Wearside Echoes: Chalking up school memories

ALL SMILES: The infants of Standard I at Shiney Row Council School in 1920.
ALL SMILES: The infants of Standard I at Shiney Row Council School in 1920.
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A TREASURE trove of classroom memories has been saved from the skip.

Vintage artefacts relating to Shiney Row Boys’ School, including timetables, photos and teaching certificates, were accidentally thrown out during renovation work.

Timetable from Shiney Row School in 1914

Timetable from Shiney Row School in 1914

But the documents – some dating to the First World War – are now to be returned to their spiritual home, Shiney Row Primary, in the year the school celebrates its centenary.

“A friend was working at the school when renovations were carried out several years ago. This stuff was supposed to be thrown out, but he saved it,” said retired engineer Dennis Kelly.

“I asked if I could take a look and found it all really interesting.

“I’ve had it ever since but, as it has just been sitting in a cupboard, I thought it was a good idea to find it a new home.”

Teachers at  Shiney Row School in about 1920

Teachers at Shiney Row School in about 1920

Shiney Row Council School, in Rear South View, was built in 1912 – the year Titanic sank, Captain Scott reached the South Pole and Harriet Quimby flew across the English Channel.

Mathematics, reading, composition, scripture, nature study, hygiene and history were all on the curriculum during the early years – as well as plenty of physical training.

But the idea of mixed lessons was obviously frowned upon, with the girls and infants educated in their own schools – each department being set well away from the boys.

“All the people in the photos will have passed away by now, but I still find them fascinating. Even my 13-year-old daughter thought they were interesting,” said Dennis.

Mystery photo discovred in a skip outside Shiney Row Primary

Mystery photo discovred in a skip outside Shiney Row Primary

Among the artefacts rescued were photocopies of the old Head Master’s Log Book, where an entry from July 1918 notes that 234 boys aged from seven to 14 were registered as pupils.

Attendance was logged as “very bad” that month, however, as dozens of boys – as well as most of the staff – fell foul of the Spanish flu epidemic. Indeed, the school was forced to close.

“I found the log book absolutely fascinating,” said Dennis, of Pennywell. “It really paints a picture of what life was like at the school all those years ago.”

The rescued documents are to be handed over to Shiney Row Primary, which continues to educate youngsters in the same buildings.

“Our school was built and opened in the year Titanic was launched. One hundred years later, we are still going from strength to strength,” said headteacher Paul Ashton. “It will be very interesting to show staff and children these items, as we will be able to trace how school life has changed.”

Sidebar: Extracts from the Head Master’s Log Book

July 5, 1918: Attendance this week very bad, owing to prevalence of Spanish Influenza.

July 9, 1918: School closed for week due to flu epidemic – only one teacher, Mr Lay, not off sick.

June 11, 1926: Arrangements made to feed hungry pupils during the miners’ strike.

June 23, 1926: School closed for Durham Regatta.

Feb 15, 1929: Extremely severe weather. “Many children suffering colds as a result of poor boots.”

Mar 18, 1929: Extra meals of bread and milk given to five “needy” boys, six girls and 12 infants.

July 19, 1929: School closed for a pupil visit to the North East Coast Exhibition.

Sept 4, 1939: School closed owing to outbreak of war. Infants moved to Boys’ Department.

Oct 23, 1939: School re-opened for the teaching of small groups.

May 5, 1943: Temporary teacher appointed to allow Mr H. Puncheon to train as an ARP instructor.

May 24, 1943: Heavy air raid. Head teacher reported an unexploded parachute bomb in his garden.

Sept 10, 1943: Headmaster Mr R. Dickinson absent as a witness at Seaham Police Court.

Oct 1, 1943: School closed for two weeks to allow boys to help bring in the harvest.

Sidebar: Report on the school dated May 27, 1929

EDUCATION inspector Mr A. H. Dunn visited Shiney Row Council School on April 22 and 23, 1929, and published his report on May 27 that year.

“In the lower classes the work is generally well done; good progress is made in English. Arithmetic, though needing attention here and there, reaches generally a very fair level,” he wrote.

“In the upper classes the standard of attainment is good. The written work gives evidence of sound and diligent teaching, although Class Four contains a good many boys who need special attention.

“Of the remaining subjects, history and geography are intelligently taught, and the drawing in Class One is very good – as is also the physical training of this class.

“The instruction of science has to be confined to class demonstrations in the main, as there is no practical room. What is done, however, is quite well done.

“Instruction in gardening is given on a plot on the school premises but, judging from the appearance of the plot, the subject does not appear to be particularly successful.”

Sidebar: Timetables

SEVERAL timetables were rescued from the skip, including one from 1914 and another from 1936.

The first lesson each weekday for the boys of Shiney Row Council School in 1914 was arithmetic – when vulgar fractions, long division, multiplications and investment of savings were taught.

Reading and composition lessons were also held each day, when youngsters were expected to “read and write with intelligence,” and there were also regular sessions in literature and repetition.

And religious studies was given great importance too, with Old Testament taken on Mondays and Thursdays, New Testament on Tuesdays and Fridays and repetition of scripture on Wednesdays.

Little appears to have changed in the 1936 timetable, despite a difference of 22 years, with maths classes still held each morning, as well as physical training and English lessons.

Religious education ran to the same programme as in 1914 as well, but boys now enjoyed extra classes such as art, craftwork, music and gardening, as well as the usual history and geography.

Science lessons also appeared for the first time on the timetable, although the school was noted for its lack of a practical room and science experiments were “confined to classroom demonstrations.”