difficulties. They also assimilate much unconsciously from those who are older and more advanced than themselves.
(4) In the winter months the attendance is frequently affected by inclement weather, the babies' class, under the old classification, suffering most. Under the new classification all the classes are equally affected, the tiny and delicate children being kept at home. This is an advantage to the teacher so far as it enables her to give more time to the older children, to study their idiosyncrasies and make records of their progress, besides helping them to master the various items of the apparatus. When the class returns to its normal size, she will be able to devote more time proportionately to the little ones, as the older children will then be better able to work by themselves.
(5) The newly admitted child can be put with an older brother or sister or with a little friend. In other words, it enters the class, not as an entire stranger, but with a familiar face to welcome it, and a familiar hand to take hold of it and help it to adjust itself to its new and strange environment. To the nervous and timid child this is a great advantage, for to such a child the sudden change from home to school, from its mother to a perfect stranger, from the small numbers of a family to the large numbers of an urban class, is apt to be trying and even alarming, and whatever can be done to make the child feel at home in its new surroundings is a gain both to it and its teacher.
(6) An only child, when admitted into one of our Montessori classes, finds himself in a large family
circle, and being brought into daily relationship with older and younger children of both sexes, gets the experience which is denied it in its own home life. The value of this experience from the point of view of the formation of character and preparation for social life cannot be over-estimated.
(7) Instead of having to keep step with those who are quicker or slower than itself, each child in our Montessori classes is moving at its own natural pace. It is also working by itself and on its own initiative, and being thus thrown on its own resources, it is learning self-reliance and self-control. It is learning other lessons - to concentrate on what it is doing, to exercise its judgment, to solve its problems for itself. These advantages are inherent in the Montessori system as such; but I claim that it is only by mixing ages and substituting parallel for graded classes, that the advantages of the Montessori system can be fully secured.
I will conclude by giving a short account of the School curriculum. I am sometimes asked if we have timetables in our school. I have to say in reply that we cannot altogether dispense with timetables, as in a large school it is necessary to have some guide. There is a timetable for each of the two sections - the Montessori Section and the Transition Classes. But both timetables are arranged on broad lines. The session is not divided, as in many Infant Schools, into lessons of from 15 to 20 minutes' duration; and the teachers are given plenty of scope for the free exercise of their judgment and discretion.
Here is a brief account of the day's routine:
9.10-9.45. The children assemble. After the opening Hymn and Prayer, pets, flowers, and plants are attended to, the lunch tables are prepared in the Hall, and the lunch packets are put away. Whilst this is going on, general conversation is allowed.
9.45-10.30. The Montessori classes use their apparatus, while the Transition children do free work in Reading and Writing.
10.30-11. Lunch and recreation. Those who have brought lunch go into the Hall, each child carrying its own chair. When all are ready, they stand and sing their grace. After lunch each child carries its chair back again, and then goes into the Playground for Recreation.
11-11.30. The Transition Classes do free work with their number apparatus. The Montessori Classes devote the time to Physical Training. We have one room set apart for play with toys and picture-books; while all round the room a number of pictures, mounted as a frieze, are placed low down so that they can be conveniently seen by the children. In the Hall we have a collection of gymnastic apparatus, which we have improvised and fixed with the help of the School Caretaker. This consists of a long beam on the floor, on the edge of which the children walk, for training in poise and balance; climbing ropes; a trapeze, on which the children swing; a large football, which is fixed and used as a punch-ball; basket-ball nets, fixed at different heights, into which the children throw small footballs; a jumping stand; and a horizontal ladder. All these things are used freely in turn by all the classes in the School.
11.30-12. This is a time for rest. The children settle down quietly in their respective rooms, and listen to Bible stories, which makes a peaceful ending to the morning's work.
The Afternoon is devoted to stories, expression work, handwork, poetry, conversation, singing and games. Provision is also made for rest, to which I attach the utmost importance. When one considers how young the children are, what long hours they spend in school, and what late hours many of them keep at home, the need for periods of rest is seen to be imperative. The Infant School in which no facilities are provided for tired children to rest, or sleepy children to sleep, is neither well-organised nor well-equipped.